Boat skipper recounts 11-day ordeal at sea
The three Vincentian fishermen who were rescued after 11 days adrift could have been back home as soon as their second day at sea but were left in the waters between St. Vincent and St. Lucia by a yachtsman they asked for help.
The men, Rose Place resident Bernard “Butters” Dublin, Angus “Pharaoh” Webb of Edinboro, and Lennox “Grand Charge” Phillips of Ottley Hall, went to sea on June 1 on the fishing vessel “Odyssier”, a 25 foot pirogue with an 85 horsepower engine.
On their way back home on Tuesday evening, the impeller burnt out and sent the men adrift, a journey that saw them fighting to stay alive at sea without fresh water, food and no form of modern communication.
“We were fishing near to Lucia, and while coming back St. Vincent the engine impeller burnt out,t and we put out a sail and I find we couldn’t come more centre which is St. Vincent so I try hit Fancy.
“…on the way I thought the bow man (Phillips) had his phone, so ‘when we got close to the land I tell him ‘make a phone call and he tell me did not bring his phone,” Dublin recalled, adding that Phillips said he did not purchase credit and therefore left his phone on land.
“…if he had told me that earlier I could have give him money to get credit,” Dublin said.
The captain said they got close to Fancy but the tide took them back into St. Lucia waters.
They spent the entire Tuesday and early Wednesday trying to get back to St. Vincent using the sail, only to for the tide to pull them back the way they had come.
Dublin said on the second day at sea while they were between St. Lucia and St. Vincent and using a sail to try to get to land, a yacht with two Caucasians, a male and a female came upon them.
He told the man they were in trouble and needed help to get to land.
“Instead the man help us, the man running talk telling we ‘alyo break down?, well call the coast guard’, so I say ‘if we had things to call coast guard we woulda call coast guard’, and the man left us, a white man and white woman in an upstairs and downstairs yacht.
“The man just watch we and drive off…left we,” captain Dublin told SEARCHLIGHT on Sunday from his home at Rose Place.
“That was the Wednesday, my birthday, I say ‘boy, oh God, this man left we boy’ so we start to sail…” .
He said anytime they got close to land using the sail and the wind, the tide would push them back towards St. Lucia and at one point, they ended up close to the Pitons.
Dublin, 54, said he has been a fisherman since he left the Kingstown Anglican School, and this is the first time he has experienced being rudderless for so long on the high seas although he had an overnight incident once.
He said they struggled with the wind and the tide carrying them in different directions while catching fish to survive.
At one point they reached close to a fish aggregating (or aggregation) device (FAD), close to Barrouallie where they saw a white boat.
“We light a flambeau, a cloth on a stick and we were shouting and he was moving away from us,” Dublin said, noting that there were two other boats in the area but they also moved away from them.
On the Thursday (June 3), they reached close to Bequia but were pulled away again.
“We saw lights by the airport, but too much wind and water, so I had to close down the sail and the tide took us west.
“We had no water, nothing to eat, but on the way, fish following the boat, dolphin, cavalli and old wife…the fish we caught on the Tuesday, we throw way that…we caught fish and roast two times ,and eat it raw the other times,” Dublin said.
He said at one point they “corned” pieces of dolphin they caught but it wasn’t done properly and it gave them diarrhoea so they threw that away and decided they would catch fish daily.
“I say fellas we have no fridge or deep freeze, so we will catch day to day. So that is how we make it through.
“I use to pray with the fellas because I am a man of God,” Dublin told SEARCHLIGHT.
He said it rained only once throughout their ordeal and they used the water to bathe, “and get a little tip of water on we tongue, so that is what hold up.”
He said Phillips and Webb would spread pieces of rug they had with them in the boat to sleep, but he hardly slept because as the captain, he felt responsible for the men’s lives.
“I was just praising God and telling him I don’t want to lose none of them, I want to bring them back home to their family”.
They even wanted to drink salt water, and one,his own urine, but Dublin said he urged them not to, as it would kill them.
“I never had the feeling that we wasn’t going to make it,” he stressed.
On the morning before they were rescued, Dublin said he became so exhausted from being constantly on watch that he almost lost his wits.
“One man started to curse cap saying ‘just so you throw way we life’ but it ain’t easy, you alone doing all the work so I was losing it that night. Ten days up while they resting so I ask them to bear with me because I was exhausted,” Dublin recounted.
He said 7 to 8 a.m. on Friday June 11, they were found by a tug boat called Lady Debbie, 190 miles west of St Vincent and close to Venezuela. Lady Debbie which operates between Curacao and Martinique, abandoned its mission and brought the men to port Kingstown on Saturday around 7 a.m.
Dublin and Webb are at home but Phillips was in hospital in stable condition.
Dublin said he will not give up on fishing as that is his livelihood but will never go to sea again without a proper communication device.
“We had no flares, no radio. Advice to other fishermen, make sure get device and food stuff and water,” the father of six children stressed.
Dublin’s Wife Jan, said she is glad to have her husband back.
“All I can say is thank God for bringing him home safely.
Dublin’s sons Kyle and Rochard, as well as his daughter Faith are also happy to have their father back.
“I feel glad, to be honest. I always know he was coming back, always,” said Kyle while Rochard added, “I feel a sense of comfort, i always know he would come back.”