Vidam Perevertilov spent 14 hours in the water clinging to a fishing buoy, after he fell off a cargo ship into the Pacific Ocean without a life jacket.
He credits his decision to swim towards a “black dot” several kilometres away with saving his life. It turned out to be a fishing buoy, which he held onto until his rescue.
The buoy was not anchored to anything, it was just a piece of sea rubbish.
His son Marat told StuffNZ media that when eventually rescued . . . “He looked about 20 years older and very tired but he was alive,”
Unaware that a crewman had fallen overboard, the ship continued on its way to the isolated British territory of Pitcairn island.
It took the ships crew about six hours to notice that their engineer was missing, at which point the captain turned the ship around.
Distress messages were then radioed out to ships in the area. French navy aircraft joined the search from Tahiti, and France’s meteorological service studied the winds to calculate possible drift patterns.
But it would be his own vessel which would find him in the end.
When Perevertilov finally saw his ship in the horizon, he waved and called out. Remarkably, one of the ship’s passengers heard the ‘weak, human shout’.
A lookout spotted a raised hand later on, and they were able to pass him a life-ring and pull the sailor to safety on board.
Marat asked his father why he didn’t bring the buoy on board as a souvenir.
“It’s funny. He said he wanted to leave it there, so it could save another person’s life.”