Printed on: July 26, 2013

Lobsterman survives day floating in ocean


OAKDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- A Long Island lobsterman who spent 12 hours floating in the Atlantic Ocean after falling off his boat joked Thursday that he may have the two rubber boots that kept him afloat bronzed.

John Aldridge was rescued a day earlier when the Coast Guard found him floating in the ocean off of Montauk Point, about 40 miles from where he tumbled off the 44-foot lobster boat Anna Mary at about 3 in the morning.

Aldridge, 45, was treated at a hospital in Falmouth, Mass., for dehydration, exposure and hypothermia and released Thursday morning. Relatives drove him back to Long Island, where he arrived mid-afternoon to hugs from his parents and relatives,

Aldridge, who has been a lobsterman for 19 years working out of Montauk, said he was preparing for a day of fishing when he attempted to move a beverage cooler.

"The handle broke off and I fell off the back of the boat. Just like that," he told reporters during a news conference outside his parents' home in Oakdale. "I just watched the boat float away."

Aldridge said while he had read books and articles about survival techniques, instincts really took over.

He noticed his calf-length rubber boots were allowing his feet to float higher in the water than his head, so he took off the boots, turned them upside down and filled them with air. He placed one under each arm and used them as flotation devices.

"Once I did that, I was good to go," he said. "The water was warm, my head was above water, so I was floating and I knew I had to conserve energy and that was it, I floated for hours."

At about midafternoon Wednesday, he noticed a Coast Guard jet flying overhead; about 30 minutes later, a Coast Guard helicopter was hovering and soon a swimmer was in the water helping him.

"I've been looking for you for nine hours," Aldridge said the rescuer told him. He countered, "I've been looking for you for 12 hours."