A woman stranded on a boat for nearly 22 hours was rescued by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit and Aviation Team.
Wendy Gale's friend left the boat to search for help after the engine stopped working, according to authorities. They were on a trip on the Alafia River. Gale was left alone.
"We ended up enclosed because of the choppiness or just pulling over trying to hold onto trees. It looked like there was no dry land," Gale said.
Gale became dehydrated, scared and covered in bug bites.
"I didn't know how close I was to actually passing out from lack of food, you know, and water," Gale said.
Authorities said Gale's friend told them he couldn't find anyone to help until the next day and then had trouble finding the boat. Gale's friend contacted authorities at that point, and it was 3:17 p.m. the following day. Gale was on the boat alone almost 22 hours.
"I was screaming and crying, but I didn't know if it was a sheriff or not. So, I took one of the life vests - orange life vests - and threw it out because I was completely (hidden under) overgrown branches," Gale said.
Once authorities were involved, Gale was spotted quickly and rescued. Her gratitude is indescribable.
"(I felt) relief, you know, belief that someone would find me that, you know, I wasn't going to die. I was just happy. I was just in tears the whole time," Gale said.
Gale wishes her friend's boat would have had various safety equipment.
According to the HCSO Marine Unit, boats are required to have various items on board, including life vests, visual distress signals, a fire extinguisher, and a device that makes noise like a bell or horn. If your boat does not have the required items, you could be fined.