Boater stranded at sea 16 days ‘wasn’t scared … never really lost’

8:20 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 Local
Samuel Moss Jr. speaks to members of the media at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach Friday, February 2, 2018. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

On his 16th day stranded at sea, Samuel Moss Jr. was overjoyed to see an 80-foot boat come his way.

He knew this was finally his rescue. He was physically drained, nearly starving and nearly 30 pounds lighter than when he left Bimini. But there was one thing he was not.

“I wasn’t scared,” Moss, a resident of The Bahamas and a diver for the past 10 years, said Friday at St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he was restored to health. “I was never really lost — just stranded.” 

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A man spotted Moss on Monday about 10 miles off the coast of West Palm Beach on his 21-foot angler, which was filled with water. He called the Coast Guard, who flew Moss to St. Mary’s. The 23-year-old was so dehydrated that he could barely walk or speak , said Dr. Kevin Buford, a physician who treated him at the hospital.

“His electrolytes were dangerously low. He was very confused and very weak— unable to speak in complete sentences,” Buford said.

Doctors could not give Moss food and water right away because his body had gone without it for so long.

“His body was in starvation mode, so we had to slowly give him fluids and vitamins otherwise he could die,” Buford said.

Moss’ family arrived to the hospital a few hours after his admission, thankful that he was alive.

Moss set sail from Bimini to Nassau on Jan. 13 in a boat he just bought in Miami, but ran out of gas quickly when his small boat tried to sail through rough waves. When three and one-half hours passed and Moss still wasn’t close to his destination, he knew he was in trouble.

U.S. Coast Guard
Moss' 21-foot boat floods with water on Jan. 29, the day he was rescued by the Coast Guard

Moss’ family reported his disappearance at about midnight Saturday and shared a Facebook video that Moss posted 10 minutes into his sailing trip.

Moss said he used maps on his cellphone and his knowledge of ocean currents to try to drift his boat to the Miami area or the Florida Keys. He survived the next 12 days on chips, cookies and bottled water, until he encountered rough waters on Jan. 22.

Moss said before the 40-foot wave hit his boat, he knew it was coming.

“On Wednesday the water was completely calm, that I could put a bottled water in it and it wouldn’t move. I knew something bad was coming.”

So Moss wrapped himself in a canvas, put his phone into a plastic bag, and prayed for the best.

Once his boat was hit by a giant wave, Moss lost all his food and water. He would go without it for four days, until his rescue.

“I prayed plenty,” Moss said. “To keep my blood levels up, I would suck on salt from the water, but I lost about 30 pounds from the whole trip.”

Moss’ girlfriend, Lashelle Forbes, 25, said she was worried, but not that he would die

“I knew he was a survivor and was in his element,” Forbes said. “I thought to myself, ‘God, I know you will bring him back.’ “

Buford said Moss’ youth and good health saved him from suffering any long-term physical damage. Beyond the dehydration and the weight loss, Moss only suffered cuts and scratches throughout his body. But this pursuit won’t stop Moss from going back in the ocean again.

“It’s like riding a bike. Once you fall down you have to get back up and learn from your mistakes,” Moss said.

And Forbes said this was not the first time her boyfriend was lost at sea. In February 2017, Moss got stranded off Grand Bahama and went missing for about three days before the Royal Bahamas Defense Force found him.

Moss said this time around, he had more gas, food, and a better sense of direction to drift his boat, but he was still worried about what his family would think once he was found.

“When I got back home, I knew they would be mad at me, shake their head, and ask: ‘Again?’ ”