Man Rescued Off Florida's Gulf Coast After Clinging to Boat for 14 Hours

Robert Clark was aching and had jellyfish stings by the time he was rescued from the chilly water off Florida's Gulf Coast, where he had clung to his capsized boat for about 14 hours, he recalled Tuesday.

Clark said he was headed out into the Gulf of Mexico to go fishing Saturday night when the wake of a passing fishing vessel swamped his 16-foot boat.

"It was like the whole ocean came in on me. Within a matter of seconds, my boat went down," Clark, 43, said in a telephone interview Tuesday from his hospital bed at Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center in Crystal Springs.

He was listed in good condition and was awaiting release from the hospital.

He was about 16 miles off Yankeetown when four fishermen from Leesburg heard his cries for help and saw his overturned boat at about noon Sunday, said the Coast Guard and the Levy County Sheriff's Office.

Clark, of Homosassa, said he was bruised and sore from holding onto his boat, had burns on his legs caused by exposure to gasoline which leaked out of his outboard engine, and he had several jellyfish stings.

Clark said he visualized the face of his 6-year-old daughter, Lauryn, as the hours dragged by.

"She means the world to me," he said.

The Coast Guard said the water's temperature would have been 59 to 63 degrees that night. Rescuers gave Clark dry clothing and water and soda to drink.

"He was pretty much frozen. His body was, like, quaking. It was a little while before he could say a word," one of his rescuers, James Selsor, 36, told The Gainesville Sun.

Clark said he had been fishing many times in the area and never had any trouble.

"All in all, I was one hell of an experience and I'm glad to be alive," he said.

He plans to fix up his boat and sell it.