As their food and water supply dwindled, they were forced to eat whatever they could catch.
In sailor mythology, salvation in these dire situations sometimes comes from a helpful mermaid or a guiding star. On Friday, however, the lost fishermen were rescued by the Empress of the Seas — a massive, 11-deck cruise ship.
Ted Miller, spokesman for Royal Caribbean International, said the cruise ship spotted a signal light coming from the fishermen’s vessel. The Empress sailed toward them and lowered a smaller boat, called a tender, containing a crew that helped retrieve the stranded sailors.
The improbable rescue was made possible because the Empress had been rerouted from Cienfuegos, Cuba, to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, to avoid poor weather, Miller said. Once aboard the cruise ship, the sailors received medical attention, food and water. The men then relayed their stories to their rescuers.
No injuries were reported even though the men had left Costa Rica with only enough food and water to last seven days.
The fishermen’s names were not provided, and their story, which was relayed to their rescuers, was not independently verified by The Washington Post.
The chief meteorologist for Royal Caribbean International, James Van Fleet, wrote on Twitter that the rescue was “a Christmas miracle.”
“Pure luck, lining of the stars, God, whatever you choose to believe, the facts are we would NOT have been in that area at the time had we not switched to go to Ocho Rios, Jamaica and you can’t help but think there was a greater plan in all of this,” he wrote.
Van Fleet notes that one of the fishermen was in such weakened condition that he could not walk, requiring the rescue crew to carry him onboard the cruise ship. By the time the Empress made it to Ocho Rios, the man had regained his strength and was able to walk on his own again.
The ship’s crew collected $300 for the two sailors to buy clothes and food when they left the hospital, Van Fleet added.
“I don’t know about you, but I’ve already seen a Christmas Miracle,” Van Fleet wrote. “20 days at sea should tell you everything about the odds of them being found alive. I am bursting with pride of my co-workers of Empress of the Seas.”
Photos of the rescue were taken by some of the passengers aboard the Empress:
More pics to share from @RoyalCaribbean #EmpressoftheSeas rescuing 2 Mariners who had been at Sea for 20 DAYS in that small boat between #Jamaica and #GrandCayman! See last pic for story. UNREAL and so PROUD of Officers and Crew! Thank you @jleberle and @caryjames007 for pics. pic.twitter.com/VEw1tzChMO— James Van Fleet (@JamesVanFleet) December 21, 2018