Charter Boat Captain Recalls Rescue of Missing Boater - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/07/06

Charter Boat Captain Recalls Rescue of Missing Boater

Family and friends thought he was lost, but a Savannah man proved them wrong. He survived more than week on land after his boat sank. After spending nine long, hot days and eight cold nights alone, hoping someone would come to his rescue, finally George Hamilton got his wish yesterday morning.

The 73-year-old was spotted on Turtle Island in South Carolina just south of Dafauski Island, where his boat was found. It was Capt. Jack McGowen of Miss Judy's Charters off Wilmington Island who first heard something. And when he moved his fishing boat closer to Turtle Island, he noticed that it was Hamilton calling out for help.

"We could make out someone and knew that there was trouble," McGowen said.

And he was right. Hamilton was crying out for help after spending the last nine days on the island; his boat capsized last Wednesday.

"The wind come in big rush and blowed the boat over," Hamilton told us from his hospital bed at Memorial Health.

But after many long days surviving on oysters and water, Hamilton made it.

"It was a happy morning," he said. "And I'd stand up, fall back down and get back up. And I waved and hollered and they finally looked around."

"We turned around and looked behind us and turned the boat around to check it out and see him waving and let him know help was on the way," recalled Bob Tucker, a vacationer who was on McGowen's boat.

"I think he has incredible stamina and knows the river and can take care of himself well," said McGowen.

McGowen quickly called the Coast Guard. A Coast Guard crew rescued Hamilton and took him to the hospital for treatment. "That was a blessing that they knew I was alive," said Hamilton.

It was the best news for Hamilton's waiting family. "It was a wonderful thing to stay alive, good to see him alive," said Hamilton's wife, Claretha.

And McGowen is glad he was in the right place at the right time. "I'm glad it had an ending like that," he said.

Doctors kept Hamilton in the hospital overnight, treating him for dehydration and muscle cramps. Doctors say if all goes well, they expect him to go home today.

Reported by: Brooke Kelley, bkelley@wtoc.com

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