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Boaters prepared for death, protected from shark attack by dolphins

The Charlotte Observer

19th April 2004

N.C. father, son rescued after nearly 2 days in Gulf of Mexico waters

Associated Press

A father and son stranded in the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico for nearly two days after their boat capsized say they had resigned themselves to death.

"We made peace with God about it. Ultimately it came down to unless God moved on our behalf, we wouldn't make it in," Ken Heybrock of High Point said.

Heybrock, 49, and his 18-year-old son, Josh, headed out Tuesday afternoon from a state park on Florida's Panhandle in an 18-foot Hobie Fox catamaran. Family members had expected them back before dark and called the Coast Guard when they failed to arrive.

A gust of wind swept the 18-foot craft onto its side, tossing the men into the cold water.

A Coast Guard jet spotted the pair Thursday about 60 miles southeast of Cape San Blas. They had survived by using a sail for warmth and to collect fresh water using a technique Josh had just learned by reading a survival manual.

Their life jackets kept them afloat and each had worn a wet suit for warmth.

The Heybrocks could hear the eerie sirens of dolphins encircling them, keeping sharks at bay. The nights were lit by phosphorescent plankton and clear skies.

"The stars were bright," Ken Heybrock recalled. "It was pretty out there."

Ken Heybrock said they thought about death during the ordeal, but weren't afraid.

"It was never an issue of being fearful," he said. "God will take care of you. We had that assurance."

The crew of a passing Coast Guard plane, one of several they had seen, happened to spot the two men near the white vessel, waving their arms.

"They thought they were finished with the search," said Ken's wife and Josh's mother, Amy Heybrock. "They took the nearest route (back to their base), and they saw Josh and Ken. It's quite obvious they were in God's hands."