Boaters Survive 3 Days at Sea on Water Cooler

Courage and a cooler get the credit for saving three boaters tossed overboard off the coast of Florida a week ago.

Brothers John and Elias Nevarez and their friend, Rebecca Sullivan, are lucky to be alive.

They spent nearly three days adrift at sea; the only thing they had to cling to was a water cooler.

Despite an extensive Coast Guard search covering more than 11,000 miles, it was a passing fisherman who found the three, by accident.

In a call to officials, the fisherman said, "Yeah, Coast Guard, this is vessel 10 Frank. Just picked up three survivors out of the water. I wonder if somebody can come and get them from me."

The three, who have all served in the Navy, left for a fishing trip on May 16. Their boat capsized without warning. They didn't even have time to put on life vests.

John Nevarez told reporters, "There was no fear. There was truly no fear. We knew we were all gonna survive."

On "The Early Show" Monday, John, 32, and Elias Nevarez, 31, and Sullivan, 28, shared their story of survival.

John said when their boat was hit by three waves, they grabbed what they could. In this case, it was just a cooler.

"As soon as we hit the water, we looked inside the cooler to see what we had. Water and Gatorade. And John came up with a plan of how much water we were going to drink each day and just hold onto the cooler and stay afloat."

Sullivan said they were sure they were going to survive.

"We didn't give ourselves the option not to. If we had done that, then we probably wouldn't have. But for the sheer fact that we were determined not to die out there, we all came back safe and sound."

Elias Nevarez said they stayed alive by talking to each other. John said they did a lot of movie quotes while waiting to be rescued.

"It's funny, because there (are) just so much comical things," he said. "Our family's a very close family and we like to joke around a lot, spend a lot of time just hanging out and joking. So anything that was funny from a movie like 'Space Balls' or blond jokes. Anything we could think of that were just absolutely not being in the water. And it was just -- it was literally like three people hanging out in the backyard just with a lot colder temperatures and a lot more water."

John said they didn't really sleep -- just rest.

He explained, "As your muscles start to get fatigued, we had set up a rotation where one person would sit on top of the boat as a lookout and the other two would be tied with a knot invention that Elias came up with, and it worked out great. It gave one person the ability to hold on to a forward and aft line with another line wrapped around two people's bodies. And the person on the inside of it was able to rest, not so much sleep."

Sullivan sent out a big thank you to the fisherman who found the crew.

"Thank you from the bottom of not only our hearts, but our family's, because if he hadn't stopped to investigate Elias' shirt, we might have just been picked up yesterday, if we were still alive. So thank you very much."
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