VENTURA (CBSLA) — After being thrown overboard, and as he watched his boat drift away from him, a fisherman knew that his only chance of survival was to swim his way out.
"I've literally thought about it a hundred million times," said Scott Thompson. "Like what if I fell off my boat and my boat was in gear."
All that time daydreaming finally came to fruition on a cold January night when Thompson was thrown off his old blue boat called Miss Grace, as he tried to clear his mind after the death of a close friend.
"I looked up at the sky and I was like 'Really?!'" he said. "Like really, this is how I'm going to die."
The fisherman immediately realized he couldn't catch his boat, which was in gear, and drifted away further into the Santa Barbara Channel. Thompson, an experienced mariner knew that he was spending too much energy on swimming upright so he turned over on his back while he contemplated his next steps. That is when he saw the bright lights from an oil platform about two to three miles away and made the decision to swim.
"I just had to keep telling myself, 'Yes, you can. Yes, you can. You can do this,'" he recalled. "And then it became not about me."
He began to think about his family: his wife their two little girls and their older son and motivated himself to keep swimming.
"There was a lot of the drive," said Thompson. "Just thinking 'Oh my god, they're going to grow up without me."
While the thought of his family motivated him to keep going, Thompson said that he would not have endured through the pain if it weren't for a harbor seal swimming alongside him.
"They always pop their head out of the water," said Thompson.
It was a glimmer of hope, Thompson recalled, knowing that he wasn't alone on this heroic journey.
"That's when I started thinking like 'Wow, I'm getting closer," he said. "I'm actually going to pull this off. And then [the seal] was gone."
With his family at the top of his mind and with the help of a friend seal, he made it to the oil platform, even though he had developed hypothermia after hours in the cold water.
"It was 52 degrees that night," said Captain Carson Shevitz, who runs TowBoatUS Ventura.
The maritime company later recovered Thompson's boat. Shevitz added that it was incredible that Thompson survived the conditions especially only wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
"It was even cold for me and I was only in the water for 15 minutes," said Shevitz. "I can't imagine what he went through."
After a lot of reflection, he thinks it was more than his experience in the ocean that helped him make it back to land.
"I looked up and said 'God will you please take care of my family,' that's all I asked," he recalled as he began to cry. "And the next thing you know I'm at the oil derrick."
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