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South Florida Family Rescued At Sea After Run-In With Wicked Weather

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – What one family thought would be a leisurely sail from South Florida to the Carolinas turned out to be anything but when wild weather left the group stranded at sea.

Back on dryland, Miami-based banking executive Hugo Mantilla has quite the story to tell.

"There were moments we thought we might not make it. This could be life threatening," Mantilla told CBS4's Lauren Pastrana when recalling his experience at sea.

Mantilla was on board his 34-foot sailboat, the Stella Maria, Saturday with his sister, brother-in-law, a friend and his 8-year-old nephew.

The group was sailing from Miami to North Carolina when suddenly, while off the coast of South Carolina, the weather took a nasty turn.

"At one point it was pretty dire. There was some praying going on," Mantilla said. "Mother Nature was stronger than we expected. She came in maybe 40, 45 knot winds. As Floridians know, that's a lot of wind."

Mantilla said that at one point the ocean swells took the boat's canvas away, "like the foam off your coffee cup," he said.

Mantilla said they also lost the ability to steer. He called for help and the coast guard showed up.

Rescuers took Mantilla's nephew and the boy's parents back to shore, but Mantilla refused to leave his boat behind so he spent the night aboard the rocking vessel before the coast guard picked him up the next day.

All told, he spent more than 12 hours stranded at sea.

Mantilla is not the only rescue off South Carolina; the U.S. Coast Guard tweeted out pictures of another rescue off South Carolina. In that instance, coast guard said two adults and two children survived the stormy night by clinging to a cooler wearing life jackets after their fishing boat overturned.

Mantilla is grateful that everyone, in both scenarios, is okay.

"There's nothing I can say but thanks to the coast guard. We are very lucky to have them," Mantilla said.

If you think this scare will keep Mantilla out of the water—think again. In fact, Mantilla is in the market for a larger boat and has plans to sail on the Stella Maria many more times in the future.

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