Monday, January 6, 2014


After a momentary lapse of judgment sent him overboard in the Atlantic at night, John Aldridge did everything right - most importantly he adopted a survival mindset . . . S.L.

By PAUL TOUGH The New York Times

And then the handle snapped.

Suddenly Aldridge was flying backward, tumbling across the deck toward the back of the boat, which was wide open, just a flat, slick ramp leading straight into the black ocean a few inches below. Aldridge grabbed for the side of the boat as it went past, his fingertips missing it by inches. The water hit him like a slap. He went under, took in a mouthful of Atlantic Ocean and then surfaced, sputtering. He yelled as loud as he could, hoping to wake Sosinski, who was asleep on a bunk below the front deck. But the diesel engine was too loud, and the Anna Mary, on autopilot, moving due south at six and a half knots, was already out of reach, its navigation lights receding into the night. Aldridge shouted once more, panic rising in his throat, and then silence descended. He was alone in the darkness. A single thought gripped his mind: This is how I’m going to die. . .

. . . alone in the water, he tried to use (that) strength to push down the fear that was threatening to overtake him. No negative thoughts, he told himself. Stay positive. Stay strong . . .

. . . The first thing you’re supposed to do, if you’re a fisherman and you fall in the ocean, is to kick off your boots. They’re dead weight that will pull you down. But as Aldridge treaded water, he realized that his boots were not pulling him down; in fact, they were lifting him up, weirdly elevating his feet and tipping him backward. Aldridge’s boots were an oddity among the members of Montauk’s commercial fishing fleet: thick green rubber monstrosities that were guaranteed to keep your feet warm down to minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature Montauk had not experienced since the ice age. Sosinski made fun of the boots, but Aldridge liked them: they were comfortable and sturdy and easy to slip on and off. And now, as he bobbed in the Atlantic, he had an idea of how they might save his life.

Treading water awkwardly, Aldridge reached down and pulled off his left boot. Straining, he turned it upside down, raised it up until it cleared the waves, then plunged it back into the water, trapping a boot-size bubble of air inside. He tucked the inverted boot under his left armpit. Then he did the same thing with the right boot. It worked; they were like twin pontoons, and treading water with his feet alone was now enough to keep him stable and afloat.

The boots gave Aldridge a chance to think. He wasn’t going to sink — not right away, anyway. But he was still in a very bad situation. He tried to take stock: It was about 3:30 a.m. on July 24, a clear, starry night lit by a full moon. The wind was calm, but there was a five-foot swell, a remnant of a storm that blew through a couple of days earlier. The North Atlantic water was chilly — 72 degrees — but bearable, for now. Dawn was still two hours away. Aldridge set a goal, the first of many he would assign himself that day: Just stay afloat till sunrise . . .

What follows is the incredible saga of how John Aldridge survived against all odds, due in no small part to a positive attitude, a clear mindset, and no shortage of pure courage in the face of certain death. He lost everything, then he did everything possible to increase his odds of survival. How many of us would do the same?

Read the rest of John Aldridge's amazing story

Keyword "SURVIVAL"

Keyword SURVIVAL is the opening chapter of U.S. Army Field Manual 21-76, Survival.
Whenever faced with a survival situation, remember the keyword "SURVIVAL." You may some day have to make it work for you.

* S - Size Up the Situation
* U - Use All Your Senses, Undue Haste Makes Waste
* R - Remember Where You Are
* V - Vanquish Fear and Panic
* I - Improvise
* V - Value Living
* A - Act Like the Natives
* L - Live by Your Wits, But for Now, Learn Basic Skills

Click on the above links to learn the meaning of each letter of the word "SURVIVAL."

This true story adds a whole new meaning to the saying "Attitude is everything."



  1. "After a momentary lapse of judgment ..."

    (There were prior bad judgements in working alone at night, without a lifejacket, without an EPIRB, after 20 hours without sleep, etc....) But yes, the survival story is great.

    See also

  2. FRANK: I agree with you 100% and because I have a maritime background what you said occurred to me. I didn't want to get hung up in the introduction, however, so I just said "momentary lapse of judgment" - analyzing the series of errors that led to his misadventure would be subject of another post altogether. BTW thanks for your support -SL