Deniece Donnafield and Marsha Beatty are thankful to be alive after the women, another friend, two dogs and a one-winged seagull were tossed from their boat into the Atlantic Ocean.
Donnafield of Conway, Beatty of North Myrtle Beach and Jim Manning, also of Conway, had planned a quick boat trip Dec. 17 to Waites Island off the coast of North Myrtle Beach.
But the Horry County residents soon found themselves clinging to the 18-foot aluminum boat they had been riding in. A strong current had pulled the boat out into the ocean, and waves turned it over.
“It was only going to be a short little trip. It was misty, and we couldn't find the island so we were trying to get back, and we hit a sandbar. We go boating all the time,” Donnafield said. “There was no control over this. The ocean just claimed us. The more we fought the more it claimed us.”
“When the boat went down I had 911 on the phone, but the waves were just coming over us,” Beatty said. “We tried to stay with the boat and keep our dogs safe. We got out far enough to where the waves were behind us and the water was smoother.”
Beatty was able to call 911 on her cell phone. They were in the water for two hours, about a half-mile off the coast of North Myrtle Beach, before the Coast Guard arrived to rescue them, the women said. All suffered from hypothermia .
Donnafield's 16-year-old Maltese, Gordia, died soon after they were rescued. The other dog, a Manchester terrier that also wore a life jacket, survived.
Donnafield's one-winged rescued sea gull, named Tide – which was also on the boat when it capsized – drifted away from the group while they were in the water.
Coast Guard officials warn that boaters should take precautions before going on the water this time of year.
“Although air temperatures are in 70s, boaters must be cognizant that the water temperature is in the 50s,” said Brian Hampton, a Coast Guard search and rescue coordinator.