Q & A: Lochlin Reidy

Lochlin Reidy talks about the new book Overboard!, which details his rescue at sea after a harrowing 28-hour struggle to stay alive in the Atlantic.

 

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You talked about this a little, but why do you think you were able to survive?

A couple of things. An awful lot of it has to do with two aspects of this. One, we had a plan that should disaster strike, this is what we would do. And we activated that plan—there emergency signal went up, the Coast Guard was notified. We knew they would come out to look for us. I did happen to see Coast Guard planes early in the morning, so I knew they were looking for us. That in itself was confirmation to be like, ‘Okay, just wait and be available because they’re looking. They’re coming.’

When Tom died ... he died at about 11 o’clock in the morning, and while he was dying, I was giving him mouth-to-mouth and I promised him ... actually, what he was trying to do, he was trying to take off his life preserver—he knew he was going to die —and give it to me so I would have his life preserver and mine. I told him, ‘No, keep it on.’ I’d get him home. I promised him that I would get him home to his family. That commitment was very important also. It was important to me.

Those things coupled together—and of course, I had my own family to be concerned about. My mom was elderly, I had a young daughter (she’s now 18, she was 13 then). There’s a lot of things that I needed to be home for. I think it all just strung together and provided me with the strength. I just didn’t dwell on the negative, looking at the storm or the waves and the rain coming down, the horrible conditions. If I dwelled on that ... waves breaking over you ... the ocean was trying to kill me, and I just wouldn’t let it do it.

I just couldn’t dwell on the negative aspect of it. I just had to think positive thoughts. When the sun came out, I looked at the clouds. It was incredibly beautiful, the shafts of light shining down through the clouds to the ocean. The cloud formations were kind of clear enough that I could make shapes out of the clouds. Just doing things like that helped, just trying to not dwell on the negative. That was, I think, the most important part of it.

Listening to you talk about it after reading about your story in the book, it all almost seems surreal to me. How does it feel for you looking back at it?

Yeah ... you live your life, and you don’t really realize it, but you’re pretty much into a routine regardless of what you’re doing. Then this happens, which was totally out of character, out of context—you knew it could happen, but you think, ‘That’s not going to happen to us. We’re careful. We’re not going to end up in the ocean.’ But it happened, and it was a 24-hour period that will probably never be repeated again for me, and it was surreal. After Tom passed away, it was the loneliest I’ve ever been in my life. Typically, I don’t mind being alone.

It was exhilarating in some respects, being there and knowing ... again, I can’t stress enough how much I truly believe that we were going to be found. I look back at it now, and look at the footage of the ocean and the Coast Guard and realize how improbable all of this was, being found. Obviously, I was naive. But it truly worked.

It was surreal. The hallucinations—if you haven’t read that part of the book—they were absolutely unbelievable. I never, ever experienced anything like that. The hallucinations were in the very calm, visual aspect, but the ocean was throwing me all around. It was odd. And that was part of the hypothermia taking over and settling in. That’s pretty common in hypothermia cases—I did not know that. I’ve learned an awful lot about these things since. I was really curious after experiencing them.

When Tom and I went into the water, the water temperature was 73 degrees, which is fairly comfortable. But, over time, a temperature that is that much lower than your body temperature will drain your body heat. When they took my temperature on the Sakura Express, the ship that picked me up, it was 94 degrees, or something along those lines, so my body temperature was way down. I wasn’t cold, but I was slowly starting to lose strength.

Q & A: Lochlin Reidy

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