Romualdo Macedo Rodrigues went out last month for a routine fishing trip that was expected to last three days. But when cracks appeared in his boat and he started to take on water, the Brazilian fisherman thought he was lost – until a quick thought saved his life.
Rodrigues, 44, originally left for the island of Illet la Mere off French Guiana, according to Yahoo. He did, however, notice widening cracks in his boat, which sank in Oiapoque waters off northern Brazil. Unable to swim, he swung into action – and into the onboard cooler.
“I was desperate,” Rodrigues told CNN affiliate Record TV in an article published Saturday. “I thought my end was near. But thank God, God gave me one more chance. I saw [the freezer] was not flowing. I jumped [inside it]. It fell to one side and remained normal.
Adrift at sea, Rodrigues had neither food nor water. While the floating cooler proved an adequate life raft, it was still vulnerable to predatory threats.
“The sharks were surrounding the freezer, but they left,” Rodrigues told Record TV. “I thought [I would be attacked]. I stayed on top [of the freezer], I haven’t slept, I haven’t slept. I saw dawn, dusk, asking God to send someone to save me.
Rodrigues said it was the thirst that bothered him the most, although he also thought he “was going to be attacked by sharks because there are a lot of curious fish on the high seas”. Indeed, northern Brazil has seen more than 62 shark attacks and 25 related deaths since 1992, according to The Independent.
Rodrigues said he bailed out the cooler with his hands when water entered it. He thought of his family for “strength and hope”. Finally, 11 days after the start of the ordeal, a group of fishermen found a dehydrated Rodrigues 280 miles from his sunken boat off Suriname.
“I heard a noise and there was a boat above the freezer,” Rodrigues told Record TV. “Only they thought there was no one there. Then they stopped slowly, my vision was already fading, then I said, “My God, the boat. I raised my arms and asked for help.
Rodrigues was arrested for lack of proper documentation when his rescuers brought him to the mainland of Suriname, according to KOLD 13. After 16 days in detention, however, he was allowed to return home to Belem, Brazil.
“That freezer was God in my life,” he told Record TV. “The only thing I had was the freezer. It was a miracle.