A California fisherman falls overboard and has to swim in freezing temps to an oil platform.

VENTURA — On Sunday, January 26, a California commercial fisherman, Scott Thompson, fell off of his boat in the Santa Barbara Channel and had to swim for five hours to get to safety. 

Thompson took out his boat, Miss Grace, that day to commemorate the life of a friend who recently passed, KCAL 9 reported. Around 5 p.m, Thompson’s boat hit rocky waters, and he lost his balance and fell overboard. Thompson, an experienced mariner, quickly realized that he was exhausting himself trying to catch up to the boat.  

“I’ve literally thought about it a hundred million times,” Thompson told KCAL 9. “Like what if I fell off my boat and it was in gear?,” he continues. “Then I looked up at the sky, and I was like, ‘Really?! Like really?! This is how I’m gonna die?”

Thompson’s worst fear was the idea of never seeing his family again, KABC reported. “I was devastating myself… just picturing my girls and my son growing up without me, and my wife not having a husband to support her,’ Thompson told KABC. The fisherman knew he needed to survive for his family; he spotted the closest thing to safety, a bright oil platform miles away, and he started swimming.

It was at that moment a harbor seal surfaced next to him: “The seal would go underwater and he came up and nudged me. Like a dog comes up and nudges your leg,” Thompson said. He credits the interaction with the seal for giving him the confidence to keep going, according to KABC.  

Thompson finally reached the oil platform around 10 p.m. The crew aboard aided him to safety and the Coast Guard transported him to the hospital, where he was treated for hypothermia and more, KABC reported. 

Thompson’s boat was later recovered at Anacapa Island, Channel Islands by TowBoatUS. The recovery crew is in disbelief that Thompson survived the 52 degree conditions. “Even putting on a wetsuit, being prepared, getting in that water and swimming to the platform, was horrendous.” Paul Amaral, owner of TowBoatUS, said. “I can’t imagine being in the water with shorts and a t-shirt.” 

Scott Thompson has since been reunited with his family and Miss Grace.