From Redditor /u/NahDude_Nah:
Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. My step brother and I are 15 years old and our parents are being boring wandering around the park looking at trees and what not. We decide to steal the keys to our 16 foot skiff that was beached and go for a joy ride.
We pushed the boat off the shoreline and into shallow water. We kept bumping up on the bars under us because there was a big slack tide at the time, so we decided to just wait before dropping the prop so we wouldn't ruin it. We let ourselves drift out a ways from shore.
Now we are maybe 200 yards from shore and can't see the bottom anymore, so we decide to drop the outboard into the water, only the thing won't budge. We are pushing and pushing on it, but it just won't go into the water no matter what we do. We are still drifting because there was a very big slack tide that was just pulling our boat further and further from shore. At that time we decided we had better drop the anchor so we don't drift anymore. The anchor line was no more than 10 feet long, and when we dropped it we didn't slow down. At that point we surmised, the water was already too deep for it to hit anything.
We pushed off from the beach at about 1:30pm and it was now around 6pm. The shore was more or less just a line on the horizon and the trees were barely discernible. This was a while ago (I am an old man) so we all didn't have cell phones handy like most kids do these days. As part of the rental agreement, the boat was also not supposed to be out past sunset so it didn't have any running lights or a radio. Our parents, we later found out, knew of our distress pretty quickly and were watching the boat from shore trying to figure out what we were doing. Once night hit, everyone knew we were in trouble.
As the sun was almost set, we saw a light blinking in the breaks between waves. It was pretty far away but it WAS coming more or less towards us. It ended up being a really tiny little (for lack of a better term) make-it-yourself sailboat, crewed by a father and his kid. It was smaller even than our boat, which was tiny, and really not made for the ocean. The guy stopped when he saw us frantically yelling at him, and threw us a line. We told him of our troubles, and he jumped up on our boat and after some tinkering was able to get our prop to drop into the water. We were saved! He had his boat tied to the back of our boat, so we didn't want to start the prop till he got his away, but it was in the water!
After he was about 10 feet away, we turned the key and it was dead. We shouted at him once we realized we couldn't fix it ourselves, but he had put his own outboard motor in the water after he took his sails down. He was headed back home and didn't hear us. We shouted and waved to the boy in his boat who was maybe 6 or 7 years old. He was watching us while dad had his back to us and waved back at us. They got further and further away till they were gone. We tried what we could but the key would just not power the boat at all. Later we would find out the battery on the boat was dead and wouldn't have been able to power a radio anyway.
I forgot to mention, this was New Year's Eve...We knew it was midnight because of the fireworks show we saw light up the horizon. We saw other lights on the horizon too, police boat red and blue lights flashing, except they were on the Caribbean side of the islands, the wrong side. We were drifting south and they were looking for a tiny boat with no lights drifting north. Later we found out that the park ranger at Bahia Honda had told them bad information as to how to find us when our parents tracked him down and pleaded for help.
We ended up being found by a Coast Guard rescue boat around 7am and were back at the station in time to eat all of the station guy's breakfast cereal. We had drifted nearly 40 miles during the night, about halfway to Cuba. Several times throughout the night huge cargo ships would pass relatively close to us since we were in an international shipping lane. We wouldn't have even registered as a bump to them and wouldn't have been seen without any lights. One really heartbreaking thing was seeing all the boats whiz by us all day and night, waving at them but none other than that one sailboat guy and his son stopped, saw us, or even got close enough to us to realistically see us. We probably just looked like we were fishing or something. We would shout at everyone just because we had nothing else to try so between that, my whistle blowing, and no fresh water, neither of us had any voice at all by the time they found us.
...The worst part of the entire evening for us both was knowing that Darren, my "shipmate's" dad swam after us. At around hour four or so, he decided he could swim out to us and help. He is an excellent swimmer and back then was in pretty great shape. He estimated at the time he dove in to get to us we were about a mile away...so he swam as fast as he could out to us and made it fairly close, but the surf was pretty high that day...he made it close enough to us that we HEARD him shouting out at us and it gave us such a feeling of relief like we were going to be fine when he got to us, even though his head was still relatively a speck in the waves.
He never made it to the boat though and then we stopped hearing him shouting our names. This was Darren's dad, and it brought upon SERIOUS feelings of guilt. Where was he? We were both crying because we thought he was dead and it was our fault because he tried to swim out after us. We both, at different times, jumped in and swam around looking for him out of desperation more than sense. Neither of us swam very far from the boat because in the dark...that boat is all you really have between you and that now very cold water. We didn't have any towels or anything on the boat besides our clothes and poor Darren didn't even bring a shirt with him so we used my shirt the best we could for warmth.
Throughout the night we would cry and talk about death and what each other would do. There was no radio on the boat but there was a red whistle that was on the keychain. I blew that motherf*cking thing all night long and channeled my 7th grade shop class teacher (Wally Logue!!!) who taught me Morse Code. I blew S.O.S for hours and hours. When the Coast Guard guy finally found us the first thing he yelled was that he was going to "Bust whoever has been making all that dang racket with the whistle all night!"