A California commercial fisherman took his boat, the Miss Grace, out of the Santa Barbara Channel on Sunday, Jan. 26, for a solo trip. This wasn’t a typical fishing trip for Scott Thompson, an urchin diver. His mission was to clear his mind after the loss of a close friend.

When Thompson was on his way back to port, he stood up at the same time that the boat was rocked by a wave in choppy channel waters. He lost his balance and fell overboard.

Wearing just shorts and a t-shirt in 57-degree water with no land in sight, Thompson new his best hope was to catch up to the boat. But it didn’t take him long to realize it was a lost cause, and he watched his boat drift away.

“I thought to myself, ‘Great, this is how I’m going to die,’” Thompson told KABC. “Today is the day I’m going to die.”

Thompson began to panic, despite being an expert diver and experienced swimmer. The water was cold, and his odds of surviving the temperatures alone were slim.

“I wasn’t thinking about sharks or anything like that,” Thompson said.

That is until he heard a splash. A harbor seal popped up and nudged him along. He felt like it gave him the glimmer of hope he needed to keep pushing.

“I was devastating myself… just picturing my girls and my son growing up without me, and my wife, you know, not having a husband to support her,” Thompson said.

He became determined to make it to an offshore oil platform. Thompson swam for about five hours. When he made it to platform Gail, the crew got him the help he needed.

Thompson’s boat was later recovered in Frenchy’s Cove at Anacapa Island by a crew from TowBoatUS, which recorded the discovery and posted it on their Instagram feed. The crew was amazed that he survived.

“Even putting on a wet suit, being prepared, getting in that water, and swimming to the platform was horrendous,” Paul Amaral, who owns TowBoatUS Ventura and also received a Coast Guard public service award for his help in the disastrous Conception dive boat fire of 2019, told KABC. “I can’t imagine being in the water with shorts and a T-shirt at night. There was no moon, I mean it was pitch black.”

A GoFundMe is close to raising its goal of $15,000 toward repairs of the Miss Grace, as well as lost gear.

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