A boater who was found Sunday clinging to his sinking vessel far off Florida's Atlantic coastline told U.S. Coast Guard officials he didn't think he would make it back to shore alive.
"I didn't see anybody, I thought, this is it!" Stuart Bee said in a call with the Coast Guard released Monday night.
Bee, 62, had been reported missing on Friday after he departed from Cape Marina on his 32-foot boat.
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Coast Guard officials said Bee was found clinging to a portion of the capsized boat on Sunday by a passing cargo ship, the Angeles, about 86 miles from Port Cape Canaveral.
"We just rescued one person from a capsizing boat at sea," a crewmember of the Angeles tells the Coast Guard in the call. "For the moment, the guy is OK, he's just in accomodation in shock."
Bee later gets on the call to speak with Coast Guard Lt. Shawn Antonelli.
"First and foremost, I am happy that you are alive, and well. That is great to hear," Antonelli said. "I'm sorry for the result in your vessel."
Bee described having mechanical problems on the boat Saturday night, saying the engine was making squealing noises. He went to sleep and was woken up by water coming into the boat.
The boat started sinking but a portion stayed afloat, Bee said. He had emergency equipment in boat to send out a distress signal and pinpoint his location, but it was underwater.
"Three times I tried to hold my breath and swim down and get it but I couldn't reach it," Bee said.
He said he was about to try a fourth time when he spotted the cargo ship.
"Then I saw a container vessel in the distance and then, I don't have my glasses, I couldn't see if it was coming to me or not, but I began waving and took my shirt off and waved the shirt periodically."
Coast Guard Capt. Mark Vlaun said it was an improbable rescue.
"I can't even put into words how shocking it is that they saw him out there on that water, 86 miles from shore," Vlaun said in an interview with NBC News. "A person standing on a bowsprit, is the kind of, it's a made for TV moment, that is the first time I've seen anything like that in my 27 years of doing this, that is a truly extraordinary case."
Family members were also amazed.
"The first thing he said was, 'you're never gonna guess what happened to me,'" niece Leila Bee said. "I'm in disbelief, I can't believe that they found him."