SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The fishing trip off the rugged north coast of St. Lucia was supposed to last all day, but about four hours into the journey, the boat’s electric system crackled and popped.
Dan Suski, a 30-year-old business owner and information technology expert from San Francisco, had been wrestling a 200-pound marlin in rough seas with help from his sister, Kate Suski, a 39-year-old architect from Seattle.
He was still trying to reel in the fish when water rushed into the cabin and flooded the engine room, prompting the captain to radio for help as he yelled out their coordinates.
Thus began an ordeal in which the siblings swam 14 hours to reach land. They lived to tell about it back in St. Lucia, safe but shaken.
They recalled that the waves kept pounding the boat they had chartered from the local company Reel Irie in the eastern Caribbean island. It was Sunday around noon, and the trip was supposed to be a highlight of their sunny vacation.
As more water flooded the boat, the captain threw life preservers to the Suskis.
“He said, ‘Jump out! Jump out!’” Kate Suski recalled in a telephone interview Thursday.
The Suskis obeyed and jumped into the water with the captain and first mate. Less than five minutes later, the boat sank.
The group was at least 8 miles from shore, and waves more than twice their size tossed them.
“The captain was telling us to stay together, and that help was on its way and that we needed to wait,” Kate Suski said.
The group waited for about an hour, but no one came.
“I was saying, ‘Let’s swim, let’s swim. If they’re coming, they will find us,’” she recalled.
As they began to swim, the Suskis lost sight of the captain and first mate. Soon after, they lost sight of land amid the rain.
After finally reaching land and getting to a hospital, the siblings learned that the captain and first mate had been rescued after spending nearly 23 hours in the water.