JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – Last week, Harry Tatoian set out for a day of sailing off Folly Beach when his boat capsized. After three hours stranded in the Atlantic, a U.S. Coast Guard crew pulled him out of the ocean. Wednesday morning, Tatoian and the crew reunited face to face.
Tatoian spoke with News 2 about the events of the stressful day.
“I was out at Folly Beach on Thursday and was sailing and going into the bay area and my sail ripped,” explained Tatoian.
That’s when his boat capsized. He was stranded in the Atlantic for over three hours while the choppy waves pushed him out towards Kiawah Island.
Focused on keeping his head above water, Tatoian was able to tie the ropes from the sailboat around himself.
“I was yelling for help and waving my hands and using my radio,” he said.
Terrifying thoughts raced through the man’s mind as reality set in.
“Your life, your safety. Are you going to get rescued? How long is this going to be?”
Fortunately, Tatoian was carrying a handheld radio with him. The Christmas gift from his fiancée saved his life. He turned to channel 16, which is used as the emergency frequency, and put out a distress call.
“Mayday, mayday I need help!”
Crews with Coast Guard Sectors Charleston and Savannah heard the call and jumped into action searching the water from a Coast Guard helicopter.
“When we heard the call, we immediately got out there and we started looking for you, and for you to make those other mayday calls allowed us to hone in on where you were which was amazing,” Lt. Felipe Guardiola, the helicopter pilot, told Tatoian.
One hour passed between when the Coast Guard rescue team heard the distress call and when Tatoian was pulled from the ocean.
Wednesday, the crew and the man they saved reunited.
“We were elated just to find him in the first place,” said Joseph Florio, the rescue swimmer who saved Tatoian. “A lot of times we come upon these situations, they don’t really have the best results. So, when I looked out the window and actually saw the sailboat and him clinging on to it, we were excited to find him and help him.”
Tatoian expressed his gratitude to the team for saving his life.
“I was in tears,” he said. “It was literally the grace of God. When it was hovering over me, I couldn’t believe it.”
This incident isn’t keeping Tatoian from getting back in the water. He says he went swimming at Folly Beach just a few days after it happened.