Luck comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s the avoidance of disaster and other times it’s the survival of disaster.
Take, for example, the 71-year-old man in Miyazaki Prefecture who went missing on April 24 after being swept off his fishing boat…only to appear at home the following day, soaking wet and asking for someone to pay for his taxi.
Fishing has never been an easy job. Stormy seas have claimed the lives of many fishermen, and, despite advances in technology, the profession hardly seems to be getting any better in terms of safety. And Yoshio Yamashita, at the ripe young age of 71, is living proof of just how dangerous the job can be.
On April 24, Yamashita set out, alone, from Nichinan City in Miyazaki Prefecture in his 1.3-ton boat, expecting a normal day of fishing. However, around 4:30 pm, he was swept overboard roughly 2.5 kilometers offshore. Unfortunately for the fisherman, his boat was operating under automatic steering and continued on its way to port.
Realizing that he would never be able to catch up with his vessel, Yamashita turned toward a pier wall barely visible in the distance. Luckily, the fisherman was wearing a life-vest designed for winter, so staying afloat and keeping warm weren’t major issues. He used a rubber boot – puffed up with air – as an additional flotation device while paddling with his free hand, reaching the shore after around two hours of swimming.
After making landfall, he was so exhausted that he fell asleep on the ground and didn’t wake up until it was completely dark.
After rousing himself, the fisherman attempted to flag down a car on the highway…but no one would stop for him. Eventually, he arrived at a convenience store and called for a taxi – after having walked three kilometers in his wet clothes and still tired from his swim.
Finally, around 4:30 a.m. on April 25, Yoshio arrived home to find his wife, friends, and other fishermen waiting on word from search parties that had been sent out to look for him.
“Could someone pay the taxi for me?” he asked after getting out of the cab, barefoot.
The search-and-rescue organization hadn’t been notified of the man’s disappearance until after 8:30 p.m., long after the fisherman had swum to shore. A helicopter spotted his boat after 10:30 p.m., but Yamashita was obviously not on board, which had led to plans to send divers out later that morning.
As for his wife, Yoko, she was in for two shocks that morning. She said that when her husband arrived home, she swore he was a ghost – not an entirely unreasonable response. And then she got to hear his unbelievable story of survival.
Adding to Yamashita’s good luck was the news that he wouldn’t have to buy a new boat as his own had safely made it to the bay unmanned. The boat’s autopilot had, as designed, successfully directed the boat all the way home.
“It was quite the ordeal,” Yamashita told the Asahi Shimbun in an interview, “But I just thought of it like a triathlon.”
Yamashita was taken to the hospital for examination and while he did seem to have a slight case of pneumonia, it doesn’t appear to be anything serious.
As for his advice for surviving being swept overboard into the ocean, he said it was no good to start panicking. Oh, and always, always wear a life vest.
Sources: Asahi Shimbun, Yahoo! News Japan, 47 News, News 830
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