Scott Douglas and his brother-in-law Rich St. Pierre went tuna fishing on Nantucket Sound onboard their Regulator Marine, Queen Bee, in August 2008. They were having a good time when a monster wave threw them overboard and carried their boat out to sea, leaving them swimming for survival.
“There were big waves and we were getting pounded,” said Douglas. “I looked around and thought, ‘Where is everybody?’ There was nobody around. I told Rich to ‘hold on, here comes another one,’ as the waves hit, one after another.”
Then the rogue wave hit, tossing the duo into the sound. It was the last time the men thought they would see Douglas’ 2003 sportfisher. The Regulator Marine-built 26-footer – sans fishermen – crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the coast of Spain on a voyage lasting more than 1,000 days.
Owen and Joan Maxwell, co-owners of the Edenton, N.C.-based company, Regulator Marine, designed the center-console flagship model with a “great running hull that would take a pounding, be quick and maneuverable.”
Somewhere along the journey, the Regulator Marine, sportfisher, Queen Bee, flipped over. The submerged outboards kept the bow partially exposed.
The seaworthy hull was discovered in Spain last January with a “slightly bruised T-top frame,” a little rust, a few broken latches and its two outboard engines intact. A first-aid kit, radio, nautical charts, batteries and fire extinguishers were still in place. A nickel was found in the glove box.
Notified by their Spanish counterparts, the U.S. Coast Guard contacted Douglas who in turn contacted Regulator Marine. After six months of negotiations with the Spanish government, which rightfully owned the boat according to international salvage laws, Queen Bee was released to Regulator. They shipped her back across the Atlantic and brought her to their factory.
According to Joan, the boat survived at least six hurricanes, and she was told by the U.S. Coast Guard that Queen Bee “probably could have floated for another three years.”
“This is a testimony to American manufacturing,” she said.
The Maxwells reunited Douglas and St. Pierre with their long lost vessel during a ceremony in Edenton, almost four years to the day after their fateful fishing trip. There, Douglas and St. Pierre recounted their tale of survival.
The birds were working, the sun came out, yet there were no fish, so they called it quits and St. Pierre took the helm. “I looked over my shoulder and saw a 14- to 15-foot curling wave right next to us,” said St. Pierre. “It was a wall of green coming over the tee top.”
Knowing he couldn’t outrun the wave, St. Pierre opened the throttle hoping Queen Bee could ride it out. Instead, the wave tossed both men, who were not wearing life preservers, overboard and dragged Queen Bee out to sea.
When Douglas surfaced, he was grateful the boat was not over them and the water was not cold. “I knew I couldn’t just tread water,” he said. “ I needed an intense focus, so I began to swim and head toward land.”
St. Pierre, who had open-heart surgery the year before, “watched Scott swim toward shore like he was Michael Phelps.” Assessing the situation, he thought to himself, “I don’t have a good feeling about this.” A waterproof bag, the only gear found in the water, floated next to him.
“Scott had been carrying that bag to and from the boat for the past three or four years,” said St. Pierre. “I didn’t know it had a PFD [Personal Flotation Device] or a two-way submersible radio in it. And the radio still worked. So I grabbed the bag and kept it next to me like Tom Hanks did with the ball in the movie [‘Castaway’]. It filled with water and I considered letting go of it, but it still floated.”
Together, they swam toward shore.
Still wearing his sunglasses and Croakies, St. Pierre could see shadows. “I knew they were waves, but I was so tired and I kept seeing sharks,” he said. “I almost threw off the glasses, but I’m glad I didn’t.”
At one point during Douglas’ swim, he could no longer lift his arms out of the water.
“I thought, ‘Holy mackerel, I’m going to die 30 yards from the beach,’ but in the end I had what it took to survive,” he recounted.
Once ashore, Douglas said he couldn’t see his brother-in-law, but hoped he “stayed with the bag.”
Douglas managed to walk to the nearest house, a rental, where the people let him use a cell phone to call 911.
“Looking at me, I’m sure they thought some whacko showed up,” said Douglas. “When they knew I was legit, they covered me in a blanket and gave me something hot to drink.”
The man from the rental house found St. Pierre on the beach about an hour later.
“He asked me at least four times to let him have the bag and I kept telling him, ‘No, I’ll keep it.’ In the end, I let him carry it to the house,” said St. Pierre. “The bag saved my life.”
Queen Bee will be on display at several upcoming boat shows on the Eastern Seaboard. Visit www.RegulatorMarine.com for a complete schedule.