He told his sister that he was going to the bathroom. Then he came to the Gulf of Mexico.

He spent nearly 20 hours alone, wading into the Gulf of Mexico after falling off a cruise ship and being saved on Thanksgiving. James Michael Grimes talked about Friday’s experience, saying it taught him not to take life for granted.

“My biggest fear is drowning and it was something I didn’t want to face,” Grimes told ABC.good Morning America“I wanted to see my family again. I was ready to get it out of there. I was never going to accept that this was it, that this was going to be the end of my life.”

The 28-year-old from Lafayette, Alabama, was on a Carnival cruise out of Cozumel, Mexico, with 18 relatives when, somehow, she went overboard after a day of fun.

On November 23, he won an air-guitar contest held on the cruise and told his sister the first night he remembered at about 11 p.m. that he was going to the bathroom, he said. What happened next is unclear. He said he did not remember falling or landing in the water.

“When I regained consciousness, I was in the water and there was no boat in sight,” he said. “I couldn’t make myself swim even when I tried. So it had to be… God was with me when I was out because something was holding me down the whole time I fainted.” was.”

One of the US Coast Guard officers who later rescued him, Aviation Survival Technician Richard Hofley, told CBS News He believed that Grimes had “about 30 seconds to a minute left before we lost him.”

The 28-year-old had an “incredible will to survive,” Hofley said.

At some point, Grimes said he thought he saw a shark fin bump into his leg. Later he chewed on a stick floating in the water which appeared to be a bamboo.

“It gave some kind of taste other than salt water in my mouth,” he said.

As time went on and the sun began to set, Grimes said the water began to cool.

“At that point, I thought, how much longer do I have to stay here,” he said. “I didn’t die in the fall and the sea creatures didn’t eat me. I felt like I was made to get out of here.”

Then, he saw the lights of a tanker ship and swam towards it.

“That was my last little burst of energy,” Grimes said. “The strength I had, I used every bit of it to try to make it.”

The Coast Guard made two-three rounds of the tanker in search of them, he said.

“I took off my socks and everything and was just waving them around my head, trying to do something where they could see me, and when that light finally hit me, somehow I heard , ‘We got it,’ and I saw a guy come down from the helicopter and… right then I thought, ‘Man, I see the light.'”

Dramatic video shows Coast Guard rescuing man aboard Carnival Cruise
Screen grab of video of the US Coast Guard rescuing a man aboard a Carnival Cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. November 24, 2022.

US Coast Guard

Grimes was rescued at 2:30 p.m. local time on November 24, about 20 miles off the coast of Southwest Pass, Louisiana, according to the Coast Guard. He said he remembered telling his rescuer that he was naked and he said it was okay.

“They asked me to put on this life jacket, and I was just thinking ‘Thank you, you were like a guardian angel coming down for me,'” he said.

It’s been a week since the incident, and Grimes said the experience has opened her eyes. While dressing in a pair of pants he planned to wear on the cruise, Grimes said he found a fortune cookie in the pocket of the pants that read, “Life is a beach. Enjoy the waves.”

Although harrowing, Grimes said the experience would not discourage him from taking another cruise.

He said, “I might not get within 10 feet of the rail, but I’m certainly open to going on another cruise, because I never got a chance to actually go on it.”

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