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July 26, 2013

Lobsterman's boots keep him afloat for 12 hours

OAKDALE, N.Y. — A Long Island lobsterman who spent 12 hours floating in the Atlantic after falling off his boat joked yesterday that he may have the two rubber boots he used to keep afloat bronzed as a memento from his ordeal.

John Aldridge, 45, was rescued a day earlier when the Coast Guard found him floating in the ocean off Montauk Point, N.Y., about 40 miles from where he tumbled off the 44-foot lobster boat Anna Mary about 3 in the morning.

Aldridge was treated at a hospital in Falmouth, Mass., for dehydration, exposure and hypothermia and released yesterday morning. Relatives drove him back to Long Island, where he arrived midafternoon to hugs from his parents and relatives, including a young nephew Jake, who peppered him with questions about his experience.

“Shot,” is how Aldridge described his overall condition, noting he had yet to get much sleep.

Aldridge, who has been a lobsterman for 19 years working out of Montauk, said he was preparing for a day of fishing when he attempted to move a beverage cooler. “The handle broke off, and I fell off the back of the boat. Just like that,” he told reporters during an impromptu press conference outside his parents’ Oakdale, Long Island, home. “I just watched the boat float away.”

Aldridge said while he had read numerous books and articles about survival techniques, instincts really took over.

He noticed his calf-length rubber boots were allowing his feet to float higher in the water than his head, so he took off the boots, turned them upside down and filled them with air. He placed one under each arm and used them as flotation devices.

“Once I did that, I was good to go,” he said. “The water was warm, my head was above water, so I was floating, and I knew I had to conserve energy, and that was it. I floated for hours.”

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