UKUMEHAME, Hawaii – A 49-year-old woman held onto a water container to stay afloat for 19 hours until she was rescued from choppy ocean waters a mile off Maui, she said.
Lillian Ruth Simpson, of Juneau, Alaska, said she also wrapped her bathing suit top around her head to keep warm after sunset.
A fishing charter boat spotted her in the water Friday morning, dehydrated and sunburned. She was treated at a hospital and released.
A buoy near where Simpson was floating registered an average water temperature of about 80 degrees this week, said National Weather Service forecaster Robert Ballard.
Simpson, who worked as a drug and alcohol counselor in Alaska, had been canoeing alone and paddled out to some tour boats Thursday morning to distribute invitations to a fundraiser for a documentary on youths and drugs. She was already tired from the effort when strong winds flipped her canoe, she said.
Joseph Carvalho Jr., captain of the boat Strike Zone, spotted what he first thought was a large balloon in the ocean early Friday morning.
It wasn’t until the boat got close that the crew realized it was Simpson.
“She told me that she kept telling herself, ‘At least the water’s warm,’ ” Carvalho said. “Your survival instinct kicks in. She made something out of nothing and that saved her life.”