Keith Kenerly: A Perfect Storm
By Rod Thomas
The 700 Club
CBN.com - Keith Kenerly
"It was just seconds. We were in the water floating with all the bait, all the fish we had caught, the chum, the blood—everything’s in the water. I started thinking, ‘This is going to draw in sharks.’”
The seas were calm as Keith Kenerly and two of his buddies headed out into the Atlantic for a day of deep-sea fishing. 35-miles out, the fish were biting.
“As soon as your line would hit the bottom a red snapper’d take off. I mean, it was awesome. After we had caught fish during the day, we were going to chum and catch some big sharks. It was going great.”
But a passing boat warned them about an approaching storm.
“He said the weather was turning bad and he was heading home. We said we were going to probably fish another hour or so and head back in. We gave our call signs and he left and we went back to fishing.”
Then one of them told Keith he saw water in the boat’s hull.
“I kept fishing and told him it was no big deal, not to worry about it.”
What Keith didn’t realize was that they had forgotten to tighten the boat’s drain plugs before they launched.
“Well, another five to ten minutes went by and he yelled at me again and said, ‘Hey, Keith, this is really serious.’ And I looked back and water was almost up to his knees."
Keith knew they were in trouble.
“The first thing I did was try to get a ship-to-shore radio to throw out an S.O.S., because we were taking on water, but it was dead. I tried the console, but nothing would turn on. The boat's motor was gone.”
The boat had taken on as much water as it could, and with three men in the back of the boat, just a small wave was all it took and the boat was in the water.
“We got to the boat and she was in the water with the bow sticking up, just above the water about two or three feet. I went under the boat three or four times and got three life vests out. After about three or four hours they were so full of water [we had to] take them off and let them go. They start pulling [us] down.”
To stay afloat, the men took turns clinging to the bow. They watched as the storm came in.
"The biggest fear in my mind at the time, was [whether] we going to be found. Nobody knew where we were. I hadn’t told anyone anything but [that] we were going fishing.”
To make matters worse, the bait and chum they had been using was also thrown in the water, attracting some unwanted guests.
“I said, ‘We have sharks, they’re in with us. They’re circling the boat. They’re circling us.' More sharks showed up, and they were getting more violent and running into us. I was just worried about being eaten. That’s when it set in that we weren't going to make it.”
Finally, the storm was upon them.
“That’s the longest night I ever lived in my life. You could not see what was out there. The only thing you did was fight the ocean. We had three big storms that came in on us that night, big lightning storms.”
Facing death, Keith started to pray.
“I started praying and asking the Lord to forgive me for the things I’d done in my life. I asked Him to forgive me and, if He could, [to] take us out of there. I wasn’t ready to die.”
Later that night the storm subsided. One of Keith’s friends, who was an atheist, had been watching him.
“He said, ‘Well, you know, every once in a while you’re like you’re not even here, you’re somewhere else.’ And I said, ‘I’m praying. I’m praying to my Lord that He’ll open the gates of heaven and bring me in.’ And he said, ‘You know, Keith, I never believed any of that.’ And I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Well, you need to.’ And he said, ‘Well, what’s it take?’”
“So we talked some more and we prayed over it, and he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, right there in the water.”
The sharks continued circling them through the night. The next morning, a school of dolphins appeared.
“Dolphins would show up and the sharks would leave. But as soon as the dolphins would leave, the sharks would come back in on us.”
The hours of struggling and exposure to sun and salt water were taking a heavy toll.
“You couldn’t hardly talk because your tongue was swollen up from the salt water. Your lips were swollen and cracked and then you were sun burnt and my legs were tired, my arms were tired, and I just thought, ‘Man, I’d just be great to stand on the ground, stand on the earth again.’”
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard launched a search for the missing men. But another day passed and it was getting dark. The exhausted fishermen were convinced they would die.
“We were still fighting just to stay afloat; the boat’s coming apart. And it was almost getting dark again. We were either going to drown or starve or get eaten by sharks. Nobody [knew] where we were, and we were dying.”
Then finally, Keith saw a ship heading their way. They broke off the boat’s antenna and tied a handkerchief to it to flag the vessel.
“We’re holding it up and waving it back and forth, and that’s what caught their eye—the antenna with the handkerchief on it.”
After 38 hours in the Atlantic Ocean, they were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.
“On the ride back, we talked and thanked God. I know the Lord was taking care of us and I know that— you know, Daniel and the lion’s den, and [how] the Lord didn’t let those lions open their mouths—well, the Lord didn’t let the sharks open their mouths either.”
The men were treated for extreme sun exposure and dehydration. For Keith, the traumatic experience haunted him for years.
“After we were rescued, I would wake up in the morning and, because of all this stress and what happened out there, just bawl, just start crying for no reason.”
It took some time, but eventually Keith fully recovered from this traumatic incident. Today he owns a successful business selling civil war relics, and his life is focused on Christ.
“I know who runs my life. It's the Lord Jesus Christ, and I live for Him. I’m not worthy. I never was worthy. And I don’t think I will ever be worthy of the love that the Lord has for me or anyone else. And if He can love me, I know He can love everybody else out there.”
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