Rex Willimon: Lost at Sea
By Shannon Woodland
The 700 Club
CBN.com -Keisa Willimon remembers thinking, “‘Something isn’t right. They should be getting back.’ Momma said, ‘No, they said they’d fish till dark.’ I said, ‘No, Rex told me he’d be in by 6 o’clock.’”
Keisa Willimon was worried. Her husband Rex and six other family members left that morning for a day of fishing off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. Now, it was late and they hadn’t returned. That’s because 12 hours earlier they ran into trouble.
“The next thing I know, one engine hiccupped.” Rex says, “Then it cut itself off. I reached down and hit the starter and all I heard was, ‘clack, clack, clack.’ Probably ten seconds later, the water alarm went off. First thing that came to mind was, ‘I’d better start praying.’ When there is three feet of water in the bottom of the boat, there’s no stopping it.”
Rex put out a mayday call. Then just minutes later, the boat went down 20 miles from shore. The only thing above water was the bow, which the men and three boys used to stay afloat. In just a short time, the elements started taking a toll. The group was also exhausted from swimming because twice the current pulled them from the boat.
“It was hot, right on top of your head. The water was cold.” Rex explains, “You’re getting dehydrated, and getting jelly fish stung. Of course the swimming, the swimming it would almost kill ya, just trying to stay up with the boat.”
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard had begun their search. But the mayday Rex sent had been cut short and they were looking for the boat two miles off shore, 18 miles from where the boat went down. They found no sign of Rex and the others, and called off the search.
As the final hours of daylight came to an end, the group faced more challenges. Rex continues “When it first started getting dark, I realized, ‘We’re going to spend the night out here.’ I could feel the sharks. Either I was kicking them or they were hitting me, one of the two.”
Rex and his brother-in-law were the only ones who saw the sharks, but didn’t tell the others. Thankfully, the sharks didn’t stick around. At home, Rex’s wife Keisa called the Coast Guard. They told her about the search earlier in the day, and asked her to go to the marina to see if the boat was there. When she saw the slip was empty, she reported it to the Coast Guard. Then she took out her Bible and began to pray.
“It was James 1:6, ‘but let him ask in faith, not wavering, for he that wavers is like the wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.’ Keisha remembers, “And it was like God was telling me, ‘You put your faith in Me, I’ll get you through anything.’”
With some additional information from Keisa, the Coast Guard resumed their search. But time was running out. The temperature had dropped, and now they faced the threat of hypothermia. Rex says, “All night long, we were in the water. It was so cold we were shivering and our teeth were chattering continuously. There isn’t anything you can do. We’d wrap our legs around each other under water and huddle up as tight as we could get, but it was cold.”
Friends and family prayed through night. The stranded group also prayed as they watched the Coast Guard choppers search the dark waters.
At home, the women knew their prayers had been answered. Keisa recalls, “My mom looked and me, and she said, ‘We’d better go get ready.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, they’re going to be calling.’”
Then just before sunrise, a spot light broke the darkness. After 20 hours at sea, the men were rescued. Rex describes the moment. “When they turned around and put the spot light on us, oh, it was… it was Sunday morning.”
Everyone was brought to safety and treated for dehydration and sunburn. Recently, the family came together to remember the events of that weekend. But one mystery remains; how did that 38 foot cabin cruiser stay afloat for 20 hours in 65 feet of water?
Rex believes there is only one answer. “There was an angel sitting underneath the boat. There is no doubt. Even when they went to rescue the boat and pull it back in, he hooked to it with his lines and it sank. It was there for the time God needed it to sit there.”
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