Australian 'Cast Away' rescued by Mexican boat after months lost at sea

An Australian sailor rescued with his dog after more than two months adrift in the Pacific Ocean arrived in Mexico Tuesday declaring "I am so grateful. I'm alive."

Australian sailor Tim Shaddock and his dog "Bella" after being rescued by the crew of a Mexican tuna vessel, part of the Grupomar fleet, in the Pacific Ocean on July 17, 2023.
Australian sailor Tim Shaddock and his dog "Bella" after being rescued by the crew of a Mexican tuna vessel, part of the Grupomar fleet, in the Pacific Ocean on July 17, 2023. © AFP

Tim Shaddock was picked up with his dog "Bella" by a tuna vessel after the pair survived for weeks on raw fish and rainwater on their storm-crippled boat.

He arrived Tuesday at the Mexican port of Manzanillo, thin, with a bushy beard and wild hair bunched into a red cap sporting a logo of fishing company Grupomar, whose vessel had come to his rescue.

"To the captain and this fishing company that saved my life, I mean, what do you say? I'm just so grateful," Shaddock told waiting reporters.

"I'm alive... I really didn't think I'd make it, you know? So thank you, thank you so much."

Shaddock, who according to Grupomar is 54 years old, and Bella had set off from Mexico's seaside city of La Paz in April, and planned to sail about 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) before dropping anchor in tropical French Polynesia.

But they soon found themselves stranded after rough seas damaged the vessel, which he described as a French Polynesian traditional boat named "Aloha Toa," and knocked out its electronics.

In an unlikely rescue reminiscent of the Tom Hanks movie "Cast Away", the bedraggled amateur yachtsman was plucked from the water more than two months later by a Mexican tuna trawler, "more than 1,200 miles from land" according to Grupomar.

'Feeling alright'

On Tuesday, Shaddock told reporters he was "feeling alright. A little better than I was."

He said his health was "pretty bad for a while, I was pretty hungry."

Patiently taking one question after another, smiling and emotional at times, Shaddock said he did a lot of fishing, especially after his provisions ran out. 

But he lost his cooking utensils along the way, "so it was a lot of chewing of 'sushi'," he joked, and pointed out how "skinny" he had become.

Shaddock recounted there were "many, many, many bad days" at sea, but also good ones.

"The fatigue is the hardest part, you're always fixing something," he said of the ordeal.

"I would try and find the happiness inside myself, and I found that a lot alone at sea. I would go in the water too, and just enjoy being in the water."

'Life is beautiful'

The sailor had nothing but praise for Bella, whom he had found in Mexico.

"She just kept following me onto the water," he said of adopting the dog after several failed attempts to get her another home.

"She's amazing. That dog is something else," he laughed. "I'm just grateful she's alive. She is a lot braver than I am."

Bella did not join Shaddock for the press conference, having remained on board the Grupomar vessel.

Shaddock said he looked forward to getting home to family and friends and to "just take it easy."

He would "probably not" head out to sea again in the near future, he admitted.

"I'll always be in the water," he said, though "I don't know how far out in the ocean I'll be."

For Grupomar boss Antonio Suarez, the rescue was proof that "life is beautiful."

"We were responsible for saving the life of a human being and the little dog that accompanied him," he told reporters.

"We have medical services on our vessels. He fell into good hands."

Suarez said the boat that picked up the pair was the oldest in the company's fleet and the trip that saved Shaddock's life would likely be its last.


Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app

Share :