When a powerful storm blew through the Gulf Coast last month, it sent Shane Hale’s boat, and entire life, into a massive tailspin.
He wanted to live the simple life on a boat, so he’d sold all his belongings and set sail for the Caribbean with his dog, Harley, as his first mate. They were just a few miles off Fort Myers, Florida, when the storm began churning, so he pulled down the main sail and decided to “motor through it.”
Harley, meanwhile, was perched on the deck, tethered to the boat in a life vest. Concerned for his safety, Shane untied the little guy and brought him down to the cabin until the coast was clear.
As it turned out, that wouldn’t be for quite a while because the wind and waves were so powerful, they broke the main sail. Meanwhile, Harley had made his way back on deck and was swept overboard when a giant wave came crashing down on the boat. The tether was still attached to his life vest, but Shane knew the moment he started pulling on it that it was a lost cause.
I knew when I was pulling his tether that there wasn’t enough weight on his tether for him to be on the end of it. I knew that right off the bat. And when I pulled the tether up, all it had was his life jacket on it.
Panicked, Shane looked around until he spotted his poor pooch’s head just barely bobbing above the surface. Harley started making his way back to the boat, but quickly realized he wasn’t going to make it.
In a recording shortly after Harley disappeared, Shane’s distress is almost tangible as he narrates a video of the storm debris in what’s left of his boat, in a voice choked with tears.
Everything that I sold and everything that I own is going to be gone. My boom broke off the top; it knocked me out when it did. I got a bungee cord, and I’m waiting for the U.S. Coast Guard to come and see if they save me I guess. And I lost my dog.
Shane put out the call on social media for help finding Harley, and by the time his rescuers arrived, some Good Samaritans were already out combing the nearby beaches. He asked for help from both the Coast Guard and the local salvage company that came out to tow his boat back to shore, too, but they were too busy trying to save the boat and get him back to dry land.
“At that point in time, even though those guys just spent all that work on (the boat) to bring me and it back to land, I wanted to put a hole in it, and just trade it off for my dog,” Shane said on a local news segment, My Sun Coast.
But guess what?!
Harley had such a strong will to live and reunite with his dad, he swam nearly six miles in 10-foot waves to get back to shore! He and Shane were reunited a little more than 24 hours after the whole saga started, and they have absolutely no intention to pick up where they left off.
Shane says they’ll still go on little weekend outings, although his boat needs extensive repairs before they can set sail again. His sister has since set up a GoFundMe account to help replace the items he lost to the storm and help cover repairs to his boat, as well as vet bills to treat a case of pneumonia Harley picked up (he’s fine otherwise). To chip in, click here.