Three Texas fishermen who spent eight days stranded in the Gulf of Mexico atop their capsized boat endured hunger, blistering heat, scares from sharks and hallucinations, but they never gave up hope they'd be rescued.
"It was on a day-to-day basis that everybody had their breakdown," Tressel Hawkins told NBC's "Today Show" Monday. "The power of prayer had us feeling safe as far as knowing that we were going to make it out of it, but didn't know how long that we were going to have to endure this."
The men were reunited with their families early Sunday after they were found sitting on their 23-foot catamaran 180 miles from land. They were identified as Hawkins, 43, of Markham; James Phillips, 30, of Blessing; and Curtis Hall, 28, of Palacios.
"I knew we were coming home; I never had a doubt," Phillips, the boat owner, told the Houston Chronicle, The Associated Press reports.
On August 21st Hawkins and two close friends from south Texas left Matagorda, a town outside of Houston, and went on an overnight fishing trip. Later that night Hawkins woke up to a boat full of water.
"I'm running around frantically trying to get everybody up and we're trying to get the water out as fast as we can and within a minute... 5 seconds, the boat just tumbled over, it capsized right there," said Hawkins.
For the next eight days, in punishing heat, the men sat and slept on the hull of the 23-foot boat. They survived only on crackers, chewing gum and whatever water they could suck out of the boat's freshwater tank.
As the days passed the men relied on prayer and each other.
"We're going to have to live, I mean we have too much to live for, our life is really not over with yet, I mean this is just a calling card to wake us up, not a calling card to take us out," said Hawkins.
The coast guard launched a massive search covering more than 86-thousand square miles, roughly the size of Minnesota, before calling off the effort last Friday.
The next day, a sport fisherman came upon the missing crew -- 180 miles from the coast, reports The Grio.
The men left Matagorda, Texas, which is about 90 miles southwest of Houston, in a 23-foot catamaran on Aug. 22 for a day of fishing. They were reported missing when they did not return later in the day.
They were spotted sitting on their capsized vessel and rescued by the crew of a pleasure boat Saturday night, a day after the Coast Guard called off its search for the men.
The Coast Guard had searched 86,000 square miles for the men before giving up, according to local press reports.
The men are James Phillips, 30, Tressel Hawkins, 43 and Curtis Hall, 28, reports AHN.