WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. – A father and son from Roanoke are being hailed as heroes.
They were deep-sea fishing off the North Carolina coast when a boat nearly ran them over. But their frustration turned to fear when they realized no one was on board. Without hesitation, the pair, with more than five decades of boating experience between them, began a frantic effort to locate the missing captain.
The saying goes successful people make their own luck. For Jack Sherman and his dad Andrew Sherman of Roanoke, however, it started with a chance encounter while deep sea fishing off the North Carolina coast earlier this week.
They were in the middle of the ocean with lines out when a boat appeared on the horizon. Both father and son were surprised to see it as they said you don’t see many other people that far off the coast. But the boat kept growing closer and was headed straight toward them. so they picked up their lines and moved out of the way when they made the startling discovery.
“As the boat passes it passes 15 yards behind our stern and we look in and there’s a little cabin in front so you can’t really see what’s going on, but you can really easily see the pilothouse where the guy would be driving and there’s no one standing there,” Jack said.
This was where their luck stopped and their skill kicked in. They turned their boat around and chased after the other boat to try to get the captain’s attention. When they got no response, they feared the captain possibly on-board suffering a medical emergency, or something worse. Andrew pulled the boats close together, matched their speed of about 10 miles per hour and Jack jumped onto the other boat.
“And I yell at my dad, ‘Dad, there’s nobody on the boat,’” Jack Sherman said. “He’s like ‘Really? Check again, because it’s not that big of a boat.’”
“I was convinced there should be someone on that boat,” Andrew Sherman said.
“It was crazy because it was like 40 miles offshore,” Jack said.
From there they discovered the captain’s ID and other personal gear on board. They notified the Coast Guard and the all-call went out on the radio searching for a man overboard.
But that wasn’t enough for the father-son duo. Andrew is a lifelong fisherman. Jack is a student at the Naval Academy. They weren’t going to just sit back and watch it play out.
“We didn’t know how long the coast guard was going to take to get there and I was like Jack we have to look for this guy until the coast guard gets out here and tells us to stop or whatever,” Andrew said.
“Because every minute you’re out there is like your chance of survival decreases drastically,” Jack added.
The un-manned boat had multiple GPS units onboard and the two were able to look at historical data to see where the boat had come from. They split up and began their search back following the route history in the GPS.
Jack came across a pair of boat shoes floating in the water. He feared the worst, but his dad thought if someone was treading water, they’d ditch the shoes to help stay afloat. He was convinced the missing captain was somewhere close.
“I figured out which way the boat was drifting in the water and then I went back to the last place that boat had been on a straight line and when I got back to that straight line I more or less started doing these big (s patterns) back and forth,” Andrew said.
Within a few passes, they found the missing captain, Sascha Scheller, flailing his arms in the water to get their attention. He had been treading water for nearly three hours. Andrew rushed over in the boat and helped get him on board.
“He said his legs were locking up, he was cramping really badly and he just laid there on the back of the deck and recovered a little bit,” Andrew said. “And then he came in and we hugged and it was like thank you for saving my life.”
In a period of 90 minutes, the Shermans went from nearly being run over by a boat to saving a life. Scheller declined an interview with 10 News but said he’s incredibly thankful for Andrew and Jack. He credits their expertise in boating with not only saving his life but preventing his two children from growing up fatherless.
On social media, Scheller explained that he is typically an overprepared boater, but briefly took his life jacket off and was not wearing the boat’s kill switch. He was on the edge of the boat when he was knocked overboard and watched the boat drive away, leaving him behind. He admits these were major mistakes and wants others to learn from his experience. He is a local on the coast and said he knows these stories don’t usually have a happy ending.
Andrew Sherman said it’s easy to point fingers, but in this case, the end result is more important than lead-up.
“But it’s not like we haven’t all made those bad decisions in our life, his big message to everyone and I think it’s the best message is just be very cautious of letting your guard down,” Andrew said.
The men plan to get their families together this weekend for a reunion. They said they plan to remain lifelong friends.