by: Richard Thompson Updated:
OCEAN SHORES, Wash. - Since he was 15 years old, Duane Jones has wanted to sail around the world.
The now 51-year-old retired firefighter from Oak Harbor was heading down the Oregon Coast to Mexico when ran into a fierce storm on Sept. 28.
"I had 30-foot waves crash onto the boat," said Jones of a storm that hit a day sooner than he says it was forecast.
Jones told KIRO-7 he tried to get his 40-foot sailboat The Rock offshore but the heavy surf kept pounding the boat, making progress impossible.
Jones said the entire pilot house of the boat was submerged several times and eventually the boat was flooding faster than he could pump it out. He knew he had to call the U.S. Coast Guard for help.
“It was not a fear-based decision to get off the boat. The boat was not viable. In my opinion she was going to sink," he said.
Jones can be seen on deck in Coast Guard video. He told KIRO-7 he is a diver and had his drysuit on board. Jones said he got into his drysuit, including gloves and hood, and put on a pair of swimming fins.
When Jones saw the Coast Guard rescue swimmer in the water he can be seen diving off his sailboat and into the 50-degree water. Jones said leaving his boat was not a decision he made lightly.
"That wasn't plan A. That was like when all the other plans didn't work, that's a last ditch effort. Save yourself," he said.
The Coast Guard was able to hoist Jones to safety. Amazingly his captain-less boat did not sink but floated north more than 150 miles before grounding in the surf at Ocean Shores.
Only KIRO-7 cameras were there Monday when an Ocean Shores police officer gave Jones a GPS unit and some of photos that have washed ashore from the boat in recent days. The only thing visible of the Rock now is her mast jutting out of the surf at an odd angle.
"It's underwater now and it's just getting pounded to death." he said.
Jones told KIRO-7 all of his belongings were on board the boat but said what he truly values is those he's met while sailing over the years.
"It's the relationships and the loves that we have and the people we know and that get to meet, that's really what it's all about it not about stuff," he said.