Scott Thompson | Credit: Courtesy

The waters of the Santa Barbara Channel got choppy and sloppy with the winds last week, and when Scott Thompson fell overboard near Santa Cruz Island, he surfaced to see his urchin boat — the Miss Grace — motoring away from him.

He’d left it in gear as he’d stepped to the side of the boat for a pee, but the chop against the starboard side made him lose his footing on something slippery. The sun was setting, and his first impulse was to chase after the boat, but the current was against him. Instead, on a moonless night, wearing only a T-shirt and a pair of shorts, Thompson swam for the lights of the nearest platform he could see.

Credit: Courtesy

In the comment stream of an Instagram post by TowBoatsUS, a salvage service out of Ventura Harbor, Thompson related that he’d gone out in a terrible mood. A very good friend had died of a heart attack recently at the age of 38, leaving his wife and two little girls about the same ages as Thompson’s own. “Really?? Really?? This is how it all ends??” Thompson wrote. “I thought of my wife and kids immediately and just thought, ‘Okay, you’ve got this … figure it out.’”

He headed for what he thought was Platform Gina, trying to encourage himself and to push away negative thoughts as he kicked and pulled through 57-degree water. “At some point a little seal showed up and started bobbing around checking me out, and I was so happy to see another living creature I just started to talk to it. I even asked him for a lift at one point.”

Thompson finally reached Platform Gail, greeted by a swarm of seagulls. He grabbed hold of a platform leg, getting cut up by barnacles until he caught a swell of water and was able to reach a ladder. “The guys on the platform took very good care of me, and well now you all know! I’m soooo thankful to be alive and here resting at home with my family.”

Towboat captain Paul Amaral estimated Thompson was probably in the water for five hours, swimming for his life, perhaps conditioned by his urchin diving for the cold temperature.

His friend Casey Brown said, “Not a lot of people survive that one,” and Rose Brown has started a GoFundMe to help repair Thompson’s boat, which was recovered — in one piece but in need of repair and gear — in Frenchy’s Cove at Anacapa Island.

Rose Brown later clarified it was on Wednesday, January 26, that Thompson had headed to sea and, thankfully, returned. He relates the story in full at Peter Maguire’s blog Sour Milk. It’s a rippin’ tale.

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