Not Without Hope Hardcover – Mar 1 2010
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“A harrowing account of his grim ordeal at sea...a nightmare of exhaustion, madness and death.” (Washington Post)
“Eye-opener.” (USA Today)
“Still haunted by the experience and the rumors that followed...Schuyler has written a memoir to set the record straight.” (People)
“A harrowing tale...The story [that] made headlines all over the world.” (New York Post)
“A compelling account of tragedy at sea.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“A profoundly sad struggle.” (Bloomberg News)
From the Back Cover
On February 28, 2009, Nick Schuyler, a twenty-four-year-old personal trainer, left for a deep-sea fishing trip with three friends: NFL players Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith, and Will Bleakley, his best friend, who once played football for the University of South Florida.
It was supposed to be a day of fun and relaxation aboard Cooper's twenty-one-foot boat, which anchored seventy miles west of Tampa, Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico. The friends were out to catch some amberjack and grouper and maybe a few sharks. They planned to drink a few beers, have some laughs, and get home before an approaching cold front hit.
As the seas began to swell and the winds picked up in the late afternoon, they packed their gear and decided to head to shore. One problem. The anchor was stuck.
Inexperienced boaters, they made what would become a fatal mistake, tying the anchor rope to the stern of the boat and hitting the throttle. The anchor did not yank free. Instead, the stern sank and filled with water, and the boat capsized.
And so the nightmare began. The men had to forage for life jackets beneath the boat. They had no emergency beacon to alert authorities, and their cell phones didn't work so far out in the Gulf. With no food or water, the men clung to the overturned hull through the night as the seas roughened and the cloudy sky became inky black. They were continuously tossed from the boat by brutal waves, and sometimes found each other only by swimming toward their friends' voices.
During the rare lull, they would pray and talk about the ones they loved, what they would've done differently with their lives, and what they would do once they returned home. As the hours passed, the four friends, who had grown up as athletes, worked as a team in their desperate bid to survive. They battled hypothermia, hallucinations, hunger, dehydration, and huge waves.
A witness to incredible heroism and unspeakable tragedy, Nick remained at sea for more than forty hours, holding on, hoping against hope and clinging to the thought that he couldn't bear to have his mother attend his funeral.
Not Without Hope is much more than a story of survival. It is an inspiring story of friendship, resolve, and courage.See all Product Description
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The morning of the fishing trip Nick's Dad Stu who knew of the fella's fishing trip woke up early "TURNED ON THE TELEVISION AND SAW THAT A FORCEFUL UPPER AIR DISTURBANCE WAS APPROACHING THE SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES FROM THE NORTHWEST." Stu called his son and his call went directly to voice mail: "NICK, IF YOU GET THIS MESSAGE, HEAD BACK EARLY. A BIG STORM'S COMING IN."
What would follow is the death of three of the four men. This story is told in an unrelenting... heart pounding... literally spell binding manner... that will continue to assault your senses... as assuredly as the next wave would unmercifully pound Nick, Will, Corey... and Marquis. The author (Nick) states: "THIS IS WHAT I RECALL AFTER BEING IN THE WATER FOR FORTY-THREE HOURS, FRIGID AND ACHING AND SCARED, SO HUNGRY AND THIRSTY THAT I FELT I WAS EATING MY TEETH. THIS IS THE BEST I CAN DO AFTER HAVING THREE FRIENDS DIE, TWO OF THEM IN MY ARMS. THE SADDEST THING ABOUT THIS STORY IS, I AM THE ONLY ONE LEFT TO TELL IT."
What led to this disaster was their anchor getting stuck when they decided to head back. When normal efforts to dislodge the anchor failed... they made (according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) a deadly mistake: "IMPROPER TYING OF THE ANCHOR LINE TO AN EYE BRACKET ON THE PORT SIDE OF THE BOAT'S TRANSOM: ATTEMPTING TO THROTTLE FORWARD TO PULL THE ANCHOR FREE: AND FAILURE TO LEAVE ENOUGH SLACK IN THE LINE, WHICH LED THE STERN TO SUBMERGE AND THE BOAT TO CAPSIZE." Please believe me this is not a "spoiler". The author then takes you through a first person account of every frigid wave... crashing onto and into each man who was clinging in one way or another to the over turned boat AND EACH OTHER. The mental as well as the physical beating these poor souls were forced to endure... will undoubtedly affect every reader possessing even the smallest bit of empathy. As these brave young men held on for their very life... they each... in their own way show bits of heroism... bits of love... endure agonizing pain... and whether they know it or not... have their mental capacities drained... and stolen from them... by mother nature. As the hours pass in tortuous and murderous fashion... what once was... "A LOT OF "OH MY G-DS"... "OH MY G-D, IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?" NOW IT WAS, "OH MY G-D, IS THIS IT?"
The feeling of helplessness that the reader is immersed in is so visceral... that at a point in the story when the author says we have now been in the water for twenty-hours... I thought that I/we had been through so much already... that I must have misread the beginning of the book when it said he was in the water for forty-three hours. I actually went back to the beginning twice to make sure I had read it correctly.
COAST GUARD NOTE: "In the water, boaters would also have quickly become susceptible to hypothermia as their body temperatures dropped below 95 degrees. Blood vessels in the arms and legs would begin constricting, rerouting blood to the body's core to protect the heart, lungs, and brain with sufficient heat. Shivering would progress to clumsiness of the hands, quick and shallow breathing, blue lips, confusion, slurred speech, and irrational and confrontational behavior."
And then it got worse! And Nick was alone. You will not be able to put this book down till you're done reading it... and then I guarantee you... you still will not be done with it for a long time.
Personal Note: Since I live in the California bay area and I am an Oakland Raider season ticket holder I followed this story closely as it was happening. I would not only like to share my sorrowful prayers with all the family members of the victims... but I would also like to tell Marquis Cooper's Father that the way he handled himself... and presented himself... when hope was being lost... displayed so much dignity... class... and love... that would make any Father and son in the world proud. G-d bless!
Buy the book and read it; it is hard to put down. I'll comment about the writing of the book and then about the story.
The survival story is gripping, as I said. Yet, since every book about someone stranded at sea goes into the survivor's reflections about his own life, beware that in this case the survivor is a 24 YO bodybuilder. His life might not interest the reader as much so skim through those sections and you'll loose nothing. AH, beware also that the book is plagued with "Me's" and "I's" so if you are intolerant to self-centeredness go get your anti-acid before you start to read.
Before I turn to my opinion about the story, I'll tell you that I agree with others that have commented that the narrative seems a little strange. One example is enough to show this: they are dying of thirst and suddenly Will retrieves a Gatorade from the capsized boat. First the author says "I didn't drink it right away" as if he were the only one in the boat and as if he had recovered it and not somebody else who should drink first. But not only that. They decide to drink only half and then the story keeps going without ever saying what happened to the other half of this vital supply. Isn't that weird?
No, I will give a second example: they have been stranded suffering from hypothermia and hanging from the boat with their fingernails. Waves come and go and suddenly the author says "by the way, I had previously managed to get on the boat". What??? Is that not like something you tell every detail about? Well, enough about the narrative, let me go briefly into the story.
I have to say I was astonished. The story shows the pettiness and the greatness of human beings in the course of 48 hours. This guy Nick gets the best place on the boat just by luck. He sees his friends die and he helps them, yes, but he never offers to go down into the water and let someone else on the boat. In fact, when one of the other swimmers tries to get up in what the author describes as a mad rage, he keeps repeating "there is no place for you up here", meaning that there was no space for the two of them. It never crosses his mind that the only reason he lived is because his friends never ask him to share the privileged spot on the boat.
Will, Nick's best friend is the only one that manages to submerge and retrieve things from the boat. Among them, he brings back 3 life jackets and a seat cushion. He gives out the 3 jackets to his friends and straps precariously the cushion to his back. If I had been in Nicks shoes, I would have never let my best friend and the one responsible for retrieving the jackets, not wearing one himself. Especially since the man on top of the boat, in this case Nick, needed the life-jacket less than Will and especially since Will had all the merit of retrieving them.
If I had been in Nick's shoes I would have also been very very tactful about drinking the Gatorade that Will retrieves. I would have started by saying "Will, it is yours, you should drink it" and then maybe let myself be persuaded by Will's insistence to share. Noup, in this case Nicks goes at the Gatorade first and, as I said, with the funny expression of: "I decided not to drink it all". What???
By sheer luck again Nick is the only one with full clothes on. According to himself this was essential for his survival. Will retrieved the life-jackets and offers to share them ending up without a life-jacket himself. That is sharing to the extreme of self-sacrifice. Do you think that Nick ever offers to share some of his clothing, being that he is the only one outside the freezing water? No way! "Will I love, Will I love you, but my clothing probably won't fit you".
I would have loved to see Will survive. There you have a great guy that gives heroism and greatness to the story. Unfortunately that greatness and unselfishness cost him his life. Pettiness turns out to be a survival skill in this story.
Ah, one last thing about the narrative. Strangely the book is seeing everything from Nick's perspective and suddenly and without warning it turns to be told by a sort of reporter. In this way you go from him talking about his girlfriend like this: "My girlfriend started crying when I was not there by 2 am..." to "At 3 pm, Marcia Oliveira (his girlfriend's name) called the police". Same goes for his mother and other people's descriptions on certain parts of the book Spooky....
When his friends counted on him to help retrieve life jackets from the boat, he refused to dive under. But 24 hours later when Nick was the sole survivor, he suddenly was able to search under the craft.
When Corey wanted a chance to climb on the boat, Nick fought him off. Then he justifies it by saying, "There isn't room." Why didn't they take turns on the boat? Why was Corey always the one left in the water? Nick says that Corey went crazy at the end. Maybe Corey was mad as hell that Nick would not share the safe spot.
Maybe Corey was mad as hell that Nick took it upon himself to declare Marquis's death. Nick let Marquis float away and fifteen minutes later, Nick says, Corey went crazy on him. Did Nick have any prior experience in declaring people dead? And once Marquis was gone, why wouldn't Nick let Corey on? Nick says he was holding on to Corey for Corey's sake but maybe Nick was holding Corey OFF the boat. Only Nick knows and only Nick will always know. I wonder how any of us would handle ourselves out in the middle of a stormy ocean when that human survival instinct kicks in.
Nick details his efforts to save the others and the tale as told is spellbinding but only because it offers insight into one man's death defying efforts to survive deep, frigid, roiling waters. Without a doubt, Nick battled the elements. His fortitude is inspirational. But a surface kind of guy comes off shallow in the telling of his story.