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'It was pretty dire': Stuart Bee, Florida man rescued at sea, arrives at Port of Wilmington Tuesday

Jeff Neiburg Esteban Parra
Delaware News Journal

The Florida man rescued Sunday morning while clinging to his capsized boat roughly 86 miles east of Port Canaveral arrived at the Port of Wilmington Tuesday afternoon.

Stuart Bee, 62, arrived aboard the 225-foot container ship Angeles. Crew members of that ship, which is registered in Liberia, rescued Bee around 11 a.m. Sunday while en route from the Port of Puerto Barrios in Guatemala to Delaware.

Bee hugged crew members of the Angeles before disembarking the cargo ship and waking down the gangplank where he spoke to reporters for a little more than three minutes. 

“I had an incident out there," Bee said. "It was pretty dire.”

Stuart Bee speaks to the media after getting off the ship Angeles at the Port of Wilmington Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. Bee was found clinging to a capsized boat Sunday morning roughly 86 miles east of Port Canaveral.

According to reports, Bee left Cape Marina at Port Canaveral in Florida about 4 p.m. Friday aboard the 32-foot Sea Ray, Stingray, that he apparently lives on. He was reported missing shortly before noon Saturday by a marina member who told U.S. Coast Guard officials that Bee does not normally stay out overnight.

Petty Officer 1st Class David Micallef, a spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard, told Florida Today that Bee's boat became disabled because of a mechanical problem. 

“I was out there stargazing," Bee said. "It was beautiful. And I fell asleep and the water came gushing in, pushed me out to the front.”

Bee said he was able to get out through the front hatch and he hung on to a few floating cushions. He said his boat didn’t sink, but because he was not sure if the boat was going to sink he held on to the floating cushions. 

The ship Angeles carrying Stuart Bee prepares to dock at the Port of Wilmington Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. Bee was found clinging to a capsized boat Sunday morning roughly 86 miles east of Port Canaveral.

“For a minute there I was thinking, ‘this is very bad,'" Bee said Tuesday. "There is no one around and I was thinking what I could do to get help.”

After about three hours of hanging on to the cushions, Bee decided to head back into his boat to retrieve something to help him get rescued. 

“About three or four times I swam back into the boat, trying to retrieve it, but I couldn’t,” he said. “I was prepared to continue to try that until I could get it but that’s when I saw the Angeles on the horizon – just as a dot.”

He said he watched the ship for about 15 minutes when he realized it was coming toward him. 

That's when he took off his shirt and waved it several times for about 45 minutes, he said, as the boat got closer.

Rescued mariner Stuart Bee climbs a ladder Sunday morning after his boat sank roughly 86 miles east of Port Canaveral.

“It blew its horn and since nobody was around, I figured that was a signal that they were on watch and they saw me," Bee said.

Bee said the entire Angeles crew had this sense of joy after finding him. 

Below, listen to Angeles call in to the Coast Guard after rescuing Bee, and hear Bee moments after he was rescued.

“For me though, it went from a major concern to suddenly feeling of relief," Bee said. "Calmness. I was just relieved. ‘This is over. This is not going to turn out bad after all.'”

The Coast Guard had put out an alert Saturday evening that Bee was missing. A search was conducted by both the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Florida Today said Bee decided to stay aboard Angeles rather than have the Coast Guard pick him up.

Angeles pulled into the Port of Wilmington and docked just before 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Stuart Bee, center, walks down the gangway of the ship Angeles Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, at the Port of Wilmington. Bee was found clinging to a capsized boat Sunday morning roughly 86 miles east of Port Canaveral.

Being on the cargo ship after his rescue was “better than a cruise ship,” Bee said.

“I’ve been on one once and these guys are just the nicest people ever. They kept feeding me. I said ‘I don’t don’t need that much.’ 

“We’re all friends now.”

Bee joked that he was planning to have a banana sandwich. The cargo ship was carrying Chiquita bananas. His niece was expected to arrive in Philadelphia to meet him Tuesday night.

Reporting from The USA Today Network was used in this story.

Contact Jeff Neiburg at jneiburg@delawareonline.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg. Contact Esteban Parra at (302) 324-2299, eparra@delawareonline.com or Twitter @eparra3.