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Blue Island Man Rescued From Sandy Shipwreck Back Home For Holidays

Drew Salapatek, 28, survived the wreck of the replica of the HMS Bounty during Hurricane Sandy, along with 13 other crew members. One crew member and the ship's captain died in the wreck. (Photo supplied to CBS)

Drew Salapatek, 28, survived the wreck of the replica of the HMS Bounty during Hurricane Sandy, along with 13 other crew members. One crew member and the ship’s captain died in the wreck. (Photo supplied to CBS)

Brad Edwards Brad Edwards
Brad Edwards is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago. He...
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BLUE ISLAND, Ill. (CBS) – A Blue Island man was extra thankful this Thanksgiving; thankful to be home on dry land with his family, and enjoying the holiday.

Drew Salapatek, 28, survived the sinking of the replica of the HMS Bounty during Hurricane Sandy last month.

CBS 2’s Brad Edwards reports, as Sandy was churning her way through the vast Atlantic Ocean before making landfall, Salapatek was working as a deckhand on the Bounty, sailing south from Connecticut, trying to dodge the storm.

“There’s something greater in sailing that is beyond understanding wind, or weather, or seamanship,” Salapatek said.

But the Bounty could not avoid the storm, and began taking on water, eventually sinking in the storm.

The crew huddled together in the stormy water, waiting for rescue.

“We found each other in the water, and just kept tight and kept close, kept holding each other,” Salapatek said. “Just really worried about your survival.”

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter plucked Salapatek and the crew from the ocean one-by-one. Crew member Claudene Christian was later found dead. The ship’s captain, Robin Walbridge, disappeared. A search for his body was called off a few days after the boat sank.

“I learned a lot from Robin. He was definitely a very humble man,” Salapatek said.

He has a steely sailor’s resolve about the ordeal, and said he wanted to express “my gratitude and appreciation to the Coast Guard.

“I hope that it affects me for a really long time,” he said.

Salapatek said he now plans to rest and relax with his family, while home for the holidays. Then, he believes he’ll find another tall ship on which to sail.