Billionaire hedge fund manager Larry Robbins shared a gripping tale in his latest investor letter about how he and his son survived a disastrous fishing trip while on vacation in Anguilla this past December. [via Institutional Investor]
According to Robbins, their 34-foot chartered fishing boat with two captains on board began to fill with water after they hooked a large fish five miles off the coast. The boat’s pumping system was broken and soon it took on more water. The boat then began to sink. Everyone had to jump overboard.
Unfortunately, there was only a small inflatable lifeboat and it couldn’t hold everyone. Robbins waited in the water for a rescue boat to arrive.
Fortunately, they all made it out alive.
Here’s Robbins full story from his investor letter. There’s a life lesson to be learned here too.
In our last letter, I wrote a story about my 11 year old son, Ryan, and some of our adventures together. On December 31st, on vacation in Anguilla, Ryan and I set out on a 34-foot charter boat with two local captains to go bottom fishing for tropical fish or trolling for tuna or marlin. An hour of bottom fishing yielded only two tiny fish so we decided to troll north towards Prickly Pear Islands, along a ridge where seas drop from 60 feet to 700 feet, similar to the canyons we fish offshore of Long Island. About 15 minutes into our journey, we hook up on a big fish, as the line starts screaming out the reel of the back left fishing rod. Ryan goes to work on the fish, with the aid of both captains, and I reel in the other lines to avoid tangles. We had following seas (waves coming form behind us), and the boat had an open space to the swim platform and ladder- with the captains and Ryan in the back left corner of the boat and the large fish pulling down on the rod, we started to take on a bit of water given the relative elevation of the waves and the opening in the boat.
Taking on water is not a crisis in boating because all boats have a bilge pump that pumps water back out. However, this boat’s bilge pump failed (or never worked in the first place), and we began taking on more water. Ryan and I took the rod to the front of the boat, balancing the weight while the cre manually bailed the water from teh back with empty containers. However, the weight of the water we had already taken on kept the boat slightly tilted backwards, and it became increasingly apparent that it was only a matter of time before physics won out. The captains called their boat dispatch for help, and they were working furiously to save their boat. However, recognising the inevitability of the situation, Ryan and I threw the rod overboard and began the preparations for evacuation. We got Ryan’s life vest secured, found all that would float — cushions, empty coolers and floating rings and put them overboard — Ryan noticed that there was a self-inflating life boat in the front hold (good call Ryan!) and that went over too, and then I had Ryan jump first and I jumped right after him. Less than a minute later, the boat was fully vertical, with only five feet of the bow above water where the air trapped in the forward hold kept it afloat for its last minutes.
I got Ryan on top of a floating seat cushion, and we then made our way paddling, while holding all that floats, to the inflatable lifeboat that had floated 50 feet away. We got there at the same time as the two captains, and they new how to trigger the self-inflation device. Ryan and a captain got in — it was the size of a small bathtub so I thought it was best that I stay in the water rather than crowd in. After ten minutes in the water, we saw our rescue boat on the horizon and after 15 minutes we were aboard the second boat. The captains and the second boat wanted to spend time trying to save the capsized boat whose tip was still visible, but then it sank completely, and I was anxious just to get Ryan back to shore. Five miles off the coast of Anguilla, our boat sank to the bottom of the ocean.
We will never know what type of fish pulled us down. From the location and the fact that it never surfaced, we think it was most likely a large tuna. Despite marking the spot where the boat sank, the charter company has yet to recover the boat or our things on it (or so they say).
Once on the rescue boat and headed back, we reflected on what we did right and wrong. First, we did joke that in emptying the coolers to bail we threw our boat overboard, and later jumped in overboard — quite literally we chummed for ourselves, causing my wife to conjure up images of Shark Week. I also realised that I left my phone, wallet, iPad and even my lucky shoes in a bag on the boat. While the phone and iPad would have nearly certainly been ruined by the water, my wallet would have dried and my shoes were sentimental. In truth I didn’t even think of them. In a crisis, all I could think about was Ryan.
Sometimes a scary experience like that causes a person to look at life and reevaluate one’s priorities. I couldn’t be prouder that this experience simply reinforced the values handed down to me by my parents and grandparents, and shared throughout Glenview.
People, not things.
Robbins’ fishing trip story serves as important reminder that people, especially ones family, are what really matters in life, not the material things.