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.