Skipper Etienne Fouche and HJ Swanepoel and Francois van Wyk, aged between 31 and 34, launched a 19-foot skiboat from Sodwana Bay in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park to go fishing on Saturday morning.
According to Craig Lambinon, spokesperson for the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), the boat was hit by a wave at about 10.30am and capsized.
“They drifted sitting on the upturned hull for over 4 hours, but they kept being washed off the hull which was causing them to become exhausted. They noticed that they were drifting south but not getting any closer to shore,” he said.
Fearing it would get dark before they would be rescued, they decided to swim to shore.
“One of the men dived under the boat to recover life jackets and the swim took them just over two hours,” said Lambinon.
Meanwhile, their family members raised the alarm when the men did not come back at the scheduled time.
A search involving Isimangaliso Wetland staff, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife field rangers, My Lady Fishing Charters and Coral Dive Charters ensued.
While others combed the beach in 4x4s, Jannie Nel, owner of My Lady Fishing Charters, sailed out in search.
“We fish in 80m deep water which is about 3km offshore. But as we started searching, we saw people walking on the beach. They rescued themselves,” said Nel.
Lambinon said that when the men reached the shore, they marked their position by leaving their life jackets on the beach. It was also to attract the attention of anyone who might be searching for them and to mark where they had come ashore to give an indication of where a search should begin for their capsized craft.
Besides sunburn and fatigue, the three men were not harmed.
Nel said the weather and sea conditions were fairly good for fishing and a freak wave capsized the boat .
Fouche, an NSRI volunteer at Hartbeespoort Dam in Gauteng, declined to speak to The Mercury on Sunday.