Boaters get rough ride in bay

Published August 16, 2006

TAMPA — It was a beautiful day when the four set out in a 20-foot Marquis fishing boat called Intense.

As they rocked in Old Tampa Bay , they caught black drum, mangrove snapper and even a redfish.

Claudio Andricain, 23, was thinking he would buy this boat from friend Angel Barreiro Caro, 24. And for the first three hours, everything about it seemed just right.

Then, the motor died. The winds kicked up. Waves measuring 5 to 6 feet splashed against the boat. Rain poured down, filling the vessel with about 2 inches of water.

“We thought we were like the S.S. Minnow and we were sinking,” said Dave Lee, 41, a large, tanned man with a head of tousled blond hair.

Andricain called Tampa police from his cell phone at 5:30 p.m., convinced the boat would soon be completely submerged.

With only two life jackets aboard, the men gave one to Andricain’s girlfriend, Ingrid Borges, 18.

It wasn’t clear who would get the second, if it came to that.

“It put some terror in us,” Lee said. Borges said that of the four of them, she was the most calm.
As the four Tampa residents waited, 911 dispatchers tried to get more specific directions from them about where they were. At first, the four reported they were on the western side of the bay. In reality they were east.

Forty-five minutes after the call, a TPD helicopter saw the boat.

Officer Brad Novack, in a police boat, located them north of the Howard Frankland Bridge, just west of the Cypress Street Bridge, where he towed them back to the Courtney Campbell boat ramp.

The boaters, especially Lee and Andricain, said they were very shaken by the experience.

Andricain decided he’ll forgo buying the boat — or any boat for that matter.

“I came from Cuba in a boat and I’m never going out again,” he said.

Lee said he was glad at least they got some fish. But he said he learned his lesson about not going out without proper safety equipment.

Among the safety regulations police said Caro violated: not enough life jackets; failure to carry a throwable life preserver; no flares; and no sounding mechanism by which to alert other boats of their predicament.

“We learned our lesson,” Lee said. “When we told (the police officer) we only had two life vests on board, he did not have a smile on his face.”

Unfortunately for Lee, the bad boating day didn’t end there. He wasn’t able to go home and clean his fish as he’d hoped. As police ran background checks on the four boaters, they learned Lee was wanted on a warrant for probation violation.

Still, even while he was being cuffed, Lee said he was thanking his lucky stars his fate was not worse.

 “It’s all right,” he said to the officers. “That’s the least thing we’re worried about.”