Woman Describes Harrowing Survival At Sea

Survivor Says Her Children Motivated Her To Hang On

 UPDATED 1:13 AM HST Oct 22, 2007

A woman who was rescued after spending 19 hours in the ocean off Maui last week said she is lucky to be alive.

Lillian Ruth Simpson, 49, of Alaska, survived by hanging on to a small flotation device after her kayak flipped.

Simpson's kayak flipped in waters off of Olowalu, Maui, on Thursday. She spent the night the ocean holding on to nothing but a small flotation device.

"It was at times very, very terrifying -- mostly when I would get sick and the waves were really choppy," Simpson said.

Simpson said her three children are what kept her alive. She used them as motivation as she tried to stay close to shore.

"I would do these strokes: 'd, a, n, i, e, l' with no strength, every letter of their name, every child -- I have three children with long names -- until I was exhausted," she said. "Then I would sleep and then I would do it again. If I didn't do that, I would be in Tahiti. I would be dead. If it wasn't for my kids, I would be dead."

Possibly the biggest miracle was that she was found at all. A fishing boat crew happened to spot her after her long night at sea.

"I was asleep and the next thing I know the boat was on top of me, and I looked up and there it was," Simpson said.

She thanked God for the captain and for everyone who looked for her.

She said she hopes someone finds the kayak.

"If you find a clear bottom canoe, please get it back to Noe at Olawalu Camp. She's a good girl. She needs her canoe back. Otherwise, I have to buy her one and I don't have the money," Simpson said.

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