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Not Without Hope Hardcover – March 2, 2010
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“A harrowing account of his grim ordeal at sea...a nightmare of exhaustion, madness and death.” (Washington Post)
“Eye-opener.” (USA Today)
“Still haunted by the experience and the rumors that followed...Schuyler has written a memoir to set the record straight.” (People)
“A harrowing tale...The story [that] made headlines all over the world.” (New York Post)
“A compelling account of tragedy at sea.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“A profoundly sad struggle.” (Bloomberg News)
From the Back Cover
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.
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The author just wasn't that likeable to me - he comes across as a bit egotistical and overly guilt-ridden in the last third of the book, but he's got guts. The story of what happened to him and three buddies is remarkable; something I'll likely always remember.
Regardless of the interesting tale, if Nick Schuyler's book can help prevent other boaters from the same fate, it will have more than worthwhile.
Buy the book and read it; it is hard to put down. I'll comment about the writing of the book and then about the story.
The survival story is gripping, as I said. Yet, since every book about someone stranded at sea goes into the survivor's reflections about his own life, beware that in this case the survivor is a 24 YO bodybuilder. His life might not interest the reader as much so skim through those sections and you'll loose nothing. AH, beware also that the book is plagued with "Me's" and "I's" so if you are intolerant to self-centeredness go get your anti-acid before you start to read.
Before I turn to my opinion about the story, I'll tell you that I agree with others that have commented that the narrative seems a little strange. One example is enough to show this: they are dying of thirst and suddenly Will retrieves a Gatorade from the capsized boat. First the author says "I didn't drink it right away" as if he were the only one in the boat and as if he had recovered it and not somebody else who should drink first. But not only that. They decide to drink only half and then the story keeps going without ever saying what happened to the other half of this vital supply. Isn't that weird?
No, I will give a second example: they have been stranded suffering from hypothermia and hanging from the boat with their fingernails. Waves come and go and suddenly the author says "by the way, I had previously managed to get on the boat". What??? Is that not like something you tell every detail about? Well, enough about the narrative, let me go briefly into the story.
I have to say I was astonished. The story shows the pettiness and the greatness of human beings in the course of 48 hours. This guy Nick gets the best place on the boat just by luck. He sees his friends die and he helps them, yes, but he never offers to go down into the water and let someone else on the boat. In fact, when one of the other swimmers tries to get up in what the author describes as a mad rage, he keeps repeating "there is no place for you up here", meaning that there was no space for the two of them. It never crosses his mind that the only reason he lived is because his friends never ask him to share the privileged spot on the boat.
Will, Nick's best friend is the only one that manages to submerge and retrieve things from the boat. Among them, he brings back 3 life jackets and a seat cushion. He gives out the 3 jackets to his friends and straps precariously the cushion to his back. If I had been in Nicks shoes, I would have never let my best friend and the one responsible for retrieving the jackets, not wearing one himself. Especially since the man on top of the boat, in this case Nick, needed the life-jacket less than Will and especially since Will had all the merit of retrieving them.
If I had been in Nick's shoes I would have also been very very tactful about drinking the Gatorade that Will retrieves. I would have started by saying "Will, it is yours, you should drink it" and then maybe let myself be persuaded by Will's insistence to share. Noup, in this case Nicks goes at the Gatorade first and, as I said, with the funny expression of: "I decided not to drink it all". What???
By sheer luck again Nick is the only one with full clothes on. According to himself this was essential for his survival. Will retrieved the life-jackets and offers to share them ending up without a life-jacket himself. That is sharing to the extreme of self-sacrifice. Do you think that Nick ever offers to share some of his clothing, being that he is the only one outside the freezing water? No way! "Will I love, Will I love you, but my clothing probably won't fit you".
I would have loved to see Will survive. There you have a great guy that gives heroism and greatness to the story. Unfortunately that greatness and unselfishness cost him his life. Pettiness turns out to be a survival skill in this story.
Ah, one last thing about the narrative. Strangely the book is seeing everything from Nick's perspective and suddenly and without warning it turns to be told by a sort of reporter. In this way you go from him talking about his girlfriend like this: "My girlfriend started crying when I was not there by 2 am..." to "At 3 pm, Marcia Oliveira (his girlfriend's name) called the police". Same goes for his mother and other people's descriptions on certain parts of the book Spooky....