Florida Man Rescued After Refusing to Abandon Sailboat Amid Hurricane Nicole

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images)

A Florida man is now recovering after he was rescued from a sinking sailboard as he attempted to ride out Hurricane Nicole this week.

While speaking to Fox 35, Robert Shufelt stated he was caught in the middle of the Indian River on his sinking sailboat during Hurricane Nicole. He had decided to ride out the late in the season storm on the boat he considered home for 14 years. “Three anchors down, and they broke loose,” he shared. “That is how powerful she was. This ain’t my first hurricane, but this one took me down.”

Initially spotted by Cocoa Police, chief aviation pilot John Coppola, alongside his partner Mike Ryle from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, came to the rescue. This was after Shufelt sent out a distress call. “People sometimes make mistakes,” Coppola commented. “And they don’t think something is going to be as bad and then next thing you know, they get themselves in trouble.” 

The pilots said that they were flying normally overhead when they took the water to rescue Shufelt. They revealed that the man had been clinging to the boat and drowning. The duo then battled strong winds, waves, and rain to rescue him. It then took them almost a half an hour to get to shore. “He was extremely happy to be off that boat,” Coppola continued. “He told us that as soon as he got off the raft, he said, ‘I don’t want to go back on that boat ever again.’’

Beachfront Homes Gets Washed Away During Hurricane Nicole’s Rampage In Florida 

CNN reports that the beachfront home belonging to Florida resident Trip Valigorsky was washed away this week due to Hurricane Nicole’s dangerous storm surge and powerful winds. 

While speaking to the media outlet, Valigorsky stated, “This home was my grandma’s favorite place. Some of the best memories with her were here.”

Valigorksy is one of the many residents in the beachfront neighborhood of Wilbur-By-The-Sea that lost their home during Hurricane Nicole. At least 49 beachfront properties, including hotels and condos, have been deemed “unsafe” in the aftermath of the hurricane. The storm hit Florida’s eastern coast south of Vero Beach as a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday. It eventually weakened into a tropical storm before becoming a post-tropical cyclone on Friday. 

Valigorksy also stated that one seawall was put up on Tuesday to help combat Hurricane Nicole. However, it crumbled into the ocean by Wednesday. “It was stressful wondering if it would fall, and here we are,” he shared. He is planning to reconstruct his home following the storm.

As previously reported, Hurricane Nicole made history by being a late-season storm striking the Florida panhandle. This was notably the first major storm to hit Florida’s east coast in November since the early 20th century. The last storm to hit November anywhere in the U.S. was Hurricane Kate. That hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle in November 1985.