Fisherman who spent almost 24 hours in the sea grateful to be alive

  • 05/01/2024

A fisherman who fell off his boat after he hooked a marlin and spent almost 24-hours alone in the sea says getting rescued was a huge relief. 

Will Fransen set off on a solo fishing trip on his 40-foot boat Betty G on Tuesday and intended to return home the following day. 

He fell overboard when he tried to return a marlin he had caught back to the sea. 

Unable to catch the idling boat as it moved further out of reach, Fransen attempted to swim to the Alderman Islands but was dragged away by the currents.

He endured a "cold night" in the ocean, too exhausted to keep swimming - at one point, a shark even came to "have a sniff" before leaving.   

"There were two boats quite early on near me that I unsuccessfully tried to shout to and wave to, they didn't see me, but I knew as soon as I was in the water that the chances of getting a boat to be close enough to see me and grab their attention, very slim," Frensen told Morning Report on Friday. 

"I was cold in the sun in the mid-afternoon let alone that night, I was shivering like for 15 hours I suppose, I dunno... and apart from seeing the light on Slipper Island and the light on the Aldermans and the glow of Tauranga behind the Mayor Island, there's not a lot of light apart from stars, the stars were really bright, a nice astronomical sky."

He said a shark came by and gave him a sniff but swam on. He also said he began to hallucinate under the sun. 

The next morning Frensen saw another boat and tried to get their attention by reflecting the sun off his wristwatch. 

Fortunately, the three men on the boat, who were also out fishing for the day, saw the light.  


"It was kind of a series of fortunate events really when you start going back and piecing through the day," James McDonnell told Newshub.


"We sort of saw a glistening probably 600 metres away from the boat at the time, and sort of curious as to what that could've been," McDonnell told Newshub. 

"We made our way over, and as we got closer, I think it was Max that said 'I think that's a person'... And it was actually me who said, 'surely not'." 

Once Fransen was pulled onto the boat, McDonnell and fellow boatie Max White sprang into action. 

"Our priority quickly turns to take off all of our shirts our jumpers," said White. "We had a big cooler bag and to just wrap him up in as many layers as possible. He was desperate for water and that side of things so had a bit of warm water and cranberry juice." 

Whangamatā Police Sergeant Will Hamilton told Newshub it was a "miracle" rescue. 

"It's nothing short of heroic, observing something a little bit unusual on the water and taking the time to go and investigate that," he said. 

The incident has also served as a poignant reminder about water safety this summer. 

"He wasn't wearing a life jacket at the time. The thing that we thought kept him alive was his game fishing harness which kept him afloat," said McDonnell. 

"But also, it's the importance of logging trips with Coastguard… and that you've got all your safety equipment on board, personal locator beacons. All of that is really imperative." 

Fransen told Morning Report he would wear a life jacket next time. 

"I could've worn a life jacket because I was on my own and a personal locator beacon, a PLB, so I could've set that off, I could have just tied a tether to myself to do what I did and then if I had of fallen in I could've pulled myself in."