A 64-year-old San Diego man on his way back sailing to Catalina Island capsized off the coast of Oceanside early Saturday morning and had to swim to shore.
On his way back from Catalina, Andrea Ania had planned to stop in Dana Point but all the navigation on his boat malfunctioned and he had to navigate by hand. When he tried to sail into the Oceanside Harbor, big waves and strong winds destroyed his boat.
"I just thank God that I'm alive and it makes you appreciate life," Ania said.
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Ania sailed from Marina Cortez on Harbor Island a few days ago for a fun adventure not knowing that his adventure would turn into a fight for his life.
After a few days at sea in his 32-foot sailboat named “Nicole,” Ania decided it was time to come home. He quickly ran into trouble. His sail split and the navigation instruments malfunctioned.
"The swells started getting bigger and bigger, the waves started getting larger and larger,” he said. “So, I had to change course to keep the boat upright."
As Ania used his motor to steer the boat, the saw the lights in Oceanside Harbor and sailed toward it.
"I couldn't see the jetty, I couldn't see anything,” he said. “It was dark and I didn't think it was well lit to identify where I was."
The dark, the heavy surf and the strong wind cause Ania to miss the harbor. Once he realized that, he tried to turn the boat around and that was when disaster happened.
"As I turned an enormous wave came over the front of the boat and I went up and down over the wave and I crashed down," he said.
As the boat was tossed around by the waves, Ania was thrown into the cold water.
"The boat went over me one time and then it went over me another time and then it went the other way and I was trying to catch it," he said.
Ania soon realized he needed to start swimming toward shore if he was going to survive.
"Every two strokes I was taking there was a wave coming over my head, it was helping go forward but it was hard taking all that water,” Ania said. “I was totally exhausted and I thought I was at my end because the distance looked too far to make, I didn't think I was going to survive."
He made it to shore, but not without injuries. His arm was broken, his hands were ripped open and needed a dozen stitches.
Ania was living on the boat and Oceanside police said the boat was completely destroyed
One of his friends has offered a place to stay for now, but he everything he owned was on that boat.
Even with everything that happened Saturday, Ania said he can’t wait to sail again.
"I'm anxious to get back out there,” he said. “I was trying to find out if I could sail my boat back."
For now, one of his friends has set up a GoFundMe to help him get back on his feet.