Real-life castaway and his dog rescued after months out at sea

Drifting in a catamaran for more than two months in the Pacific Ocean, an Australian sailor and his beloved dog survived on rainwater and raw fish until they were rescued by a Mexican tuna trawler.

In April, Tim Shaddock and his dog Bella left a port in Mexico in order to sail to French Polynesia. A few weeks into the journey, their tiny craft was damaged in rough ocean waters, sending them adrift for months.

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In April, 51-year-old Tim Shaddock from Sydney, Australia and his dog Bella left the port of La Paz, Mexico and set sail for French Polynesia. A few weeks into their voyage, a storm struck and damaged the catamaran’s electronic and communications systems.

The small craft, named Aloha Toa (aloha meaning “breath of life,” and Toa being a “valiant Polynesian warrior”) was left drifting in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean for more than two months, but the real-life castaway did not give up the hope of being rescued.

Putting his survival skills to work, Tim provided raw fish–that he caught with the fishing gear he had on board–and rainwater–that he collected during storms–for himself and his furry pal.

Vulnerable to the heatstroke and exposure from the burning sun, Tim used the boats’ canopy to shelter himself and Bella, an adorable dog who appears to be a German Shepherd mix.

Esta no ha sido la primera vez que alguno de los buques de la flota de Grupomar/Tuny rescata a un náufrago. Don Antonio Suárez Gutierrez y la familia de Grupomar ® queremos felicitar a nuestra tripulación por su valentía y humanismo en el exitoso rescate del Sr. Shaddock.

— Grupomar® (@Grupomar) July 18, 2023

The sailor and his dog had their prayers answered when a helicopter accompanying a tuna trawler spotted the drifting craft.

The fishing boat, operated by Grupomar/Tuny, said that on July 12, it rescued Tim and Bella from the catamaran in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, about 1,200 miles from land. The crew on the ship provided medical care, hydration and nutrition, and then sailed the two to the Port of Manzanillo, where they arrived on July 18.

A doctor who helped treat the Aussie sailor, said that he’s “stable and very well” and has “normal vital signs.” Bella was also well.

“I have been through a very difficult ordeal at sea,” Tim told Australia’s 9News. “I’m just needing rest and good food because I have been alone at sea a long time. Otherwise, I’m in very good health.”

The man, whose beard and brows were shaggy and overgrown, had grown considerably slim from his castaway diet and Bella, who can be seen near her human dad in many of the photos, looks like she was fed and watered fairly.

“I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling a lot better than I was, I tell ya,” Tim said to media on Tuesday when he finally had his feet on the ground. “To the captain and fishing company that saved my life, I’m just so grateful. I’m alive and I didn’t really think I’d make it,” he said, adding that he and his “amazing” dog are both doing well now, and that he still loves the ocean.

El día de hoy uno de nuestros buques rescató a Timothy Lyndsay Shaddock, de 54 años de edad, y a su perrita “Bella” en su catamarán en el Océano Pacífico, después de 3 meses en altamar a más de 1,200 millas de tierra. @Grupomar

— Antonio Guerra (@Guerra_Autrey) July 18, 2023

Mike Tipton, a professor of human and applied physiology at the University of Portsmouth, said that the pair’s survival hinged on “a combination of luck and skill,” and that the key was Tim’s ability to score drinkable water.

Tipton said: “Also knowing, for example, as Tim did, that during the heat of the day you need to protect yourself because the last thing you want when you’re in danger of becoming dehydrated is to be sweating.”

Tipton added that despite the terrifying situation, Tim had the right capacity to ration food and water, which is “really the secret to long survival voyages.”

“Just imagine how dark and lonely it would feel out there at nighttime,” said Tipton, noting that Tim having his best friend on board added a “tremendous amount” to his survival. He said it “may well have made the difference…You’re living very much from day-to-day, and you have to have a very positive mental attitude in order to get through this kind of ordeal and not give up.”

Un buque atunero de nuestra flota rescató a un náufrago australiano tras 3 meses en alta mar que se encontraba a más de 1200 millas de tierra. Gracias a la experiencia de la tripulación guiada por su Capitán Oscar Meza Oregón, recibió la atención médica,

— Grupomar® (@Grupomar) July 18, 2023

Comparing the lost craft to “needle in a haystack” situation, Tipton explained that “People need to appreciate how small the boat is and how vast the Pacific is. The chances of someone being found are pretty slim.”

And now that Tim and Bella are safely back on land, the two will slowly wean into a normal diet.

“It has to be a slow return to normal and he will probably need to be kept an eye on for several months,” Tipton said. The sailor looks very different from when he started the journey. He was clean-shaved with perfectly parted and brushed hair. Take a look at him before the incident here.


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We are so thrilled that Tim Shaddock and his sweet dog Bella are safely home!

This story really demonstrates how a dog really is a human’s best friend and we look forward to learning more about the months-long ordeal once Tim gains enough strength to share details.

We are sending him our very best while he adapts again to life on land and we hope Bella gets lots of treats to indulge!

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