It was a relieving sight for Captain Ernie Croft: Dora Steed standing waist-deep in water near a mangrove island, waving her flippers at him.
"She was in good spirits. She was not cold. She had a smile on her face. She was just thirsty," said Croft, a boat captain for SeaTow.
Several agencies began combing the waters Thursday afternoon after Steed's husband called for help, saying his wife had gotten separated from the boat. They were snorkeling for scallops.
Around 11 p.m. Thursday, the search was temporarily called off due to the storms, Croft said.
"I did a pattern out there and never saw her. She told me she saw my flashing lights that night and everyone else's lights, but nobody spotted her," Croft said.
Croft woke up at 3 the next morning to resume his search. He decided to look near Green Key Island, about a mile and a half from Steed's original location, thinking the tide might have taken her there. He was right.
"She said she was treading water part of the time," said Croft. "Around the time that storm hit, she said she found a PVC post and was holding on to it through the storm."
Steed seemed determined to survive.
"During the rain she took her goggles and caught rainwater for drinking. I said, 'You must watch Survivor,'" Croft said.
Steed was brought to the hospital to be checked out, but overall she was in good condition, according to rescuers.
"She did have a bag of scallops. She did never turn loose of her scallops," Croft said.
"She's apparently a local Homosassa girl, and she knew what she was doing. She handled it really good."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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