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Now, Nick was left with only his best friend in the world. "I was already straddling the motor, and he came behind me," Nick says. "Will was able to use his body and kind of lean with me, like if you were on a motorcycle."

Around 6 a.m.—24 hours since they left Clearwater—Nick says they waited for daylight to break. It never did. "The weather turned even worse," he says.

As the rain poured down, Will told Nick something he says he'll never forget. "He said, 'I don't think I'm going to make it another night,'" Nick says. "At that point I said, 'They're going to find us today.'"

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard had stepped up its rescue mission. Helicopters, planes and boats braved grueling conditions, including 14-foot waves and winds gusting at 30 mph. "There were huge numbers of white caps out there, so we were looking for one small white speck amongst millions of other white specks," Capt. Close says. "We were kind of looking for a fingernail in a shag carpet."

At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Capt. Close made an urgent call for a larger search boat. The Tornado, a 179-foot cutter, was dispatched from its location 20 miles off the coast of Cuba. "She was getting beaten pretty good coming up," Capt. Close says. "I give those guys a lot of credit for making that trip."

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