ST. PETERSBURG — Larry Miller spent three hours in Tampa Bay early Monday morning after falling overboard from the Carnival Inspiration cruise ship.
The Inspiration was returning to the Port of Tampa from a tour of the Western Caribbean when Miller, 46, climbed atop a railing about 4 a.m. He told authorities he was trying to get a better view of the pilot boat ushering the 855-foot ship into port.
Then he slipped.
Water temperature was in the 70s, the seas calm, when a pilot boat on routine patrol found Miller clinging to a barnacle-covered buoy at 6:50 a.m., Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson said.
Miller of Seminole declined to comment.
"He's had a really rough day. He's pretty banged up," said a woman who answered the phone at Miller's home and identified herself as his wife. "It's a blessing that he's alive and that he was healthy and strong enough to save himself. It's very much a blessing."
Miller told the Coast Guard that, after falling over, he made his way to buoy #23, about a half mile southeast of Fort De Soto Park near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Simpson said.
It was not clear if anyone saw Miller fall over. But the Coast Guard, which is investigating, said foul play is not suspected.
"He was able to talk to the pilots and tell them who he was, where he came from," Simpson said.
The Coast Guard station in St. Petersburg was notified at 7 a.m., and officials there called Carnival to notify them, Simpson said.
"The family was actually looking for him right about the same time we had contacted the cruise line to let them know what happened to Mr. Miller," Simpson said.
Miller, who suffered lacerations on his arms caused by sharp barnacles on the buoy, was briefly treated at Bayfront Medical Center before being released early Monday afternoon.
Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen would not say if the Inspiration crew knew a passenger was missing. He declined to elaborate pending the outcome of the Coast Guard investigation.
The ship, carrying 2,600 passengers and crew, was returning from a four-day Caribbean cruise and had left Cozumel, Mexico, en route to Tampa.
Times researcher Will Gorham contributed to this report. Luis Perez can be reached at (727) 892-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.