HOLIDAY — They launched from the pier by Anclote Key for a small Sunday afternoon fishing trip. The three boys, all younger than 15, had a couple of oars to scoot the 10-foot johnboat around in the water. One boy's father dropped them off at the boat launch. They were told not to go past the channel marker.
At the same time, a string of squalls, the same that would cancel a volleyball tournament in St. Petersburg and delay the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, was rolling in.
Winds kicked up and swept Alex Garrison, 14, Tristian Michaelides, 10, and Austin Tamse, 14, toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Floury Michaelides had tried to take his own boat out to reach his son, but the wind and chop were too much, and he came back to the boat launch.
A passing boater, who had spotted the boys a half mile from where they'd launched, called 911. Deputies went to the park, where they pinged one of the boys' cellphones for GPS coordinates. Anclote Village Marina offered a boat for two deputies, and the Sheriff's Office helicopter guided them.
When the deputies found them chilled and scared, the boys had dropped an anchor to keep from being pulled any farther, Pasco Sheriff's Sgt. Dustin Roy said.
But the anchor held the boat from bobbing with the waves, which crashed over the bow. They used buckets to bail out the water the best they could. None of them wore a life vest.
The deputies loaded the boys onto their own boat and brought them back to shore and into their panicked parents' arms.
Florida law mandates that life vests must be on a boat with children, but they aren't required to wear them. No life vests were found on the boat with the boys, Roy said, but the family likely won't face any repercussions from the law.
After what happened Sunday, he said, he didn't see how a ticket would help.
Contact Alex Orlando at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.