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Long night at sea, on land

Nichole Ballard and boyfriend Lewis Nameth spent nearly 18 hours on a water scooter before being rescued around noon Thursday, 13 miles off the coast of Aripeka. The couple from Warick, N.Y., in the area vacationing with Ballard's family, rented the personal watercraft at a New Port Richey dock around 6 p.m. Wednesday. About 2 miles off the coast they ran into mechanical problems, and thus started their night at sea. "There were no storms right on top of us, but there was lightning around us, and we were scared it was going to come toward us," Ballard said. ". . . I knew Mom was worrying so much and probably thought I was dead or something, but I'm okay. I thought it was kind of an adventure." Story, 1B

As she clutches a notebook holding a note to her daughter, Cheri Ballard says, "God is blessing me." She spent agonizing hours waiting for news of her daughter, who was adrift in the gulf on a water scooter with her boyfriend.

Nichole Ballard, 17, and Lewis Nameth, 21, recount their night in the gulf and their rescue 13 miles off Aripeka. The pair rented a water scooter at a New Port Richey dock and drifted north after mechanical problems.

Coast Guard auxiliary volunteers Robert Ayers, left, and John Balazs help tow the scooter. Ballard and Nameth had stopped its engine to watch a dolphin, but they couldn't restart the vessel.

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