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Australian sailor John Deer swims 17km after falling off his boat near Panama

An Australian sailor has survived a 17km swim through shark-infested waters for his life after falling from his boat while fishing.

John Deer stranded alone on Wednesday evening without a life jacket off the coast of Panama in an area known by locals as ‘shark point’.

Mr Deer, from Victoria, sold everything he owned in 2019 to sail the world on the adventure of a lifetime.

Towards the end of what was a 30-hour journey from Columbia to Panama, he fell off the back of his boat while it was on autopilot with both sails up and the engine running.

Mr. Deer had just caught a small tuna and when he pulled it off the line and used the lure again, he lost his balance and slipped off the back of the boat.

John Deer (pictured) set out in 2019 to sail around the world and now finds himself without a boat and only the clothes on his back, but with an incredible story to tell

John Deer (pictured) set out in 2019 to sail around the world and now finds himself without a boat and only the clothes on his back, but with an incredible story to tell

“I just remembered hitting the water and when I saw my boat sail away I thought, this is it, I’m done, I’m dying,” he told the Daily Mail Australia.

“It has gone so fast. I put my foot in the wrong place and suddenly I’m in the water and see my boat sail away and completely helpless.

“I don’t know if it was as much panic as denial in the beginning. I just started “no, no no!” to scream.’

After realizing that he had no choice but to swim for his life, Mr. Deer began heading to land with only about an hour of sunlight left.

He said his survival instincts kicked in and he remembered a trick to find out which piece of land was closest.

“You can see which part of the country is closest to what appears darkest,” he said.

“So while I could see my boat going in one direction, I knew the land on my side was closer.

“I knew I had gone overboard around 5:00 PM, so daylight was limited. I memorized the shape of the mountains and when the sun went down I just followed the darkest part.’

The remains of Mr. Deer's boat after it was recovered some distance from where it fell off near Panama

The remains of Mr. Deer’s boat after it was recovered some distance from where it fell off near Panama

Mr. Deer began to alternate breaststroke and survival as he headed toward land.

Because he was moving so slowly, he began to wonder if he was making any progress.

“I didn’t know if or how I was going to get there and I tried not to be put off by the task ahead and kept reminding myself I could do it,” he said.

“I kept telling myself out loud, I’m getting closer, I’ve got this, I can do this. I was just positive to keep my spirit strong.”

But as night fell, Mr. Hart felt something bite his foot, causing him to panic.

‘Fearing it was a shark, I went into a frenzy. I started yelling, kicking and punching in all directions to scare it off,” he said.

“I just knew I was low on energy, I got so tired that I decided to keep swimming.

“I quickly realized it was fish nibbling on me. They just wouldn’t leave me alone, they were about the size of my forearm and just kept biting my body and legs. I have bite marks and scratches on my legs from it.’

Police later told him that the spot where he fell from the boat was known locally as ‘shark point’ due to the predators often spotted there.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Mr. Deer to help him get money to return to Australia and restart his life after selling everything to buy his boat

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Mr. Deer to help him get money to return to Australia and restart his life after selling everything to buy his boat

Mr. Deer got his emotions under control and tried to get a sense of his progress by using another trick to hold out his arm to measure how far the land seemed.

“I held out my arm and at first the land covered my hand completely,” he said.

“I checked again what I thought was about an hour later and I could see a bit of the mountain on either side of my hand.

“The next time I checked, I saw about 30 percent of the land on either side of my hand and I started to think I can do this, I can do this.”

Mr. Deer then remembered the moment when he finally reached some rocks and knew he’d made it.

“When I got to the rocks, I was so relieved, but then I almost slipped and thought, OK, I’ll just have to lay here for a while, imagine going out like this after you’ve managed to reach the shore.” reach,” he said.

“I stood on these sharp jagged rocks and put down my shirt to lie on. When the adrenaline stopped, my body stopped completely.

“I passed out and woke up every hour or so because the rocks were so sharp, but I was just so exhausted.

‘At first light I found a tree trunk and made a signal flag. The first boat I tried to spot didn’t hear me, the second waved and then went on, but then the third time got lucky and the boat stopped.

“They gave me a lift and took me back to civilization.”

Mr. Deer is trapped in Panama City (pictured) with only the clothes on his back and

Mr. Deer is trapped in Panama City (pictured) with only the clothes on his back and “not even with a couple of goddamn thongs.” He said he needs an emergency passport to return to Australia

Once back on shore, Mr. Deer said the police were questioning him because they found the boat underwater and thought he was done with it.

Mr. Deer is trapped in Panama City with only the clothes on his back and “not even with a couple of goddamn thongs.” He said he needs an emergency passport to return to Australia.

Although he is disappointed that all his belongings are gone and he has nothing to go home with, having sold everything before he left, he is still cheerful and grateful to be alive.

“I’ve literally lost everything I had. I only have my T-shirt and pants, that’s it,” he said.

“I’m basically an undocumented immigrant and all I have to do is go to Panama City and get an emergency passport and try to get home to start over and reinvent myself.”

Mr. Deer said he wouldn’t rule out sailing because there was still a part of him that loved being on the water and exploring the world.

A GoFundMe page was set up by his friend in hopes of giving Mr. Deer money to return to Australia.

‘People think my life is great, but to me it feels mundane. This is the first time I feel like I have a crazy story to tell,” he said.

Mr. Deer said it felt “eerie” to watch the remains of his boat bobbing in rocky water, but it just reminded him how lucky he was to be alive.

“As an Aussie you have to like a story where you beat the odds and that’s what I did,” he said.

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