Rajveer Vakani, a 27-year-old accountant from the Indian state of Gujarat, said he was on board a rented yacht on which his friend’s birthday party was taking place. The yacht set sail from Dubai Marina around sunset and everyone was moving to the upper deck about an hour and a half later, he added. Vakani, who lives with his elder brother in a flat in Al Nahda, said he was the last one on the lower deck when guests moved upstairs.
“While I was making my way towards the others, I slipped and went overboard. I shouted for help but no one could hear me. I watched the yacht sailing away and thought it will be back soon after someone realises I’m missing,” Vakani, who is not an expert swimmer, said.
‘This is do or die’
The yacht didn’t turn around for what Vakani estimates to be around 20 minutes or so. “I was trying to stay afloat in the same place, in case they would come back. But it was getting very tough; the waves were thrashing my face and I was swallowing a lot of seawater. It was cold and very dark. I saw the lights of the Burj Al Arab hotel in the distance and thought to myself, ‘this is it, this is ‘do or die’,” said Vakani, who was wearing a white shirt and blue jeans then.
Vakani tried swimming towards the hotel lights. He swallowed more water and the cold salty sea stung his eyes. Vakani kept a slow pace to conserve his energy and held his morale high. “I’ve seen lot of survival shows, I know what people are capable of if they have the will. I told myself I could do this, that I could survive.”
After what felt like an endless swim, which lasted around two hours, Vakani reached a heap of rocks not too far from the hotel. Exhausted and feeling nauseous, Vakani vomited and waited to regain some energy to move. “A man, I think he was American, was walking past and saw me. He helped me walk to the road, where another man, a Russian, let me use his mobile phone and I called my brother, who told me to take a taxi and come home. The first taxi refused because I was soaked but soon another taxi came, which took me home,” said Vakani, who is from Bhavnagar city.
‘They were in shock’
Vakani used another mobile, which was kept at home, to call a friend and tell him what had happened. He heard how his friends on the yacht had called the police and looked for him. “My friend said they were all in shock as they thought I must have died because they couldn’t find me for hours. They had gone to the police station to follow up. Upon hearing the news, the police called me in to ask questions about what had happened and after checking everything, they closed the case,” Vakani said.
“My message to everyone is ‘don’t give up’. When you find yourself in a tough situation, you have to tell yourself, ‘I can do this’; you have to believe in yourself and stay strong.”