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“Without the jeans, I wouldn’t be here today. They were really the thing that saved me,” Arne Murke told The New Zealand Herald after being lost at sea for several hours this weekend. He and his brother were delivering a 36-foot yacht from Auckland to Brazil when, on Saturday, disaster struck when the mainsail came loose. This caused the boom to swing around and knock Murke overboard and into the ocean.

With his arm tangled in some rope, Murke was pulled under the boat and disappeared. He was able to free himself but was quickly swept away from the boat.

“I was floating in the water not wearing any life jacket. Just my t-shirt, my jeans, that was all,” he said.

“My brother started directly to get me but the swell was like three meters. He threw a life jacket with a rope overboard. I couldn’t reach that, it was already too far away. Then I think the motor exploded.”

Using Jeans as a PFD

It looked as though Murke would eventually drown as he drifted farther and farther away. However, he remembered a trick he learned from watching the U.S. Navy SEALs.

“I saw it many years ago and I always thought if I ever go overboard without a life jacket I’m going to do that,” he told the Herald.

“I took a deep breath, took out my jeans, made knots at the end of the legs and inflated the jeans; pull it over water and get air inside and then push it under water — I had like an improvised life vest.”

“I was underwater and I just thought … do it for your daughter. I managed to somehow get the jeans right and floated again. That was one moment where I really thought I might die, if I don’t give all my energy,” he said.

After four hours floating at sea, Murke was spotted by a Hawke’s Bay Rescue helicopter. They had been conducting the search for him along with the New Zealand Coast Guard and its Air Force.

“I really want to thank all everyone who was involved in the search and rescue operation, they did an excellent job and I’m very, very thankful,” Murke said.

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