OKALOOSA ISLAND — Rick Grossi's mother told him it wasn’t his time to die.

The 55-year-old man was sailing from St. Petersburg and had been knocked out of his sailboat Odyssey by a series of three waves during a storm late Saturday night. He was two miles outside of the Destin East Pass.

 

He was tethered to the boat when the turbulent water flung him out. He clung to the slide of the vessel trying to climb aboard without success. That's when he saw his mother.

"I saw her. She looked right at me. She said, 'What are you doing. This is not your time.'"

He had forgotten that it was Mothers Day weekend. His mother Margaret Grossi passed away a year ago, he said. 

The Odyssey, with Grossi still attached, ran aground on Okaloosa Island just east of Beasley Park on the Eglin reservation.

"I crawled my way into the cabin and cried myself to sleep," he said.

When Grossi woke up Sunday morning, it was was still raining. He walked out to the road and someone drove him to a nearby convenience store where he tried to charge his drenched phone. He then walked down the road to Emerald Coast Inn and Suites where they allowed him to check in early for some rest and food.

He woke up Monday, grabbed a shovel and began digging the sand around the sailboat, telling his story to every curious beachgoer who walked by.

"This morning every bone, every muscle in my body was sore but I'm still out here shoveling," he said.

Grossi said he was told by federal officials that he had five days to remove the boat. He thinks it will float back into the Gulf with a little digging and a handful of people pushing it at high tide.