By CRAIG McTEAR
SHAYNE Irwin knew his salvation depended on just a few more strokes.
Bleeding and aching from his overnight ordeal at sea, the Upper Corindi father-of-two summoned all his strength to swim two kilometres to safety.
At 9.10am yesterday, two fishermen had to rub their eyes when they saw someone swimming towards their boat, Yellowfin, near North West Solitary Island off Arrawarra. They hauled Shayne aboard and radioed in the good news.
Some time on Tuesday, Shayne's fibreglass runabout, Jess, was swamped by a large wave, which sent the fisherman overboard. It is understood the five-metre vessel sank.
Shayne swam to the island where he roughed it overnight, but he re-entered the water early yesterday when he saw boats nearby.
He arrived with his rescuers at Arrawarra at 9.30am for an emotional reunion with his family. His father and brother helped him ashore, where he was treated by ambulance officers for a gash to his forehead and cuts to his knees.
He was otherwise in good health, and was flown by rescue helicopter to Coffs Harbour Health Campus, where he remained yesterday in a stable condition.
Shayne's aunt, Diane Clauss, was one of many family members who had put in a sleepless night.
"There has been fantastic family support, and all the locals have been great. We couldn't be happier," she said yesterday.
"There were screams of delight when we were told he'd been found."
Shayne's wife, Linda, had reported him missing late on Tuesday afternoon when he had failed to return from his fishing expedition.
He had set off from Arrawarra at 8am that day and last spoke by mobile phone to Linda at 9.30am. She had expected him to return by 1pm or 1.30pm.
When he hadn't come back by 5pm, Linda headed to the beach at Arrawarra where her husband's car and trailer were still parked.
She approached local fisherman John Featherstone, who raised the alarm.
Coffs Harbour Water Police, Woolgoolga Volunteer Sea Rescue and other crews scoured waters in the immediate area, but called off the search after 11pm.
A large scale search resumed at first light yesterday, with up to nine vessels and nine aircraft covering the area between Wooli in the north and Camden Haven in the south.