By Lona O'Connor
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 10:11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 9, 2010

WEST PALM BEACH After two worrisome days of drifting on the Atlantic Ocean, John Land got a tow home behind a big Navy cruiser. His 32-foot fishing boat was dwarfed by the 567-foot USS Leyte Gulf, which rescued him and two friends.

As Land slept off his adventure this afternoon, his wife Marilyn pieced together the story.

Land, with David Blakeney and Kevin Wood, left Singer Island at 6 a.m. Thursday.

They were about 30 miles offshore near Juno Beach when the boat's engine shut off. They discovered that the boat's oil pan blew a gasket and the engine shut off to protect it from burning up, said Marilyn Land.

Land then found out that he could not transmit on his radio, though he could hear the Coast Guard trying to communicate with him.

"Don't worry, guys, my wife will call the Coast Guard," he said.

But a friend discouraged Marilyn Land from calling too early.

"What if he got in a patch and didn't want to leave the fish," the friend told her. "Don't worry, he's got the best fishing boat money can buy. He's not going to sink."

"I started worrying at 9 p.m., but I didn't call until midnight," said Marilyn Land wearily. "I'll follow my gut next time."

During the first night, the fishing boat got caught in a storm, with some 10-foot waves that washed over it.

"He's pretty fearless," said Marilyn Land. "He was more worried about us not knowing if they were dead or alive."

The search party included a jet, a prop plane, five Coast Guard boats and boats from the Bahamian Air and Sea Rescue Association and Royal Bahamas Defence Force. They scoured the ocean from Fort Lauderdale to Jacksonville and east to the Bahamas, the Coast Guard said.

Early Saturday, the crew of the Leyte Gulf spotted the 32-foot pleasure craft Shade Maker carrying Land, 48, of West Palm Beach, David Blakeney, 39, of Royal Palm Beach, and Kevin Wood, 45, also of West Palm Beach.

The U.S. Coast Guard says the blue-and-white center-console SeaVee was spotted about 85 miles east of Jacksonville, where it apparently had drifted in the rapid current of the Gulf Stream. All three men were unharmed.

When Land spotted the Leyte Gulf, he set off a flare and the big cruiser was soon there.

As the three men boarded the Leyte Gulf, the crew was excitedly snapping photos on their cell phones and making videos, Marilyn Land said.

On the ride home on the Leyte, Land got to stretch out on an officer's leather couch and watch a big flat-screen television.

Land was none the worse for wear, she said.

"He had a hairy face," said his wife.

When Land returned home, a crowd of about 20 children and 10 to 15 adults, including Blakeney's wife, were waiting at the Lands' home.

Blakeney's daughter Kayla, 7, went to bed Saturday night crying for her dad, but was fully recovered from her fears by the next day. When she heard he was coming home, she and a family friend make a chocolate cake for his return.