Steve Davis, a charter-boat skipper based in Miami, was reported as having tried to ride out the storm in his boat, but said he had in fact responded to evacuation advice issued before it broke.

He was making his way north along the Intracoastal Waterway, a 3000-mile-long network of rivers, canals and bays that runs from Florida’s southern tip north to Boston, and was close to Blue Heron Bridge near Palm Beach, said to be one of the USA’s prime shore-diving locations.

Davis said that after his progress had been slowed by closed locks his boat was struck by another that had broken away from its moorings, and his anchor-line had parted.

His boat had started to fall apart, he said. The upper deck had peeled off in the stormy conditions “and it almost decapitated me”.

Unable to contact the Coast Guard, he had decided to swim for safety.

“I always have scuba gear with me wherever I go - that way, if I’m on a vessel, I don’t die,” Davis told the station. “I wanted to see my little boy’s face one more time.”

The boat that was his livelihood was later found and was being salvaged, but Davis said that charter-boat insurance did not cover hurricane damage. He said he had shared his story to deter others from travelling alone - even in a hurricane.

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