Alabama man, James Michael Grimes, spent 20 hours treading water in the Gulf of Mexico after falling from a Carnival cruise ship.

James Michael went overboard in the middle of the night on day one of his cruise. 

He boarded the cruise with 18 of his family members in New Orleans on November 23, a day before Thanksgiving.

He admitted that he had a few alcoholic drinks during the day, but he was not inebriated.

Around 11:00 PM, the first night, James Michael told his sister he was going to the bathroom, but he doesn’t remember leaving to go find the bathroom, falling off the boat, or how he ended up in the water.

When I came to regain consciousness, I was in the water with no boat in sight…

I can’t float myself even when I’m trying to, so there had to be, you know, the Lord was with me when I was out there because something was holding me up the whole time when I was passed out.

The next day, his family alerted the ship’s crew around 2:30 PM that he had not returned to his cabin, approximately 12hrs. after he was last seen on the boat.

Carnival notified the Coast Guard of a missing passenger, and they searched over 7000 miles of shark-infested ocean.

James said he thought he had an encounter with a shark.

I thought it was a shark!

I mean I was swimming in one direction and I looked around and I seen it out the corner of my eye, and it came up on me really quick.

And I went under, and I could see it.

And it wasn’t a shark, I don’t believe, but it had more like a flat mouth and it came up and bumped one of my legs, and I kicked it with the other leg.

It scared me, not knowing what it was, or at the time, how big it was, all I could see is a fin.

Being hungry and exhausted with no food in sight, James ate a stick that looked like bamboo while he was in the ocean.

A stick come floating by, looked like bamboo so I started eating on it, and it actually… I mean I’m not going to say it tasted good but it gave some type of flavor in my mouth other than salt water.

As it started getting dark again and the water started getting colder, he started wondering how much longer he was going to have to be in the ocean, but he felt like he was meant to survive.

Thanksgiving night, as the sun was going down, he spotted a light from a tanker ship, and he decided to swim toward it.

That was my final little burst of energy.

The strength that I had, I used pretty much every bit of it to try to make it to one of them.

When the coast guard arrived, James said they circled the boat in a helicopter two or three times looking for him, and he signaled them by waving one of his socks around his head.

He said when he saw the coast guard coming down to get him from the helicopter, he thought, “I see the light.”

When the coast guard reached him, he said the first thing he told him was that he didn’t have any clothes on.

Well, the first thing I actually told him was I don’t have any clothes on… because I didn’t.

I dun stripped out of everything.

He said ‘That’s fine, alright.’

I was just like, okay, and he told me to hold on to his life vest, and I was just thinking thank you!

You know, you’re like a guardian angel coming down for me.

According to his rescuers, James was seconds away from not making it.

I swam to him fast as I could. As I got to him, I shoved the rescue sling under his arms, and he collapsed into it.

He had nothing left.

James Micheal Grimes says the whole experience has given him a new purpose, and he would go on another cruise but he would “not get within 10 foot of the rails.”

Watch the “GMA” interview with James Michael Grimes below:

James Michael Grimes is truly a Thanksgiving miracle.

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