By Bill Shields

CHATHAM (CBS) – 54-year-old John Bialk of Wisconsin thought he had freedom figured out. He bought a 35′ sailboat in New Hampshire, outfitted it, and planned to sail on to the Caribbean to live a life of leisure.

But not all plans work out.

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“I was about six days into the trip when this happened,” he says,” I’m lucky to be alive.”

On Friday night, he was anchored off of Chatham in turbulent seas, and sleeping. Suddenly, a wave jolted him awake, and Bialk discovered lots of water on board and the anchor line had snapped.

So he decided to abandon ship, jumping into a nine-foot dingy and heading toward land.

The sailboat that John Bialk had to abandon on Friday. (WBZ-TV)

“I spent four hours in the dingy,” he says.

But he made it into Chatham, sold the dingy, and used the money to fly back to Wisconsin, thinking his future home had sunk.

The next day, the harbormasters found John’s boat, washed up on Monomoy Island.

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“We’ve countered a lot of situations that are odd, but this one is right up there with the top five,” says Chatham Harbormaster Stuart Smith.

Here’s the problem for authorities: they find a 35′ sailboat, with no one on board. They start a search, and when they find no “survivors”, they tow the boat into Stage Harbor.

“Every indication was someone fell off the boat,” says Smith.

Even the tow boat captain thought this was bizarre, and probably sad.

“It’s a crazy scene,” said Jada Reid of Tow Boat US. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

So the Coast Guard examined documents found on board, and located Bialk, back in Wisconsin.

Bialk now has a piece of sound advice for sailors.

“Learn how to use the radio,” he said.

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Bialk is a very lucky guy, but he might be as much so, if authorities decide to charge him.

Bill Shields