They might have to change the phrase “throw you a lifeline” to “throw you a marine beacon” after the story of this guy’s unlikely survival. A man sailing a yacht off Queensland’s Sunshine Coast fell overboard when a wave hit the boat, and clung to a marine beacon for safety.

“The wave hit the side of the boat and I was trying to secure the dinghy,” he said, “which had come a little bit adrift and a rope broke holding the dinghy. The dinghy hit me (on) my ribs and I fell about 2.5, three metres off the boat.”

The yacht was found run aground between the northern tip of Bribie Island and Caloundra on Tuesday, while the man himself was discovered by a rescue operation that included jet skiers, a helicopter, water police, and the coastguard. They found him clinging to a marine beacon 1.5 miles off Bribie Island. He had swum over a mile to reach the beacon.

According to Senior Constable Mark Muddieman from the Sunshine Coast water police, “It was a pretty dramatic rescue. He was obviously happy to see us and to be rescued. He didn’t want to spend the night on one of those beacons. He was pretty overjoyed, but upset that his boat is still on the beach.”

To attract attention, the man smartly covered the beacon with his hands and tried communicating an SOS symbol to passing ships. A container ship eventually did pick up his message, after about three hours.