Clinging to the back of his fishing boat for six hours in darkness as cold winter rain stung his face, 73-year-old Ross Mead gave himself a talking to.
"You are not going to die like this," he told himself, with conviction.
"Never give up," he repeated.
The father of three and grandfather of eight was returning to his 23m boat moored on Northland's Whangaroa Harbour after having dinner with friends onshore when, in a split second, he plunged into the ocean. He slipped as he stepped from his dinghy onto the duckboard on July 18 about 10.30pm.
A month later, Mead, who spends his time between Katikati and Russell, has decided to talk about the terrifying experience and publicly thank those who saved his life.
Mead, sitting on the deck of Lady Lola, moored in its usual spot in Russell, outlined his latest near-death experience.
He said the cold ocean water and two attempts at swimming to shore had sapped him of energy and he was unable to boost himself up onto the duckboard where he could scramble aboard.
He slipped below the water.
The experienced fisherman has had six previous brushes with death, including one involving a confrontation with six machete-wielding Papuans in Papua New Guinea, but he knew this was his closest yet.
"I'm not a religious person and I didn't get to the praying stage but someone was looking after me."
He cried out for help, his pleas swirling on the blustery wind.
Thankfully his desperate pleas for help were heard by an elderly resident of secluded Waihi Bay, who rowed out to find Mead nearly unconscious but still clinging to the stern of Lady Lola.
His rescuer, aged 80, was unable to get Mead onto the duckboard of the boat and did not want to flip his own tinnie. Instead, he took a life ring from Lady Lola and, after a struggle, managed to get Mead's head and one arm through the ring before towing him 100m back to the mangroves.
Leaving him in the mud, but safe, his rescuer Eddie then motored back out to get reception on his mobile phone to ring for help.
Police were notified and the Northland Rescue Helicopter team dispatched. The pilots used night-vision goggles and navigated by the aircraft instruments to make it through the cloudy and rainy conditions.
The crew arrived at daybreak, which coincided with a window of opportunity as the blustery conditions cleared and allowed the team to swoop in and put the semi-conscious and hypothermic Mead on a stretcher and winch him aboard.
He was flown to Whangārei Hospital in a critical condition where staff worked quickly to ensure his survival.
The struggle to get onboard had shredded his hands, skinned and bruised his shins and arms.
The last thing Mead remembers is Eddie arriving and then waking up in hospital. He spent six days in hospital.
Mead had only praise for the medical treatment he received in Whangārei Hospital.
"They are magic people. Those nurses are so busy but they took time to stop and talk to me."
Mead, who was in and out of the army for 20 years, thought it was all over this time round.
He credits Eddie for saving his life.
"I reckon another half an hour I would have let go and sunk.
"I was that close to being dead, you have no idea," he demonstrates by forcing his thumb and forefinger tightly together.
"Eddie saved my life. He deserves recognition but doesn't want it. He risked his life in a storm ... people do a lot less and get a medal."
He also credits his survival, in part, to the power of positive thinking.
"Your mind will over-ride your body if you're positive enough."
He was overwhelmed with the support from friends in Kerikeri and Coopers Beach who had looked after him while he recovered enough to get back onboard and steam Lady Lola from Whangaroa to her regular mooring at Russell last week. His said his family rallied as well.
His mental fortitude has helped him pull through six previous brushes with death.
"I've pushed my luck more than most. If I was a cat I'd only have two lives left."
Aged 6, Mead was saved from drowning by his older brother after he struck trouble swimming off a wharf on Katikati. His next brush with death was when he was in a Jeep that rolled 12 times down a steep bank before stopping.
As a contractor bulldozing roads, a pinecone fell from a height slamming into the top of his head and splitting his scalp open.
"The doctor reckoned I was pretty lucky then, too."
When contracting in Papua New Guinea, his truck broke down and he was confronted by six machete-wielding Papuans. His hands still bear the scars of that melee.
Then, on a diving trip in the Bay of Islands, he pushed his limits and ended up being choppered to Devonport where he spent 40 hours in a compression chamber.
"Mentally I was okay but my body wasn't 100 per cent."
After a 10-day stint in hospital, doctors said no more diving.
"Yeah, that was pretty serious."
Another flight in a rescue helicopter happened when he fell from the fly bridge on a fishing trip in Tauranga and shattered his foot in 127 places.
"There was blood and bone ... I was running out of blood or hydraulic fluid as I call it."
He was transferred to Motiti Island and then choppered to Tauranga Hospital, where he spent five weeks, then five months in a wheelchair and two years on crutches.
At one point, an infection could have meant amputation.
Now, after his plunge into the harbour Mead has attached a small ladder that will make climbing aboard Lady Lola much easier.
The message Mead had for anyone finding themselves in a tight spot or looking at death was: "Don't give up, just be positive."