Shrimp boat captain stranded during Irma rescued by Carnival cruise ship

Edward Potter arrives in Tampa after trying ordeal in Gulf of Mexico

TAMPA, Fla. – A shrimp boat captain who was stranded in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Irma is back at home after he was rescued by a cruise ship.

Edward Potter arrived Wednesday at Tampa International Airport, embracing family members who feared they would never see him again.

"He's a third-generation shrimper," wife Jayne Potter told WFTS, the ABC affiliate in Tampa. "He's been on the water since he was with his dad, since he was a baby."

Potter's family said his experience navigating rough waters helped save his life when Irma swept through the Gulf.

"It's been a trying few days," Potter said.

Potter and first mate Carl Sheperd were caught in the storm in a 75-foot fishing boat based out of Tarpon Springs.

Carl Sheperd was Edward Potter's first mate. He wasn't able to get onto the life boat.

"They were getting water in the engine room and Edward was working on the engine room, and we talked to Carl on the phone and then we couldn't get in touch with him anymore," friend Rick Shalansky said.

Potter made it safely into a life boat, but his friend didn't make it.

"Carl Sheperd was the best man ever," Potter said. "Best man, best friend and I can't say any more than that right now, but I loved that man."

A Carnival cruise ship rescued Potter several hours later.

The Carnival Elation was on its way to the Bahamas when Capt. Gaetano Gigliotti and his crew took action upon receiving a distress call, Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said.

They helped Potter aboard and provided him food, water and medical attention.

"We are extremely proud of Capt. Gaetano Gigliotti and the Carnival Elation team for their exemplary and life-saving actions in this very challenging situation," de la Cruz said.