Published: Apr 09, 2010 6:11 AM EDT

NAPLES, Fla. - 50-year old Bart Bailey left for a boating trip alone Wednesday.  Many would consider him lucky to have returned to shore alive.

His friend Keith Ellis says:   Bailey left Naples on a 24-foot crab boat, and Ellis promised to meet him at sundown Wednesday at the dock.   Bailey did not return.  His wife Pepper reported him missing at midnight.  The Coast Guard and local agencies launched a search by sea and air.

In the meantime, Bailey's boat had begun to sink, several miles off shore.   He put on a life jacket and swam to shore, arriving at Barefoot Beach Thurs. morning.   He borrowed a cell phone from a beach-goer and called his wife.   An ambulance took him to North Collier Hospital, where he was admitted in fair condition Thurs. afternoon.

"I am not surprised too much. He is a pit bull, a real fighter and survivor," said Ellis of Bailey.  "He is tough and has a good heart.  He's also really strong.  A hard-core fisherman."

Bailey and relatives declined offers to talk about the ordeal with media.