MAX BALL'S family gave him the strength to stay afloat.

"I just kept thinking of my little girl and my missus," Mr Ball said.

"My apprenticeship had just started - I had plenty of things to come home to."

Along with 39-year old Jeno Green and 17-year-old Jessie Walker, 28-year-old Mr Ball was yesterday recovering in hospital after the three men spent an incredible 15 hours clinging to a single lifejacket in waters off the coast of Mackay.

The men were rescued at 1pm on Monday after a fishing trip to Prudhoe Island, which began on Sunday, went wrong about 10pm.

Yesterday, Mr Ball revealed the thoughts that passed through his mind during the experience.

"We stopped to refuel the boat, and (we noticed it) had a leak and it just took on water," he said.

"We got one lifejacket out and we got the fuel tank out.

"We had a torch and we were trying to contact people but they couldn't see us."

Mr Ball said it was heartbreaking to watch other boats drift by in the distance.

"I thought, it can't be true," he said. "It was scary. I wanted one of them to pick us up."

Around mid-morning on Monday, Jessie, who is Mr Ball's brother in law, started losing consciousness.

Mr Ball said he had never felt more relieved than when the Volunteer Marine Rescue boat pulled Jessie on board.

"He was strong all night, swimming with us," he said.

"Come morning I said, 'have a bit of a rest mate' and he went downhill from there."

Yesterday, Mr Ball spoke to Jessie in hospital for the first time since the rescue.

"I said to him we made it," Mr Ball said.

"He was a bit upset, which is understandable, so was I.

"I wasn't leaving him out there on his own."

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