Skip to comments.Fishermen rescued after 9 months adrift 8,000 km from home
Posted on 08/19/2006 2:24:19 PM PDT by Valin
Three Mexican fishermen who disappeared in the Pacific Ocean nine months ago have been rescued nearly 8,000 kilometres from their home, saying they survived by eating seagulls, drinking rainwater and reading the Bible.
A Taiwanese tuna boat scooped the men out of the water about halfway between Hawaii and Australia on Aug. 9. They had drifted all the way from San Blas, a fishing village about 160 kilometres north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where they were last seen in late October or early November, 2005.
Fishermen in San Blas, a hamlet of about 8,000 people, are celebrating the men's astonishing survival. "God is so great that he helped them all the time. Everybody is excited. They are surprised. They don't know how it happened that they are alive," Antonio Aguayo, a sport fishing guide in San Blas, said in a telephone interview yesterday.
"Nobody has ever been lost for so long and been alive to tell about it."
"Not even Christopher Columbus stayed on the ocean so long," Mr. Aguayo said.
Salvador Ordonez Vasques, Jesus Eduardo Vidana Lopez and Lucio Rendon Bacerra left San Blas on a short shark-fishing trip on Oct. 25, according to Mr. Aguayo. They took an eight-metre fibreglass boat.
Mr. Aguayo said the men took only enough fuel for a few days and unexpectedly ran into a storm. They may have used up their fuel travelling in the wrong direction, thinking they were headed back to shore, according to Mr. Aguayo.
The men's families concluded they had perished at sea.
"Once one week went by, two weeks, a month, three months, we all lost hope that they would be found alive," said Raul Rendon Perez, Mr. Rendon's uncle. He received the joyous news on Tuesday morning at the family ranch, where his nephew has lived for 15 years.
"That kind of life in the high seas, without food or water, you can't last more than a month," said Saul Ordonez Ceja, cousin to both Mr. Rendon Bacerra, 27, and Mr. Ordonez Vasquez, 37. "It was a miracle."
As the months passed at sea, the men's boat drifted farther and father west, until they reached the waters north of Baker Island -- between the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, and about 8,000 kilometres from the Mexican fishing village they left.
Crew members aboard a Taiwanese trawler spotted the men's small boat and realized they were alive, said Eugene Muller, manager of Koo's Fishing Company Ltd.
"They seemed to be in very good health, given what they just went through," Mr. Muller said in an interview from Majuro, the capital city of the Marshall Islands. "Other than being very hungry and having lost a lot of weight, our crew said they didn't need any medical attention."
The survivors told a Mexican radio station that it rained nearly every day of their ordeal, providing them with fresh water to drink. One of the men had a watch that kept track of the days. They passed time by reading a copy of the Bible one of the men brought along.
"We ate raw fish, ducks and seagulls. We took down any bird that landed on our boat and we ate it like that, raw," Mr. Vidana, 27, said from aboard the trawler. He said they frequently saw ships during their months at sea, but were lucky to be picked up because they were asleep when trawler's crew saw them.
"We never lost hope," Mr. Vidana said. "They passed us by, but we kept on seeing them. Every week or so, sometimes we'd go a month without seeing one, but we always saw them so we never lost hope."
Some reports said five fishermen were originally aboard the Mexican boat, but only three survived. Others said the men had only been at sea for three months. Friends and relatives of the men gave the National Post varying reports of when they had set out, saying it was in late October or early November, 2005. They agreed only three men were on board.
Both of their boat's 200-horsepower outboard motors were disabled.
"It looks like they had engine problems because their motors had been dismantled and it seemed like they were trying to salvage parts from one to get the other working," Mr. Muller said.
He stressed there is confusion about the survivors' ordeal because there is a language barrier between them and the trawler's crew.
"What details we have are from the Mexican fishermen through our Chinese crew," Mr. Muller explained. "Some of the details are murky right now."
The Mexican government is flying an official to the Marshall Islands to greet the men. The tuna boat is expected to be at sea for another 10 days to two weeks before returning to Majuro.
Meanwhile, celebrations in Mexico are already underway. Dozens of Mexican newspapers carried stories of the men's tale.
Mr. Ordonez Ceja described his cousins as "adventurers" who are still bachelors. Both are hard workers, he said. The family is planning a party and Roman Catholic Mass to mark the rescued fishermen's return.
"I lived so sad," Francisca Perez, Mr. Rendon's grandmother, told the Televisa news station.
"Now that my grandson is alive, I just want him to come home."
I think the tv series has already been done---it was called "Gilligan's Island" if I recall correctly.
"...survived by eating seagulls, drinking rainwater and reading the Bible..."
New Oprah-Doprah Diet?
Sounds like an upcomming episode from the Discovery Channel's "I Shouldn't Be Alive".
...it rained nearly every day of their ordeal, providing them with fresh water to drink....We took down any bird that landed on our boat and we ate it like that, raw..They caught the fish with hooks attached to the end of electric cables from the boat's motor...
I don't know how often it rains in that part of the Pacific but that I can believe, but do birds willingly land in boats to be grabbed and eaten and why did fishermen have to improvise fishing gear?
A 'fishing' boat ... the size of a pickup truck and with TWO whopping engines.... and lessee... no fishing gear.
this is a miracle. 3 men adrift for 8 months.. 1 bible, and the will to live. truly amazing.
Worse than Spam. I suspect cannibalism, too. The whole story is fishy. Fifteen days without food?
More than likely the boat was a 24 foot fiberglass skiff. The skiff is the boat of choice for the mexican people and is used for everything from bait fishing, lobster trapping, transportation, to even marlin fishing. They come in various sizes. I tend to believe the story as is. Navigation equipment is scarce on Mexican skiffs, and I think that they were probably fishing with a sort of longline, which are long lines of baited hooks suspended by floats, which would account for their lack of equipment. Smuggling anything by skiff from San Blas would be an exercise in futility if you look at the location of San Blas.
I'm guessing with all the blow that was probably aboard that boat they spent a lot of sleepless days nights fishing and catching gulls.
A 'fishing' boat ... the size of a pickup truck
The nine-metre-long, three-metre-wide boat
Be real now, that boat is a lot bigger than a pickup truck. That size boat would have an enclosed cabin big enough for the crew to sleep out of the weather and avoid excessive sun exposure. Granted it still sounds fishy but "the size of a pickup truck" is not realistic.
Like I said, I have no proof. Twin 200's on a 24 footer makes for a rather fast vessel, not exactly like any long liner I've ever known and I've spent a good deal of time in the NY bight. They could afford these engines but had no compass? I'm not talking GPS or plotters or radar or sonar but not even a hand held compass? Not a lot of room to stow catch in a 24 footer with 3/5 men and fishing equipment on board. Smugglers have been known to meet ships somewhere over the horizon, take on contraband and return to shore for overland transport, so the location (if that is even valid) means nothing to me.
It just doesn't pass my smell test.
The Pacific is a big empty place to be lost in.
I saw a pickup truck today that was the size of a Coast Guard Cutter...
Maybe they nicknamed them Seagull and Duck.
Sport fishermen usually use a 25 to 35 HP motor hung next to the twins for trawling...
Another thing I didn't mention, these OBs have to drink at least 10gals/hr. Where would they carry enough fuel to make fishing trips an economically viable proposition.
Even if the report of 9 meters is correct. That's a 30 footer. Slower than a 24, but not exactly a scow either.
Then we get into the time element, nine months of exposure in the open ocean. If a 24, the best they would have is a Bimini top. How long would that last? The wave action alone would rip out the fasteners in the first month. If a 30' even with a cabin, wave action alone for a couple of months would have stuff breaking all over the place.
This just doesn't ring true to me Joe.
Long liners are not sport guys and there is no report of the boat having a kicker.
PS, it's trolling. Trawl is a net.