Reported in November 2002
He set sail for a three-hour cruise just like those other castaways. But when the weather started getting rough and his tiny ship was tossed, Richard Van Pham did not make it to an island paradise to eat coconuts like Gilligan and his pals.
The mast snapped and for four months he drifted on the ocean, surviving on rainwater captured in a bucket and sea turtles. (Editors note: turtles are really quite tasty.) The constant winds propelled Mr. Pham's eight-metre (25 foot) sailboat, the Sea Breeze, 4,000 kilometres down the Pacific Coast to Costa Rica from California.
When the 62 year old Mr Pham was finally rescued in late September, he was busily cutting up his wooden mast to roast a lunch of sea gull. Mr. Pham has some words of wisdom for castaways. "If you travel at sea, you will eat what you find. If you are scared you will die."
The skin-and-bones Mr. Pham could have been adrift a lot longer. After losing the mast in a squall during what was to have been a 35 kilometre jaunt from Long Beach to nearby Catalina Island, the Sea Breeze's engine broke down. Then his radio conked out. And because he has no family, nobody knew he was putting out for the day trip.
He did have some entertainment to while away the time. He managed to get his solar generator to work, allowing him to go below deck and watch videos. Most of the time, however, he did what all castaways do - stare at the horizon and pray for a ship or plane to appear.
"I see nothing. Then one day, I see a plane," he told the Los Angeles Times, referring to a U.S. Customs plane that was flying off Costa Rica on September 17, looking for drug smugglers. "I know I'm close to people. They tip their wings to say hello.Two hours later, a ship comes to my boat. I am very, very happy."
When the USS McClusky reached the Sea Breeze, Mr. Pham was busy making his lunch. He requested that the sailors help him fix his mast so that he could sail for Hawaii, which he thought he could make by himself. The Navy told Mr. Pham it was best to scuttle the boat and return to the United States. He resisted, the Sea Breeze was his home. But in the end, he let them sink the Sea Breeze in 2,600 metres of water and he was dropped off in Guatemala. The crew of the McClusky took up a collection and bought him a ticket back to the United States.
HOME... | ...attitude... | ...our boat...
| ...adventures... | ...trivia,
facts & stuff... | ...photos ... |
... useful tools... | ...galley...
| ...sailing 101