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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Man adrift recounts four month ordeal
The stricken boat of Mr Van Pham
Van Pham: "If you travel at sea, you take what you find"
A 62-year-old man in the United States has been telling the story of how he managed to survive nearly four months adrift at sea.

Richard Van Pham from California set out on a what was meant to be a short sailing trip in May.

Richard Van Pham
Van Pham had great willpower
He was picked up last week 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) away off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Looking gaunt, but fit, Mr Van Pham said he had survived on fish and birds and drinking rain water.

"If you travel at sea, you take what you find," the man who went to the US after fleeing war-ravaged communist Vietnam in 1976, told reporters after arriving in Los Angeles.

Grilling seagull

Mr Van Pham set out from his home in Long Beach, California to the nearby resort island of Catalina on what was to have been a three-hour sailing trip but, in a sudden storm, his mast, radio and motor all broke.

Mr Van Pham had no family to report him missing.

For nearly four months his boat Sea Breeze drifted and Mr Van Pham lost 18 kilograms in weight.

"I [could] see nothing," he said.

"Then one day I see a plane. 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 we got to him, he was grilling a seagull on a [small] grill that he had, the fuel that he was using to cook was the wood from his own boat," said Lieutenant Ron Flanders of the US Navy.

The US Navy rescuers who picked Mr Van Pham up
Rescuers found him grilling a seagull
"He had turtle meat and he had used some of that meat to lure cormorants and other birds and then he clubbed them over the head and cooked them," Lieutenant Flanders said.

"Not only that but he was able to evaporate sea water and use the salt to preserve the meat."

His rescuers raised $800 to pay for the flight from Guatemala where he was dropped off to Los Angeles where he showed the immigration officials his 1976-issued green card travel document.

See also:

12 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
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