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Man Drifts at Sea for Three Months

On a warm Southern California day in June 2002, Richard Van Pham set out in his 26-foot sailboat from Long Beach harbor for a three-hour adventure to Catalina Island. The 62-year-old Vietnamese immigrant was not prepared for a harrowing adventure that would last three months.

As evening approached, a storm blew up. The winds were so strong they broke the mast and rudder of his boat. When Van Pham attempted to call for help, he discovered his radio was inoperative and his outboard motor wouldn't start. Unable to steer or control his boat, he was carried by the waves and wind. The 25-mile voyage turned into a 2,500 mile journey of desolation and survival. Because Van Pham had no other family members, no one filed a missing person's report or initiated a search.

Each day he drifted at sea, Van Pham looked in vain for any sign of land. "I didn't know where I was or where to go," he admitted. "For months I saw nothingÂ…only water, sky, and seagulls." Unaware of where he was, he drifted aimlessly and survived by eating sea turtles, fish, and seagulls and by drinking rainwater.

On September 17, 2002, help finally arrived. A Navy P-3 patrol plane on a drug interdiction mission spotted the broken-down vessel almost 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica. A nearby frigate, the USS McClusky, proceeded to pluck Van Pham from his disabled craft and deposit him in Guatemala, from whence he flew back to Southern California.

Like Van Pham, many people are lost, unable to save themselves, with life taking them where they do not want to go. Without help from God, they are goners.

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