August 22, 2006

Mexicans touch land after nine months lost at sea

By Frank Jack Daniel

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Three Mexicans who survived an epic
voyage across the Pacific Ocean in a small fishing boat have
arrived in the Marshall Islands, setting foot on land for the
first time in more than nine months.

The three men walked off the Taiwanese tuna trawler that
found them two weeks ago floating in their 25-foot (8-meter)
fiberglass boat about 5,000 miles from their departure point,
the Mexican Pacific coastal town of San Blas.

Their bare feet were swollen, but otherwise the men
appeared in good health.

The men, who said they set off on a fishing trip in
November and lost their way when they ran out of gasoline,
reached the Marshall Island capital of Majuro on Tuesday, which
was Monday in Mexico.

They smiled and waved and one man shouted "Hello Mexico,"
to Mexican journalists as the trawler got close to the islands.

The Mexicans stayed alive by eating raw birds and fish and
drinking rain water. They said two other men died of starvation
during the trip and were thrown overboard.

"We held a three-day wake and when he began to swell up we
prayed," survivor Salvador Ordonez told Mexican television,
describing what happened when the first man died. "We put him
in the sea and the current took him away."

The fishermen denied rumors they had been trafficking

"We are shark fishermen," said Ordonez, who said he had no
intention of abandoning the sea after his ordeal. "I like
living in San Blas, there's lots of shark nearby."

Speculation about the mens' activities has centered on the
fact that the survivors do not know the full names of the men
who died. A local government official in San Blas said last
week that no one there knew two other men were on board.

The fishermen were expected to be flown home to Mexico in
the next few days.