Lost at sea
Just before sunrise, on October 28, 2005, Lucio Rendón, Salvador Ordóñez and Jesús Eduardo Vidaña, along with two other companions, set forth from the Mexican port of San Blas, Nayarit, to catch sharks 30 miles south of the Islas Marías in a 28-foot fiberglass boat. But they exhausted their fuel and strong easterly winds cast them adrift in the Northern Equatorial Current which crosses the Pacific Ocean from Mexico to the Philippines Islands. Lucio Rendón's family searched for some weeks, but the castaways were blown out into the high seas too fast and could not be found. Too poor to afford a radio, the fishermen had no way to contact help.
Surviving nine months adrift
They survived for nine months on raw fish, seagulls and sea turtles and by collecting rain water in empty gasoline containers. Water was scarce during the first month, as it did not rain, but then when winter came, cold front after cold front brought clouds and rain which may have saved their lives.
Sailing across the Pacific Ocean
Although they thought they were sailing aimlessly, the survivors had followed exactly the same path that the Nao de China travelled in the 17th century from Acapulco to Manila, discovered by Andrés de Urdaneta in 1565. Hope returned to the stranded fishermen when they saw planes flying from the west. They realized that it would be easier to cross the ocean to the west, rather than attempting to turn into the wind to return to Mexico. The three survivors fashioned a sail with the blankets they carried on board and chose to sail westwards, following the wind and the currents. They sailed for more than 270 days at an average of 4 kilometers per hour.
They made fishing hooks with strings and wire from the engine, and caught sea turtles by diving into the ocean with a rope tied to their waists. They ate everything: meat, blood, bones, eggs, and so survived for nine months crossing two thirds of the Pacific Ocean (more than 8,800 km (5,500 mi)) westwards.
They spent time (by turns) in the shadow of the sail, and they read the Bible aloud during the 9 months they were lost in the ocean. They battled several storms, tossing the water overboard with buckets to keep their boat from overturning. The fishermen said they never lost faith in being rescued.
Rescue at sea
On August 9, 2006, their boat was spotted on the radar by a Taiwanese tuna fishing vessel called Koo's 102 at a distance of 20 miles. The captain ordered the crew to sail towards the signal to investigate, thinking the radar signal was too strong to be a group of sea gulls. Soon they reached the stranded boat and picked up the three surviving fishermen around 14:00 local time at a point located 200 miles east of the Marshall Islands. The survivors were reported to be "very thin and hungry, but otherwise healthy". The sailors of the Taiwanese boat took them aboard and gave them food, medical care and clothes and had them rest for the 13 days until they disembarked in Majuro, Marshall Islands, on August 22, 2006, where they were handed over to the local authorities and later to an officer from the Mexican embassy in New Zealand, who arranged to have them flown back to Mexico.
They arrived back in Mexico on August 27, 2006, and after visiting their families they went back to San Blas to continue with shark fishing.
Yumei Yoselyn, Jesús Vidaña's 21-year old wife, was pregnant when her 27-year old husband got lost at sea. She also had a four-year old child. Some suspected that the fishermen were involved in drug-smuggling, which all of them adamantly denied, however, it is important to remark that in Mexico shark-fishing permits are expensive, so small fishing boats that sail out into the sea to catch sharks often do not inform port authorities of their leaving.
- Rescued at Sea, Now Roasted in the Media, By Manuel Roig-Franzia, August 23, 2006, The Washington Post