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It was January 19, 1988. The waters were calm and the skies cloudless as five fishermen set off on a week-long trip off the Costa Rican coast. Five days later, their twenty-nine-foot wooden craft was foundering against thirty-foot waves as a dreaded north wind -- El Norte -- struck with full force. Set adrift in a badly leaking vessel, they faced the perils of more storms, shark attacks, near-madness, a mutiny, and bouts of starvation and thirst. Continuously bailing, the five men endured a record 142 days lost at sea -- until they were rescued 4,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean.
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On June 14, 1988, a Japanese tuna-fishing boat 550 miles southeast of Honolulu rescued five men from a derelict craft; incredibly, these man had survived 142 days at sea, drifting some 4000 miles in the Pacific Ocean. They had left Punterenas, Costa Rica, in January in a sub-standard fishing vessel; one week later, driven by a sudden, fierce storm, the craft lost its course. Arias, who reported the story in People magazine, here interviews virtually everybody involved in this affair, and reconstructs the agony of the families waiting at home as well as the desperation of the fishermen. One of the more surprising aspects of the story is that the crew was not congenial; the account of their adjustment to their plight is as interesting as the fact of their survival. Illustrations. (Oct.)

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