Richard Van Pham’s four-month drift last year, from Los Angeles to the tropical Pacific waters off Central America, gave him a taste for the carefree life at sea. It did not, however, provide him with an ability to navigate or steer a steady course.
The 62-year-old Vietnamese American, who made headlines in 2002 for his epic, months-long sail during which he survived on roasted gulls and turtle blood, sailed away again from Long Beach, Calif., on what would become another aimless drift. Piloting a 25-foot sloop donated by a well-wisher who had heard of his previous plight, Van Pham was reportedly bound for Santa Catalina, 22 miles away, in mid-January, when he became disoriented and wandered off course. He was eventually towed back to Dana Point after a cruise that had lasted several days. He had little food; his GPS batteries were dead; and the only chart he had was a California road map, according to the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Blacktip, who found him attempting to return to Long Beach. Although he was reportedly cooperative with the Coast Guard crew, they intervened and towed him ashore citing lack of adequate PFDs and emergency signaling devices, which are required by federal law.
The sailor reported that he had become disoriented on his jaunt to the Catalinas, ending up in Mexico, and was sailing north to Long Beach when he was picked up. His sloop was towed to Dana Point on Jan. 30.
Van Pham told a reporter of the Los Angeles Times that he would be departing Dana Point for another cruise as soon as his boat was ready.