National Fisherman

The Pacific Princess was out in the western Pacific Ocean fishing for skipjack tuna when it made a most unexpected catch.

Instead of pulling more fish from the sea Friday, the crew members brought on board two men who had been adrift in their 14-foot aluminum boat for more than three weeks. The boat's engine had broken down early in their fishing trip.

The crew of the Pacific Princess, which was built in San Diego in 1978 and has operated out of American Samoa since 1981, was in the middle of a regular fishing trip when it spotted the drifting skiff, said the larger vessel's captain, Alfred Canepa. He spoke to U-T San Diego by phone Sunday from Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.

The Pacific Princess might have missed the small boat altogether were it not for a flock of birds.

"We were just doing our job searching for fish, and I spotted a target on my radar that looked like birds," recounted Canepa, 54, who grew up in Little Italy. "Birds attract fish, so we went toward the birds and saw a large object floating. But it turned out to be a little skiff drifting by the birds. Luckily, I found the birds or I would have never found these guys."

The two rescued men, ages 20 and 40, were 420 miles away from their home in the Gilbert Islands when they got picked up. They were very weak and dehydrated but still appeared to be in reasonably good health considering the life-threatening ordeal they had endured, Canepa said.

Read the full story at the Union-Tribune San Diego>>

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