On a warm January morning, Joel Gonzalez kissed his wife goodbye. Joel is a fisherman, and he was going on a short fishing trip. “I’ll see you in a week,” he said. But Joel did not see his wife in a week. He did not see his wife again for a long, long time.
Joel left his house and went to the harbour in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. He got on a fishing boat. Four other fisherman were on the boat, too. The boat left the harbour, and the men began to fish.
The first few hours on the ocean were not unusual. Then there was a terrible storm. The storm lasted for 22 days. When the storm finally stopped, the men checked their boat. Their fishing nets were gone. The engine and the radio didn’t work. There was no food, and there was no fresh water.
For the next few hours, the men talked and planed. “How can we survive in the ocean?” they asked one another. Without their nets, the men couldn’t fish. But they could reach out of the boat and catch big turtles. The men didn’t want to eat raw turtle meat, so they needed a fire for cooking. The tore down the boat’s wood cabin and made a fire with the wood.
They needed protection from the sun and rain, so they built a simple roof. The roof held the rainwater, too. The men could drink rainwater from the roof.
For the next five months, the men ate turtles – when they caught them. They drank rainwater – when it rained. Often there was no food and no water, and the men were hungry and thirsty. Sometimes they thought, “We are going to die soon.”
Joel wrote a letter to his wife. “My dear Edith,” Joel wrote. “If I die I hope someone will send you this letter. Then you will know how I died. I had the best in life – a great woman and beautiful children. I love you, Edith. I love you.”
In June it didn’t rain for a long time, and the men ran out of water. They were thin and weak, and they thought, “We are going to die now.” The lay down and closed their eyes. After a while, it began to rain. The men stood up and licked the water from the roof. Then all five men began to cry.
Ten days later, on June 15, a Japanese fishing boat found the men. They were 4,000 miles from Costa Rica.
No body sent Joel’s letter to his wife. He showed it to his wife himself. Joel will always keep the letter. The, he said, helps him remember. “On the ocean, I realised that I love my wife and my children very, very much. My family is everything to me. I don’t want to forget that.”
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A long fishing trip