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Local man lost at sea for 93 days tells all in new book

By: Stephanie Guadian
EL PASO, Texas -- An El Paso man lost at sea for 93 days is now telling his story of survival in a new book.

What was supposed to be a journey to paradise turned into a trip from hell.

Winfried Heiringhoff was 28 years old when boarded the 45-foot Gailee. He, the ship's captain and his girlfriend planned to travel from Bora Bora to Hawaii. The year was 1970, but just days into the trip, the mast was disabled, and the radio and the motor went out.

"We got lost. We got totally, totally lost," said Winfried Heiringhoff.

They managed to catch rainwater, but 40 days after leaving port, the crew ran out of food and had no way to catch fish.

"We had nothing. We starved for 53 days. It was horrible, horrible. I weighed 85 pounds. We were close to death," said Heiringhoff.

They made a sign that read "no food, no position." Not one -- but two ships passed on by. On the morning of Sept.14, all three had just about given up hope. But that's the day they heard an awesome noise. It was the USS Niagara Falls stopping its engines.

"They lifted us up, because we couldn't stand. You know we got no muscle left," said Heiringhoff.

After a couple of days in sickbay, the ship's captain invited the crew to dinner. Their first meal was mashed potatoes with an egg on top.

"It looked so good; I just stared at it. And the captain goes, aren't you going to eat it? I said yes, just let me enjoy it," said Heiringhoff with tears in his eyes.

The three made their way to Hawaii 93 days after their journey began. Forty-three years later, sitting in his El Paso home, Winfried says he has no regrets.

"I learned to appreciate life a lot more. Live life more conscientiously. I don't crawl out of bed; I jump out of bed at four in the morning. It's just great to be alive," said Heiringhoff.

The USS Niagara Falls found the Gailee north of Hawaii -- about 250 miles off-course.

Winfried Heiringoff's new book is titled "Adrift for 93 Days on the Pacific Ocean."

 

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