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66 Hours in Water : Couple Rescued After Boat Capsizes in Storm

January 21, 1988|ANDREA ESTEPA | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A Northern California couple were rescued Wednesday by the U.S. Coast Guard off Baja California after spending 66 hours in the water when their sailboat capsized during Sunday's storm.

"I thought, 'Thank God! I'll go to church,' " Jan DeJulius, one of the survivors, said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon at UC San Diego Medical Center.

DeJulius, 33, and her husband, Joseph, 43, of Novato, were heading for Santa Catalina Island from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when strong waves and winds knocked them 127 miles off course. At about 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan DeJulius said, a wave hit their trimaran and flipped it over.

"My husband threw me my survival suit; we put them on and went out the hatch," she said.

DeJulius said they spent most of the time sitting on the boat's crossbars, talking.

"We talked about our family, our friends, things we were going to do that we hadn't done yet," she said.

DeJulius said the worst part of the ordeal was being constantly battered by waves. The worst moment came Tuesday night when her husband became delirious.

"Last night (Tuesday) he just looked at me and said, 'What's your name,' "she said. "Today he said he probably wouldn't have lasted another nine hours."

DeJulius suffered only minor bruises. But her husband, who did not attend the press conference, was being treated for hypothermia. Dr. William Baxt said Joseph DeJulius was in serious condition but "should have no problems" recovering.

Baxt said Joseph DeJulius had taken off his survival suit briefly during the ordeal, and the hypothermia was apparently caused when water seeped into the suit when he put it back on.

Jan DeJulius had two red welts on her chin, which she said were caused by the zippers on her survival suit, and was a little shaky on her feet during the press conference.

"I've looked better," she said, "but I'm feeling quite well."

Jan DeJulius said she and her husband flew to Mexico and then began sailing back to Northern California on the trimaran as a Christmas trip. They left Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 19 and had been on the water for five weeks.

On Sunday, DeJulius said, she and her husband saw that the weather was becoming rough and they took down their sails. As her husband was heading for the engine room to figure out what to do next, a wave 25 to 30 feet high hit the boat broadside.

"We'd just had lunch and were thinking about what to have for dinner," DeJulius said.

DeJulius said that she and her husband attached themselves to the crossbars of the 40-foot boat with hooks from their survival suits. They had brought an emergency radar signaling device along, but the waves were so strong that the Coast Guard did not pick it up until 1 a.m. Wednesday morning about 125 miles west of Ensenada.

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