Kept Going on Thoughts of Pizza, Shakes : Calif. Women Tell of 21 Days Lost at Sea

From Reuters

Two Southern California women lost at sea off Indonesia for three weeks said today that they played charades to keep their spirits up and talked about milkshakes and pizzas as they ate toothpaste to stay alive.

They said they made a ritual of eating dabs of toothpaste each afternoon after their food had run out.

“We dubbed it happy hour,” said Rickey Berkowitz of Redondo Beach.

“We never thought we were going to die,” said her companion, Judy Schwartz of Palos Verdes.

“We talked about our futures, our lives--but food most of the time, how when we got back we were going to have chocolate milkshakes, pizzas,” she said.


Looking fit and in good spirits, Schwartz and Berkowitz, both 26, told reporters that their supplies of peanuts, pineapple, bread, eggs and cookies ran out after 10 days. For the remainder of the 11 days they lived on rainwater and toothpaste only.

The two women and their two Indonesian crewmen were found over the weekend when their frail 16-foot boat broke up on the southwest coast of Sumatra.

Schwartz lost up to 20 pounds while Berkowitz lost eight pounds. Both their Indonesian boatmen were hospitalized for dehydration and shock.

The engine on their boat broke down on a 50-mile trip across the treacherous Sunda Strait to the island game reserve of Ujong Kulong, home of the rare Java rhinoceros. They had planned to spend four days there.

After the first day adrift the women started rationing food. After seven days, they rigged up a sail with a poncho, sarongs, tent canvas, fishing line and a bamboo pole.

“I windsurf in California and it gave me a few ideas,” Schwartz said.

No planes passed overhead. A few fishing boats and freighters sailed by but failed to spot them.

Both women had stomach cramps and intestinal pains. “But I was amazed how little hunger I felt,” Berkowitz said.

There was a point when they drank their last drop of water.

Land finally appeared and they hit a coral reef. The boat flipped and they feared that after three weeks they would drown within sight of land.

“I lost Judy and every time we came up for air we were calling for each other. Then I felt the ground but my legs were like rubber. I lay flat and the tide brought me in,” Berkowitz said.

Fishermen later found the exhausted survivors.