Ventura based Squid Boat sinks

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Posted by on February 14, 2007 at 14:49:32:

Crew rescued after boat sinks

We're lucky to be alive,' one says after being taken from skiff off Port Hueneme

Deckhand Milos Houda was sleeping in the Little Joe II when his crew mates woke him just after midnight Tuesday, he said.

After three days at sea, the boat was heading back to Ventura Harbor with a full cargo of squid when the sea turned angry. Soon waves were washing over the stern of the 50-foot fishing vessel, holding it down, allowing water to get into the engine room.

"It was just more water than we could drain, I guess," the deckhand said.

The five-man crew climbed into a 17-foot skiff, watched the boat sink and waited to be rescued.

The Coast Guard arrived at 1:13 a.m. and plucked the men from their skiff, which was floating from half a mile to a mile off Port Hueneme, Coast Guard officials said.

The boat's captain and owner, Frank Lombardo of Marina, tried to get the heavy net off the boat and did everything he could to save it, Houda said Tuesday morning at the Channel Islands Coast Guard station.

The swells were 6 to 8 feet high, and the wind was blowing about 20 knots, or 23 mph, when the crew was picked up, Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Andrew Munoz said.

"Everybody came home; that's the important part," Munoz said.

The wind and darkness added extra risk to the rescue effort, but it went off without a hitch or an injury, he said. "It was a great rescue."

Tuesday morning's incident was the first time that Houda had been on a sinking ship, he said.

A resident of Capitola, he has been working on fishing boats for about four years.

But sitting outside the Channel Islands Coast Guard office in a plaid jacket and battered pants, he said he wasn't frightened.

Anthony Campo, a crew member from Seaside, was less cavalier about his experience.

"We're lucky to be alive," he said.

Van Hoang Nguyen of Seaside and Hung Nguyen of Marina were also part of the crew.

The Little Joe II, which set out from Ventura Harbor on Sunday, had passed through the harbor several times in recent years, Harbor Master Scott Miller said.

According to U.S. Coast Guard documents, the boat is a steel vessel built in 1971. It was registered in San Francisco.

Miller declined to speculate on the value of such a vessel.

Houda estimated that the vessel was carrying 33 tons of squid, which, he said, is worth about $500 per ton.

A Coast Guard helicopter went in search of the downed ship and the skiff Tuesday, but neither had turned up by the afternoon.

The last time a fishing boat sank near Ventura, two people died, Munoz recalled. Two of the three crew members on the commercial fishing boat 5 G's died when the boat sank off the coast of Santa Cruz Island in July 2006.

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