PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (AP) _ A ship carrying 8,000 tons of food to refugees and famine victims in the Middle East and Africa finally set sail Thursday, three months after it limped into port and became caught in a legal and financial snarl.

The Luck, until recently named the Porto Coroni, left port about 10:30 a.m. escorted by two tugs, said port spokeswoman Kristen Andersen.

''It's on it's merry way,'' she said. ''We're hoping the food gets there in a straight line.''

On the way out of port the ship's engines died, but were restart immediately and the captain was not concerned, she said.

''The captain is making a few test runs up and down the coast, then heading straight east for Africa,'' said Ms. Andersen.

The 416-foot freighter had originally been scheduled to leave port last week, but mechanical problems delayed the departure.

The Porto Coroni's saga began in March when the ship, sailing from New Orleans and bound for Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan and then famine victims in Mozambique, broke down 25 miles off the Cuban coast.

Its $1.7 million cargo of pinto beans, corn meal, soybean oil and flour was donated by the U.S. Agriculture Department, World Vision relief organization and the United Nations.

The ship was towed here April 3. The Greek owners, saying they were out of funds, washed their hands of the vessel and its 18-member crew, who were stuck on board becaused they lacked immigration papers.

A federal judge ordered the ship seized as unpaid port charges and other fees mounted.

Finally Tampa-based Afram Lines stepped in to buy the vessel, hiring a new crew after paying off the old crew members and flying them home.

Port officials agreed to accept reduced docking fees as a humanitarian gesture, and the federal seizure order was lifted last week.