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California Women Didn’t Give Up Hope During 21 Days At Sea

September 13, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Two sunburned women who drifted in the Indian Ocean for 21 days rejoined family and friends Thursday, saying they never gave up hope they’d reach land.

″We never dreamt we wouldn’t make it,″ Rickey Berkowitz, 27, said at a news conference at Los Angeles International Airport.

However, she added: ″We thought we were a hundred years from shore.″

″We talked about trips we were going to plan and our careers,″ said Judy Schwartz, also 27.

The two women arrived in Los Angeles shortly before noon to a private welcoming party of more than 40 relatives and friends, then linked arms with their parents before a crush of reporters.

Fourteen of Ms. Berkowitz’s co-workers held a computer-printout banner that read: ″Welcome Home Rickey.″

As he held his daughter, Richard Schwartz, a school principal from Rancho Palos Verdes, said he felt ″elated, terrific.″

The childhood friends left the United States on June 8 on a trip that took them to Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia, among other places.

Ms. Berkowitz, a hospital administrator from Rancho Palos Verdes, and Ms. Schwartz, a special education teacher who lives in Palo Alto, left Carita on Aug. 17 with two guides for what they thought would be a romantic boat ride. They were to camp at Unjung Kulon on the island of Java, a trip that was to take from five to 10 hours. But the boat’s 25-horsepower motor broke down and left the four adrift in the ocean.

They stretched four days of camping provisions. At first, waves washed small fish into the boat, but by the time the fish appeared palatable to the women, the flow stopped, they said. They then relied on alternative foodstuffs.

″We survived on toothpaste and malaria pills,″ said Ms. Schwartz, who along with Ms. Berkowitz, wore a smile during most of the news conference and joked of pizza and other food cravings.

The four spent two days without water before rain quenched their thirst. They said their Indonesian guides, with whom they had trouble communicating, initially didn’t want to ration their water supply. But they later complied and the four worked as a team.

″We were licking our arms and legs,″ Ms. Schwartz said. ″It rained every time we needed water.″

The two fashioned a makeshift catchbasin from a pancho, and a 14-foot sail using a bamboo stick and headed northeast to land.

″I didn’t think I was going to windsurf out there,″ said Ms. Schwartz, who practices the sport.

The days passed and so did three freighters that didn’t see the 16-foot boat, the women said. They never saw any of the U.S. Air Force planes that searched for them.

Their dream of safety began with a nightmare: They struck a coral reef and their boat was tumbled and was destroyed by three rushing waves.

″We laid on our stomaches and the waves pushed us in,″ said Ms. Schwartz, adding they were 200 yards from shore.

They washed onto southern Sumatra on Sunday, and were treated for exposure and dehydration. Four days earlier, official efforts to find them had been halted by the Indonesian government.

Ms. Schwartz’s mother, Ruth, and Martin and Doris Berkowitz, returned last week from Jakarta, Indonesia, where they had gone in search of their children.

″We knew that everything that could be was being done,″ Mrs. Schwartz said. ″You just don’t give up.″

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