Lost at sea for three months on a sailboat without a mast or power, Tony Sin turned to what he had to stay alive: beef bouillon cubes, salad oil, instant flour and obsessive fantasies about feasting like royalty.
It was just enough to keep him going. Barely.
Rescued 700 miles northeast of Honolulu by a British-flagged cargo ship last month, Sin, a former Press Democrat copy editor, was near death.
His emaciated form was down from 145 pounds to about 89. He was dangerously dehydrated.
"I couldn't even talk at that point," Sin, 53, said last week, two days after flying north from Panama and making his way to Santa Rosa. "I couldn't tell them who I was. The only thing I was able to ask - and I don't know why - was, 'Where are we?'"
The answer was about 2,000 miles from his departure point of San Francisco Bay and aboard the M.V. Clementine, a 600-foot freighter hauling sand to Florida, nonstop from Japan.
Sin had been at sea for 100 days, having set out for Hawaii and a new life.
But stormy seas swamped his batteries and weakened the mast on his 30-foot Islander until, barely a week into his voyage, it simply fell over, taking the radio antenna attached to it.
Sin considers his rescue three months later - adrift in the Pacific, surrounded by hundreds of miles of empty sea - "a minor miracle."
He had no working radio or signaling beacon onboard his boat, the Accent. He hadn't shared the details of his trip with anyone, so no one knew he was in trouble. He didn't have the proper tackle for ocean fishing.
Sin, so frail in the last days of his journey that he left his sleeping bag only to bail out the boat for maybe an hour each day, said he remembers hearing the Clementine's blaring horn but didn't trust his ears.
"Strange things happen when you're out at sea and you're alone," Sin said, recalling how he sometimes awakened to the smell of fresh donuts or heard the gentle steps of nonexistent cats.
But seeing the huge ship out his porthole, he knew he somehow had to get on deck before its captain turned the boat around, thinking no one was aboard.
Sin had reason to be fearful. He'd encountered a different freighter about two weeks earlier. It made a wide turn in his direction, then acknowledged his boat with a blow of its horn and just kept going.
On both occasions, Sin managed to crawl on deck and set off emergency flares. On Feb. 21, he fired his last three, and the Clementine crew noticed.
Using a harness, they hauled Sin up the side of the ship. Sailors salvaged a suitcase and three other bags from the Accent, recovering Sin's digital camera and his passport.
Everything else Sin owned was left behind.
All that remained of his food stores were a few bouillon cubes and some water.
The Clementine dropped him off in Panama 12 days later and about 25 pounds heavier from a diet long on scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes. Back in Sonoma County, still trying to regain his strength and figure out his next move, Sin says he never planned to return.