Story

Where I Get My Strength

Giuseppe "Joe" Pennisi

There are those of us who believe in a higher power and have had the privilege to witness the taking place of the strength and the power of believing. As a man who has made my living on the ocean I have experienced many extreme situations where I, my crew and boat were totally in the hands of God. 

Coming home from a fishing trip heading towards Monterey we found ourselves minutes from grounding in fog so thick we couldn't see each other from five feet distance and we had no radar. All we could see was rocks protruding from the water all around the boat. With God's help we managed to make it out to deep water and to safety. Our hearts came out of our chests that night! 

Another time we were fishing north of Monterey between Pigeon Point and Half Moon Bay when calm water turned into a freak storm. It was in March of 1961. Out of nowhere, around 4:00 PM a breeze started from the southwest. Within forty-five minutes it was blowing fifty knots and within two hours we had our radio antenna, stove stack and direction finder antenna disappear and the wind picked up to ninety-five miles an hour. The waves were like mountains crashing on us throwing the boat around like it was a piece of driftwood. We would be thrown from side to side one minute, we would be upright the next minute, and then we would be on top of each other. Only God saved us that night! 

And of course, there are the roque waves that appear to become the size of mountains and create unpredictable conditions. When the weather is bad, and you have mouths to feed and Christmas is near and your children ask what Santa is going to bring them, your hope rests in the power of God. You place yourself in God's hand for the strength to get through the hard times. 

Many other times we came very close to being run over by large ships while we would be towing our net and could not maneuver our boat. I have lost many a friend from being run down by these large ships. Many a fishing boat has gone down with all the crew including my oldest son David "Rowdy"Pennisi on the fishing vessel "Relentless" on June 21, 2004. The day before was Father's Day; he was the first one to call me to wish me a Happy Father's Day. He was 15 nautical miles south of the Faralon Islands, (part of San Fransisco) in deep water, fishing for black cod and Dover sole. We talked for about an hour and I told him how I thought he should not have been fishing on Father's Day. His seven-year-old son that adored his father would miss him not being home, but he said there will be other times. He needed to meet his financial responsibilities. He didn't have much of a choice. I thank God for giving me that time on the phone with him, for I will remember the gift that I received and the strength to accept the loss of my forty-two-year-old son.

The only ship that was there at 2:00 AM on the 21st of June in the same location was the South Korean chemical tanker, the Bum Shin. The tracking devise put them passing each other at the time my son and crew disappeared from the surveillance screens belonging to NOA and Homeland Security. The Coast Guard investigation found no evidence that the officers on the ship knew anything. End of investigation. The Coast Guard would not send a submersible to find the boat and identify the cause of this tragedy. They claimed they did not have the funds to spend. They were very limited financially. But on the other hand, when John F. Kennedy Jr. fell from the sky into the Atlantic they wasted no time to find and pick up the plane and the bodies were brought to shore. Apparently, we are all equal in the eyes of God, but not in the eyes of our United States Government. 
When I was young I saw myself as some kind of super person. I felt I could do it all, but as I became aware of my limitations I thank my Christian upbringing for giving me the strength through God which I am thankful for. 

True Account 
Giuseppe Pennisi 
December 2008