Chaton De Foi
AP
In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Chaton De Foi floats off Milolii Bay, near Honolulu, on Monday.
updated 6/7/2006 4:36:49 PM ET 2006-06-07T20:36:49

A 33-foot sailboat abandoned in Costa Rica seven months ago apparently drifted thousands of miles before being discovered off Hawaii late Monday, Coast Guard officials said.

The Chaton De Foi from Channel Islands, Calif., was spotted by fishermen floating about three miles off Milolii Bay on the Big Island, the Hawaii County Fire Department said.

Firefighters boarded the boat and reported that it appeared the vessel had been abandoned for months.

The owner, a Southern California man, abandoned the sloop Dec. 2 after experiencing engine trouble and severe weather off Costa Rica. He was rescued by a passing boat, Coast Guard spokeswoman Chief Petty Officer Marsha Delaney said.

The owner was contacted by Coast Guard officials Tuesday and informed of the stunning discovery.

"He had to pull over because he driving," Delaney said. "He was very surprised and pleased."

He told Coast Guard officials that he received a call several months ago notifying him that the boat was spotted off Mexico.

The vessel was towed into Hilo while he makes arrangements to get it back.

Delaney said it was the first case she had heard of a boat drifting such a long distance.

It is about 4,700 miles from Costa Rica to Hilo.

Photos show the white boat in good structural condition with its mast still intact but the sails missing. The name of the ship was clearly visible, and there were a few birds hitching a ride.

"What I heard from our pilot, it didn't appear to have holes or big damage, it just looked like it needs a really good scrubbing ... because of the bird poop," Delaney said.

The owner could not be immediately contacted for comment.

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