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David "Rowdy" Pennisi, Lost at Sea, 1962-2004

Rowdy Pennisi--Still seeking answers for fisher's disappearance

We found out the Coast Guard was looking for my brother Rowdy's boat, the Relentless, when a friend called. He was out fishing and heard the search over the radio. My first thought was it is a mistake. My second thought was, they're in a raft and will be found. We just had to wait. But they were never found.

Pictured Left to Right Rowdy, Joe, John Pennisi family
Left to Right Rowdy, Joe and John Pennisi

David "Rowdy" Pennisi, 41, and his crew member, Michael Odom, 24, were lost at sea June 21, 2004. The Relentless was last tracked by the vessel-monitoring system at the 2 a.m. hour in the San Francisco shipping lanes. The EPIRB beacon did not go off until 4:40 a.m. The Coast Guard started its search at first light. The search and rescue team did an amazing job.

The subsequent Coast Guard investigation was not so pleasant, however. We had an investigator who was harsh and rude and who attempted to discredit my family in the report. My family has three generations of experience fishing off the West Coast. Any suggestions we made were annoyances to the investigator. We believe, as do others, that a ship hit the Relentless. Our investigator did not agree.

His report was released few days before Thanksgiving a year and a half later. When we read it, it was like my brother had died twice. Our government said there was no funding to find the sunken boat and get pictures, as is done in other cases in other parts of the United States, places where politicians push to make this happen out of great concern for the safety of their fishermen.

We were basically told it was too bad if we did not agree with the report. We were supposed to swallow their pill and move on with our lives. But that's not so easy to do. We know there were ships in the area. The Relentless sent out no mayday call, so whatever happened, happened fast. Rowdy was a cautious skipper. More than a half dozen people echoed this in the Coast Guard report. We know things go wrong out there, but we feel there is strong evidence a ship hit them.

According to the Coast Guard chart readings, a ship next to the Relentless was moving erratically. My brother John charted the positions they gave him. Then, the investigator told us those were not the right positions. When they met with my family, my mother noticed they came to each meeting with different maps, each with different positions charted on them. Something did not seem to be accurate on their side.

Rowdy's loss has been hard for my family. The unanswered questions, which seem answerable if a little more effort were put into the case, are hard to live with. We are still fighting six years later to have the case reopened. We want the Relentless found and pictures taken of the wreck. We know the condition of the boat will speak for itself.

Rep. Sam Farr has done very little, in our opinion, to help get this case solved. When I went to his office earlier this year, I was given the same answer I was given a year ago, that they were still trying to figure something out. If, in six years, his office has not figured something out, then I believe it never will.

Farr was recently quoted in The Herald as saying that the ocean is dying. Last year, at the Fisherman's Days forums I heard NOAA scientists say that the ocean on the West Coast is in great shape. It would seem to me that the only thing dying out in our ocean is our fishermen - and our local politicians have shown very little concern over this.

For more information, see

Rowdy Pennisi and his fishing boat the Relentless L-R Rowdy, Pete and Shane crew of Relentless

WHAT FISHING IS ABOUT (by Rowdy Pennisi 1990)

Got dolphins on the bow Squid on the stern Hold full of fish And money to earn

Sun comes up The sun drops out Wish I was home At home, wish I was out

Wish I knew What this is all about

Pull up the net Oh shit! Let it out This is what Fishing's about

Some days you make little Some days a lot And some days You don't give it a second thought

One thing for sure On this yo-yo syndrome

I wouldn't trade it For a millionaire's kingdom

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