• Part 1: Safer at sea

  • A beloved captain makes a risky decision to sail into a storm.

  • Part 2: Rising Water

  • Caught in a hurricane, the crew battles to keep the ship afloat.

  • Part 3: Facing It

  • The storm takes its toll and the survivors struggle with the aftermath.


Story by Michael Kruse | Illustrations by Don Morris
Photography and video by Maurice Rivenbark

At the morning meeting of the officers,they talked about Capt. Walbridge's decision to change course.

Chapter 1

They could see the seawater seeping through the sides of the ship. Every time the Bounty rolled, riding high waves in stiff winds, they could hear leaks between planks. Ssssssss. More every roll. Ssssssss. Capt. Robin Walbridge, the Bounty and 15 crew members had left New London, Conn., Thursday evening, Oct. 25, 2012, trying to get to St. Petersburg for dockside tours at the city’s Pier. It was now early Sunday morning, Oct. 28, and they were headed toward Hatteras Canyon off North Carolina’s coast, on track to traverse the Gulf Stream perilously close to Hurricane Sandy. They were running the two main electric pumps and the two backup hydraulic pumps — which hadn’t been used all year — but still they were taking in more water than they were getting out.

At the morning meeting of the mates they talked about Walbridge’s decision the previous day to change course. They had been going mainly south and somewhat east, trying to go out to sea to put sufficient space between them and the storm. Now they were going southwest in an effort to make it between the worst of the storm and the shore. The aim — the hope — was to harness the powerful counterclockwise winds to shoot to St. Pete. They were crossing Sandy's path, and already were well within the storm's sprawling reach. It made sleep almost impossible. First mate John Svendsen told the crew to try to rest when they weren't on duty for watch. He said they could expect waves of up to 30 feet and winds of 80 mph or higher. It was going to be a long day.

Good morning, Miss Claudia, Walbridge wrote in an email to his wife shortly after 8:30. She had just gotten home to St. Pete from her vacation in Italy. I am thinking we will have the worst of the storm in the next 24 hours and then we should start to come out of it. Can't wait to see you.

On the Bounty's Facebook page, Jim Salapatek, the father of deckhand Drew Salapatek, posted an update: So far so good! Bounty has now positioned herself to pass on the west side of Hurricane Sandy.

The Facebook post had acknowledged the course change but not its potential pitfalls. At woodenboat.com, on the message board, second-guessers monitored the track of the ship and looked at weather radar. Sandy's west side was a swirl of clouds over land. They were aghast.

Cutting it close, especially if something goes wrong.

Basically no options and no redundancy.

I'm still stupefied.

Other than the occasional tanker, made of metal and many times larger, the Bounty was the only ship anywhere near the storm.

The ship had been built in 1962 as a larger replica of the HMS Bounty to star in MGM's retelling of the infamous mutiny. The original Bounty was built in Hull, England, in 1784. Her life was spectacular but short — she left England and never came back. First mate Fletcher Christian took the ship from Capt. William Bligh in 1789, and the mutineers burned her in 1790. The Bounty replica had plenty of history of her own — different owners, different captains, different missions. Ups and downs. Her close calls were legion.

On her first voyage, before she even got to the movie set, the engine room caught fire. Within two years, the Bounty nearly collided with a steamer in the English Channel, a squall split sails on her way to France, and in the Caribbean she found herself surrounded by six waterspouts, one of which chased her wake, only to veer off at the last instant.

In 1965, on the way from New York, where she had been docked at the World's Fair, to St. Pete, where she would become a tourist stop, an unexpected storm spawned 35-foot waves and sent water cascading over her deck. Life seemed fuller, one of the crew members later wrote, now that we had gone to the edge and made it back.

Walbridge, too, had gone to the edge.

In 1998, also in October, also on the way to St. Pete, the captain and a crew of 21 ended up not far from Hatteras Canyon, off the coast of North Carolina, water rising in the engine room. The sun was out. The sea was calm. The Bounty was sinking.

Walbridge called the Coast Guard for help. Helicopters dropped pumps. Cutters arrived with more. Two nearby Navy vessels showed up. Walbridge chose not to abandon ship, and the Bounty got towed to shore. A Coast Guard report concluded the captain had misjudged the severity of the leakage through the hull, but that’s not how he saw it.

"This is a wooden ship," Walbridge told a reporter. "There are thousands of places where the planks come together. It's normal for a wooden ship to take on water.

"We basically refused to evacuate because that would have been the wrong thing to do," he added. "The ship was in no danger of sinking."

Twelve years later, on the way from Boothbay Harbor, Maine, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Bounty and a small crew got a scare when two storms converged on top of them. Sails ripped. A mast broke. So did one of the pumps in the engine room. Three of the newer members of the crew left the ship in Bermuda, too spooked to keep going. In Puerto Rico, finally, the remnants of the frazzled crew celebrated with a spaghetti dinner, over which they gave thanks and recalled an old seafaring saying: Take care of the ship, and the ship will take care of you.

In 2011, on the Baltic Sea, the Bounty saw waves higher than 20 feet and winds of 70 mph with gusts stronger than that, and on the way back the water in the bilge splashed uncomfortably high. That had been the crew's standard for high water in the Bounty. Until now.

Ssssssss.

"We say there's no such thing as bad weather," Walbridge had said in August to a reporter in Belfast, Maine. "There's just different kinds of weather.

"We chase hurricanes," he crowed, before clarifying: "You don't want to get in front of it. You want to stay behind it. But you can also get a good ride out of a hurricane."

Sandy’s center was now 260 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., about 200 miles from the Bounty. But hurricane-force winds extended up to 175 miles.

Ssssssss.

In the engine room members of the crew looked to their captain. Walbridge had been in charge of the Bounty for 17 years. Some of the crew had gotten on specifically to learn from him. A story circulated in the tall ship community that he once fixed a generator with pieces of a microwave. Even those who sometimes questioned his judgment acknowledged his resourcefulness. Richard Bailey, a friend who had hired Walbridge as a mate on the Rose before the Bounty had hired him as captain, considered him a "mechanical genius." Walbridge, thought third mate Dan Cleveland, who had worked with him for five years, always exuded a quiet confidence, and it transferred, he believed, to the rest of the crew. They never saw him get anxious or flustered. They didn't see it now.

After a while ships develop personalities, not unlike people, say those who come to love them. Ships are fast or slow. They are wet or dry. They are finicky or forgiving or fearless or tough.

Walbridge sometimes used a different word for the Bounty.

Lucky.

Chapter 2

Up for her Sunday morning watch, walking through the tween deck, the ship's middle deck, Claudene Christian approached Doug Faunt. She told him she was concerned. The pumps were pumping and pumping — were they pumping enough? The generators — were they going to hold up? No generators, no power. No power, no pumps. No pumps …

She felt people were ignoring her when she raised these worries, because she was Claudene, ex-cheerleader, ex-owner of a doll company, 42-year-old, blue-eyed, blond-haired novice sailor.

Faunt, an able seaman and one of the Bounty's most seasoned crew, told her people were listening — she just wasn't telling them anything they didn't already know. Everybody, he said, was really busy working on the problems.

Christian, Faunt thought, looked reassured.

Meanwhile, in crew quarters, water dripped down walls, leaving bunks wet.

In the galley, a cereal bowl skidded across the table, and water leaked on appliances' wires. The cook noticed smoke wafting from the top of the stove. The air reeked like burning plastic. Walbridge was behind the cook, and she called to him. The captain calmly walked to the fuse box and flicked a switch. He told her to cover the oven with plastic bags when she wasn't using it.

In the sweltering engine room, Chris Barksdale, the Bounty's new engineer — unsteady, seasick and using a hurt right hand because of a fall the previous day — took a second stumble when the ship rolled. He caromed into a steel work table, gashing his left arm and bruising his shin.

Approaching noon the port engine and the port generator shut down. Maybe it was because of a fuel leak. Maybe it was because water had splashed them. Tough to tell. Without power, the Bounty would be more like its 18th-century namesake, at one with — and at the mercy of — her surroundings.

Faunt climbed the ladder out of the engine room and walked through the nav shack and up to the deck to get some air.

He saw Christian. She was alone near the rear of the ship. Her fellow crew members thought of her as a fun-seeking extrovert, but those who knew her best considered her cautious, even fretful. In California, she booby trapped her house with chairs, bells and cans. She slept with a gun. In Oklahoma, where she had been living with her parents before she left to board the Bounty, she urged her mother to look both ways before driving across railroad tracks. In her first month as part of the crew, the ship used a surge of wind to dash through the Chesapeake Bay, the rail practically in the water, thrilling her more experienced hands. Christian, wary, wore a life jacket. Now, though, Faunt watched her, sitting on the stern grating, sporting a harness which she had clipped into one of the safety lines. She was fastened to this lurching ship. Grinning.

Christian, Faunt thought, was having way too much fun.


From the helm he could see that the rising wind had ripped one of the large sails.

Chapter 3

Matt! 'Course!

Able seaman Adam Prokosch stood at the helm early in the afternoon, steering the ship. He shouted at Matt Sanders, the second mate, over the rain and wind. Sanders couldn't hear.

Prokosch pointed.

Look!

The fore course, the big, square sail set low on the mast closest to the bow — the sail that steadies the ship in storms — had ripped at the middle seam. Gusts whipped loose pieces.

All hands on deck!

Walbridge wanted his most reliable and nimble furlers to clamber up the rigging to corral the parts of the sail. He asked for his "best men." That meant Prokosch and several others.

Not Claudene? deckhand Jessica Hewitt joked to the captain.

No response. Maybe he hadn't heard in the noise of the storm. Maybe his hearing aids weren't working in the wetness.

I'll take that as a no, Hewitt said.

Walbridge spoke up. She has actually done quite well for herself, he said.

They climbed into the rigging to tie down the torn sail before the wind could do more damage.

The furlers started scaling the rigging. A deckhand grabbed a life ring just in case.

Furling a sail in a storm is dangerous. In the 18th and 19th centuries, in the era of the original Bounty, death doing this was so commonplace it typically merited no more than a note in the captain's log. Sailors slid off spars and into the sea and were never seen again. Herman Melville called it the speechlessly quick chaotic bundling of a man into eternity. The members of the crew of the 21st-century Bounty weren't out here courting death. And they weren't just running from, or postponing, "real life," as some said. There are far easier ways to do that. If they were running from anything, it was the falsity of constant convenience, the illusion of stability. They weren't looking to die. They were looking to live.

More than 50 feet up, the rain pelting their skin and stinging their eyes, the heavy, sodden tatters slapped at their faces and arms. They tied up the pieces and hurried back to the deck.

In the engine room the water approached the sole boards, the floor above the bilge, meaning the bottom of the ship was filled with almost 4 feet of water. The strong wind slowed them down. Faunt worked to get the port generator started again. The bilge alarm wailed throughout the tween deck. Walbridge asked Faunt to disable it. The alarm was there to let the crew know water was too high. The crew knew. The ship's sides hissed. Ssssssss. Ssssssss. Shortly after 3, the starboard generator surged, power fluctuating around the ship, flickering on and off. Then off.

Almost an hour later, with Walbridge now in the stern cabin, a wave jerked the ship. The captain lost his footing, flying across the room, his lower back crumpling against the side of a bolted-down table. Hewitt, using a towel as a pillow on the cabin's floor due to her soaked bunk, woke to the thud.

Barksdale, startled by the force of the blow, helped Walbridge to his feet.

I'm going to be sore, the captain said, but I'll be okay.

Hewitt got up and went to find Salapatek, her boyfriend, who was heading to the engine room.

If the ship goes down, she told him, don't lose me.

...

Chapter 4

In the engine room, Sanders, wearing a headlamp, worked furiously to restart the starboard generator. Power. Power for the pumps. He took apart the hydraulic backups, cleaned their parts again, reassembled them and turned them back on. Walbridge told Cleveland at the start of his watch at 4 that he believed they were "losing the battle against the bilge water" and to "heave to."

"Heaving to" essentially brings the ship to a halt — an effort to push pause. The maneuver here shifted the focus from making progress to staying afloat. They lashed down the wheel of the helm, hard over, toward the wind. If they didn't get more water out of the bottom of the ship, and fast, it wouldn't matter where they were. Prokosch couldn't remember ever heaving to on the Bounty, but he knew doing it in a hurricane, and with "bare sticks" — no sails — was a way to try to weather the storm, hoping for the best. His commitment, though, didn't flag. He was tired but buzzing. A true test is what he wanted. Here it was.

Walbridge asked some of the crew to brace the stern cabin windows with 2-by-4s. Up on the deck, as late afternoon waned, Cleveland's handheld anemometer measured Sandy's winds at 80 mph, 90, 100 — then it broke. The line holding down the Bounty's rubber dinghy snapped and the loose boat scudded into the rigging; the thick, stout spanker gaff attached to the mizzenmast cracked; the shreds of the fore course blew out of their furl — a rapid series of calamities.

Crew members ran to the boat to tie it down. A deckhand waited in the nav shack to call man overboard if one of them didn't make it back.

Prokosch and others wrestled the spanker gaff to the deck.

They climbed aloft again to try to fix the fore course's broken furl. The wind pasted them to the rigging. They looked down. Cleveland was shouting something. It looked like he was saying to come down. This was too dangerous.

The sun started to set on the Bounty.

The first mate struggled to be heard over the howling wind. Was anyone even on the line?

The Bounty's satellite phone didn't work below deck. Svendsen went up to the main deck and dialed Tracie Simonin, owner Robert Hansen's assistant on Long Island. He couldn't hear in the rain and the wind. Was it ringing? Was he talking to Simonin? Was he leaving a voicemail? He screamed into the phone.

In the nav shack, Faunt, the crew member with ham radio expertise, tried different forms of communication. High-frequency, single-sideband — didn't work. He tried a system called Winlink, a radio-based email program the Bounty often used — that worked. Walbridge, seated on a stool because it hurt his injured back to stand, entered Hansen's email address. He typed a 93-word message and hit send.

Svendsen also activated an emergency position indicating radio beacon, or EPIRB, hoping to send the Bounty's location to the Coast Guard.

The second mate, the engineer and a host of deckhands worked in the engine room to troubleshoot the generators and pumps. Floating in the water was an array of debris — flecks of wood, strands of string, plastic bags — and Prokosch used a pasta colander to scoop. In college in Olympia, Wash., he studied science, history and leadership. Later, he worked as a counselor at wilderness camps and traveled the Pacific Northwest in a green Volkswagen van, hiking, climbing, exploring. He liked books about survival, drawn to the central credo of outdoorsman Tom Brown — one wave at a time, be here now. They might end up having to abandon ship, and the ship might sink, Prokosch thought, but he could fight for extra hours, minutes, seconds. He was an able seaman — and proud of that designation — and these were things an able seaman did. A deckhand came down and asked if he could help. Prokosch gave him the colander. He saw the cook on the ladder at the top of the engine room, offering the crew bottles of water, apples, oranges and Goldfish crackers. Prokosch asked her to help him get another colander.

The cook walked across the tweens toward the galley. Prokosch followed. A wave staggered the ship. The cook clung to the jackline. Prokosch tried to stutter step but the floor that had been under his feet was no longer there. He fell across the tweens, a drop of some 25 feet, head-first into the starboard wall. The impact separated his right shoulder, broke three ribs and fractured two vertebrae in his lower back. He exhaled a guttural moan. The cook ran to him. Prokosch, woozy, was obviously injured. Don't go to sleep, she told him, concerned about a concussion, and she ran to get the first mate. Prokosch tried to breathe and assess what hurt. His back pulsed with spasms, and he had trouble controlling the movement of his limbs.

Svendsen arrived and touched Prokosch's legs and feet. He could feel that. He wiggled his toes. Svendsen told him to stay still, on his back, tight against the wall that had stopped his fall.

Christian came to him. Now it was just the two of them, the ship listing, the lights flickering as the power came and went. She gave him a bottle of water and placed a flashlight on his chest.

Here's our light, she said. We're getting out of here together.


CHANGE OF COURSE

Leaving New London, Capt. Robin Walbridge had planned to head to the east side of Hurricane Sandy, but the storm's sprawling size and the Bounty's mounting mechanical problems forced him on Saturday Oct. 27 to change direction. The Bounty's new course would carry her through the heart of the storm, but also bring her closer to land, and the reach of potential rescuers.

Chapter 5

Around 9, the Coast Guard district command center in Portsmouth, Va., received the signal from the Bounty's EPIRB, transmitting its location and confirming distress. The command center also got a call from Simonin. The shift commander in the Coast Guard’s North Carolina headquarters in Wilmington read the email from Walbridge.

We are taking on water, the captain had written in the nav shack. We'll probably need assistance in the morning. Sat phone is not working very good. We have activated the EPIRB. We are not in danger tonight, but if conditions don't improve on the boat we will be in danger tomorrow. We can only run the generator for a short time. I just found out the fuel oil filters you got were the wrong filters. Let me know when you have contacted the USCG so we can shut the EPIRB off. The boat is doing great but we can't dewater.

The shift commander Sunday night in Wilmington tried to parse this note. There was a word, he thought, for a ship that was taking on water and couldn't get it out. The word wasn't great. The word was sinking. The shift commander needed to know more. He checked, and no ships were close to the Bounty, so he called the Coast Guard's Elizabeth City, N.C., airbase.

Wes McIntosh, a pilot of a C-130, had moved his plane inland to Raleigh to make sure he could take off in case somebody needed help. He got word from Elizabeth City a ship called the Bounty was foundering 90 miles from Hatteras. The Coast Guard wanted to establish communications to determine what to do next.

McIntosh and his crew of six drove in a rented minivan to the airport. One of the "dropmasters," the members of the crew that specialize in dropping pumps or rafts out the back of the plane, Googled the Bounty on his phone.

According to Capt. Walbridge, said the ship's website, Bounty has no boundaries. As her captain, he is well known for his ability and desire to take Bounty to places that no ship has gone before.

Capt. Walbridge, the site continued, is a quiet, self-effacing individual; yet, when you stop to consider all he has done in its entirety, collectively, it and he are pretty amazing.

To Robin, it said, Bounty is an extension of himself.

In an airport office, McIntosh and Mike Myers, his co-pilot, looked at the radar, checking the weather around the coordinates gleaned from the Bounty's EPIRB. The screen was surly with swirls of green, yellow and red. The Bounty, they concluded, was about to be in the worst of the storm.

McIntosh, Myers and the crew got into the plane, and the white, sturdy C-130 taxied on the runway slick with rain. It was 10:15 Sunday night. In Raleigh, the weather was wet and windy, but not as bad as it was closer to the coast. The radio chatter still was almost nonexistent. No other planes were taking off.

Hey, the Raleigh air traffic controller said to them. Are you guys heading out to Hurricane Sandy?

We are, McIntosh said.

Well, good luck, the controller said.

The turbulence was immediate and got worse the closer they got to the storm. McIntosh and Myers climbed to 7,000 feet for not quite an hour.

At 10:29, Walbridge sent an email to his wife, home in St. Pete. Yes we are in trouble, he wrote. The boat would be doing fine but we can't dewater. We will be okay, probably have to abandon ship. Everyone knows we are here. It is not the storm that is getting us. It is the pumps.

He signed off. Love you.

At 10:55, he sent an email to the Coast Guard, giving the Bounty's position and saying there were 17 people on board — a wrong number — adding he didn't know how long email would work. My first guess, he wrote, quickly and with sketchy punctuation, was that we had until morning before have to abandon seeing the water rise I am not sure we have that long. He said the ship had two inflatable rafts.

Half an hour later, from Jim Salapatek on Facebook, an incongruous update: One of Bounty's generators has failed … they are taking on more water than they would like. THE CREW AND BOUNTY ARE SAFE. … The captain will await till morning to determine if Bounty is in need of any assistance.

In the C-130, wearing night vision goggles, or NVGs, which turn the field of vision into green and black, contrasts between light and dark, the pilots approached the ominous, swirling clouds of Sandy, more black than green, before slowing at the storm's southwestern edge. McIntosh radioed down, hoping somebody on the ship already would be able to hear.

The first mate answered the Coast Guard pilot: We have you loud and clear.

Calling to the Bounty, he identified himself as Coast Guard Rescue 2004, "two-zero-zero-four," a C-130 at 7,000 feet, approximately 40 to 50 miles away.

The response from the ship was immediate. Coast Guard C-130, this is the Bounty. We have you loud and clear.

Can you confirm your current position, McIntosh radioed down, the number of people on board and the nature of your distress?

Svendsen, talking into the radio in the nav shack, told them their latitude and longitude. He said there were 16 people on board. He said both generators had failed again, there was 6 feet of standing water, they were taking on water at a foot an hour, and they were running the radio on dwindling battery power.

The pilots confirmed the right number — 16, not 17 — but what stood out to them was the same thing Christian had worried about. No generators, no power. No power, no pumps. No pumps …

They also were concerned about the battery-powered radio. It meant they could lose contact with the ship at any moment. They decided to go find the Bounty. To fly into Hurricane Sandy.

To the south they saw scattered clouds but mostly clear skies. A full moon. To the north: the angry, twisting bands of the storm, stretching from as high as they could see to as low as they could see. Sandy's southern edge.

The plane shuddered and rattled at the wall. The 45-mph winds became 90-mph winds. The autopilot disengaged. They were going to have to fly by hand. The gusts hit the plane on the left and shoved the tail to the right. Updrafts and downdrafts created sudden 300-foot surges and free-falls. The wings flexed, 4 feet up, 4 feet down, looking as if they might break. In their headphones the pilots and the three other members of the cockpit crew could hear the strapped-in dropmasters in the back vomiting onto the floor.

They couldn't see the Bounty.

They couldn't see anything.

They were still in Sandy's thick shroud, so they continued their descent, to 900, to 800, until they finally broke out of the clouds just under 700 feet above the Atlantic. The fierce rain pounded the windshield, dropping forward visibility to zero. They could see only out the smaller windows low on the sides of the cockpit. Here, under the cover of the clouds, there was hardly any light from the stars and the moon. On their NVGs, the lightest thing they could see, the brightest green on black, was the waves' wind-whipped white froth.

But no ship.

The beam of a spotlight looked like a torch to the pilots wearing night vision goggles.

The C-130 turned around and settled into a D-shaped race track pattern.

We saw you, the Bounty radioed up.

The pilots asked them to shine a battery-powered spotlight from the deck. They banked the plane in the winds and flew back toward the Bounty. The beam of light shot into the dark. On the NVGs, which can pick up the tip of a cigarette from 5 miles away, the Bounty's spotlight looked like a torch. The plane flew to it. Over it.

What'd it look like? McIntosh asked.

Like a pirate ship, Myers answered, in the middle of a hurricane.

...

Chapter 6

Prokosch lay still, squeezed hard against the wall that had stopped his fall, staring uphill to port. Christian sat beside him. On land, before the Bounty, she had cared for her diabetic father. She had taken to rescuing cats. Here, as Sunday turned to Monday and the situation on the leaning, sinking ship grew more dire, Prokosch thought Christian could tell it bothered him that he couldn't help. An able seaman. Disabled.

Are you comfortable? she asked him. What can I do?

Deckhand Josh Scornavacchi and others saw Christian with Prokosch. She's mothering him, they thought, leaving him only to race around the ship and return with updates.

In the engine room the floor had started to float, the water lifting up the sole boards. The pumps weren't pumping. Heavy work tables had pried loose from their bolts and banged around. Sloshing water had torn off the ladder to the tweens. The water was thigh-high, waist-high, chest-deep.

Around midnight Walbridge called the crew into the nav shack. He moved gingerly because of his back. His glasses remained on his face, held by the strings on the stems, but they were crooked and bent. He told the crew it probably would be first light before the Coast Guard could help. He said he still hoped for new pumps. Abandoning ship, he said, was a possibility. He told the members of his crew he felt good about their chances. The ship? He wasn't so sure. Svendsen asked the boatswain to get seasickness pills. Everybody took one except Walbridge.

The pilots considered the Bounty's request for pumps. Too risky, they reasoned. The water in the ship was so high they weren't sure their 100-pound pumps ultimately even would help. And dropping them from 500 feet was perilous in such winds. Miscalculate and a pump could punch a hole in the deck. Go any lower, and one of those 300-foot free-falls would put them close to crashing into the water, or the masts. Come morning, they said, a helicopter might be able to deliver pumps from a safer, lower hover.

The Bounty asked if there were other ships any closer. No. Still no other ships that hadn't steered clear of Sandy.

At 2:03 a.m., an update on the ship's Facebook page: THE CREW IS SAFE … THE COAST GUARD IS ON THE SCENE.

The pilots asked if there had been any change in the rate of the rise of the water. Yes, they were told, now it was 2 feet an hour. The flooded engine room was no longer safe. The water in the lower third of the ship had chased the crew up to the tweens.

McIntosh took the plane from 500 feet to 1,000, where the air was a little less soupy, and asked for a phone connection to land. He called the base in Elizabeth City. Helicopter co-pilot Jane Peña picked up.

This isn't going to be a helicopter dropping pumps, McIntosh told her. This is going to be helicopters hoisting people from the water. He told her he thought they should think about sending two helicopters, not one, as soon as possible.

He dropped back to 500 feet and radioed the Bounty.

If they hadn't put on their survival suits, he told them, they should do that.

Walbridge still thought they could hold on until the morning.

Around the ship, though, crew members had started filling dry bags and ditch kits with bottles of water, cans of food, flares, batteries for flashlights and headlamps, extra EPIRBs, money and passports — and their captain's licenses and training certificates, the paper evidence of their knowledge and experience. They futzed with the Bounty's gas-powered fifth pump, the "trash pump," they called it, the backup to the backups, an afterthought bought cheaply in 2011 in Europe to assuage the British Coast Guard. They ran a long hose from the trash pump into the swamped engine room. The pump sucked weakly and intermittently. They laid out the blood-orange survival suits in the stern cabin.

On his computer near Chicago, Jim Salapatek saw a breaking news alert from a TV station in Virginia, saying the Coast Guard had a plane over the Bounty — 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, and 160 miles west of Sandy's center. At 2:53, he posted the update, adding a note of his own: Your Prayers are needed.

Svendsen asked Walbridge if it was time to abandon ship.

The captain said no.

Minutes later the first mate asked him again.

The captain said not yet.

Problems aboard multiplied

The malfunctions aboard the Bounty multiplied as the ship moved deeper into the heavy weather of Hurricane Sandy.

Prokosch, still on his back, thought about his ex-girlfriend who had worked winter maintenance on the Bounty. She'd had a premonition that the ship would sink within seven months. He had told her to stop being so pessimistic. The crew wouldn't let that happen. He wouldn't let that happen. He thought about how he had told the captain and other members of the crew in the spring that he wished the Bounty had man-powered pumps, like the original ship, in addition to electric pumps, so they could dewater even if the generators broke.

He thought about how he wasn't sure he could move.

But he would have to.

Stay or go?

Move or die.

At 3:41, relying on battery power and the same program he had used to send the ship's owner an email not quite seven hours before, Walbridge emailed the Coast Guard.

We have lost all dewatering abilities, he wrote. Estimate 6 to 10 hours left. When we lose all power we lose email — there should be an EPIRB going off — water taking on fast — we are in distress.

Ship is fine, he added. We can't dewater — need pumps.

The ship's list increased to 45 degrees. Christian hurried to Prokosch.

Hey, it's time to get up, she said. She held his hand. She eased him to his feet. His back felt brittle, loose, as if it couldn't support his weight. Arm in arm, she guided him to a cabin on the port side, the high side, where she tucked him into a bunk. He should try to get some rest, she said. She said she would be with Sanders, her boyfriend, but she would come back to get him when it was time to go. She came back in less than 20 minutes.


Capt. Walbridge gave the order to don the survival suits.

Chapter 7

The water in the tweens was shin-deep and rising. Walbridge gave the order. Don the survival suits. The captain sat to put his on because it hurt to stand. Some of the crew helped him. Barksdale, the engineer, put on his suit — the first time he had ever seen one. Faunt went to his flooding cabin and took off the T-shirt and shorts he had worn to work in the hot engine room and now put on his warmer, rough-weather foulies and ski bibs, into which he stuffed his ID and his waterproof phone sealed in a plastic bag. The rest of the crew put on their suits, and most of them also put on life jackets and climbing harnesses, so if necessary they could clip themselves to lines on the deck, sides of rafts, even each other.

Prokosch crawled from the bunk to the stern cabin where he got a suit and wiggled into it on his back and now he stood up. A deckhand used a Leatherman tool to help him tighten his harness. Prokosch grabbed a floating life jacket. He braced himself against the wall with his bulky gloved hands and moved through the nav shack and toward the deck.

As the crew filed up the steps, a few of the mates tried to do a head count, but it was hard to hear because of the swishing of the neoprene suits and the torrent of sea spray. Adam Prokosch coming on deck! he hollered. I'm injured and I can't help anyone but I'm here! In the dark, with the hoods of their suits tight around their heads, they all looked the same. They stayed low because of the heavy rocking in the waves, moving across the deck mostly on their hands and knees.

Svendsen stayed in the nav shack to talk to the Coast Guard.

Some other mates had their suits on up to their waists so they could keep their hands free to ready the lines to the life rafts at the stern.

The ship's crew clung to the slanting deck as the ship continued to tip.

Prokosch and Christian and others — and Salapatek and Hewitt, with their climbing harnesses roped together with a 3-foot lanyard — clustered by the back of the Bounty, by the mizzenmast and the helm, by the capstan, where four days before they had been given a choice, and where they all had decided to go. Now they wedged themselves against fixed objects on the deck, planting their feet against rails, flat on their backs but at times practically standing up straight, the Bounty tipping more and more.

Christian scurried to Scornavacchi's side and squeezed next to him. She smiled at him, flashing playfully what he considered her "determined face," furrowing her eyebrows and tightening her lips. He smiled back. She hustled to Sanders again.

Exhausted, pinned under the low, sinister sky, encroaching clouds and wind-blown rain, stuck in what felt like a fishbowl surrounded by steep black walls of waves, some of the crew closed their eyes and dozed, even as Sandy raged around them, even as their ship heaved in the waves, wave after wave after wave, and now another.

Svendsen called to Walbridge. The bow was going under.

She's going, Faunt heard somebody say.

We've got to go, Salapatek told Hewitt.

Prokosch's back throbbed. He gripped the helm.

Some of them jumped. Some of them slid.

What do I do? What do I do? Christian asked Sanders. Swim, he told her. Swim away from the ship. Swim to the rear of the ship. Swim.

In the sky, 1,000 feet high, the crew in the C-130 heard Svendsen say the same tense sentence, twice, in rapid succession.

We're abandoning ship. We're abandoning ship.

McIntosh, startled by the announcement, radioed down.

Roger, he said. What's your plan?

Silence.

Bounty, he said again. What is your plan?

Silence.

This was the worst-case scenario. People in the water. In a hurricane. In the dark. No helicopters in the air. Now the C-130 had to go lower than 500 feet. They had to drop life rafts. In the front of the plane, the pilots started the descent, fast, from 1,000 feet, down to 700, shuddering and rattling, to 500, to 300.

"Drop, drop, drop!" The crew pushed life rafts out the rear of the plane.

In the back, the dropmasters, weary from five hours of airsickness, unstrapped from their seats, stood in their vomit and prepared to push out the rafts filled with water and food, whistles and flares. They fastened their gunner's belts, heavy leather straps anchored to the floor with thick metal rings, and they hit the switch to open the back of the plane. The ramp lowered. The waves with the white tops looked like mountains in the low glow from the lights on the bottoms of the wings. The rush of the air and Sandy's wind and rain was so loud they had trouble hearing the countdown from the cockpit.

Thirty seconds.

The C-130 descended to 200 feet.

Fifteen seconds.

The C-130 raced to the Bounty at 150 mph. A downdraft pushed the plane to only 170 feet above the Atlantic.

Dropmasters are trained to push the rafts the instant they hear the first D of the command — Drop, drop, drop! — and now they heard in their headphones the signal over Sandy's roar. Drop, drop, drop! The plane screamed over the Bounty. The bright-red rafts tumbled toward the suits in the water.

INTERACTIVE: The Bounty's last crew

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The Bounty's last crew

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Credits

  • Story: MICHAEL KRUSE
  • Illustrations: DON MORRIS
  • Video: MAURICE RIVENBARK
  • Researchers: CAROLYN EDDS and CARYN BAIRD
  • Transcription: BARBARA MOCH and MIKE D'ANDREA
  • Editor: BILL DURYEA
  • Graphics: ALEXIS N. SANCHEZ and LEE GLYNN
  • Design: LEE GLYNN and ALEXIS N. SANCHEZ

About the Story

This story is based on the testimonies of survivors in the Coast Guard hearings about the sinking of the Bounty and interviews with survivors, former crew members, family and friends of crew members, Coast Guard rescuers and tall ship captains and experts. Additional information comes from emails and Facebook messages, Coast Guard video, the National Hurricane Center, books about sailing and the age of sail, and hundreds of stories written about the Bounty over the last 50 years. In the text, quotes with no quote marks are recalled dialogue. Quote marks indicate words that were spoken to or heard by the reporter or previously published. Italics signify excerpts from written documents.

STORY NOTES

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End Notes

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CHAPTER 1

could see “We knew the engine room seam was open probably Saturday night,” boatswain Laura Groves said in the Coast Guard hearings in February in Portsmouth, Va. “You could see the water coming in in the engine room, higher up, on the side of the ship,” engineer Chris Barksdale told me in Nellysford, Va. The first mate and the third mate asked him if it wasn’t just washing up from the bilges and then back down when the ship moved and rolled. “And I said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘You can see it coming in. It’s coming in between the joints, coming down the ship.’ … It was coming in through the planks.”

rolled “It was difficult to work taking 45-degree rolls,” third mate Dan Cleveland said in the hearings.

could hear Crew members in the hearings.

track Here and throughout, the ship’s position and path is based on the Bounty’s Facebook page and sailwx.info.

Sandy Descriptions of the storm are based on information from the National Hurricane Center and NASA.gov and the crew’s recollections.

pumps “The bilge pumps were running constantly,” first mate John Svendsen said in the hearings. “It had gone from running the bilge pumps all the time to the hydraulic pumps some of the time to all of the time,” deckhand Jessica Hewitt said in the hearings.

hadn’t been used all year Crew members in the hearings. Second mate Matt Sanders was asked if any of the crew had been trained to use them. “I don’t think so,” he said.

taking in more water than they were getting out Cleveland said in the hearings they were “not keeping up with the water.” Said deckhand Drew Salapatek: “It wasn’t decreasing at all.” Said Barksdale: “It became obvious.”

mates Captain Robin Walbridge, Svendsen, Sanders, Cleveland, Barksdale, Groves.

change course “We talked about how the previous day we had changed course,” Groves said. “We were then crossing its path -- but in time. I wasn’t concerned with the eye running us over.”

sleep almost impossible Crew members in the hearings.

try to rest Deckhand John Daniel Jones in the hearings.

could expect Ibid.

Good morning Walbridge’s wife, Claudia McCann, gave me the emails he sent.

So far so good Jim Salapatek gave me the text and the images from Bounty’s Facebook page.

second-guessers WoodenBoat.com.

the only ship Coast Guard.

original Bounty According to the Pitcairn Islands Study Center at Pacific Union College in California, the ship was built in 1784 in Hull and named the Bethia before being renamed the Bounty in 1787.

The Bounty was a beautiful craft, lying solid and low in the water like the full-bodied merchant ship she was, blunt nosed and square sterned, surmounted by her three spirelike masts, Caroline Alexander wrote in her 2003 book The Bounty.

fire Luis Marden of National Geographic was on the Bounty for the Panama-to-Tahiti leg of her maiden voyage. He wrote about the engine room fire in April 1962. A wooden ship like this has little chance in a fire, and if flames reach the sails -- poof!

two years Comes from materials about the history of the ship Hugh Boyd gave me. Boyd, of St. Pete, was a member of the original crew out of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and later ran the Bounty exhibit.

from New York Jack Stillwaggon wrote about this June 1965 transit in the 2012 anthology called Sailing: Philosophy for Everyone: Catching the Drift of Why We Sail.

seemed fuller Stillwaggon wrote: Life seemed fuller now that we had gone to the edge and made it back. There was time in between watches and meals to just experience life and be glad for it.

Do we value life more when it seems like we might have lost it? For those who have tasted adventure, it is particularly irksome to hear the teenager who has everything say, “I’m bored.” Do they need a sea voyage on an ancient vessel to cure their boredom.

A question he posed in the piece: What causes modern men and women purposely to leave comfort and security behind to venture out into danger and discomfort?

Something else: Do we strive to experience the past as amateur historians or are we atoning for our frivolous modern lifestyle? Are we like the act who takes up a political cause to prove he can do more than just play make-believe? Does the fact that we endured a risky trial and survived add importance to an otherwise silly existence?

in 1998 News reports in Fall River, Mass., Providence, R.I., and Charleston, S.C., and interviews with former crew members.

sun was out “I was basically in the engine room for about 20 hours,” former crew member Jake Beattie told me. “Relatively calm seas. The sun was shining.” On Facebook, he wrote: … the last time the Bounty tried to sink off of Hatteras I was in the engine room up to my chest in bilge water, rebuilding pumps to buy us time until the Coast Guard arrived. We were luckier that day.

Coast Guard report Snippets: Wooden 3 masted sailing vessel passed through storm which loosened oakum and increased rate of water seepage/leakage. Diesel driven main bilge pump failed after losing an oil seal and wiping a rod bearing. 2 electric driven backup bilge pumps failed after shorting out due to exposure to rising water. Also: The master misjudged severity of existing hull leakage through planking ...

“This is a wooden ship” Providence’s Journal-Bulletin.

“refused to evacuate” Ibid.

to San Juan “If it had been my first trip, it would have been my last,” former crew member Rebecca Twombly told me. “It was the worst trip of my life.” “We had water over the rail for a while,” said former crew member Kenn Anderson Sr., who estimated the waves climbed to 40 feet.

Baltic Sea Deckhand Drew Salapatek talked about it in the hearings, and I heard about it from former crew members, including Brooke Mitchell and Sam Imes. “We’d been through some rough times,” able seaman Doug Faunt told me in Oakland, “and it always worked out.”

“no such thing as bad weather” “I didn’t think he was trying to show off or anything,” Ned Lightner of Belfast Community TV told me. “He has a lifetime more experience than I have as a sailor. When he spoke I thought he was the big expert. Who am I to question it?”

260 miles southeast of Hatteras National Hurricane Center. NASA.gov.

less than 200 miles from the Bounty Sailwx.info.

fixed a generator with pieces of a microwave “I heard a story about him taking parts from a microwave to fix a generator,” Cleveland said in the hearings. Kaye Williams, the founder of Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport, Conn., told the Connecticut Post in 2012, “He put a microwave on a table, took it apart and used the parts to fix the engine.” “That man could MacGyver a water pump out of thin air,” former crew member Brooke Mitchell said. “He could fix anything with a piece of string and a pen knife,” Jan Miles, the Pride of Baltimore II captain, told me.

resourcefulness “Brilliant engineer,” his friend Richard Bailey told me in Newport, R.I. In the hearings, he called him a “mechanical genius.”

never saw him get anxious Cleveland, engineer Chris Barksdale, former crew members Halee Grimes and Cliff Bredeson.

lucky In an interview on the 2006 Warner Bros. version of the ‘62 Mutiny on the Bounty, Walbridge called the Bounty a “very, very lucky ship.”

CHAPTER 2

Claudene Christian approached Doug Faunt “She was concerned about the mechanical condition of the boat,” Faunt told me in Oakland. “We were beginning to have problems, and she said, ‘I see this happening, and I see this happening, and I see this happening, and I tried to talk to people and they won’t listen to me.’ And so what I did was I listened to her and she told me what she was seeing, and I said, ‘Yeah, we already know this; we’re taking care of it. The reason they’re not listening to you is because they already know it. We’re working on that. I’ve been working on that Other people have been working on that. You’re not telling anybody anything new. You’re not telling them stuff they don’t know.’ … And she felt she was being ignored because she was Claudene.” More: “She said, you know, ‘I feel better about this. I feel like they’re not -- okay -- it’s not that they’re ignoring me because I’m me. it’s that it’s stuff that  they’ve known.’ ”

dripped down walls Crew members in the hearings.

cereal bowl Deckhand Jessica Hewitt.

noticed smoke Cook Jessica Black.

second stumble “I can’t remember the specific task I was doing,” engineer Chris Barksdale told me in Nellysford, Va., “but I was down there and I took a fly across, and I went from starboard to port, and I thought that I broke my leg … and I gashed my left arm pretty good.”

the port engine and the port generator Crew members.

booby trapped Friend Wendy Sellens who lived with her.

gun “She kept one by her bed,” Dina Christian, her mother, told me.

look both ways “I couldn’t drive over a railroad track with her in the car without her telling me to look, be careful, be cautious,” her mother said.

life jacket I first heard about it from former crew member Jonny Slanga.

Faunt watched her “I saw her aft, just smiling and having a good time,” he told me in Oakland. “She was sitting on the aft grating, she was clipped into one of the lines, she had a harness on, and she was clipped on -- because, you know, the boat was moving around so much that people were really wanting to be secured.” She was “just sitting there, looking at stuff, and just grinning.”

CHAPTER 3

fore course Able seaman Adam Prokosch in Boothbay Harbor and crew members in the hearings, including boatswain Laura Groves and deckhands Mark Warner, Jessica Hewitt and Anna Sprague.

Not Claudene? Hewitt.

quite well for herself Earlier, before the transit from New London, obviously, Christian had told her mother she thought Walbridge was coming around. “I know she didn’t like this captain,” said Sellens, her friend, “but she was, like, slowly winning him over.”

deckhand grabbed a life ring Sprague.

furling a sail in a storm Some of what informed the thoughts in this paragraph:

They went aloft a hundred feet or more on icy ratlines and footropes, up masts that could whip to and fro through ninety degrees of arc in a few seconds, to grapple with homicidal sails, certain death just one small mistake, a slip, away, Derek Lundy wrote in his 2002 book The Way of a Ship.

Nathaniel Philbrick in his 2011 book Why Read Moby-Dick: “[T]o enjoy bodily warmth,” Ishmael explains, “some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more.”

Richard Bode in his 1993 book First You Have to Row a Little Boat: As humans we live with the constant presumption of dominion. We believe that we own the world, that it belongs to us, that we have it under our firm control. But the sailor knows all too well the fallacy of this view.

Sunsets, dolphins -- beautiful, former crew member Jonny Slanga told me in Mystic, Conn., “but there’s also the hideous beauty and the scary beauty. Which is what I feel like a lot of people don’t get enough of or overlook. … Sometimes fear is a really beautiful thing.”

note in the captain’s log Lundy.

bundling of a man Lundy quoted Melville in The Way of a Ship.

50 feet up Crew members in the hearings and in interviews.

almost 4 feet of water Estimate from crew members.

port generator started Able seaman Doug Faunt.

bilge alarm Ibid.

power fluctuating Crew members in the hearings.

captain lost his footing “I don’t know how he got up from it,” engineer Chris Barksdale told me. “He went flyin’ from one side of the great cabin to the other, and there were tables bolted down with a sitting area around it. … You got a man in his 60s, you know? I was surprised he got up.”

don’t lose me Hewitt.

CHAPTER 4

starboard generator Second mate Matt Sanders in the hearings.

hydraulic backups Ibid.

Walbridge told Cleveland Third mate Dan Cleveland.

“heaving to” Crew members, including Cleveland, boatswain Laura Groves and deckhands Mark Warner, Jessica Hewitt and Drew Salapatek.

“I know we hoved to because Robin thought we were losing our battle with the bilge water,” Groves said. “We were basically stalled, drifting at sea.”

“Sunday,” Salapatek said, “it became more important to focus on getting water out of the bilges more than going anywhere.”

brace the stern cabin windows Groves and Warner.

handheld anemometer Cleveland in the hearings.

rubber dinghy Crew members in the hearings and able seaman Adam Prokosch in Boothbay Harbor.

spanker Ibid.

shreds Ibid.

waited in the nav shack Deckhand Anna Sprague.

aloft again Crew members in the hearings, Prokosch in Boothbay Harbor, deckhands Sprague and Josh Scornavacchi on the phone.

satellite phone First mate John Svendsen in the hearings. “The sat phone wasn’t particularly useful -- was less useful than it should’ve been because it was a handheld unit, it didn’t work belowdecks, and it was too noisy up on deck,” able seaman Doug Faunt told me in Oakland.

different forms of communication Faunt in the hearings and in Oakland. “We had Winlink on the ship that we used for email and accessing the Internet to post to blogs and to Facebook,” he told the American Radio Relay League, “and we finally found an email address for the Coast Guard. As a last-ditch effort, we used Winlink to email the Coast Guard for help.”

seated on a stool “He was moving stiffly and he needed to sit down,” Faunt said. “Normally he would stand up to do that sort of thing.”

EPIRB Svendsen in the hearings.

troubleshoot Crew members in the hearings.

debris Ibid.

Tom Brown From Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival: … my friend rode out that storm. But he didn't do it all at once. He did it one wave at a time. In the wilderness it is the same thing: one survival problem at a time. Don't compound your problems into an ocean of troubles …

asked if he could help Prokosch and Scornavacchi.

fell “I fell across the boat face-first into a plywood wall,” Prokosch told me. “I saw stars for a second but then I realized the real injury was in my back.”

“Adam was following me,” cook Jessica Black said in the hearings. “I had just grabbed ahold of the jackline. He was one step behind me and a big wave came and hit us pretty hard and he wasn’t holding onto the line.”

touched “John came pretty quickly,” Prokosch told me. “He took a look to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed.”

Christian came to him Prokosch.

CHAPTER 5

EPIRB Coast Guard.

call from Simonin The Coast Guard’s James William Mitchell in the hearings.

email from Walbridge Ibid.

captain had written The email is in the Christians’ lawsuit.

sinking “If there’s no way to dewater, it’s not a safe place to be,” Mitchell said.

Googled Interviews in Elizabeth City, N.C., with the crew of the plane. “We knew the name of the vessel and we’d been given information where we could go to find out more information about the vessel itself,” co-pilot Mike Myers said, “and so we were using our smartphones on the way to the airport.” “I got on the Internet and pulled up as much information as I could,” technician Josh Adams said.

airport “Everything we do in the Coast Guard is based on operational risk management,” pilot Wes McIntosh told me, “and everything we do has some inherent risk in it, but that risk is okay if the potential benefits outweigh the risks. So that’s kind of what they were doing -- we were doing at that time -- was just basically looking at the case and saying, ‘Hey, do we know these people are in distress, is it worth sending a C-130 out in the middle of a hurricane to go out and just try to talk to ‘em?’ ”

no other planes “Eerily quiet,” Myers said. “Radios are normally chirping and there’s just nothing going on because there’s this huge storm.”

turbulence “As we got closer and closer, we can see that the winds were getting stronger and stronger and stronger, and we just kept getting tossed around left and right,” technician Hector Rios told me.

10:29 Claudia McCann gave me the email.

email to the Coast Guard It’s in the Christians’ lawsuit.

night vision “We were able to use the night vision goggles to kind of pick our way through the storm,” McIntosh said.

“Under goggles,” Myers said, “with the effects of lunar illumination, we’re able to capture what light exists. It comes out monochromatic. It’s one color. It’s all green, varying shades of green, and that contrast is what helps our brain interpret the image that we’re seeing … and what we’re seeing is the cloud formations building.”

McIntosh radioed down “We used our FM radio, on Channel 16, the marine band, and just attempted to contact them,” Myers said. “They heard us loud and clear and came back in a similar manner.”

“I went ahead and asked ‘them where their position was, how many people they had on board and what was the nature of their distress,” McIntosh said. “They told us there were 16 people on board, and they told us that they were currently totally without generators, totally without engine power, they had about six feet of water on board and they were taking on water at a rate of one foot per hour, and they told us that they had -- they were on battery power only for their radio, and the time was limited on their radio, so we didn’t know how long that radio would be able to last.”

go find the ship “We didn’t know how much longer we’d be able to talk to them,” McIntosh said, “so I made the decision at that point that we would have to fly into the storm to go and try to see if we could offer them any help.”

“Everybody rogered up,” Myers said.

Sandy’s southern edge “We were right outside of the wall,” Myers said.

rattled “As soon as we hit that wall of clouds we immediately get hit with wind from the left side of the plane by about 80 or 90 knots up at that altitude,” McIntosh said. “Immediately we encounter heavy rain, just rain, rain drops just barraging the windscreen.”

autopilot disengaged They call the autopilot George. “George didn’t want to fly,” Rios said.

fly by hand “Because of the forces on the plane, the autopilot was unable to keep up,” McIntosh said. “It basically gave up and clicked off.”

shoved the tail “We just yawed to the left,” McIntosh said. “The plane starts bouncing up and down, left and right.”

300-foot surges and free-falls “Huge variances in altitude,” Myers said.

wings flexed “They were flexing probably plus or minus four feet out there,” McIntosh said. “You could see them actually rocking up and down.”

vomiting “The two dropmasters, they were sick,” Rios said. “We can hear them … over the intercom -- we can hear them, you know, throwing up.”

“That was the first time I’ve ever gotten airsick in my life. Eight years of being on these things,” dropmaster Eric Laster said. “Not to get too, too graphic, but there was a big trash bag that I filled halfway up.”

couldn’t see “We looked straight down, right over where the ship should be, and we couldn’t see anything,” McIntosh said.

“At 500 feet,” Myers said, “there was such heavy precipitation on the plane that we’re flying through that we had zero visibility in front of the plane.”

no ship “We flew over their position,” Myers said. “Never saw them.”

race track pattern McIntosh and Myers.

saw you “We asked them if they had us in sight,” Myers said, “and they said, ‘Yep, we did have you.’ ”

beam of light “That was the only light out there in the middle of the ocean,” McIntosh said.

“A white light looks like, you know, the brightest torch that you can imagine,” Myers said.

tip of a cigarette from 5 miles away “That’s quite literally,” Myers said.

Like a pirate ship “The Bounty came down the right side of the plane, underneath us, so I still couldn’t see it at this point,” McIntosh said. “My co-pilot, he actually looked down, he was the first one to see it, visually, so he told us he saw it, and as we were passing over it, I kind of asked him. I was like, ‘Say, since I didn’t see it … what did it look like?’ He was like, ‘Well, it looks like a big pirate ship, in the middle of a hurricane.’ ”

CHAPTER 6

laid still Able seaman Adam Prokosch and other crew members.

cared for her diabetic father Her friends. Dina Christian.

cats Ibid.

Are you comfortable? Crew members.

mothering him “She’d just sit next to me, making sure I was okay,” Prokosch told me in Boothbay Harbor. “She knew it was probably bothering me that I wasn’t involved anymore.”

“She was like a mom,” deckhand Josh Scornavacchi said.

the floor “The sole boards were starting to lift up,” boatswain Laura Groves said in the hearings.

pumps “The starboard generator went down,” second mate Matt Sanders said in the hearings, “and the electric pumps stopped working.”

tables Engineer Chris Barksdale.

ladder Groves.

water Sanders.

crew in the nav shack Crew members, including Groves, third mate Dan Cleveland and deckhands Mark Warner and John Daniel Jones.

gingerly “He made this noise, you know, like a bad sigh,” Jones said in the hearings. “I put my hand on his back shoulder. I was like, ‘Are you okay?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I hurt my back.’ I didn’t know if he was having a heart attack or what.”

glasses Groves.

told the crew “He said it was a real possibility that we’d have to abandon ship,” deckhand Anna Sprague said. “He did say, ‘I feel good about our chances, I don’t feel so good about the boat,’ ” Warner said.

except Walbridge Groves.

Bounty’s request “The idea is it drops in the water close to the ship and then a long trailing line will drape over the deck of the ship, so if we drop it exactly like it should be, then you’re going to have people on the Bounty on top of the deck trying to haul in this pump,” pilot Wes McIntosh said. “Meanwhile, they’re getting broadsided by waves that could possibly sweep them off the deck while they’re trying to haul in this pump. The other possibility is we accidentally drop the pump on top of the ship, so it’s a wooden-hulled ship and we drop the pump on the ship. Then that’s probably going to cause them more problems than they already have. So if everything went right and they did get the pump they now have a P-100 pump, which pumps at a rate of about 100 gallons per minute, so you’re going to have this little pump. It’s basically designed for, like, little fishing boats and stuff -- it probably wouldn’t have done a whole lot of good even if they had gotten it. So because of all those reasons, you know, I had to let my crew know, I was like, ‘I don’t think it’s safe to drop this pump.’ ”

no other ships McIntosh and Myers.

CREW IS SAFE Jim Salapatek.

rise of the water “It seemed like the listing was getting a little more pronounced, like they were leaning farther to the right,” McIntosh told me in Elizabeth City. “So they were taking on water at the rate of one foot per hour. At that point they said that they started taking on water at a rate of two feet per hour so you could tell the rate of the water on their ship was increasing. They weren’t getting any of that water off.”

chased the crew “The water was too deep in the engine room,” engineer Chris Barksdale told me. “Too high to go in there,” deckhand Josh Scornavacchi said.

called the base “I said, ‘Hey, I just wanted to talk to you personally and say that, you know, there are going to be 16 people in the water,’ ” McIntosh said.

“The air station needed to know this isn’t going to be a delivery of pumps,” Myers said. “Three’s no way to save this boat any longer. Now we’re talking about saving the people.”

hold on McIntosh and Myers.

around the ship “We were making preparations for quite a while,” deckhand Drew Salapatek said in the hearings. “I went down and got all the extra batteries specifically to put in people’s headlamps,” Groves said.

gas-powered fifth pump Crew members in the hearings.

bought cheaply “I’d seen it work once,” able seaman Doug Faunt said in the hearings. “It was bought as cheaply as possible to meet Coast Guard or MCA regulations when we were in Europe. It was a facade to meet safety regulations.”

long hose “Like a serpent’s coil,” deckhand Jessica Hewitt said.

pump sucked weakly “It wasn’t working,” Scornavacchi said.

premonition “So her premonition, or her intuition,” Prokosch told me, “was that the Bounty would sink in five to seven months. I told her the crew won’t let it.”

man-powered pumps “I wanted man-powered pumps and not electricity,” Prokosch said.

wasn’t sure he could move “My back was hurting so bad,” Prokosch said.

move or die “After the fall, it ran through my mind, ‘Yeah, I’m hurt very badly, but I’m not dead yet. I can move my legs,’ ” Prokosch told me. “I could, and I’d have to.”

Walbridge emailed It’s in the Christians’ lawsuit.

Christian hurried to Prokosch “She had dropped a flashlight on my chest and was like, because it was dark out, she was like, ‘We’re going to get out of here and here’s our light.’ ” Prokosch told me. “She didn’t have any plans to leave the boat without me and I didn’t have any plans to leave the boat without her.”

get some rest Cook Jessica Black in the hearings.

CHAPTER 7

shin-deep and rising “We were running out of places to be on the tween decks,” deckhand Drew Salapatek said in the hearings.

gave the order “Robin told us to get our immersion suits on,” deckhand Mark Warner said.

captain sat to put his on “He was moving a lot slower,” deckhand Josh Scornavacchi said. “I could tell he was in pain,” Warner said.

first time Barksdale.

flooding cabin Among the few items able seaman Doug Faunt took was his teddy bear named Mush. “I put him in a Ziploc bag and stuffed him down into the front of my bibs,” he told me in Oakland.

crawled Able seaman Adam Prokosch.

used a Leatherman Warner was the deckhand.

braced himself “Since the boat was almost laying over,” Prokosch said, “I just kind of put my hands like against the wall and was able to work my way along the side of the boat there.”

count “The officers were trying to account for everyone on deck,” cook Jessica Black said. Added deckhand John Daniel Jones: “We counted each other.”

hard to hear “It was hell outside,” Prokosch said. “The sound of it, the sea spray, the dark, the 30-foot waves -- it was the worst weather I’d ever seen.”

looked the same “I couldn’t tell you who was who,” deckhand Jessica Hewitt said.

low “We crawled across the deck,” Black said.

stayed in the nav shack Crew members in the hearings.

suits on up to their waists Crew members in the hearings

exhausted “I felt like I had never slept before,” Hewitt said.

clustered Crew members in the hearings and additional interviews.

Christian scurried Scornavacchi talked about this in the hearings and told me more later. “She laid down beside me,” he said. “She looked at me. She made a really determined face, sort of pursed her lips, put her eyes down -- her determined face.”

Svendsen called to Walbridge Boatswain Laura Groves.

she’s going Faunt.

got to go Hewitt.

back throbbed “I remember the pain in my back being extreme,” Prokosch told me.

What do I do? Sanders in the hearings.

same tense sentence “All of a sudden, out of the blue,” pilot Wes McIntosh told me in Elizabeth City. “They just said, ‘We’re abandoning ship, we’re abandoning ship.’ ”

your plan? “There was no response,” McIntosh said. “We called them again and again and there was never another response.”

the descent “Immediately the pilot pushed down,” technician Hector Rios said, “and we went down to about 500 feet, and it wasn’t even … I would say not even two or three minutes, not even that, where we could get eyes on the boat, and I saw that boat on its side, you know, and there was debris everywhere, and I was, like, ‘Wow, how did this happen so quickly?’ ”

vomit “They were so sick they had already thrown up on the ramp, so they were basically standing in their own vomit,” McIntosh said.

ramp “They opened up the ramp in the middle of the driving rain and the heavy turbulence, and there was nothing, I mean nothing out there, between the back of the ramp and the ocean except for their safety harness strapped to the floor, holding them onto the plane,” McIntosh said.

mountains Dropmaster Jesse Embert.

trouble hearing “I had to turn it up as high as I could,” Embert said.

150 miles an hour The crew said 130 knots.

170 feet “We saw 170 feet at our lowest drop, given one of those downdraft cycles that we were on,” Myers said.

first D Embert.