"I spent a lot of time on the back of the boat thinking about things," he said.
A rising wall of water
The Queequeg crew spent Christmas 2008 in Mauritius. It took 23½ days to arrive at the Indian Ocean isle from Christmas Island.
"That was a beautiful sight to see that island," Sherman said.
By January 16, 2009, the crew was anxious to travel to nearby Madagascar and the African continent.
After Cultra checked the forecast -- and apparently saw nothing amiss -- they set sail. It was to be the last voyage of the Queequeg II.
The skies misted as they left Mauritius on a leg that was to last six days and cover 600 nautical miles.
The rain worsened over the next four days.
Sherman began his three-hour shift at the helm at 1 o'clock in the afternoon.
The twin-hulled boat heaved with growing waves, some reaching 40 feet in height.
Cultra and Strykowski rested below deck, in the main salon.
What the trio didn't know was that Tropical Cyclone Fanele was barreling over southern Madagascar, head-on toward the boat, and Tropical Storm Eric was raging to starboard.
Sherman noticed something odd: The rain fell horizontal.
Cultra then relieved him.
"I was a rookie," Sherman said of his helmsmanship. "I knew that day I earned my wings. I was no longer a novice. I had made it. I got inside that cabin, and I was never so happy to get inside."
It was the captain's turn at the wheel.
Heading into the fury, Cultra altered course. He surfed the boat with the waves, rather than beat against them.
But Cultra couldn't see what was rising behind him.
It was unlike anything Sherman had seen: a 50-foot wave.
"Look!" Sherman warned, pointing to a wall of water the size of a five-story building.