Still, Nelson and Dinsmore said they weren't surprised to hear last October that the Bounty was in trouble.
Chapter 6: Crisis in the engine room
Sunday, October 28
A day after the change of course ordered by Walbridge, Bounty was less than 200 miles from the eye of the storm. The crew estimated winds at 70 mph and the seas at 25 feet. It took two people to guide Bounty's helm.
Above deck, the wind sliced a huge lower sail in half on the forward mast. Another wayward sail nearly injured Josh Scornavacchi as he fought to control it.
Below deck, crew members suffered from seasickness. In the galley, the motion pulled tables from their hinges.
But the high-stakes battle played out in the engine room.
Fighting rising water in the ungodly hot compartment, second mate Matt Sanders frantically opened and closed a series of valves that pumped water from different areas of the ship.
All the while, he kept an eye on the boat's critical generators and engines to make sure they remained dry. As the day wore on, desperation rose with the water level -- from ankle-deep to knee-deep.
The pumps were vital to saving the ship. But debris was killing the pumps.
Wood chips and sawdust from the dirty floor were floating in the rising water and clogging the pumps. They had to be shut off constantly to clear the strainers. Scornavacchi and Adam Prokosh used trash bags -- and their bare hands -- to scoop debris.
In its own way, the Bounty fought against the storm, too. The pounding of the hull against the ocean sounded to engineer Chris Barksdale like a "couple of thousand pieces of wood rubbing up against each other."
One violent roll tossed the seasick Barksdale across the engine room -- gashing his arm. Another sent the captain flying into a table, injuring his back. Yet another slammed Prokosh, fetching a colander from the ship's galley to strain debris, into a wall, injuring a vertebra, cracking three ribs and separating a shoulder.
Claudene Christian put Prokosh on a mattress and made sure he was as comfortable as possible.
At 4 p.m., by most accounts, 4 feet of seawater covered the engine room. Electrical equipment snapped and popped, short-circuiting in the water. Walbridge admitted what they all feared: They were losing the battle.
As the scramble to pump water off the ship grew more desperate, deckhand Mark Warner smashed the engine room door open so he could move a portable gasoline powered pump up to the deck.
But the pump wouldn't work. According to testimony, no one had been trained to use it.
Around 7 p.m., one of the ship's two generators failed.
By 8 p.m. the crew started gathering emergency supplies -- food rations, drinking water, lifejackets, even diving masks -- in case they had to abandon ship. Jessica Hewitt turned to Drew Salapatek . If the ship goes down, she said, don't lose me.
Efforts to alert the Coast Guard became an exercise in trial and error.