The Ship and the Storm

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9780071355261: The Ship and the Storm

"Utterly compulsive and unputdownable--the most exciting, authentic, and humanly moving of all the recent Storm books. Brilliantly paced and perfectly balanced. . . . Carrier is a marvelously trustworthy narrator. . . . A terrific book."--Jonathan Raban, author of Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings and Bad Land: An American Romance

"A wonderful story. An extremely well-written account of the events as I knew them. I commend Jim Carrier for a magnificent job."--Jerry D. Jarrell, Director, National Hurricane Center

In October 1998, the majestic schooner Fantome came face-to-face with one of the most savage storms in Atlantic history. The last days of the Fantome are reconstructed in vivid and heartbreaking detail through Jim Carrier's extensive research and hundreds of personal interviews. What emerges is a story of courage, hubris, the agony of command, the weight of lives versus wealth, and the advances of science versus the terrible power and unpredictability of nature.

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Review:

In October 1998, a wayward tropical storm blossomed into one of the most powerful hurricanes in modern history. When it finished its devastating course throughout the Caribbean, Hurricane Mitch had killed thousands of people, left hundreds of thousands more homeless, and destroyed whole towns. Journalist Jim Carrier turns up a small but telling incident: the disappearance of a 282-foot schooner called the Fantome. Guided by a young but accomplished English captain and manned by seasoned West Indian sailors, the cruise ship put into port in Belize to discharge its passengers, then set out to sea in an attempt to outrace a storm that, defying expectation, changed its course and in the end sent the Fantome and its crew beneath the waves. All that was terrible enough; added to it was the legal battle that awaited the crew's survivors, one that hung over the disaster "like a poisonous cloud." Following the Fantome's course hour by hour, Carrier covers all aspects of the incident thoroughly and sympathetically. His book makes a compelling companion to Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm as a fine reconstruction of a maritime tragedy, one that does honor to the unfortunate dead. --Gregory McNamee

From the Back Cover:

"An outstanding book. Truly gripping and chilling."--Captain G. Andy Chase, Maine Maritime Academy

Built for luxury on a grand scale, the Fantome was a 282-foot, steel-hulled, four-masted schooner commissioned by the Duke of Westminster in the Roaring Twenties to idle along the French Riviera. She was rescued from mothballs in 1971 by self-made Miami entrepreneur Mike Burke, founder of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, Ltd., who purchased the tall ship from Aristotle Onassis. For the next twenty-seven years, the Fantome lumbered through the Caribbean, carrying passengers on weeklong fantasy cruises, spiced with rum and sun.

Captain Guyan March, thirty-two years old, had spent his entire professional career aboard Mike Burke's aging fleet of tall ships. When he agreed to command the Fantome in the uncrowded waters of the Gulf of Honduras during hurricane season, he knew that a storm would leave him little time to run and few places to hide.

In October 1998, as March and his crew--most of them West Indians and most still in their twenties--neared the end of another cruise season, Tropical Storm Mitch whirled to life like a nebula in the southern reaches of the Caribbean. While hurricane specialists in Miami struggled to decipher satellite photos and conflicting readings, Mitch moved north, then west, ultimately growing into the fourth most powerful Atlantic storm on record as it plowed toward the Gulf of Honduras. After discharging his 97 passengers in Belize, Captain March--with First Mate "Brasso" Frederick, Second Mate Onassis Reyes, and twenty-eight other crew--took the $20 million uninsured ship to sea to try to dodge the approaching storm.

Mitch would become the most destructive hurricane in Western Hemisphere history, leaving 18,207 people dead or missing. It would devastate Honduras. First, though, it would corner the Fantome in a deadly game of cat and mouse, confounding the experts' predictions and countering the ship's every move with eerie precision. Descending on the ship, it would expose every unexamined assumption to 180-mile-per-hour winds and 50-foot seas.

Based on journalist Jim Carrier's exhaustive research and hundreds of interviews--including Windjammer staff and passengers, the crew's families, and experts from the National Hurricane Center--The Ship and the Storm explores the story of the Fantome and Hurricane Mitch from every angle, cutting from the deck of the ship, to cruise company headquarters in Miami, to the research planes flying into the unspeakable heart of the storm, to islanders and coastal villagers in a desperate battle for survival. Heartbreaking and horrifying, this story won't let go.

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Carrier, Jim
Published by International Marine, Camden, Maine (2000)
ISBN 10: 007135526X ISBN 13: 9780071355261
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