Imagine you are the captain of a 47 foot sail-boat that has just been swallowed whole by a roiling cauldron of waves. Escaping the sinking boat by the skin of your teeth, you and your two man crew barely manage to haul yourselves into a torn raft that just about manages to stay afloat. Howling monster waves that reach an incredible eighty feet buffet the raft, slamming into them with a force hitherto unseen and toss the survivors around like ragged dolls. Just when you have spent your strength righting the boat for a third time, the dreaded signs of hypothermia begin to set in. Before even getting into the raft, you have broken ten ribs after getting rammed into and by various moveable objects in the ship’s cockpit only moments before the damn thing sunk like a stone. If this whole scenario reads like something straight out of an apocalyptic playbook, then brace yourself. This was exactly what was experienced by the crew of Sean Seamour II when three intrepid sailors attempted a transatlantic crossing and were pitchforked into a storm of indescribable proportions just off the Gulf Stream. Their nightmare experience is captured in stunning detail by Michael J. Tougias in his rip roarer of a book, “A Storm Too Soon.”
In a brilliantly researched book, bestselling author Michael Tougias, narrates the hair raising and singularly terrifying experiences of Rudy Snel, Jean Pierre “JP” de Lutz, and Ben Frye in a manner that will have the reader shell shocked, poleaxed and stupefied. JP the intrepid captain of Sean Seamour II was no stranger to pain and trauma even before the Gulf Stream incident. Having a sadistic and abusive ogre for a father, he had a pot of boiling water poured over him when he was just ten years old. Making it look ‘accidental’, it was a devious strategy formulated by his father to ensure that his estranged wife and JP’s stepmother Betty gets back to him. The agonizing time spent in the burns ward in a hospital, after being in coma for three months, transformed the boy’s attitude to life. The sea became his succour, strength and savior. JP’s dream was to cross the Atlantic from Florida to France in the Sean Seamour II After a careful distillation of candidates, JP hits upon Rudy Snel, and Ben Frye as his designated crew members. The plan is simple, to sail in May, beating the onset of the hurricane season. The sailing path would be northeast toward Bermuda before turning due east toward Europe.
The fate of the voyagers being toyed around by the punishing waves now solely rests on a US Coast Guard crew manning a HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter. Pilots Nevada Smith and Aaron Nelson, Officer Scott Higgins and rescue diver ATS2 Drew Dazzo wage a battle against time and put their own lives and limbs at risk in what can be termed an audacious, if not an impossible rescue. Tougias describes in a fast, spine chilling and goose bumps inducing manner the sequence of rescue, the near misses and ultimate triumph. The hairs at the nape of the neck bristle with trepidation and excitement as the reader is also immersed into the mountainous waves, wreaking carnage. Every mouthful of sea water swallowed by the trio in the raft and the rescue diver induces a gasp in the reader and every successful rescue, makes her applaud, hoot, holler and whistle.
“A Storm Too Soon”, a riveting, arresting and deserving homage to valour, optimism, camaraderie and the innate human attribute of selflessness!