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Author, The Beautiful Darkness: A Handbook for Orphans. @JoshundaSanders on Twitter | @joshunda on IG.

Who Sank El Faro? An Interview With Rachel Slade

Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP

Joshunda Sanders | Longreads | May 2018 | 14 minutes (3,119 words)

El Faro rolled farther into the wind, exhausted by the fight, until her deck edge dipped into the brine. Superheated Caribbean waters beckoned her in. The ship’s floors turned to the sky and became walls, her walls became ceilings. She was going gently into the eternal night of the deep ocean.

Two people remained on the bridge as she sank.

“Captain,” Frank Hamm pleaded. “Captain. Captain.”

Davidson braced himself on the high side of the bridge, looking down what was now the steep ramp of the floor. At the end of it, the heavy seaman was pinned to the corner by gravity and fear. He couldn’t climb up to the starboard side of the bridge to get out. The angle of the floor was too steep.

“Come on, Frank,” Davidson said. “We gotta move. You gotta get up. You gotta snap out of it. And we gotta get out.”

— from Into The Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and The Sinking of El Faro

Rachel Slade has never lived more than five miles from the Atlantic — she lives in Massachusetts and Maine — and her admiration for the ocean ripples through Into the Raging Sea. The poetic gaze of a boat-lover, sailor, rower and coxswain is apparent on every page.

Slade’s book is a comprehensive account of what led to the mysterious October 2015 sinking of the shipping vessel El Faro. While on an oft-charted path delivering goods from Jacksonville, Florida, to Puerto Rico, El Faro sailed directly into Hurricane Joaquin. It was the deadliest American maritime event in more than three decades.

More than the story of how a ship was overcome by a storm, Into The Raging Sea is an allegory for what it means to be a part of the nation’s largely invisible working and middle class. Mariners are literally set adrift and set apart from the rest of us for many weeks and months at a time, out of view and, apparently, out of the reach of the rules and regulations that should protect them. Read more…