Their third and ultimately final fatal mistake was failure to close the life raft's doors and canopy, which left the boarders vulnerable to bitterly cold winds and waves. "By the time rescuers found them," says Taylor, "they were stiff."
The Lovatt disaster has since resulted in compulsory education for commercial seamen, with the centerpiece of this being the Four Vital Actions:
- CUT the raft's painter line and steer clear of the foundering vessel.
- STREAM the sea anchor to prevent aimless drifting.
- CLOSE the raft's doors and canopy to seal out inclement weather.
- MAINTAIN the raft by bailing out water, inflating the floor, checking for leaks, and so on.
Only after you've attended to these should you move on to subsequent actions, such as operating location devices like EPIRB or SART, setting a lookout, and giving everyone a job to promote morale.
I stick a prescription anti-seasickness patch behind my ear and check the Weather Channel. Tropical Storm Isaac is moving north toward Bermuda, and another tropical depression is predicted to become a hurricane sometime later in the week. For the next 24 hours, however, the weather in coastal Miami looks fine but hot.
Five hours of uninterrupted motel room air conditioning later, I join Taylor and Harrison aboard the 54' motoryacht Ciao 2, which is skippered by their friend Craig Bell, a 29-year-old professional captain from South Africa. Joining us are photographer Rob Martin and IYTD Admissions Director Stacy Coakley.
We set anchor nearly out of sight of land. By sunset, spectacular cumulus formations glow in the distance like giant pink babies. Coakley and I grab opposite ends of the Switlik Inflatable Life Raft SOLAS MK-II valise and, on the count of three, toss it overboard. Unlike the raft we deployed in the pool last night, when I trigger the firing pin, it deploys in perfectly right-side-up position.
Coakley and I then help each other step down from Ciao 2 and into the raft. Climbing directly into the raft is best, Taylor says, because you stay dry. In cold water the benefits are obvious, but even in today's 85-degree bullion, staying dry eliminates the likelihood of painful sores-virtually inevitable when salt water, skin, and friction combine.