At the Mercy of the Sea: The True Story of Three Sailors in a Caribbean Hurricane

Front Cover
McGraw Hill Professional, 2007 - Sports & Recreation - 223 pages
3 Reviews
A " normal" Caribbean hurricane travels from east to west, but Lenny was anything but normal. Spawned south of Cuba in November 1999, this late-season storm defied all predictions by moving steadily east toward the Leeward Islands. Eventually building almost to Category 5 strength, Lenny squatted for two days between the Virgin Islands and St. Martin, whipping the ocean with 155-mile-per-hour winds and 60-foot seas.

In its path in the Anegada Passage were three sailboats and their unfortunate crews: "La Vie en Rose," a 42-foot sloop captained by ex-army lieutenant colonel Carl Wake; "English Braids," a tiny 21-foot racer skippered by would-be elite competitive sailor Steve Rigby; and "Frederic-Anne," a 65-foot schooner rigged for day-sail charters out of St. Martin and skippered by ambitious young Guillaume Llobregat.

None of the men knew each other, yet they converged by fate in a tiny circle of the sea in the midst of a hellish storm no boat could withstand. And even as he battled for survival, Carl Wake lived the crowning hours of his life.

John Kretschmer's "At the Mercy of the Sea" retraces the journeys of these three sailors through life and across oceans. It is a taut, suspenseful re-creation that seeks to make sense of the improbable intersection of three lives at the height of a storm, and a gripping reconstruction of Carl Wake's search for meaning and, ultimately, for his soul. "At the Mercy of the Sea" is much more than a chronicle; it is a requiem for a lost friend. John Kretschmer helped Wake choose his boat, accompanied him on his first passage, and advised him on when to sail to the Caribbean. To write the book, Kretschmer interviewed friends, family, and associates of the sailors, obtained transcripts of their radio calls during the storm, and analyzed the hurricane with the help of the National Hurricane Center. He draws on his own vast sea experience to take us into the heart of a hurricane in a small, frail boat, and to show us how Carl Wake redeemed his life with his final heroic act.

John Kretschmer is a professional sailor and writer who has logged more than 200,000 offshore sailing miles, including fifteen transatlantic and two transpacific passages. He is a longtime contributing editor to "Sailing" magazine, a sailing/travel columnist for the "Miami Herald," and writes regularly for "Southern Boating" and "Cruising World," He has weathered several storms at sea and teaches aspiring blue-water voyagers in seminars, lectures, and training voyages. John is the author of "Cape Horn to Starboard" and "Flirting with Mermaids," He lives in Ft. Lauderdale when he isn' t sailing his 47-foot cutter "Quetzal,"

Praise for "At the Mercy of the Sea: "

" The tale of Carl Wake and the hurricane that was waiting for him goes straight to the heart of the greatest sea stories: they are not about man against the sea, but man against himself. John Kretschmer's book is as perfectly shaped and flawlessly written as such a story can be. In addition to being the best depiction I have ever read of what it is like to be inside a hurricane at sea, "At the Mercy of the Sea" is as moving a story of a man's failure and redemption as can be found anywhere in the literature of the sea. This book is surely destined to become a classic." -- Peter Nichols, author, "Sea Change" and "A Voyage for Madmen"

" JohnKretschmer is a first-class seaman who is also a fine writer. Once begun, his vivid and powerful narrative is impossible to put down." -- Derek Lundy, author, "Godforsaken Sea" and "The Way of a Ship"

" "At the Mercy of the Sea" kept me plunging ahead to the tragic end and left me feeling humbled and lucky to be alive. I felt I knew Carl Wake, because John Kretschmer found in him an archetype-- an aging sailor with an age-old dream." -- Jim Carrier, transatlantic sailor and author, "The Ship and the Storm: Hurricane Mitch and the Loss of the Fantome"

" Gathering his tools as a loyal friend, a master mariner, and a natural storyteller, John Kretschmer has crafted an unforgettable tale of high-seas adventure, salvation, and loss. A remarkable book, impossible to put down." -- Herb McCormick, sailing journalist

" John Kretschmer' s account of three fellow captains whose lives converge in one of history' s most erratic hurricanes builds like the storm itself. Detail after detail reveals the sailors' personal histories, their foibles, their goals, and finally their tragic miscalculations. With expert analysis and taut writing, he draws readers into that mad storm. You can' t turn away. You keep reading until it breaks your heart." -- Fred Grimm, columnist, "Miami Herald"

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I just finished book yesterday. It is a powerful event that will be in my memory for a long time. Another profound true sea adventure of the some I have read: The last voyage of Albatross, Dana, & Cape Horn(One man`s dream one woman`s nightmare). To name some. At 51 myself I don't know if I can one day "live the dream" but given chance I day!! Great read Thank you. D. Boerkamp 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

This is one of the greatest stories I have ever read. John does a brilliant job of drawing in your emotions as you read this book and you are intrigued to continue until the story breaks your heart. The details John puts into the pages of this book are incredible, as only an experienced seaman could narrate. This is not only a good sailing story, but it is a personal account of mans search for his soul. Everyone who has felt lost and misguided in their life can relate to the story of Carl Wake. This book will surely go down as a classic, and will remain at the top of my recommended reading list.  


Into the Eye
A Voice in the Wind

15 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

John Kretschmer has logged more than 200,000 offshore sailing miles. He is a longtime contributing editor to Sailing magazine and the sailing/travel columnist for the Miami Herald.

Bibliographic information