Why would a ship sail into a hurricane?

This time last year the American ship SS El Faro went down in a hurricane with the loss of all thirty-three crew (Wikipedia page). It seems impossible ‘in this day and age’ that such a thing could happen. It wasn’t a mechanical issue, or a rogue crew, or pirates, or a freak storm. The Washington Post reported one of the deck officers voiced concern prior to sailing, emailing friends and family, “there is a hurricane out here and we are heading straight into it.”

Yankee magazine has published a deep read that is worth the time for any pilot to read: A Fatal Mistake | The Sinking of El Faro, by Rachel Slade.

El Faro
El Faro file picture

Airmanship and seamanship share meaningful connections. Look at some of these quotes I’ve pulled from the article:

“Even with all our technology, predicting the weather is still very much an art form”

“Many mariners speak wistfully of the peace they find on board, where they are temporarily cut off from the noise of the world.”

el-faro-underwater
El Faro deep underwater

“Technology may have transformed the industry, but the captain still sets the culture aboard ship, just as he did in the 19th century.”

“At sea, knowledge can be the difference between life and death.”

Safely operating through hurricanes (or flying around thunderstorms) comes with an element of danger. The safest thing is too always stay in port. But at some time we must leave. And when we do, we must engage the weather, the ship and the crew. This is the art of seamanship, or airmanship.

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