Months ago, I made a timeline with essential (my view) data from official sources, to understand the way into this disaster. Updated and completed with my personal remarks, it follows:
All times EDT.
Times of the NAVTEX are from the docket listing, some minutes later than arrival on the bridge.
05:15 on Sep 30 NAVTEX: Tropical Storm Joaquin will become Hurricane this morning.
Moving SW; next night expected to be at 24.7°/-74.5°, 35 NM North of San Salvador Island.
06:00 - Change of course, more southerly, nearer to the Bahamas islands.
Obviously, they have seen that Joaquin did not perform as foreseen at departure time.
If they have seen the latest NAVTEX… they did not read it.
Captain and CM prepared the new route. CM tried to speak about the Old Bahama Channel, but the captain’s interest seemed to be the ETA, with Joaquin just as a nuisance.
12:13 NAVTEX: Hurricane Joaquin expected to be next night at 24.1°/-74.0°, 22 NM east of San Salvador Island, moving SW, strengthening.
At this time, El Faro is at the northern limit of the Little Bahama Bank, free to go W to the Florida Straits.
14:15 - USCG aircraft on VHF16: Hurricane Warning for Central Bahamas (Salvador, Rum Cay…) and Hurricane Watch for Northern Bahamas (Abaco…). Repeated at 14:38.
Capt and 2M said “wow… an aircraft”, but they confounded ‘Watch for Abaco’, where they were, with ‘Warning for Salvador’, where they went to, Maybe they ‘read’ what they hoped for: Joaquin turns North…
17:00 - 2M and AB-2 had a long discussion about the SAT-C weather for 02:00 “…that’s where we should be and that’s where the hurricane’s gunna be. [sound of giggling.]”
17:12 – CM joined the discussion…”fascinating…”
17:30 – Captain on bridge, informed by CM… will wait for new BVS weather…
17:35 NAVTEX: Joaquin moving SW and strengthening, estimated position on morning, Oct 1, 23.9°/-74.5°.
This expected position of Joaquin is at the southern tip of San Salvador Island !
18:00 - Latitude Hole in the Wall, El Faro at 25.9°/-75°, the last possibility to escape to the Florida Straits, taking the New Providence Channels.
Not used. From now on, the choice was limited to the most or the least horrible route.
19:00+ Captain and CM planned route for the night
19:59 - Captain left the bridge for the night.
Route for the night: Pass San Salvador on its West side, then straight to a point off San Juan !
BVS download from 17:00 – Joaquin’s position at 02:00 = 24.3°/-73.6°
This is 55 NM ENE of the expected NAVTEX position received at 17:35.
For later hours, BVS did not see Joaquin going south of San Salvador
Vive le Bon Voyage, and its lovely colored charts!
23:02 - BVS sent mail to El Faro: Forecast is ready for download.
If downloaded, it would have shown Joaquin going a bit south of San Salvador…
23:05 - After long weather discussions between 3M and AB-3, 3M called the captain and asked to verify his own estimation of being on a collision course with Joaquin.
To AB-3: “he seems to think that we’ll be south of it by then– so the winds won’t be an issue”
23:16 NAVTEX: Joaquin now at 23.8°/-73.1°, moving SW 220°, strengthening.
At this time El Faro is NW of Salvador, at 24.5°/-75.1°, course SE 150°, Joaquin is at 120 NM, bearing 111°.
01:00 on Oct 01 - El Faro West of Salvador Island
01:20 - El Faro position between South San Salvador and Rum Cay, before course change.
After long discussions 2M <> AB-2, 2M calls the Captain on the phone:
We would run into Joaquin’s center, I want to change the plan and go straight South.
To AB-2: he wants to hold on the planned course.
She proposed to escape through the Crooked Island Channel and then join the Old Bahama Channel. A minor route extension of about 80 NM.
With the info they had on the bridge, this was not THE safe route, there was none, but it was the least horrible one.
01:30 - South of Salvador Island, new (planned) course 116°, direct to N off San Juan
…and on collision course with Joaquin.
They chose the most horrible solution.
03:44 - CM on bridge
04:09 - Captain on bridge
CM turned off the sound of the permanent off course alarm.
They are in survival mode now!
04:45 - from BVS’ server log: El Faro finally downloaded the 23:02 forecast.
I did not mention the other BVS downloads: they were always outdated and false…
05:18 NAVTEX: Joaquin now at 23.4°/-73.7° moving WSW at 4 knots, intensifying.
This estimated position and El Faro’s AIS position would be 9 NM apart!
05:43 - Water ingress detected (the scuttle).
06:13 - El Faro lost propulsion…
07:35:45 - Last AIS data received
07:39:41 - End of VDR recording