Karen Kusanke, a third class cadet from Parma Heights, Ohio, was lookout on the foredeck when the squall came through. "I remember the visibility kept decreasing, but I'm so new I didn't realize what was happening," she said. "I thought the rain was spray. It happened in a split second. Someone said they heard a scream from the fo'c'sle. That may have been me, I can't remember. I was scrambling on the floor [sic]. At the same time we heeled over, the sheet to the flying jib snapped. I was frightened to death. I kept seeing the green running light on the starboard side—it lighted up the water with a green glow—and thinking, my God, are we going to come back up? I have no idea how long it was. There were people sliding all over."
As Kusanke spoke, a first class cadet passed by and glared at her. "Don't make so much of it. It wasn't that bad," he said. Kusanke stared after him with an unuttered "but..." on the tip of her tongue. In the cadet hierarchy aboard Eagle, a third classman like Kusanke is an enlisted man; a first classman is an officer.
As if by unspoken agreement, no one dwelt much, not out loud at least, on the sinking of Marques. The 18 reported lost had indeed drowned. The consensus was, "These things happen sometimes when you go to sea," and the judgment seemed fair. People learning to save lives also learn that not all lives can be saved.
The morning of the fourth day was perfect—smooth sea, nice breeze, bright sunshine. Admiral Nelson was standing on the fantail outside his quarters, admiring it. "You get a day like this, you get everybody to reenlist," he said. But in the afternoon the wind died, and for the next two days life aboard Eagle changed totally. The cadets in the pilothouse, charged with plotting position reports received from the cadet navigator and translating them into pencil lines on a chart, wore holes in the paper with their dividers. Clumps of cadets huddled here and there on the decks, taking instruction in everything from electronic navigation to bandaging an arm amputated at the wrist. In the clear evenings they scuttled about carrying wooden boxes that held their sextants, intent on catching the twilight stars—Vega, Arcturus, Saturn and Mars—and recording their fixes in notebooks.
Time passed slowly. Meals that at the beginning of the race had seemed too close together, now were maddeningly slow to be served. Ennui hung in the air. Everything—land, the race, the news—seemed far away and unimportant. "Do you get any sports?" Cadet Lincoln Benedict asked the radioman. "Naw, not a thing," was the reply. Benedict walked away shaking his head.
"No wind is the second most demoralizing thing on a ship like this," said Cummings on the fifth morning as Eagle drifted 575 miles off Cape May, N.J., and worse, some 300 miles south of Halifax. "The first most demoralizing is turning on the engine."
"There's a big high-pressure system off Cape Hatteras that governs the whole ocean, and that's what we're in," said Martin. "It's a beautiful day for a modern vessel, but it's very hard to make this thing move. You need a good breeze and it has to be steady."
Lieut. Willy Henrickson, in charge of wardroom morale, ran low on movies. In desperation, he dug out Table for Five, a PG-rated film made with, by and for morons. "They traded Breaker Morant for this," he fumed as he changed reels.
Water conservation became an issue. A small engine used for the desalinization of seawater had burned out. The laundry and scullery were "secured," meaning they were closed. Two meals a day were eaten from paper plates, and there were dire threats of "water hours," restricting use to certain hours if everyone didn't shape up. Then a generator overheated after its sea-water strainer became clogged up with jellyfish. Chief warrant officer Dave Winchester, the chief engineering officer, came to breakfast the morning of the sixth day out of sorts after a night of clearing them out by hand. "Dave," Cummings needled, "do they give purple hearts for jellyfish stings?"