From earlier article about how it happened:
On Oct. 15, 2005, Tropical Storm No. 22 was born off the Yucatan Peninsula. Less than two months earlier, Hurricane Katrina had slashed through the Florida Keys with 80 mph winds on its way to throttling Louisiana and Mississippi. Because Legacy was anchored in a hurricane hole, shallow water beside channel marker 15, just a mile off Key West, Katrina was a cupcake.
“Inside the ship, you couldn’t even hear the wind,” he says.
So when Tropical Storm 22 grew into a hurricane named Wilma, bashed into Cancun, then veered sharply toward Key West, Halmos and Captain Ed figured the safest place to be was exactly where they had weathered Katrina, in the shallows within eyesight of the Key West Coast Guard Station.
Even when Hurricane Wilma grew into a massive Category 5 behemoth, packing winds of 184 mph, they thought they could handle it. They lowered the sails, put out three massive anchors and sat tight.
The storm began hitting Legacy at midnight, Oct. 23. At first, it seemed like a repeat of Katrina. So Halmos went to sleep.
At about 1 a.m., he felt a lurch. He got out of bed and the boat lurched again, throwing him down the stairs.
He got upstairs to Captain Ed, who told him the anchors were loose. What neither man knew was that the anchors had snapped in half. They used Legacy’s powerful diesel engines to stay in the shallows for 90 minutes.
Then, water began pouring through the air vents — 11 tons of it in all. They tried to plug the flow, but couldn’t. The danger was not that Legacy would sink, but that the electrical systems would short and spark a fire.
They had to shut down the engines. With no ability to hold her in place, Legacy was sucked out to sea and thrown around “like a leaf in 25-foot waves,” Halmos says. He thinks a tornado spawned by the hurricane hurled Legacy to and fro.
With the radios down, they tried phoning the Key West Coast Guard Station, but everyone there had packed up and fled to Orlando.
The Miami Coast Guard Station was unable to help. “You’re on your own,” they told Captain Ed. “But we’ll be happy to notify your next of kin.”
Inside the Legacy, Captain Ed still had a signal on his cellphone. He offered it to Halmos and the six other crew members in case anyone wanted to talk to their loved ones. But Halmos didn’t call his wife, Vicki, in Palm Beach.
“I don’t have any life insurance and my wife would have been screaming at me saying, ‘See, you should have gotten some insurance.’ “
In deep water, buffeted by 125 mph winds and massive waves, engines out, in pitch black night, Halmos and the crew stood in a circle in the ship’s living room, held hands, and prayed. They all expected to perish. Their only other option was to break out the life raft. “That would have been suicide,” he says.
After a terrifying hour, Legacy began hitting ground — rising up in the waves, smashing back to sea bottom, again and again.
“Finally, we came to rest,” Halmos says.
At first light, with winds still at 60 mph, Halmos and the crew had no idea where they were. The giant masts had snapped and toppled.
To determine the depth of the water, Captain Ed taped a hammer to a pole and lowered it to the water, but the hammer fell off. And stuck upright.
The water was only a few inches deep.
They were saved.
People say, ‘How stupid is he?’ ” says Siegfried, the New York PR
man. “What was he doing in a hurricane in the first place?”
But what else could he do? The closest port that could accommodate Legacy was in Savannah, Ga. “That’s a long way in the ocean with a hurricane chasing you,” Halmos says.