There is absolutley no doubt that this is a very sad event and what happened to the folks on the boat should never have to be endured by anyone at sea.
As it happens, Judith Sleavin is a friend of the family and we have heard the story told and retold. Judith has co-written (along with her friend Hester Rumberg) a book recently published called Ten Degrees of Reckoning that tells her story.
I have read the story and as I said, debated it ad nauseam and my family will want my blood for saying this but . . . . . whilst not trying to defend the actions of the crew of the freighter, the COLREGS require that if a collision is imminent all vessels should take avoiding action. It seems that the Melinda Lee never did.
Sorry if this appeared to be a thread hijack - never intended that.
I haven't read the new book, but I do recall distinctly the article that she participated in with I believe Sail Magazine back in the mid-late-90s. That article provided much more info (some of it contradictory) than the article to which Smackdaddy linked.
First, my heart goes out, and always has, to her. And there seems to be no question that the ship was egregious in its conduct.
But I also recall that Ms Sleavin was on watch and had gone below to prepare a drink or food, and spent some time at the nav table. I remember when reading the Sail article that I felt very uncomfortable with the amount of time it would take to do those belowdeck tasks.
Then again, I am just finishing reading Tania Abei's Maiden Voyage
, and was stunned to learn that during her solo circumnavigation she would simply button up the boat and go to bed for the night without keeping watch!! Eventually her luck ran out too, and she collided with a ship, but fortunately survived to tell her tale.
The Sleavins fared much worse. And given Judith's at most very brief lapse in watchkeeping, it seems cruelly unfair that her family should have come to such a horrific fate, when another sailor made it 4/5 of the way around the world with barely keeping a night watch.