HONOLULU — Three family members attempting their first voyage across the Pacific in a sailboat were left adrift in rough seas hundreds of miles from land when their mast broke in high winds.
Just when they thought they were being rescued, seven hours later, the swell from the arriving cargo ship capsized the smaller vessel, tossing the trio into the cold water.
As the sailboat was destroyed, 9-year-old West James prepared for the worst, "'We're gonna sink. We're gonna die,'" the boy said, according to his father, Bradley James.
Bradley James, 32, said Thursday he tried to keep his son calm as they were in the Pacific for about two hours.
The father and son, along with Bradley's younger brother Mitchell, hit a series of storms while sailing from Mexico to Hawaii and on Tuesday high winds snapped their mast and choppy water overheated their engine about 300 miles from their destination. The trio tried to work up a makeshift sail — but it blew away.
They contacted the Coast Guard and officials directed a massive cargo ship to the stranded 38-foot (12-meter) vessel.
"They were adrift with no hope of survival," said James Kelleher, the ship's captain. "Conditions were bad and worsening. We changed course and immediately began running at full speed over to them."
Things might have seemed to be improving, but instead the nearly 900-foot (275-meter) containership flipped the trio into the ocean early Wednesday.
"If one bad thing goes wrong, it just seems like it gets worse and worse and worse and that's what happened," Mitchell James told Hawaii News Now.
All three arrived to Honolulu aboard the containership early Thursday.
"They're doing great," Kelleher said. "They loved getting a hot meal and a hot breakfast."
Jim Storey, spokesman for Horizon, which owns the cargo ship, said the company would be putting up the trio in a Honolulu hotel.
The Jameses set sail from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and headed for Hawaii. The boy's mother and teacher gave him permission to take the trip if he documented the journey, Storey said.
Mitchell James, 29, owned the boat and wanted to be in Hawaii, where the family often vacations, said brother Ryan James.
They had sailed along the coast of Mexico before, but had never crossed the Pacific, he said.
"They seem happy and grateful," said Ryan James, from Alberta, Canada, where they all live. "They were scared the whole time."