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Interview

First-hand account of the sinking of the Concordia Add to ...

The following is the transcript of an interview with Mark Sinker, a history and English teacher who was aboard the SV Concordia when it capsized last week off the coast of Brazil. Mr. Sinker, 27, arrived back in Canada on Monday morning.

What were you doing when things started to go wrong?

So I was in the mess teaching a history class. And as we were proceeding with the class sort of noticed some water coming in on the port side, left side of the ship. And a little bit concerned, but sometimes the water level does get pretty high because we often keel.

But a few waves came in and we realized that it was serious. We managed to climb out of the mess and by that time the ship had, I guess more or less, the mast had fallen into the water and I guess it was a 90 degree angle in a sense. And we were able to help each other up and sort of sit on the hull and then we were able to move closer to the stern, the back of the ship.

And then as this was happening myself and a few other students were able to keep pulling people out from the mess. Other students distributed life jackets and immersion suits, which are just large suits that are designed to keep people warm in cold water. So as we were doing that we were able to get one life raft at the back of the ship deployed with students on it.

Myself and two other students along with the captain, there were a few life rafts that were inflated but they were sort of stuck so we worked together and we were able to dislodge them and get those free so that we could the rest of the crew onboard and then we managed to get everyone on the life rafts a few minutes before she sunk almost completely.

So it was great timing and then myself and the cook and a couple other students took turns - we wanted to paddle away. We were concerned about getting caught with the sinking vessel in the life raft. But we found out that we were still attached, so we had to cut the rope and then we were fine. And then a few minutes later we were able to connect with two other life rafts. And then we connected and checked to see how everyone was doing. A few people were seasick. A lot of people were obviously shocked as to what was going on but students overall performed magnificently, great teamwork, great leadership. Keeping their heads level-headed and making sure everything got done.

...

There were a few people who were upset and most people, of course, were worried. But there was a sense of urgency but it didn't shut people down. People were still able to use their heads. They were able to function and they were able to work as a group and say, "OK this is what you need to do now and they were able to do it."

And then in the life rafts we simply took anti-seasickness pills just to ensure that everyone was doing well. And I guess just waited and waited to be rescued. And then we spent a number of hours in the life raft, I think about 41 hours in total, I think it was for us. And overall morale was pretty high, we found. There were times when it was pretty low. Our life raft seemed to consistently leak and so we were often sitting in a pool of water, but we kept bailing, which actually was good because it gave them something to do as well. And some of the students occasionally would sing a song and just really help each other out. It was a tight squeeze but we were able to stay confident in knowing that someone would come and get us eventually and eventually they did.

You're in the mess teaching. Where is the mess on the boat?

The mess would be closer to the front of the ship.

And then people evacuated from the back of the ship, you said?

We evacuated sort of out through the mess and then went closer to the back. I think the life rafts that we got into were about mid-ship, so I guess the middle of the ship. But there was another life raft that they were able to deploy and that was at the back.

How were you able to get from the ship to the life raft? Was the ship still upright when you guys got off?

No, the masts were in the water. So we were able to sort of climb around the ship and then a bit of a jump, not much of a jump. I think maybe one person ended up in the water; we pulled them right in. Most people were able simply from the ship jump right into the life raft. How many life rafts were there?

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