SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

October 27, 2012

Perfect Storm skipper leery of Sandy

RALEIGH, N.C. — Ray Leonard knows a thing or two about monster storms. In fact, he's the skipper of the Satori, the 32-foot sailboat that rode out THE perfect storm 21 years ago.

And if he had loved ones living in the path of Hurricane Sandy, which was barreling north from the Caribbean and already was responsible for dozens of deaths, he'd tell them to get out before they need to be saved.

"Don't be rash," the 85-year-old sailor said in a telephone interview Saturday from his home in Fort Myers, Fla. "I would be sure that I had a vehicle that was pretty substantial. I would be sure I had a decent supply of fuel and water — and Graham crackers."

Why Graham crackers?

"Well," he said, "I LIKE Graham crackers. But you COULD have Oreos."

People who've read Sebastian Junger's 1997 best-seller, "The Perfect Storm," or watched George Clooney in the movie version will know Leonard's story.

On Oct. 30, 1991, Leonard and two crew members were several days into their voyage when they were caught in the confluence of three weather systems. They were about 60 miles south of Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts.

One of the crew issued a mayday, and the three were plucked from the Atlantic Ocean by a Coast Guard helicopter.

The book and the movie, neither of which Leonard participated with, portrayed him as drunk and detached. Leonard has always insisted that the boat, which later washed ashore intact, was never in any real danger.

"We were well able and braced for a storm such as that, the perfect storm," the former research ecologist and college administrator said. "I think we were in MUCH better shape than the Coast Guard."

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