At the time, John Maragon proudly made reference that he and five shipmates had beaten the devil in the Bermuda Triangle.

In reality, the crew owed their lives to Mason Gamage Sr. The man steered them through a hurricane in a 42-foot sailboat in 1978, making headlines of a story that has turned to legend in the sailing community.

Gamage, who was the captain of the ketch "Intrigue," was a native of Norfolk. He died in September at 93.

Maragon talked about the harrowing 30 hours the crew spent getting smashed around by huge waves and high winds, and how Gamage's calm demeanor played a big role in survival.

"He called us all into the salon and had a piece of paper," said Maragon, 88, of Virginia Beach. "He started telling all of us what to do. Get rid of fuel, lower this, tie this up.

"It was like he had been in this situation before."

Hurricane Kendra formed late in October of 1978, after the crew on Intrique had left port in the Outer Banks heading for Bermuda. In those days, marine weather information wasn't readily available on smaller boats and the six found themselves in a treacherous situation.

"In my humble opinion, he was a great sailor," said Maragon, who spent lots of time on Gamage's boat. "When we were in the bottom between 30-foot waves, looking up, it was pretty scary.

"He never once acted scared."

Gamage assigned two-man watches of four hours each during the storm, making sure one of them was constantly on the marine radio searching for any other vessels.

Finally Maragon reached a German container ship whose captain agreed to contact the Coast Guard in Miami. The captain agreed to stay nearby for several hours, but he decided to give Gamage a bunch of grief for ending up in the situation, Maragon said.

"But it did feel good to know someone else was out there with us," Maragon said.

At one point during the storm, a giant wave hit the side of the boat, almost dipping the top of the mast into the water. Maragon figured that was doing to be all she wrote for the six.

"The boat was so sideways that I came out of my bunk and was on the ceiling," Maragon said. "But Carlton Fulton, he was a football player, he grabbed me so I didn't come crashing down."

The six never made it to Bermuda and never tried to again. They ended up in Charleston, S.C., spending a few days before limping back to the Outer Banks.

Several members of the crew sailed together often over the years, but eventually went their separate ways. The Intrigue eventually was damaged in a fire.

Maragon assembled a plaque of newspaper clippings and photographs for a 2005 wedding. He said he last saw the captain two years ago.

"He was a surfer boy and lived at the south end of Virginia Beach, kind of a charming rascal for a lot of years," Maragon said. "He settled down and had a family.

"But we'll all remember him for what he did those two days in the hurricane."

Lee Tolliver, 757-222-5844, lee.tolliver@pilotonline.com

Locations

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.