It rolled in like a blanket sometime during the night. No one onboard is really sure what time it was. I questioned the night watch and they don’t remember seeing the weather patterns change at all. It’s like their memories of the four hour watch were wiped clean.
I went down to the radio room and had them contact our command and control ship to check the weather but the message was full of static and you could get every three words if you were lucky.
‘___ fog ___ ____ ships ____ ____ ____ anchor’
The message repeated itself over and over, like a looped recording, playing for anyone that could hear it. From the radio room, I moved to ops to see what was on the radar but it was worse than the radio message. One solid mass over our small fleet. Four ships that should be lined up abreast of each other but there was nothing to see. Radar just showed one large red mass.
Finally I spoke to my other officers and got their input. Some suggested moving on with our course but the compass was out. It just spun in circles confused like someone that had just spun around a bat.
Finally I made my decision. We should only be in a couple hundred feet of water so I was going to drop the hook. I ordered all exterior lights on and called away the orders to set the anchor detail.
It’s been five hours and we’ve seen no change. 1300 Hrs and there is no sunlight outside. Despite the crushing fear that occupies my body, I stepped through the hatchway to the bridge wing to get a good feel of what was happening. There was the slight pitter patter of a gentle rain mixed in with the overbearing gloom of the fog. This is the tropics. There shouldn’t be this type of fog.
As I turned to walk back into the bridge I saw a light in the distance. Very faint but it looked like a navigation light for another ship. We couldn’t wait here for this fog to burn off so I ordered the anchor to be lifted and to get under way at 5 knots. Slow, but safe. I nudged the helmsman and pointed out the light issuing the order to follow it, but if it starts getting closer to go to all stop.
At that slow speed our ship should have been bounced around like an old carnival ride but the sailing was smooth. We followed that light for about two hours before we finally hit a spot where the fog was lifting. Just as we reached the edge of the boundary, I saw the ship we were following. It was an old three masted schooner and as I looked up in the sky to see what the cloud cover was like, I swear for a split second I saw some old WWII TBM Avengers flying cover.
I looked back at the ship and it was gone. Shifting my bewildered gaze back to the sky I saw the planes were missing also.
Calling to the navigator, I asked if the compass was back up and he stated it was and we were headed due south on a heading of 180. I had him plot our location and the navigator reported our exact location was 19°26’47.88”N by 63°36’03.95”W. This put us about 20 miles East Northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Just outside the southeastern border of the Bermuda Triangle…
Benjamin Kotz, Capt.
USS Jersey BC-101