It was seven minutes to 3 a.m. when the brass clock in the lower cabin of the Sean Seamour II stopped.
For 62-year-old Ottawa adventurer Rudy Snel, it came to represent the precise moment he believed he was going to die.
The clock froze as sea water poured through every crevice of the cabin following the 44-foot sailboat's rollover in near-hurricane-force winds about 257 kilometres off the North Carolina shoreline a little more than three weeks ago.
As one of three crew members aboard the sailboat, it had been a lifelong dream of the hobbyist sailor to cross the Atlantic.
Setting sail days earlier with two men he met via an online sailing forum, Mr. Snel never imagined it would nearly cost him his life.
In the three weeks since the U.S. Coast Guard plucked Mr. Snel and his European crewmates, Jean Pierre de Lutz, 58, and Ben Tye, 31, from the dilapidated life raft to which they clung for hours, they have confronted their mortality again and again -- recounting their survival after the sailboat was swallowed by the sea.
"The main part of it is not just thinking you're dead, but being convinced of it," said Mr. Snel.
He did not know at the time that the winds behind the storm would subsequently be named as those of subtropical storm Andrea -- a storm so powerful that one ship lost 21 containers, the U.S. Coast Guard would eventually rescue nine people, including Mr. Snel's crew, and four people lost at sea have never been found.
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