Perilous and Heartbreaking, ‘Run the Storm’ Recounts the Tragic Wreck of the SS El Faro [REVIEW]

Hurricane Joaquin

When the SS El Faro is caught in the midst of a savage hurricane, even its brave crew can’t keep it from shipwreck. (Photo courtesy NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

When a well-maintained ship with a seasoned crew travels the same route week after week without incident, by all appearances its next journey should have been a safe one. But when a small tropical storm suddenly becomes a category four hurricane, even the bravest sailors are helpless to resist the destructive power of nature. Discover how a massive vessel like the SS El Faro simply vanished one day in 2015 in George Michelsen Foy’s spellbinding non-fiction account of this devastating true story, Run the Storm. 

George Michelsen Foy's RUN THE STORM


Built in 1975, the El Faro, a massive 31,515-gross-ton merchant ship as long as an eighty-story skyscraper is tall, wasn’t new by any stretch of the imagination. But its age didn’t make it outdated. It religiously kept up with standards upheld by the US Coast Guard, had state-of-the-art navigation equipment, radar that tracked storms 30 miles out, and a communications system that provided access to all the best satellite forecasts and weather alerts.

Its crew was also one of the best trained in the industry. Her officers had studied at some of the best maritime academies in the world and were licensed by the Coast Guard. They were sea-tested men and women who knew how to handle a ship and navigate the sea, even in the face of a storm. But despite all that knowledge, skill, and time spent on the open water, the Bermuda Triangle and a freak storm called Hurricane Joaquin ultimately claimed all 33 lives on board on October 1, 2015.

But how does something like this happen? By conducting countless interviews, listening to hours upon hours of conversations recorded on the ship’s black box, and scouring notes from the Coast Guard’s inquest hearings following the ship’s disappearance, George Michelsen Foy has pieced together the events that transpired during the fateful last days and final voyage of the SS El Faro to provide us with viable answers. The result is Run the Storm, a compelling, and indeed suspenseful account of the greatest seagoing marine shipping disaster since World War II.

Fans of Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm and Spike Walker’s On the Edge of Survival will love this book. It not only transports readers to the bridge of the El Faro to give us a front-row seat to witness the tragedy as it unfolds, but it also employs Foy’s own maritime knowledge and teaches us what went wrong in a way that is easy to comprehend, whether readers have sea legs or not. Thoroughly enjoyable and horribly frightening, this tale also succeeds in bringing the crew to vivid life, in humanizing them by revealing their relentless courage, even when it becomes apparent that all is lost. And as Foy introduces us to the crew’s families and shares their stories as well, their loss becomes all the more tangible and affecting, which makes the inevitable wreck all the more heartbreaking. If you enjoy true life adventures fraught with peril and honest, gut-wrenching emotion, don’t miss Foy’s Run the Storm. 

George Michelsen Foy

George Michelsen Foy


George Michelsen Foy is the award-winning essayist and author of the non-fiction book Finding North: How Navigation Makes Us Human and 13 novels including his latest, Mettle

He was a prize-winner in the Ep;phany Magazine short-fiction contest of 2017, and a finalist in the Joe Gouveia poetry contest judged by Marge Piercy in 2016. His long-form non-fiction has been published in Harper’s and Rolling Stone and his short fiction has been published in Monkey BicycleApeironNotre Dame ReviewAmerican Literary Review, and Washington Square Journal. 

A former mariner, he currently holds a US Coast Guard coastal captain’s license and teaches creative writing at New York University. He divides his time between Cape Cod and New York. Visit his home on the Web at, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

By George Michelsen Foy
272 pgs. Scribner. $26.

Purchase Run the Storm at one of these fine online retailers: Simon & Schuster, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or IndieBound.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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