Dateline   |  April 14, 2014

Capsized, part 3

Greg Spooner receives a call from from the U.S. Coast Guard sector San Juan with news that three of the four emergency beacons have been activated by the crew of the James Robert hanssen.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> reporter: and in these recovered videos it's clear that along the way from africa to north america the journey was proving tougher than any of them imagined. remember, adam kreek was missing his pregnant wife and young son.

>> i yearn for land more than i thought i would out here. and i'm going to be excited to get to land. i'm more excited to see becca and jefferson and get on with my life. i find myself thinking a whole lot about what's going to happen after this.

>> reporter: and then one day, back home in british columbia , his wife, rebecca, received a happy surprise on her computer.

>> it's this awesome video that adam was able to send near the end of him talking to jefferson saying, like, hi, jefferson , it's daddy, what did you do today? and then pause. and then jefferson would watch it over and over and over and answer him. he'd be, like, i went to day care .

>> i was wondering, have you been to the park recently? have you been playing with your legos and tinker toys and spending lots of time outside?

>> reporter: a father and son interacting each other separated by days of lag time and thousands of miles.

>> i'm looking forward to hearing back from you. hope you're doing really well. love you lots and i'm going to give you a big squeeze when i see you in miami . then we're going to see the elephants at the miami zoo .

>> oh!

>> love you a ton.

>> reporter: back on the ocean, the rowers continued to battle the high winds and high seas .

>> we're down to four oars. that's serious. that's nothing to shake a stick at.

>> reporter: and it wasn't just the oars that put the expedition at risk.

>> anyway, hope you're doing well. we had a little bit of a power crisis on board today.

>> reporter: the power problems got worse. when their wind-driven turbine malfunctioned. if they completely lost power they'd lose the ability to run the desal nation system that created their drinking water and they'd totally lose the ability to communicate.

>> thought we blew the breakers, thought we destroyed all the electronics.

>> reporter: an expert back on land gave crew crucial advice to help solve the problems. coordinator greg spooner still felt confident the crew was safe. for him, no news was good news.

>> every night i sleep with the phone by my bed. the phone is always at my side. i'm the emergency contact for the u.s. coast guard . so if anything were to happen and the beacons were activated, i got the phone call .

>> we're always going to be struggling with the power. i hope we won't be strug thalg much with the food.

>> reporter: but as tough as it was for the men at sea it was in some ways worse for the families back home. greg spooner tried to soothe rattled nerves, but it just seemed to be taking so long. even markus' little niece was getting antsy.

>> 57 days. that's how much you've never seen land?

>> 1,799 nautd cal miles to miami .

>> that's march 9th .

>> reporter: by the end of march, two months into the grueling adventure, things began looking up.

>> go team!

>> reporter: the crew was finally making good time. adam and patrick were obviously happy.

>> we just finished probably our fastest four days on the water maybe.

>> it's amazing how fast water and fast conditions really raises your spirits here.

>> reporter: jordan's family was encouraged by the progress too. it looked like they'd make miami by the end of april.

>> they've been plotting their position day by day as they come across, and as of last night they were right there headed for here.

>> reporter: and then a strange omen. the boat was about 900 miles off miami . patrick's mother, diana, was overwhelmed with dark thoughts.

>> it was an ominous feeling. when i should be thinking they're home free , i feel like they're going to be in dangerous waters , so to speak.

>> reporter: and then on the night of april 3rd , day 71, markus posted what now seems an eerie blog entry. he wrote he had, quote, a complete lack of fear for death. this probably stems from the death of my mom when i was 5 and how i eventually came to accept it. all just coincidence, perhaps. but jordan, the captain, noticed the weather wasn't quite what he expected.

>> the forecast had estimated that we would have 1.5 to 2-meter waves and these waves were -- not all of them, but there were definitely a few that were up to 4 meters .

>> reporter: a few days later the crew came upon the thick seaweed of the area of the atlantic known as the sargass objection sea. 3 f2 est?bamos navegando. it was saturday, april 6th , day 73.

>> my heart was racing and i was trying to talk to him, and my voice was fluttering and i could feel my whole body was shaking.

>> reporter: greg spooner , more than 4,000 miles away in washington state , was awakened by a phone call from the u.s. coast guard in san juan , puerto rico .

>> and he says there have been three beacons activated aboard the "james robert hanssen ."

>> reporter: but there are four people on the "james robert hanssen ."

>> correct.