Arthur Duperrault, an optometrist from Green Bay, Wisconsin, had long dreamed of taking his family sailing. He wanted to travel from island to island and cruise around the world to escape the rough Wisconsin winter. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Wisconsin was −55 °F / −48 °C. In 1961, he decided to fulfill his dream and take his family on a year long vacation at sea. Duperrault brought with him his wife, Jean, and his kids: Brian, 14, Terry Jo, 11, and René, 7. The family had initially planned to head for the Bahamas to try out life at sea on a chartered yacht, however, things didn’t turn out as planned.
Terry Jo was only 11-years-old when her father took her on a yacht trip with her family.
In 1961, Duperrault chartered the luxury yacht the Bluebell from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with his family. The two-masted sailboat was to be captained by former Marine and World War II veteran Julian Harvey. Harvey’s wife had also planned to travel with the family on the cruise.
On November 8, 1961, the Bluebelle, with a 115-horsepower Chrysler engine, took off from Ft. Lauderdale and set sail to the Bahamas. Julian Harvey, his new wife and the Duperrault family sailed gracefully through the deep blue waters of the Gulf Stream. Harvey piloted the Bluebelle farther east to the southwestern tip of Great Abaco Island.
The family spent the week snorkeling as well as collecting shells.
Everything was going perfect for the first four days of the journey. Duperrault was happy that he was able to give his family the vacation he had always dreamed of. However, on the fifth night, loud screams and stomping noises from above the deck woke up Terry.
Around 9 P.M. Terry had decided to to call it a night and go to her cabin that was located at the rear end of the boat. Her sister René also slept with her in the small cabin, but that particular night, she decided to spend some time with her brother and parents at the cockpit. As Terry was falling into deep sleep, loud screams and stomping noises woke her up.
Terry woke up to hear her brother screaming “Help, Daddy! Help!” which was followed by someone running and then complete silence.
By midnight, Terry woke up to the screams and loud noises. Scared for her own safety and life, Terry laid in her bed shivering in the darkness. Five minutes later, she decided to get out of her cabin and check on her family. As she walked up the stairs and onto the deck, she saw her mother and brother on the floor filled with blood. She immediately knew they were dead. Terry kept walking up and at the starboard side of the boat, saw more blood. As she turned to face towards the front end of the cockpit, Julian Harvey, their captain, walked towards her, slapped her in the face and pushed her back down the stairs.
Terry, who was terrified, went back to her cabin and laid on her bed. A few minutes later, she noticed water coming into her cabin. Terry Jo once more went above deck where she saw Harvey. She asked him if the boat was sinking, to which he replied, “Yes”.
Harvey then told Terry to hold on to the rope for the dinghy, which was tied to the yacht. However, the rope slipped out of Terry’s fingers. When Harvey saw that, he immediately jumped into the water and tried to recover it. Terry, who was aboard the sinking Bluebelle, saw Harvey and the dinghy fade into the cold and dark night.
As the frigid water was devouring the Bluebelle, Terry remembered that there was a life raft aboard the vessel. She ran to the main cabin, grabbed the raft and pushed it into the open water. By this time, the water had already reached neck-high and Terry was barely swimming and crawling through the water. She managed to climb aboard the raft with no food or water. She did not even have a blanket to cover herself.
The 11-year-old then spent the next 84 hours alone in a tiny raft.
Terry Jo was now stuck in the middle of the ocean on a tiny raft with no food or water. She was wearing a thin blouse and pink pants, exposing her to the scorching heat from the sun during the day and cold frigid air at night. To all odds, Terry clung on to her life for 84 agonizing hours.
On November 12, the freighter Gulf Lion found Harvey aboard the dinghy, rescued him and brought him back to a U.S. Coast Guard site in Miami. He informed the Coast Guard officer on duty that the yacht he was piloting was damaged by strong winds, and when the masts collapsed, the vessel sank. Harvey described that he was lucky enough to escape on the dinghy but everyone else died when the gas lines in the engine room ruptured and the vessel caught fire.
Nicolaos Spachidakis, the second officer of the Greek freighter Captain Theo, was scanning the waters of the Northwest Providence Channel when he spotted something unusual. In between the hundreds of boats between the Bahamas and Florida, he noticed a single dot on his radar. The dot was too big to be wreckage debris and too small for a boat that far out in the sea.
Spachidakis immediately informed his captain about his finding, who advised the freighter to change direction towards the speck. As the freighter pulled over next to the speck, the captain as well as the crew, were stunned to see a blonde haired girl, alone on a raft. She was barely alive but hanging on to dear life. After being rescued by the freighter, Terry was airlifted to a Miami hospital where she spent the next 11 days.
A week after her rescue, authorities questioned Terry to find out what had happened aboard the vessel. Terry’s story did not match Harvey’s and they decided to pay him a visit. However, after learning that Terry was rescued, Harvey, who was staying at the Sandman Hotel in Miami, took his own life. His body was discovered by a maid after following a pool of blood which was oozing out of his room.
After learning what really happened in the vessel, authorities believe that Harvey killed his wife to collect the $20,000 insurance in her name, however, he was caught mid act by Duperrault. Believing he had no other way to hide his crime, Harvey decided to kill everyone. The authorities, however, are still unsure as to why he spared Terry’s life. Did he believe that she would never survive on her own out in the sea? Or did he feel sorry for her and couldn’t face the reality that he had murdered her whole family? Whatever the case is, we will never know.
Terry survived the whole ordeal without any lasting injuries. She changed her name to Tere when she was 12 and gave an interview with CBS news in 2010.