In May 2003 the USS McCampbell, a relatively new US naval destroyer stationed out of San Diego, was on patrol in the Pacific region and was tasked with locating and boarding the Luna Wave on our behalf. The McCampbell was a 509-foot destroyer with a crew of 370. She had a top speed of thirty knots and was equipped with two helicopters, big guns, and several different types of missiles. Part of the crew included Coast Guard personnel, who were trained for sea takedowns of suspected drug ships. She might have been a bit overmatched for the Luna Wave, but we were not taking any chances. The end was in sight, and we all waited patiently for the McCampbell to acquire the Luna Wave as a target and move in for the kill, so to speak.
On the morning of May 12, the McCampbell caught up with the Luna Wave. First appearances looked like she was on autopilot, with just one small sail unfurled. The early morning haze had yet to burn off. With no movement on the sailboat, under any other conditions one might have thought it was abandoned. The takedown team approached the Luna Wave in large, high-powered inflatable watercrafts, but they needed to confirm the Luna Wave was a Canadian ship prior to boarding. I’m unsure what the legal ramifications are about boarding a foreign ship, but the US rely on a ship’s flag to denote country of origin. On that morning, with little breeze and the dampness of the haze, the Luna Wave was not showing her colours. Suddenly, from somewhere on the ocean, a breeze blew, the Canadian flag obtained from the Canadian embassy in Bogota fluttered, and the Luna Wave got some visitors.
No one was waiting to welcome the takedown crew. Captain Barry was asleep below deck, and the boat was on autopilot. There was little food or water on board, not nearly enough to make it back to land. What was on board was 1,369 kilos of cocaine with a street value of $150 million. Once the cocaine and Captain Barry were removed to the McCampbell, a line was attached to the Luna Wave in the hope of towing her back to port. This plan failed before it even started. As soon as the McCampbell started getting up to speed, the Luna Wave started taking on water through her metal plates. Towing the Luna Wave at a slower speed was not an option because it would take the McCampbell approximately a week to make landfall, and she was already being tasked with another mission. Putting a crew on the boat to sail it back to port was not an option either because the Luna Wave was not deemed seaworthy, despite what Captain Barry thought of his beloved vessel. A relayed message from the captain of the McCampbell to our Toronto office was made where the options were weighed. It became clear the Luna Wave was not going to be part of the evidence trail. The captain of the McCampbell cut her loose, but as part of the rules of the sea, he could not permit her to drift and become a navigation hazard. The Luna Wave was used as target practice and sent to the bottom of the Pacific to take her place in Davy Jones’ locker."