Duperrault himself had no sailing experience and would need someone to captain the Bluebelle for him. He chose 44-year-old Julian Harvey, who seemed like the perfect person to trust with his ship and his family. Harvey was a former U.S. Air Force pilot who saw action in World War II and Korea, and was highly recognized for his service. In his spare time, Harvey raced his own fleet of yachts. He was described by those who knew him as being “handsome enough for Hollywood.” In fact, Harvey had even held a modeling contract for some time. Harvey would bring with him his wife of four months, 34-year-old Mary Dene Harvey. Mary Dene, former TWA flight attendant who dreamed of being a writer, would help to care for the ship and prepare meals.
The Duperraults left Green Bay that chilly November for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they would meet Captain Harvey and Mary Dene aboard the Bluebelle. Excited to be out of Green Bay’s icy cold weather, the Duperraults would spend a week sailing in the warm, blue waters around the Bahamas. If all went well, Arthur Duperault planned to book the yearlong sailing excursion he had spend so many years dreaming about. What the Duperaults didn’t know was that this would be their last family vacation, and it would end with their middle daughter floating alone, orphaned at sea.
The Bluebelle set sail on November 7, 1961. The ketch headed east toward the Gulf Stream, where it would venture toward the 700 hundred islands of the Bahamas. For four days, the Harveys and Duperraults sailed around the Bimini island chain, then on to Sandy Point on the southwest tip of Great Abaco Island. During their weeklong trip, the Duperault family experienced the perfect tropical vacation. They walked along soft, sandy pink and white beaches, collecting seashells. They snorkeled and swam and took in the views of the wide-open ocean. They didn’t know their joy would come to a horrific end.
On their final day in the Bahamas, a Sunday, Arthur Duperrault visited the village office in Sandy Point with the Harveys to fill out the necessary paperwork to sail the Bluebelle back to the United States. Roderick W. Prinder, then Sandy Point village commissioner, recalled speaking with Duperrault as he and Harvey handled the logistics of their return journey.
“This has been a once-in-a-lifetime vacation,” Prinder recalled Duperrault saying. “We’ll be back for Christmas.”
But that night, everything would go terribly wrong at sea for the Harveys and Duperraults, and only Terry Jo would be able to reveal what really happened aboard the Bluebelle in the ship’s final hours.
That Sunday night aboard the Bluebelle, bound back toward Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Duperraults and Harveys ate a final meal of chicken cacciatore and salad prepared by Mary Dene. Around 9 p.m., a tired Terry Jo headed below deck to her small cabin at the rear of the Bluebelle. Normally, Renee would join and the two would share the small sleeping quarters. That night, however, Renee stayed on deck with her parents and her older brother, Brian. So Terry Jo fell into a comfortable sleep in her small bunk, alone in her cramped but comfortable sleeping quarters. Just a few hours later, however, she would wake to screams and terror, and her life would be forever changed.
Terry Jo awoke in the middle of the night to the terrified screams of her older brother. There were loud bumps and scuffling sounds from above deck. Still alone in her small sleeping quarters below deck, Terry Jo huddled, cold, shivering and frightened in her bed. What horrible things were happened above her, on the deck of the ship? She remained curled up in her bunk, alone and terrified, until she gained the courage to creep up the stairs to find out what was happening on the decks above. She couldn’t know that the screams and scuffles she heard where the last noises she would ever hear her family make.