One night, off the coast of Nicaragua, the luxury liner Sulu Sea runs aground on a reef and sinks with great loss of life. At a hearing, her captain, Joaquin O’Hara, is blamed for the disaster. His reputation ruined, he goes into an emotional decline, drinking to excess. Finally, he is reduced to being skipper of a little tramp steamer carrying cargo between the islands and ports of the Caribbean. But smuggling and drugs are endemic to the region hence trouble.
While delivering a consignment of emeralds to a dealer in Cartagena, he is approached by a beautiful Colombian woman who offers him $30,000 to take her and several crates of her personal belongings from Cartagena to Miami. Once at sea, O’Hara discovers that the woman, Gabriela Torres, is the runaway wife of one of Colombia’s most powerful drug lords, and one of the crates she brought aboard contains millions of dollars she has stolen from her husband and the cartel.
The chase is on. Juan Torres wants his wife back, but he wants his money more. O’Hara initially eludes pursuit by sailing directly into the path of a hurricane, but then he decides that if they are to survive, they must become the hunter, not the hunted. When they reach Cuba, using some of Gabriela’s stolen money, they purchase powerful weapons intended to defend their little ship against their enemies.
As they battle against the forces of the drug cartel, Haitian pirates, Guatemalan bandits, and O’Hara’s inner demons, an unexpected bond develops between Gabriela, the sophisticated Colombian aristocrat, and O’Hara, the dishonored, oft- drunken, sea captain. Together they return to the reef where the Sulu Sea went down and dive on the wreck seeking clues to clear O’Hara’s name