Winter storms in the north Atlantic are a forbidding background for the story of the Canope, a ""bad"" ship that brings disaster to her passengers and crew. Refused by the original buyers, she is sold cheaply, serviced incompletely and is on her way with an ad interim Captain, Godde, who has had to take over when his superior collapses in Naples. Aware of her dangerous roll, of the uncooperative attitude of officers and crew, Godde nurses her safely until a distress signal from a cargo ship forces him to decide whether to approach for rescue or continue on his way. He changes course, throws the Canope across the mountainous seas and is himself in trouble when water floods the engine room. The cargo ship is lost, two ships come to the aid of the sinking Canope, and Godde is saved aboard the Virginia, captained by his old friend, reserved and responsible Vox. There the enormity of his behavior in view of the safety of his passengers, the realization of the effect of his actions on his men and of the fact that he has lost the ship for nothing crowd him into a personal hell. A crashing seascape which is as perturbed as the humans, this is grimly effective.