"Nobody decided to leave," Cleveland said.
Walbridge said he wanted to "make tracks" to the south and east as fast as possible, Cleveland said, so the vessel could position itself to get the best winds from Sandy.
The captain believed, Cleveland said, that his ship would be safer riding Sandy out at sea, instead of waiting for the storm to hit them in New London. Cleveland said he agreed with that point of view, but there were also good arguments to remain in port.
Bounty first mate John Svendsen testified Tuesday that Walbridge wasn't chasing Sandy, but the captain had said "the ship was safer at sea."
Svendsen testified that as the storm worsened on October 29, he advised Walbridge to abandon ship more than once over a short period. "He said, 'I think we have more time.'" When Svendsen made a third request to the captain to abandon ship, he said Walbridge finally gave the order.
While the 13 other crew members, including Groves and Cleveland, made it safely to two life rafts, Svendsen spent three hours floating alone in his survival suit before Coast Guard rescuers saw his emergency beacon.
The Coast Guard said its goal for the investigation is to determine as much as possible about the cause of the tragedy and whether it was linked to equipment or material failure. Investigators are looking for evidence of "misconduct, inattention to duty, negligence or willful violation of the law."
Did Walbridge make a fatal error? People who weren't there have no right to pass judgment, the captain's widow, Claudia McCann, said last week from her home in St. Petersburg.
Although it's not a criminal hearing, Bounty owner Robert Hansen declined to testify, citing his Fifth Amendment constitutional protections against self-incrimination. Evidence could be forwarded to federal prosecutors.
In Thursday's testimony, Todd Kosakowski of Maine's Boothbay Harbor Shipyard said he raised doubts about Bounty's seaworthiness weeks before it sailed into the storm. He said he told Walbridge he was worried about rotting wood in the Bounty's frame. Walbridge, Kosakowski said, decided against fixing the rot.
"I believe that that could have had an impact on the strength of the vessel," Kosakowski said.
Joe Jakomovicz, a retired manager who worked at the shipyard for four decades, told investigators he disagreed with Kosakowski's analysis. The decay of the Bounty's timbers, he said, wasn't as bad as Kosakowski's assessment. "He's basing his judgment on probably five or six years of experience," Jakomovicz testified.
Claudene Christian's father, Rex, and her mother -- who shares her daughter's first name but goes by Dina -- were also at the hearing. For now, they've declined to speak with reporters.
Their daughter was relatively new to sailing, and told friends in May how excited she was to join the Bounty. A former beauty queen, Christian also said she was a descendant of Fletcher Christian, the infamous mutineer on the real HMS Bounty 220 years ago.
On Friday, her mother sat silently at the side of the hearing room, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief and sometimes taking notes.
The memory of Claudene Christian took a seat at the proceding almost as real as any of the participants.
Several questions focused on the energetic deckhand who had virtually no experience aboard a tall ship, let alone riding out hurricanes. When Cleveland helped her move toward the back of the ship, shortly before it went horizontal, he "told her to stay low. I told her to go aft and to grab the next person I would hand her to."
She never made it home.
During a brief recess, Christian's parents paused at a window near the hearing room in this shipyard town, their arms around each other, looking across the Elizabeth River flowing toward the sea.