On 3 August 1991, the Oceanos – initially delayed due to a bomb threat – set out from East London, South Africa and headed for Durban. Captain Yiannis Avranas (born ca. 1940) had been an officer for twenty years and a seaman for thirty. Oceanos headed into 40-knot winds and 9 m (30 ft) swells. Usually, there would have been a "sail-away" party on deck with the ship's musicians and British entertainers Moss and Tracy Hills. However, due to the rough seas, this was held inside in the Four Seasons lounge; most passengers chose to stay in their cabins.
The storm worsened as the evening progressed and when the first sitting of dinner was served, the waiters could hardly carry the trays of food without dropping something. Eventually the Oceanos was rolling about from side to side so badly that crockery and cutlery began sliding off the tables and potted plants fell over.
While trying to make up time due to the earlier delay, the Oceanos encountered rough seas. Earlier repairs to the waste disposal system had not been completed, which meant that a vital ventilation pipe which ran through the watertight aft bulkhead and the non-return valves were not replaced. It's believed that after a series of freak waves slamming against the ship the pipe’s shell plating had burst open spilling seawater and began filling the compartment. At about 9:30 pm, a muffled explosion was heard and the Oceanos lost power. The ship started taking on water, rapidly flooding the engine room. By the next morning rescuers found the Oceanos adrift just off Coffee Bay, listing badly to its starboard side.