Norman Lepire had been at sea since he was 15. He was a Golden Glove boxer in his youth. Norman had captained the Navigator on its last seven or eight trips and had previously owned two vessels. Captain Lepire was survived by his wife, Thelma; 28-year-old daughter, Marie (Lepire) Flannery-Assa; and son Gary Lepire, who was in the US Marine Corp at the time of his father's death. Norman was also survived by his brothers, Roland Lepire, of Cape Cod; Raymond Lepire of California; and John Lapire of Oregon.
On November 30, 1977, the Navigator left New Bedford for a ten-day trip in the waters east of Nantucket. That night, the scalloper made radio contact with the Oceanic, near the Great Round Shoal channel. The Navigator was never heard from again. The ship was reported overdue, and the Coast Guard began an extensive air-sea search on December 12 over 104,000 square nautical miles. The weather had been cold and snowy, with winds up to 40 knots and fifteen-foot seas. The Coast Guard ended the search on December 17, without finding the vessel, a life raft, or any of the thirteen crew members.
On January 8, 1978, an Italian fishing vessel recovered the body of crew member Richard W. Neild, 90 miles south of Martha's Vineyard.