The video below was taken by the Coast Guard rescue teams who helped retrieve the survivors from the water. It gives us a good idea of how turbulent the seas were at the time, and this was shot after Sandy moved through. At its full strength, it was impossible for the SAR teams to get to the life rafts, so they had to wait for things to calm down some. When the rescue was underway, the weather was still fairly wild.
The video comes our way courtesy of the Daily Mail and a big thanks to George for sharing the link with me.