Reconstructed series of events in an aborted rescue attempt at sea during the Blizzard of the Century.
Syndicated newspaper columnist Tougias looked again at his Blizzard of ’78 (2002) and thought he saw the kernel of another whole tome in the exploits of Massachusetts pilot-boat skipper Frank Quirk and his crew. In 1978, during what turned into a February maelstrom that people who lived through it on the New England coast still vividly remember, Quirk voluntarily put to sea from Gloucester in his 49-foot, steel-hulled Can Do. His aim, with the five who agreed to accompany him, was to offer assistance to Coast Guard units already dispatched to aid an oil tanker, the Global Hope, reported by its panicked captain to have drifted from anchorage and possibly run aground off Salem, down the coast. The author has ably put together the ensuing scenario from taped radio communications and extensive interviews with “Coasties” who were also at sea and with others monitoring the situation that night; but, since the reader already knows full well there’s a tragedy in the offing, the suspense is minimal. Everything is bad, the appalling weather and what its prevailing sea conditions did not only to the Can Do but to the much larger CG vessels. Fleshing it out to 320 pages, however, requires that Tougias abruptly and too frequently digress from the ongoing emergency—which it is from the outset—to present historical notes, shipwreck lore, meteorological perspectives, specifications and missions of various Coast Guard vessels, etc., etc. The net effect is the rather unfortunate one of postponing the inevitable. The notion, raised locally after the fact, that Quirk never should have been where he was is dismissed by the author in favor of the act’s apparent raw heroism.
A must—maybe—for marine disaster buffs; others should watch out for the rocks.