Dead Men Tapping : The End of the Heather Lynn II

 
9780071380348: Dead Men Tapping : The End of the Heather Lynn II

The gripping true story of a failed rescue and a tragedy at sea

In the predawn darkness of September 5, 1996, the Heather Lynne II was struck by a barge and overturned in calm seas 10 miles off Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Trapped inside, three fishermen were alive in the diesel-choked air pocket that kept the boat afloat.

Onlookers waited for the Coast Guard, but when a Coast Guard cutter arrived, it carried no divers. Two hours after the collision, rescue divers finally pulled the three men from the capsized vessel scant minutes too late. Rescuers worked frantically to restore life during the airlift to a Boston hospital, but on arrival, the men were declared dead, their shredded knuckles and fingertips mute evidence of the horror of their last hours.

Dead Men Tapping opens four years later in a federal courtroom, where the victims' families are suing the U.S. Coast Guard. As the story unfolds, we come to know the trapped fishermen, their community, their would-be rescuers, the Coast Guardsmen, and the crew of the tug and barge that ran down the Heather Lynne II. These ordinary people, doing what they think is their best, propel Dead Men Tapping to its heartbreaking conclusion.

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From the Back Cover:

"A compelling and complex piece of work."--Chesapeake Bay Magazine

Dead Men Tapping opens in a Boston federal courtroom with the Coast Guard defending itself against a charge of negligence for a rescue gone wrong--and the tragic story unfolds as each witness testifies. Just before dawn on a warm September night in 1996, a 45-foot fishing boat was run down by a 272-foot barge under tow by a tugboat ten miles off Cape Ann, Massachusetts. The boat capsized but remained awash in a calm sea. Fishermen in gathered boats could hear a trapped man or men tapping and yelling for help. The Coast Guard was called.

Kate Yeomans weaves trial testimony around the haunting recollections of witnesses--fishermen, the tug crew, Coast Guardsmen, and others--to re-create the accident, the rescue operation, and the aftermath. Each scene and shifting viewpoint alters and illuminates what has gone before, as piece by piece the mosaic of a tragedy emerges. Who or what caused the collision? Why did the Coast Guard take so long to get rescue divers to the scene? Did the Coast Guard prevent other fishermen from helping?

The truth is hidden in layers of mystery that lure us ever deeper into this suspenseful story, finally to be haunted by the mute testimony of the dead themselves: knuckles shredded from banging on a thick fiberglass hull; tines of a dinner fork bent by a last attempt to pry open a hatch in a desperate search for air. The search for answers moves through fragile fishing communities, the high-stakes bluefin tuna fishery, the business of marine salvage, and the murky byways of maritime law and custom. Skillfully interwoven throughout are vignettes of other rescues and losses that highlight the Coast Guard's chronic problems, their difficult working conditions, and their often contentious relationship with those who earn a living on or under the sea.

We come to know the trapped fishermen, their would-be rescuers, the Coast Guardsmen, the crew of the tug and barge that ran down the Heather Lynne II, and the salvager who might have made all the difference if he'd been called in time. These ordinary people, doing what they think is their best, propel Dead Men Tapping to its heartbreaking conclusion.

A true story of men in peril on the sea

In the predawn darkness of September 5, 1996, the fishing boat Heather Lynne II was run down by a tugboat and 272-foot barge and overturned ten miles off Cape Ann, Massachusetts. A diminishing air pocket kept the boat from sinking and provided the only hope of survival for the three fishermen trapped inside. The shouted pleas and desperate tapping of these men could be heard by would-be rescuers. The Coast Guard was called. This is what happened . . .

"Guaranteed to give the spellbound reader claustrophobia, Dead Men Tapping is a tale of tragedy in the fishing fleet that sizzles with dramatic tension."--Joan Druett, author, In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon

"More people die every year on commercial fishing vessels than in any other profession. Kate Yeomans' riveting book graphically shows the dangers for those who go down to the sea. Anyone interested in the sea should read this book."--Dr. Dennis L. Noble, author, Lifeboat Sailors and The Rescue of the Gale Runner

"Kate Yeomans has done a terrific job in getting her arms around a complicated event. There are clearly lessons to be learned from this tragedy, not only for the U.S. Coast Guard, but for all who go to sea. This is a must-read."--Rear Admiral John Linnon, U.S. Coast Guard (ret.)

In this deftly written account of a commercial fishing boat crew's fateful last hours, Kate Yeomans lays bare the blood-pumping chaos of a high-seas rescue gone awry. She peels back the layers of truth and reconstructs this horrific event, guiding us to places we never expected to go. This is a unique and tragic story told in a redeeming, heartfelt manner."--Spike Walker, author, Coming Back Alive: The True Story of the Most Harrowing Search and Rescue Mission Ever Attempted on Alaska's High Seas

"In Dead Men Tapping, Kate Yeomans captures the suspense and the terror of The Perfect Storm while dramatizing and documenting a series of riveting mysteries that casts an unforgettable shadow over the U.S. Coast Guard and the eccentric rules of the open seas."--Lee Gutkind, author, Forever Fat: Essays by the Godfather and The Art of Creative Nonfiction

"This detailed forensic analysis of a tragic accident makes clear that there is nothing cut and dried about a death at sea."--John Rousmaniere, author, After the Storm; Fastnet, Force 10; and The Annapolis Book of Seamanship

About the Author:

Kate Yeomans grew up on the northeast coast of Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and young son on the banks of the Merrimack River. She holds a Coast Guard 100-ton captain's license and works with her family's deep-sea charter fishing and children's marine education program aboard their two boats. Her award-winning writing has appeared in Boston Magazine, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Commercial Fisheries News, the literary journal Creative Nonfiction, Cruising World, SAIL, and others. A former daily news reporter, she has been a contributing editor at Offshore magazine for eight years and was the senior editor of National Fisherman. A member of the Newburyport fishing community by work and by marriage, she has pursued this story for more than six years.

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