Ten Hours Until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do

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9780312334369: Ten Hours Until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do

In the midst of the Blizzard of 1978, the tanker Global Hope floundered on the shoals in Salem Sound off the Massachusetts coast. The Coast Guard heard the Mayday calls and immediately dispatched a patrol boat. Within an hour, the Coast Guard boat was in as much trouble as the tanker, having lost its radar, depth finder, and engine power in horrendous seas. Pilot boat Captain Frank Quirk was monitoring the Coast Guard's efforts by radio, and when he heard that the patrol boat was in jeopardy, he decided to act. Gathering his crew of four, he readied his forty-nine-foot steel boat, the Can Do, and entered the maelstrom of the blizzard.

Using dozens of interview and audiotapes that recorded every word exchanged between Quirk and the Coast Guard, Tougias has written a devastating, true account of bravery and death at sea, in Ten Hours Until Dawn.

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About the Author:

Michael J. Tougias is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the award-winning author of more than a dozen books. His book, The Blizzard of '78, was a Boston Globe bestseller. He is also the coauthor of King Philip's Warand There's a Porcupine in My Outhouse (Best Nature Book of 2003---Independent Publishers Association). He lives in Franklin, Massachusetts.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One
The Gathering Storm

Frank Quirk, Jr., often spent the night aboard the Can Do, and on the morning of February 6, 1978, he awoke on his vessel wondering when it would snow. The prior evening’s weather forecast called for snowfall to begin in the early-morning hours, yet there wasn’t a flake in the sky, just low leaden clouds and a bitter cold breeze. He could have caught a little more sleep, because no piloting jobs were scheduled, but that wasn’t his nature. The forty-nine-year-old former navy Seabee (construction battalion), with a wife and three children, was disciplined and full of energy. Although Frank’s crew-cut style hair was mostly gray, he kept in tip-top shape and was quite strong, with a stocky build. He was well liked, with an easygoing manner and a ready smile.

Frank had been plying these waters for over twenty years and had a healthy respect for the sea, but he also knew the location of most every peril and felt comfortable navigating his boat in all kinds of weather, even on the darkest nights. He considered himself quite fortunate: his work allowed him to be his own boss and, instead of being trapped in an office, he could be on the ocean nearly every day. Frank loved the sea, both the freedom it affords as well as its challenges and ever-changing nature. He felt the same about the Can Do, which he had dubbed with the Seabees’ motto.

Among Gloucester’s fishing and boating community Frank was well known. He had received two Mariner’s Medals for heroism at sea and countless times aided boaters in distress. Sometimes he just brought fuel to a skipper who had run out of gas, or dived overboard to retrieve a pair of eyeglasses dropped by a careless boater. One recreational boater recalls radioing for assistance when the engine on his runabout conked out on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Frank was relaxing on the Can Do, several miles away. When no boaters close to the runabout came on the radio, Quirk went on the air, offering a tow from Gloucester to the boat’s home port in Marblehead, several miles away. The tow and return trip consumed six or seven hours of Quirk’s day off, but he refused to accept any payment. He usually just said, “It was nothing at all,” or if the boat had fishermen aboard, “Just throw me a fish next time you see me.” His kids said Frank brought home a lot of fish and lobsters.

On that Monday morning, Quirk was listening to the marine radio in the Can Do’s wheelhouse. Surrounded by small rectangular glass windows, he had a good view of Gloucester’s inner harbor, where all manner of boats were docked, from battered and rusting fishing trawlers to sleek modern pleasure yachts. The National Weather Service was announcing an updated weather forecast, saying the snow was still coming and would be accompanied by high winds. Meteorologists explained that the snowfall could be significant and some even used the term blizzard, but few gave any inkling that New Englanders were about to be pounded by a blizzard of incredible proportions. New England’s “storm of the century” was on the way, heading directly up the eastern seaboard toward Massachusetts.

The storm was a deceptive one at this early stage. It was located off the Maryland coast, and during the morning hours the mid-Atlantic states as well as New Jersey and New York were receiving significant snowfall accompanied by strong winds. This region, however, was absorbing just a glancing blow compared to what was in store for Massachusetts and Rhode Island, because with each passing hour the storm intensified. The storm was strengthening so rapidly, meteorologists later would refer to it as a “bombo-genesis” or simply a bomb. As it moved north, winds would go from “strong” to hurricane-force, clocked at a ferocious 92 miles per hour when they reached Massachusetts. Winds of this magnitude caught everyone off guard, and no meteorologist predicted the other surprise the storm had in store—that it would stall south of Nantucket Island, allowing it to concentrate its full strength just to the north, along coastal Massachusetts. Before the storm finally headed out to sea its raging winds coupled with three feet of snow would claim ninety-nine lives.

After a quick breakfast, Frank did a little engine maintenance down in the underbelly of the Can Do, followed by some paperwork. About the time his work was finished, the wind began kicking up a considerable chop in the harbor. A few flakes of dry snow began falling as Frank left the Can Do and walked to his car, pulling the collar of his jacket more snugly around his neck in the cold breeze. His coat was a gift from the Gloucester Coast Guard Station, an olive green officer’s jacket, which Frank wore with pride. He hopped in his car and drove southwest on Rogers Street and Western Avenue, along the waterfront, passing the Coast Guard station and the Fisherman’s Memorial, where the names of hundreds of men lost at sea are etched in granite blocks. At the western end of Gloucester Harbor he crossed the drawbridge that spans the narrow canal connecting the harbor to the Annisquam River. Then he turned right on Essex Avenue and pulled into the parking lot of the Cape Ann Marina, where a large American flag snapped overhead. Frank was greeted by his friend and marina vice president Louis Linquata, who was not surprised to see him. Frank always wanted to be near his boat during foul weather and make himself available just in case the Coast Guard needed his services.

Linquata and Frank were joined by maintenance supervisor Gard Estes, and the three men fanned out to the marina’s many docks to secure boats and equipment. A few people lived on their boats year-round, and as Gard tightened lines he made sure no one intended to remain aboard a boat during the storm. The breeze died down briefly, and in the eerie calm Gard noticed he was being followed by three seagulls, walking on the dock just three feet behind him. When he stopped they stopped, but as soon as he resumed walking they stayed right at his heels. Usually the gulls gave Gard a wide berth, yet that day they followed him everywhere, as did two ducks in the water, and he wondered if the birds knew something about the coming snow that he didn’t.

When the men’s work was done at 1:00 p.m. they went inside for lunch and a beer. The marina’s restaurant and lounge were only a few years old, and its furnishings still looked new. One of Gard’s friends had recently added his own personal touch, bringing in a six-foot-long Styrofoam bluefin tuna and hung it on the back wall “to add a little more character.” The tuna was so well crafted that most customers thought it was a mounted specimen caught off Georges Bank. On one side of the restaurant a polished wooden bar with a blue Formica top ran from end to end, and adjacent to that was a wall of large glass sliding doors that opened to a deck above the river. The other two walls were finished with rough pine, stained a light gray, giving the restaurant a rustic feel. In the back corner, a large metal cone-shaped fireplace radiated heat, emitting a pleasant scent of wood smoke. The restaurant and bar had become a cozy meeting place for Frank’s wide circle of friends from Gloucester, including cops, carpenters, and fishermen.

Sitting down to a bowl of steaming chowder at the bar, Frank looked out the sliders and noticed how the wind had picked back up and was angrily stirring the black waters of the Annisquam River. The snow was still relatively light, but it was now being driven horizontally each time a particularly strong gust swept up the river from the ocean. During lunch the three men discussed the latest weather reports and learned that the snow was piling up in Providence, Rhode Island, ninety miles away, and that peak gusts of wind at Boston’s Logan Airport had hit 45 miles per hour. At this point it was still possible that the storm might swing out to sea and spare Gloucester, but their eyes told them otherwise; outside the sky was getting darker and it looked more like dusk than midday.

Over the course of the afternoon the men were joined by other friends: commercial fisherman Kenneth Fuller, thirty-four, of Rockport; Norman David Curley, thirty-five, a Gloucester electrician; and thirty-six-year-old Don Wilkinson of Rockport, who managed the Captain’s Bounty Motor Lodge. The men were relaxed, eating chowder and sipping beer while shooting the breeze, glad for an early end to the workday because of the approaching storm. Being the only customers in the restaurant, they could be as noisy as they liked, and because they were all such good friends they started teasing one another. Some of the men were standing around the bar, others sitting and smoking cigarettes. Frank enjoyed himself as much as his friends, but he also had one ear glued to the radio, monitoring the news about the storm.

At midafternoon the group was joined by Bill Lee, an oil barge captain who filled commercial vessels with fuel. Lee knew all the men, as their paths frequently crossed either on the waterfront or in the harbor. He and Frank had a lot in common, as they were both navy Seabees and they saw each other almost every day while they were working. Sometimes Frank would be in the Can Do waiting to off-load a pilot and Lee would be right next to him in his barge waiting to fuel the ship. Lee considered Frank an excellent mariner and very competent.

Lee socialized with the other men at the marina and recalled how nobody called Curley by his real first name of Norman, because he went by his middle name, David. “He was a quiet guy,” said Lee, “but he could be very funny. And he could take a joke, too: we always gave him the business about his bald head. He was at home on boats, because he had a twenty-four-foot cabin cruiser that he loved. He was always there to do a favor. Don...

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Book Description St. Martin s Griffin, United States, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the midst of the Blizzard of 1978, the tanker Global Hope floundered on the shoals in Salem Sound off the Massachusetts coast. The Coast Guard heard the Mayday calls and immediately dispatched a patrol boat. Within an hour, the Coast Guard boat was in as much trouble as the tanker, having lost its radar, depth finder, and engine power in horrendous seas. Pilot boat Captain Frank Quirk was monitoring the Coast Guard s efforts by radio, and when he heard that the patrol boat was in jeopardy, he decided to act. Gathering his crew of four, he readied his forty-nine-foot steel boat, the Can Do, and entered the maelstrom of the blizzard. Using dozens of interview and audiotapes that recorded every word exchanged between Quirk and the Coast Guard, Tougias has written a devastating, true account of bravery and death at sea, in Ten Hours Until Dawn. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780312334369

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Book Description St. Martin s Griffin, United States, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the midst of the Blizzard of 1978, the tanker Global Hope floundered on the shoals in Salem Sound off the Massachusetts coast. The Coast Guard heard the Mayday calls and immediately dispatched a patrol boat. Within an hour, the Coast Guard boat was in as much trouble as the tanker, having lost its radar, depth finder, and engine power in horrendous seas. Pilot boat Captain Frank Quirk was monitoring the Coast Guard s efforts by radio, and when he heard that the patrol boat was in jeopardy, he decided to act. Gathering his crew of four, he readied his forty-nine-foot steel boat, the Can Do, and entered the maelstrom of the blizzard. Using dozens of interview and audiotapes that recorded every word exchanged between Quirk and the Coast Guard, Tougias has written a devastating, true account of bravery and death at sea, in Ten Hours Until Dawn. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780312334369

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