Capt. Skip Strong and the crew of the 688-foot tanker Cherry Valley em-
barked on what should have been a routine cruise to deliver a cargo of fuel oil.
But In Peril is hardly a tale of the routine. It is, rather, an intriguing, carefully spun true account of the ironic and the improbable — a gripping story of a rescue at sea and salvage operation so extraordinarily audacious in its execution, that no writer of marine fiction could ever hope to conjure its equal.
The authors convey us onto the bridge of Cherry Valley and into the mind of cool-headed Strong as he responds to a U.S. Coast Guard request to render assistance to a tug and its tow in danger of drifting aground on a stormy stretch of Florida’s east coast. We watch as Strong willingly lays his career on the line during a series of demanding maneuvers of Cherry Valley to save the five-man crew of the tug J.A. Orgeron and its tow. Any misjudgment on Strong’s part in getting tow lines aboard the threatened tug will consign Cherry Valley’s cargo of 10 million gallons of oil to Florida’s Atlantic coast — an event that would enshrine Strong’s name in the annals of the world’s worst maritime ecological disasters.
In Peril is also the story of a courtroom confrontation of legal minds and salvage specialists long after the successful rescue of the five men, the tug and its exotic and valuable tow. The tow, incidentally, is the reason for the court case. It is a specially modified barge carrying a fragile fuel cell destined to serve a NASA space shuttle — a piece of high-tech engineering worth upwards of $50 million. Don’t worry though, you won’t need a copy of Salvage Law for Dummies to follow the courtroom maneuverings, which prove to be as delicate and fraught with risk as those with which Strong must guide Cherry Valley through the rescue. But when summations are complete and the judge reads his finding, Strong and his crew learn that they will share in the largest salvage award in U.S. maritime history.
Meticulously researched and engagingly written, In Peril celebrates humble heroism and adroit ship handling in hazardous conditions, and reaffirms the ancient maritime tradition of rendering immediate aid to fellow sailors in distress at sea.
Lyons Press, Guilford, Conn.; 252 pages; $22.95.
J. Gregory Dill
Editor’s note: Twain Braden, the
co-author of In Peril is a contributing
editor to Ocean Navigator.