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Review

High Seas High Risk, The Story of the Sudburys is a roller coaster of a read, chronicling the adventures of two BC-based salvage tugs and the man behind them, Harold Elworthy.

Island Tug & Barge's Sudbury first came to the public's attention in December 1955 when the ocean-going tug rescued the Makedonia off the Aleutian Islands. For the next 20 years the Sudbury, and later her namesake the Sudbury II, provided fodder for frequent newspaper accounts of high drama and daring rescues at sea.

Author Pat Wastrall Norris spent three years researching the story by tracking down old Sudbury crew members with ads in newspapers, perusing miles of microfiche and contacting every organization that she could think of that might have information on the Sudburys. The result is a comprehensive history packed with details and awash with excitement and humour.

Every bit as interesting as the vessels' towing and salvage operations are the slice-of-life vignettes which present the crews of the Sudburys and their life at sea. Mean-tempered alcoholic cooks, inexperienced crews and bizarre working conditions were more frequent than not. The word used for the Sudbury II's crew accomidation was "atrocious." It had no ports, no insulation and no air conditioning which meant that crews froze in the winter and roasted during the summer. One man actually suffered heat exhaustion while asleep in his berth!

Harold Elworthy was a businessman with a gambler's instincts. He started with nothing but by following his shrewd hunches and being willing to take risks, he rose to be a maritime giant. The salvage business was of great importance to him and his men knew they could contact him by radio phone any time of the day or night. As one man said "H.B. loves salvage. At any hour he's in there like a burglar."

Having grown up on a tugboat based out of Telegraph Cove, Norris thought writing about the Sudbury's would be easy. As it turned out she learned just as much as she knew. In turn she uses the crew's voices to tell the stories of the "black gang," the intricacies of Cooper-Bessemer engines and the vital role of a ship's cook.

Norris presents the Sudbury/Elworthy story in an easy to read package illustrated with black and white photographs of the vessels and their crew. She is also author of Time and Tide: A History of Telegraph Cover.

by Paula Wild
Comox Valley Record