Maritime survival writer Michael Tougias plunges into something new
Plymouth resident Michael J. Tougias is best known for chronicling drama on the high seas.
The 59-year-old author has made a career out of recounting true tales of sea survival, and over the years has published 23 books. One of them — “The Finest Hours,” which he co-wrote with Marshfield author Casey Sherman — is now being made into a movie by Disney.
Tougias has just released two new books — “Rescue of the Bounty: Disaster and Survival in Superstorm Sandy” and his first father-daughter memoir, titled “The Cringe Chronicles: Mortifying Misadventures with My Dad,” which he co-wrote with his daughter, Kristin, 25.
“The Cringe Chronicles” is quite a departure from his other books, and Tougias, in a recent interview, chuckled as he explained that it’s about “survival of a different kind.” It documents a bunch of funny incidents from Kristin’s teenage years, told from Kristin’s point of view, and at the end of each chapter, he weighs in with his fatherly opinion on the events she described.
“It’s a great little book for both teens and parents,” he said. “You see it from both perspectives.”
There are stories about Kristin’s first job, family vacations, and their encounter with a shark while snorkeling in Maui.
When they first embarked on the project six years ago, Kristin was still a teenager. She has since graduated from Providence College and now lives in New York City.
Tougias said of all the books he’s penned over the years, “The Cringe Chronicles” is the one he’s most proud of, because of the unique format and “because Kristin and I stuck to it.”
He said he got to watch his daughter “grow as a writer” throughout the process. After putting so much into the project — writing, editing, revising, proofing — they are happy to see the finished product that they created together.
Tougias describes the book as “fun, weird, and lighthearted,” and said collaborating with his daughter was a “nice change of pace” from his other work, which has included historical nonfiction like “King Philip’s War: The History and Legacy of America’s Forgotten Conflict” and several nautical nonfiction titles including “A Storm Too Soon,” “Overboard: A True Bluewater Odyssey of Disaster and Survival,” “Fatal Forecast: An Incredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea,” “Ten Hours Until Dawn,” and “The Finest Hours: The True Story of the Coast Guard’s Most Daring Rescue,” the co-written documentary being made into a movie. Chris Pine (of “Star Trek” fame) is in talks for a leading role.
More recently, Tougias co-wrote “Rescue of the Bounty” with New Jersey-based veteran journalist Douglas A. Campbell, a former staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, chronicling the events leading up to the 2012 sinking of the Bounty, a replica tall ship that was modeled after an 18th-century British sailing vessel. The iconic wooden ship was built in 1960 specifically for the Marlon Brando film “Mutiny on the Bounty,” and later appeared in “Treasure Island,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and other films. It was later based in Fall River, and spent its final years touring different ports.
In October 2012, the Bounty set sail down the East Coast, destined for Florida, where it was scheduled to make an appearance at the St. Petersburg pier on Nov. 10, 2012. But the voyage was cut short by Hurricane Sandy, and on Oct. 29, 2012, it sank off the coast of North Carolina. Fourteen of the 16 people who were on board were rescued. One crew member died. The ship’s captain was never found.
For Milton resident Daryl Warner, reading “Rescue of the Bounty” wasn’t easy because the story hit so close to home. Warner’s son joined the crew of the Bounty in May 2012, and he was sailing on it that day. The father said he couldn’t read anything about the incident for a long time because “it was pretty emotional.”
“I’m very glad that our son was rescued, and very sad that people lost their lives,” he said recently. “It was a tragedy, it was a sad thing.”
But Warner said he was pleased to see how much effort Tougias put into the book, and that it presented a “non-judgmental” narrative of events that led up to the tragedy.
“I thought his book was fairly balanced, and told the story in a holistic way,” said Warner. “I thought he did a very good job, it was well researched and well written.”
Warner said his son, Mark, is now 35 and still sails on tall ships.
“He’s doing really well,” said Warner. “The crew [of the Bounty] is still very close.”
Tougias and Campbell are not the only authors to write about the Bounty disaster. One of the surviving Bounty crew members, Jessica Hewitt of Harwich, said she prefers “The Gathering Wind: Hurricane Sandy, the Sailing Ship Bounty, and a Courageous Rescue at Sea” by Gregory A. Freeman.
“If you were my friend and you wanted to really understand what it was like for us and the Coast Guard, I’d have to tell you to read ‘Gathering Wind,’ ” Hewitt said in an e-mail. “It will make you connect with us, the Coast Guard, and the timeline seems to flow nicely. I couldn’t put it down when I read it. Literally read it only stopping to cry once in a while.”
In order to reconstruct the events that unfolded during the Bounty’s last days, Tougias and Campbell interviewed survivors and worked with Coast Guard pilots and rescue swimmers who conducted the rescue. They also drew from testimony given during Coast Guard hearings.
“It’s kind of a tense read, because you know where it’s going,” said Tougias. “It’s a slow buildup, a slow compounding of problems. . . . Halfway into the book, everything goes wrong.”
Tougias grew up in Longmeadow, but for the past eight years he’s called Plymouth home. He works full time as a writer and speaker, and will be making several appearances at local libraries to promote “Rescue of the Bounty.” He said his presentations are more “like watching a movie.” His lectures feature slides of images from the sinking and rescue.
“I want the audience to be transported to the ship when it was in trouble,” he said.
Tougias will speak about “Rescue of the Bounty” today at 7 p.m. at the Paul Pratt Memorial Library at 35 Ripley Road in Cohasset. On June 17, he’ll make a presentation on King Philip’s War with a brief conversation on “Rescue of the Bounty” at the Winslow House in Marshfield at 10:30 a.m.
On July 17 Tougias will discuss “A Storm Too Soon” and “Rescue of the Bounty” at 10:30 a.m. at the Norton Public Library at 68 East Main St.