Excerpt from the Broken Seas chapter:


The remarkable voyage of Gerry Spiess and Yankee Girl

By Marlin Bree
A full moon had arisen over the South Pacific Ocean and in its silvery light, ominous big rollers were forming and breaking. Long waves with white breakers were beginning to overhang the small sailboat and slam hard into Yankee Girl's transom, giving her nasty shoves.

As Gerry Spiess threw open the hatch, a chill wind brushed his face and he saw that the waves were starting to run confused and were piling up. A splash of spray hit him -- the water was remarkably cold.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Voyaging in the South Pacific was supposed to have sunshiny days in the warm trade winds, with tropical nights ablaze with stars. But this trip was turning nasty.

It was the evening of the ninth day, and, the waves were rearing up to overshadow the 10-foot sloop. He had entered the convergence zone, where a cold current runs down from Alaska and meets the warm central current. Big rollers were starting to forma nd break.

When the wind changed direction, it had created two sets of waves. One set of waves was running 8 to 12 feet; the other waves ran at more than 8 feet. Worse yet, the wave trains were starting to collide as the wind came around.

Slamming his hatch shut, Gerry slumped back into his cabin and the warmth of a sleeping bag. There was a heavy thump, and suddenly, sheets of water poured through the closed hatch. Startled, Gerry looked up to see a small Niagara flooding inside the cabin.

A following wave had overrun Yankee Girl, buried her in the water and turned her into a submarine. The water pressure had blasted through the sliding hatch closure.

Hawaii lay more than 1,800 miles away -- and was looking increasingly distant.

Excerpt from Broken Seas, by Marlin Bree. Copyright 2004 by Marlin Bree

Excerpts from
Broken Seas:


Background: After a mysterious schooner was discovered resting on the bottom of Green Bay, divers Dick Boyd and Carl Poster headed out for the wreck site on a stormy November day.

By Marlin Bree

* * *

As Boyd and Poster descended they were surprised by the poor visibility of only three to four feet, and, by 50 feet of depth, all surface light was erased. The divers could only see what their dive lights illuminated -- a small pattern which penetrated a few feet into the black water.

"We saw nothing until we hit the deck at about 90 feet," Boyd recalled. Onboard the old vessel, he began to feel a chill coming over him. He knew what was happening: At that depth, his wet suit of foam neoprene had compressed to one-fourth of its original thickness, losing much of its insulating value as well as its positive buoyancy.

He shrugged it off, entranced by what he saw. "We could instantly sense that the wooden vessel was in remarkable condition," he said. Leaving the descending line, the sport divers followed the rail toward the stern of the ship. The deck inside the rail was littered with blocks, pulleys, and other saling artifacts.

"Some distance back, peering inward toward the ship's midline," Boyd related, "we could make out a giant, post-like object projecting into the gloom...it slowly dawned on us that a mast was still standing. The realization that we were exploring a totally intact sailing schooner complete with standing masts finally crystallized in our chilled brains."

When they swam over several cargo holds, they saw that the hatch covers were missing. Reaching the aft cabin, they peered in the companionway to see that the cabin was completely silted in. They could not get a good look at the entire boat because, at a depth of up to 110 feet, they were working in blackness penetrated only about six feet by the lights of their diving lamps. Their movements would stir up bottom silt, cutting what little visibility they had.

When their 15 minutes of bottom time were up, they ascended the line, taking a short safety decompression stop at 10 feet. Back aboard the fishing trawler, the divers were jubilant. They had been on a schooner of exceptional interest, completely intact with both masts still standing.

She was a virgin wreck, but a boat of mystery. Clearly, she was very old.

Copyright 2004 by Marlin Bree

Author's note: The divers had discovered the Alvin Clark, built in 1846 and sunk in a squall with the loss of her captain and two crewmen -- the most exciting, oldest and most significant recovered shipwreck in North America. She was also to weave an unmatched saga of courage and heartbreak -- only to meet an appalling end.

Two Grand Prizes have been awarded to Marlin Bree's writing in Broken Seas.

Excerpt from:


Helmer Aakvik's daring
rescue attempt during an ice storm

He headed for a shore he could not see. He knew if he steered into the waves and wind, he'd end up somewhere along the coast, but getting back was a problem since he had to steer into oncoming waves. Waves were running hard, with seas 20 feet high, dwarfing his boat.

The old skiff was taking a terrible pounding. Powering into the onrushing breakers, it would spear an oncoming wave, lift its bow partially, then with a shudder, stop nearly dead, shivering with the effort, again and again. The planks were flexing and they looked like they were separating. The screws holding them to the frames were pulling out. Water was coming in at an alarming rate, faster than he could bail it out.

He had been out more than 16 hours and he had nothing to eat or drink. His eyebrows were laced with ice and his eyes were burning orbs from the spray. His unprotected face was painfully cold as were his hands. His foot, where the boot had cracked and water had entered, was growing numb. Worse, his mind was growing slack with fatigue. In his wooden seat he could only watch helplessly as waves came like dark walls out of the night.

There was nothing left to do but turn off the engine. When the engine quit running, the boat stopped pounding itself apart, but the wind howled across his open boat and the white-crested growlers reared toward him. Without power, his boat was cocking sideways to the waves. Breakers were slopping in over the gunwales.

Reaching forward, he picked the rope out of the half-frozen slurry in the skiff's bilge and tied it to the sturdy wooden fishing crate. He grunted s he hefted the 50-pound crate over the side. With a splash, it sank part way into the waves, receding from his drifting boat.

He felt a tug on teh rope and tied the line off the bow. The boat's bow swung around to the waves.

His improvised sea anchor was holding and his boat began riding to the waves with her bow cocked at a slight angle to them. It was her best sea-keeping position.

Night was coming on. The temperature dropped further and ice continued to grow on the skiff and the Old Man.

He had done all he could. Now he could only bow his head at the growing fury of the storm.

Copyright 2004 by Marlin Bree)


Fall layup or storage? Use the downloadable and free fall layup checklist in this updated version of the Boat Log & Record This all - in - one boat record and logbook with engine maintenance record helps a boater to maintain in one place a season -to - season working record of a boat and its needs. It's the largest and most complete boat log and record for amateur boaters ever published. Includes special Emergency section dealing with transmitting a Mayday Message and how to deal with Man overboard. Plus other ways to boat safely and have more fun on the water. Free checklist here for fall layups or storage.
Fiction: A boater gets caught up in a daring around-the-world sailboat race ---and finds murder! "Full of remarkable characters and daring feats."--Cruising World.
Here are masterful tales of seafaring on the world's largest freshwater lake, including the last hours of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Join Marlin Bree in his solo voyages -- including a storm that gives Superior the reputation as being one of the world's most dangerous bodies of water.
A catamaran sails at midnight and is hit by a surprise storm along the Shipwreck coast. At the helm, the author fights for control and he and the crew search for the entryway off the lake. Exciting adventure. In a special chapter, as he sails near the sunken vessel, he takes a new look at the last hours of the Edmund Fitzgerald. If you like rugged adventures and are intrigued by Lake Superior's legends, history and folklore, here's a special book that will fascinate and sometimes surprise you.
Boating, great maritime adventures, storms at sea, maritime tales and survivals
Why did the Edmund Fitzgerald sink? Find yourself in the big freighter's wheelhouse as the Superior storm is at its worst. Or, find yourself aboard a leaky old wooden boat heading out into Lake Superior as an ice storm descends in a race to find a missing friend. Or, dive into murky waters to discover a mysterious old schooner sitting on the bottom still intact. A storm hits! Now come aboard a 10-foot home-built plywood sailboat trying to make it across the stormy South Pacific. Join the author aboard his sailboat trying to survive the storm of the century, with 134 mph. downbursts. Here are seven true tales of maritime adventure and survival from the waters of the world to stir the blood and fire the imagination--all told with a mariner's insight! And more. With illustrations, charts. Now the winner of seven writing awards!
Nonfiction: Excerpts & pix!
Roaring out of nowhere, a huge storm tore onto Lake Superior and catches a lone sailor and his small wooden boat in a wall of wind. Join Marlin Bree in the cockpit of his small sailboat as he fights to save his boat. The author goes on to complete a special voyage along the picturesque north shore of Lake Superior. A classic boating tale. "Equals any oceanic adventure." -- San Diego Log
Fiction: Lots of cartoons & laughs!
Okay, gang: let's face it: our boating world is funny sometimes. It's filled with good hearted people and a lot of other folks ranging from full-of-it skippers and too-party-hardy crew members. Here's a handy book you can keep on the old chart table to let you have a laugh at everything from the marine head to nautical terminology. Not for everyone, but you know who you are. Ho. Ho.
On June 1, 1979, Gerry pointed the bow of his tiny boat east and set sail out of Chesapeake Bay to cross the treacherous North Atlantic. He had hoped he had designed and built the smallest practical-sized sailboat capable of surviving on the open seas -- 10 feet long. Fifty four days later, after battling raging storms, physical pain, loneliness and islolation, sleeplessness and the never-ending racking of the ocean, Gerry pulled into the English port of Falmouth--the smallest craft to make that astonishing ocean crossing.

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This is exciting narrative storytelling, with photos, diagrams, and maps that will catapult you into real-life adventure and survival.

Real-life adventure and survival.

--- The mighty ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald steams desperately on its last crossing of Lake Superior -- only to sink so rapidly no one had time to cry out for help.
--- Divers on the bottom discovering a strange shipwreck -- a ghostly relic. What is onboard?
--- A tiny plywood boat struggles at its first crossing of the world’s largest ocean
--- A leaking skiff with an old man in an ice storm searches for his lost partner
--- A home-built sailboat facing “The Storm of the Century”
--- An extreme sailor facing the North Atlantic in his new boat to qualify for the world's toughest sailboat race, the Vendee Globe.

"As in his previous books, like Wake of The Green Storm, Marlin Bree conveys a lasting impression of the sea as the principal actor in this frightening series of deadly sea dramas. In Broken Seas, his current, gripping book, the sea and its accomplices, wind and temperature, have the power of a Greek drama thundering across a stage. Bree sets that stage for each of the book's six factual stories with a concise and perceptive personal Prologue. For example, with the account of 62-year old Helmer Aakvik's daring attempt to rescue a young fisherman during an ice storm on the NW sector of Lake Superior, titled, 'The Old Man and The Inland Sea,' the author writes, 'I stared out into the menacing world of broken sea and sky. It was hard to imagine a man in a small, open boat setting out from here during an oncoming November ice storm. The rescuer... had fished these waters for many years and he knew what to expect. He went anyway.' The same can be said for Bree. Faced with the daunting task of collecting, organizing and analyzing a myriad of records, interviews and theories, he went anyway --- and readers of Broken Seas will be grateful he did." -- review posted online.

At about 19:15, the Fitzgerald suddenly plunged toward the bottom 530 feet down, carrying all crew members with her. She remains intact going down, but when her bow stikes, the 729-foot vessel's cargo shifts and the hull breaks apart under the impact.(From Broken Seas: Illustration by Marlin Bree)

Hitting the bottom, the 253-foot aft section turns over, lying bottom side up. The 276-foot forward section sits upright,a s if ready to sail on. In between lies a junkyard. All of the crew perished in her fatal plunge. (From Broken Seas: Illustration by Marlin Bree)

"It is no accident that our history books are filled with adventures of the sea. Sailors and non-sailors alike are captivated by nautical stories. Marlin Bree's new book, Broken Seas, explains in gripping detail tales from both the Great Lakes and the ocean. When reading this book, you will feel like you are on board during some of the harshest calamities in recently history."
--Gary Jobson, internationally known sailor, author, TV America's Cup commentator and racing analyst

The lost schooner Alvin Clark floats on her own lines after being underwater for more than 100 years --- the most exciting, oldest, and most significant recovered shipwreck in North America. Read an excerpt at left.

Broken Seas now has won seven awards, including from the hotly competitive Boating Writer's International award competition. A five-part excerpt, The Passion of Mike Plant, in Northern Breezes sailing magazine won a Certificate of Merit; an excerpt from The Old Man & the Inland Sea in Ensign magazine won a First Place Award; and the excerpt, The Day All Hell Broke Loose,in Ensign magazine won a Third Place award. This article went on to win the 2004 Grand Prize in Boating Writer's International writing contest -- the highest award BWI can bestow upon a boating writer. In 2007, the Ensign magazine article (excerpted from the Broken Seas chapter of the same name), entitled, The Old Man and the Inland Sea, won a First Place writing award in competition with other boating journalists. After judging the finalists in the competition, the judges presented the author BWI's Grand Prize in 2008. This means that the most coveted award in marine journalism, the Grand Prize of Boating Writers Internatonal was awarded to Marlin Bree for his magazine excerpts from Broken Seas. In 2010, two more awards were given to the author for The Old Man and the Inland Seas, which appeared in Lake Superior Magazine. One Bronze award in the General Feature category was from International Regional Magazine Association, presented in Branson, MO; the second award was from the Minnesota Magazine and Publishing Assocaiton, a bronze award in the Best Feature category, again for the Lake Superior Magazine article.

"A literary rescue mission", says reviewer and ex-West Coast newsman Dennis Renault. Writes Renault: " In his most recent book, Broken Seas, Marlin Bree has obviously devoted years to thoughtful and exhaustive research into the facts surrounding the fates of six extraordinary ships and crewmen on the High Seas. These include the appalling story of the final resting place of the 1896 schooner Alvin Clark, the mysterious and sudden sinking of the "indestructive" steel-hulled Great Lakes ore ship, Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975; and the gritty courage of Norwegian immigrant Helmer Aakvik, who attempts to rescue a fellow fisherman from the maw of a Lake Superior ice storm in 1958. With Broken Seas, Bree's fifth book of nautical adventures, the author has produced a literary rescue mission that will undoubtedly save many readers from drowning in the heavy waves of holiday hoopla or from nodding off to sleep in front of their TV's."

"Makes true sailing adventures live again," says The Ensign, the official magazine of the United States Power Squadrons, in its November issue. Reviewing Broken Seas, Stf/​C Don Dunlap Jr., SN, continues: "In his latest book, (the author) shares seven stories that had me reading ahead...He first describes a 10-foot sailboat's Pacific Ocean crossing. Then he tells of a man who risks everything to save a young friend from Lake Superior's frozen waters. "The Lost Schooner" relates the heart rending tale of the Alvin Clark, which sank during the Civil War. The ship was perfectly preserved by Lake Michigan's cold waters when divers found it. Bree helps us relive its sad end as well as the final journey of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Besides recounting his own adventure on Lake Superior, Bree reconstructs the ill-fated crusie of Mike Plant's vessel With each story, we feel the excitement of the cruise and the terror of the final moment when all might be lost. Broken Seas is a super read for those of us who dream of adventure on the sometimes cruel sea."

"Mucho Adventure," writes Small Craft Advisor editor Joshua Colvin about the author's new book Broken Seas: "..some of the true tales in his latest volume had me sitting up wide-eyed, well past my dreamland deadline. In 216 pages, Bree manages to take the reader aboard all kinds of vessels, often in the worst conditions imaginable. Whether he's writing about Gerry Spiess' 10-footer Yankee Girl knocked flat in in the middle of the Pacific, or the storm driven destruction of the 729-foot Edmund Fitzgerald, Bree rarely lets his reader up for breath. If you enjoy this sort of thing--and who doesn't--you'll want to add Bree's new book to your library. Just don't plan to catch up on any sleep."

Stands right up there with the best, says library review journal KLIATT: "There is nothing like a collection of crackling good adventures at sea to pique the interest of most readers. This assembly of true seafaring adventures stands right up there with the best. For one thing, author Marlin Bree does not simply tell a good tale: he recapitulates itl. In each of the six cases, he begins by setting up the siutation with a prologue, then presents a narrative of the vessel's final voyage, and finishes with a section with his own conjectures in which he describes his visits with the survivors. When there are none, and the boat did not survive, he speculates intelligently about what really must have happened 'out there.' A line drawing of each craft helps the reader visualize the technical side of each tale.

"The author has done his homework, reading the charts, studying the blueprints, and putting himself into the middle of each adventure. He scouted out witnesses and sailors who had once sailed aboard the doomed vessels, and on occasion visited the graves. The action runs from the mid-Atlantic to the Great Lakes, and readers find themselves struggling in a rowboat in icy water, pounding across the ocean in the world's fastest racing yacht, or being pounded to pieces in a winter gle. There is even the chance to explore what must be every romantic's fondest dream -- a completely intact and untouched wooden ship, upright on the bottom with her masts still standing. Adventuring, and reading about it, gets no better than that."
--A review about Broken Seas by Raymond Puffer, PhD, Historian, Edwards AFB, Lancaster, CA, in KLIATT, July, 2005.


"With winter coming on and snow gracing the scenery, it is a good time to curl up with a book jammed full of excitement, historic fact and local lore. The fear, excitement, anticipation, and the unexpected leap out of the pages to bring boating adventures into your life." --Kathy Johnson, Press Publications.

"Marlin Bree's new book Broken Seas will crank up your adrenaline and jump-start your pulse. Bree's prose puts you right in the middle of these extraordinary true adventures. From crossing the Pacific in a 10-footer to braving a November blow on Lake Superior, this book will leave you with spray on your face, wind in your hair and an insatiable itching to get out on the water. Don't miss it."
--Yvonne Hill, Editor of The Ensign magazine

"In Broken Seas, veteran journalist and seasoned sailor Marlin Bree has crafted a series of stories that prove the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. A remarkable collection of well-told tales."
--Herb McCormick, Editor of Cruising World and Boating Editor of The New York Times

"It is no accident that our history books are filled with adventures of the sea. Sailors and non-sailors alike are captivated by nautical stories. Marlin Bree's new book, Broken Seas, explains in gripping detail tales from both the Great Lakes and the ocean. When reading this book, you will feel like you are on board during some of the harshest calamities in recently history."
--Gary Jobson, internationally known sailor, author, TV America's Cup commentator and racing analyst

"Broken Seas is a pleasure to read. The seafaring adventures are well researched, the characters and their struggles come to life, and best of all...their roots are from the freshwater byways."
--Capt. Thom Burns, Editor of Northern Breezes

"Marlin Bree's first-hand knowledge of monster waves and survival has enabled him to vividly and acurately describe six true adventures in Broken Seas. This book details triumph and tragedy and is a must-read for sailors, and even landlubbers will enjoy these amazing stories."
--Chuck Luttrell, author of Heavy Weather Boating Emergencies

Behind the stories
in Broken Seas

I've been a big fan of seafaring stories. For years, I've had some great adventure and wonderful big-water tales that I've been aching to tell, in my own way. Broken Seas is the result of this passion.

For example, Gerry Spiess and his wonderful Yankee Girl was a story I had wanted to do for some time. I had served as the state-side information officer for the voyage, and had flown to Hawaii to welcome him to the first stop in his long trip across the Pacific, but we'd never published anything on the trip. Ten Feet Across the Pacific will let readers find out more about this remarkable voyage and the equally remarkable mariner and his home-built and self-designed craft.

Mike Plant is another sailor I've written about before and on whom I had collected a big file. One day, as I was going through several of these dusty files, the way writers sometimes do, the story simply popped out at me as alive and as vital as when I knew Mike. The Passion of Mike Plant. was a story that simply had to be told, and, it became a very real passion with me to tell it. At the time I had left it after Mike's untimely death on the North Atlantic aboard his giant racer, Coyote, most people did not know what had happened on the tragic voyage. My research led me in various directions, including to Herb McCormick, at Cruising World magazine, who also knew Mike and had done a terrific article (which he shared with me), and, Mike's parents Mary and Frank Plant. It was at the Plant's home that I said that I could not find the official Coast Guard report about the sinking. Mary Plant, Mike's mother, gave me her copy. Much was revealed in the Coast Guard findings and I was able to use a lot of their official report to further understand some of the controversial aspects of Mike's last voyage. I think that readers who remember and appreciate the contributions of the sailor who was once the finest solo around-the-world ocean racer America ever produced will once again be most interested to read about Mike during what might have been his finest race that resulted in a terrible tragedy. As a seaman, I needed to know what happened. I think other sailors will want to know as well.

There are more extraordinary seafaring tales that I found that I long had wanted to write including one from my "own" big pond, Lake Superior. I had heard tales of an old man, almost a Hemingway sort of boater, who had gone out during an ice storm to try to rescue a fellow boater, known as "The Kid." I knew the territory he had gone out in, and, I had even followed the stories of his supposed "coffin." This might all seem a little strange, but you have to read the story, The Old Man and the Inland Sea. To properly do that story, I rowed out into the open waters of Superior in a rowboat (the size of boat the Old Man used), I visited his "boat house" site, I located the type of North Shore skiff he used, and, I talked with people who knew and admired him. I knew a little about meeting a Superior storm in a small boat (see Wake of the Green Storm), and, I've been out in icy conditions before. The result was a heart-felt tale. Like the author, you'll probably feel a great warmth for the raw courage of an old man in an ice-coated, sinking boat, battling gamely onward. It's one of the great tales of the inland sea.

There are more tales that have gripped me: the last hours of the Edmund Fitzgerald, for example, is a story that I've done before in several books. I've had quite a file on that story, including my interviews with the men who were out on the lake with the Fitzgerald and who gave me their direct stories. But one day at my bookseller's booth, a lady showed up who told me she was related to one of the men who went down on the Fitzgerald. I began seeing the Fitzgerald story in a new dimension: the remarkable battle of the men of the aft section: the last hours of the big boat on Superior as she lost her fight to a terrible storm.

One further explanation: I also included the story, The Day All Hell Broken Loose: A small boat battles the Storm of the Century -- and survives! This is the Ensign magazine story based on my own adventures in the July 4, 1999 derecho that hit Lake Superior with winds well in excess of 100 mph. I thought the story was worthwhile to include it in Broken Seas. But after the book was put together, I received word from Greg Proteau, executive director of BWI, that I was the recipient of the top honor BWI gives to a boating writer --The West Marine Writer's Award. The judges from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism described the article as "A real page-turner. Compelling, engaging writing that is as fast-moving as the storm that engulfed this sailor on what started off as a clear, calm day on Lake Superior. The writing is vivid in detail about what the sailor was seeing, feeling and thinking -- all of that providing insights and lessons for others who could as easily find themselves suddenly in the eye of a storm."

--marlin bree

Broken Seas: 216 pages, 6 x 9 size, 4-color cover (with gloss film laminate), 32 b&w photos, 17 illustrations, 6 maps. Only $15.95 US /​ Canada $21.95. /​ e-books $6.99 US /​ $7.99 Canada /​Distributed to the book trade by IPG Books, Chicago. Available to booksellers everywhere.