Ryan's Commander: The Boat That Should Not Have Sailed.


172 pages
Contains Photos, Maps
ISBN 978-1-897317-31-0
DDC 363.12'309718





Reviewed by Gordon Turner

Gordon Turner is the author of Empress of Britain: Canadian Pacific’s
Greatest Ship and the editor of SeaFare, a quarterly newsletter on sea


Wresting a living from the sea has never been a simple task for Newfoundlanders, even with modern fishing boats that incorporate the latest technology. One such boat was Ryan’s Commander, completed in May 2004 at the cost of $1.8 million. When only four months old she capsized unexpectedly near Cape Bonavista. Two of the six crew members lost their lives. They were the owners of the boat, experienced fishermen, and brothers of the author.


In simple terms, Ryan’s Commander rolled over in heavy seas to at least 39 degrees and failed to return to an upright position. She sank, bottom up. The book describes the construction of the boat and the rescue attempts that surrounded her final voyage, but much of the text relates the author’s attempts to find answers that would explain the sinking together with a well-reasoned plea for improved testing and better search-and-rescue procedures. The sinking could not be attributed to any single factor, but Guy believes that stability calculations along with inclining experiments to determine weight and the centre of gravity were flawed and appear to have played an important role.


The author has not been satisfied with the Transportation Safety Board’s report and has initiated lawsuits against the federal government and the boat builder. She tells her story in an easy journalistic style. There are many photographs, not all of them well-reproduced. The book includes lengthy digressions into family matters that are hardly relevant to the main theme of the book. Still, if the author’s objectives are reached, fishermen in Newfoundland will have good reason to thank Guy for her efforts.


Guy, Johanna Ryan., “Ryan's Commander: The Boat That Should Not Have Sailed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28897.