The Sea Wins by Eric Allaby

With the fall weather closing in and the boat out of the water, there’s nothing better for a sailor than curling up on a dark evening and reading about shipwrecks, especially those on waters just recently sailed. I knew Eric Allaby’s book, The Sea Wins: Shipwrecks of the Bay of Fundy was going to be a ripping read from the first line:

“I stumbled into marine history research through the back door, with a case of dynamite under one arm and a diving tank under the other.”

“Allaby’s book tells the stories of more than forty of these tragic wrecks, many of which he personally has dived on.”

The Bay of Fundy is easy to take in stride, for those of us who have plied her waters on carefully planned excursions, in the summer, with all the modern navigational equipment available. Yet even then she can shake our perhaps arrogant confidence and warn us her fearsome reputation is well deserved. She is a mistress to be treated with respect; strong tidal currents and dense fog make this body of water one of the most treacherous in the world. In the days before radar, and GPS, when dead-reckoning and hand-line depth soundings were kings, the Bay of Fundy claimed ships and lives far too frequently. Allaby’s book tells the stories of more than forty of these tragic wrecks, many of which he personally has dived on.

Unsurprisingly, Grand Manan is the center of many of the wreck stories. Allaby is a native of the island guarding the mouth of the Bay. But the island is also surrounded by shoals and rocks, swept by fierce currents and winds, and peopled by brave, resourceful, sea-going men who have come to the rescue of others time and time again. This book is a tribute to those who risked themselves to pull sailors off doomed ships, while also liberating the occasional crate of whisky. 

Covering the period from the colonization of this part of North America in the 18th century, the proud days of tall ships and world trade that found its way into the Bay, to the First World War and rum-running of the early 20th century, The Sea Wins is a comprehensive and entertaining history of not just shipwrecks but of our country’s beginning and growth. Allaby nicely separates the wreck stories into categories covering every cause from human error and acts of war to historic gales and the impossibility of combating the forces of nature.

As foghorns and lighthouses, GPS navigation and radar, became more common, shipwrecks and their attendant loss of life– fortunately – have become rarer. Yet, Allaby’s own brush with the storms of the Bay of Fundy, and recent loses of fishers and their boats, highlight the reality that the Bay is not done claiming lives or property. Allaby’s book is a cautionary tale for those who mess about in boats, and a deliciously thrilling read for anyone who has ever dreamed of it.


About the Author

With a degree in physics paid for through commercial diving, Eric Allaby‘s skills served his curiosity well when his diving led him into new ventures searching for shipwrecks around his home island of Grand Manan, NB. While working on a National Museum grant in the 1970s, Allaby pioneered new underwater survey techniques. His passion for shipwreck stories led him to conduct his own research, and his writing and illustration of those stories eventually led to this book.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nimbus Publishing Limited (Nov. 17 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774711370
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774711378

Heather McBriarty is an author, lecturer and Medical Radiation Technologist based in Saint John, NB. Her love of reading and books began early in life, as did her love of writing, but it was the discovery of old family correspondence that led to her first non-fiction book, Somewhere in Flanders: Letters from the Front, and a passion for the First World War. She has delivered lectures to the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, NB Genealogy Society, and Western Front Association (Central Ontario Branch), among others, on the war. Heather’s first novel of the “Great War”, Amid the Splintered Trees, was launched in November 2021.