Christopher J. D'Amelio is the author, with Reid Maruyama, of the new book Life and Death at Cape Disappointment: Becoming a Surfman on the Columbia River Bar. D'Amelio served in the U.S. Coast Guard, including at Cape Disappointment in Washington state. He lives in Slidell, Louisiana.
Q: Why did you decide to write Life and Death at Cape Disappointment?
A: The main reason I wrote this book was for my kids. They were young when I was working in the search and field and had no idea I had a really cool job. So I guess this was like a legacy project.
While working at Cape D I had some friends, along with a few other people, encouraging me to write because I was lucky enough to run a few high-profile cases but I never really gave it much thought until my medical condition came to light. So honestly it just seemed like the right time.
Q: Did you need to do any additional research to write the book, or did you rely on your own memories and experiences?
A: Yes, but not a lot. The coauthor, Reid Maruyama, did most of the research on the history on the Columbia River, but the majority of the book was on my experiences.
The research I did do made me realize what a rare job it is to be a Surfman. I always knew, but just didn't realize how rare.
Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: So "Life and Death at Cape Disappointment" wasn't the original title. We had a few ideas but nothing was ever set. Alison O’Leary, who helped edit the book, really came up with the title and we all thought it was a great idea.
Working in the Pacific Northwest in some of the harshest
conditions on the planet makes you realize how precious life is and it can be
taken from you in a split second. Although beautiful, the ocean can be an
extremely unforgiving place.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: That the Coast Guard has men and women that risk their lives on a daily basis to save others in the most extreme and hazardous conditions in the world.
Most people in the general public know that all military services have specially trained individuals like Seals, Rangers, Special Ops, etc. But in the Coast Guard we seek to save lives, not take them.
Also, the path to certifying as a Surfman is long, long process and just about everyone I know, even with military backgrounds, have no idea we even exist.
Since 1878 there have only been about 550 certified Surfmen. So maybe this book will help people understand what we do. That's my hope, anyway.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Well, nothing is set in stone and we don't have anything on paper but the coauthor and myself might be working on a new project. Right now it’s just an idea, so we'll see.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb