Life and Death at Cape Disappointment



About Me

I was born and raised in Aptos, California. As a kid, all I wanted to do was be in the ocean, surfing, swimming, bodysurfing. At the age of nineteen I joined the United States Coast Guard figuring it would keep me near the ocean, which it did. As a member of the Coast Guard, I worked on a cutter that brought me up and down the Pacific Coast, from Alaska to South America, traveling from the equator to the arctic circle. In 1998, I was assigned to Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Washington where this book begins.

During my tenure at Station Cape Disappointment, I amassed over 2,200 hours of underway time, routinely operating on the Columbia River bar and ran or supervised over 430 search and recue cases.  I became what is known in search and rescue communities as a surfman. Only in retrospect do I realize how rare and difficult of a job it was and how fortunate I was to have it. On average, only 2-7 people qualify to become a surfman every year. Since 1878, there have only been 550 to make qualifications. To put that into perspective, over 560 people have been trained to become astronauts.

I wanted to write this book for several reasons. First and foremost, I wrote it for my kids. My other reason for writing it was to educate the general public of the men and women who do this job on a daily basis and don't get the recognition they deserve.

Coast Guard Station New Orleans 2013.jpg

About the Book

The ocean is one of the few untamed places on earth, unpredictable and unsympathetic to the lives lost there. For this reason people remain fascinated by its tides, currents, and mysteries. Life and Death at Cape Disappointment is the author’s first-hand account of life as a surfman at one of the Coast Guard’s most dangerous stations,

Cape Disappointment is one of the most notorious Coast Guard units on the Pacific Coast, its area of responsibility referred to as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.” The book focuses on five of the most significant search and rescue cases during the author’s tour and how such work affected him and his colleagues mentally and physically. It’s armchair entertainment for those enthralled by the ocean.

Station Siuslaw River surf training 2006



"There's nothing like learning from those who have seen and experienced the most extreme conditions the ocean can offer. D'Amelio's stories of search and rescue at Cape Disappointment are nothing short of riveting."

- Michael Tougias, New York Times best-selling author of The Finest Hours and A Storm Too Soon


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