Former Seafarer Publishes Book


November 2014


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Former AB Jay Jacobs spent a relatively short time sailing, compared to his many years working in maritime law, but he still considers his voyages with the SIU “as some of the happiest times in my life. Over a three-year period, I had the pleasure of sailing all over the world,” Jacobs said.


In September, Jacobs published a nonfiction book – The Widow Wave – that he said “centers on the passion-driven trial that resulted from the worst recreational fishing boat accident ever to happen in San Francisco’s long maritime history…. My experiences at sea were a great help in unexpected ways in this trial.”


A member of the California bar for 35 years, Jacobs has retired from the practice of law to write full time. He said the book is available through his website ( and through Amazon and other online sellers.


Jacobs also provided this synopsis of “The Widow Wave:”


“Francis Dowd, his son, and three other men left San Francisco Bay on Dowd’s 34-foot boat for a day of salmon fishing out on the Pacific Ocean. The boat vanished under mysterious circumstances. There were no survivors or witnesses to whatever happened. Much speculation ensued in the San Francisco newspapers and the evening broadcast news about what may have occurred. Was the boat sunk by a rogue wave? Or run down by one of the large ships in the area?


“Ultimately, a lawsuit was filed by the widow of one of the men on board against Francis Dowd’s widow. I, a relatively inexperienced lawyer at the time, was asked to defend Mrs. Dowd. She maintained that although her husband was many things, he was not a negligent or careless man. On this slim statement, I built my case. My opponent was a highly experienced lawyer, a Goliath known for always prevailing – in fact, crushing his opponents in the courtroom.


“Under the special circumstances of no physical evidence and no eyewitnesses, the three-week jury trial hinged on the testimony of both sides’ expert witnesses who intertwined the physics of rogue wave formation, navigation and meteorology, with the all-too-human story of the fragility of life. The dramatic nature of each day’s testimony overwhelmed the courtroom. Which side was ahead seemed to change hands day by day, almost witness by witness.


“The old legal bromide, ‘You never try the case you prepare,’ was never more apropos than in this trial. Discovering ‘what’ happened in a trial is not the difficult part. ‘Why’ something happened is far more complicated, probing the deepest recesses of the human mind to learn why the people involved took the actions they did. The intricate piecing together of that puzzle was what this case was all about.


“The three weeks in court was an extreme emotional burden for my client. If it had been only her husband who died, in time she would probably have come to accept that. Her husband was a grown man, doing something he loved. But her son was also on board. It is hard to imagine a greater grief for a mother to bear than the death of a child. If the jury found her husband was responsible for the loss of her son, it would have been the death of her soul.


“Compounding this pressure was the fact that the widow suing Mrs. Dowd was seeking sums that could potentially wipe her out financially. The two factors prompting most people into settling – the fear of going to court and the possibility of financial devastation – had no effect on her. She regarded the allegations of negligence as a cloud over her husband’s good name, and she wanted that cloud removed. For her, honor was more important than money.”


First Trip Provided Lasting Memories


His first voyage as an SIU member happened many year ago, but the memories still seem fresh to Jay Jacobs.


“The ship was the SS Cathy and the year was 1963,” he recalled. “The captain was Daniel J. Richards. What a ship. It was an old Matson victory, operated by Marine Managers Inc. out of New York. We had wooden bunks and a wooden locker. It was a good ship and a good crew.”


He said the vessel loaded grain and lumber in Portland and then sailed to India. “From there, we went in ballast to Lisbon for a cargo of fertilizer for two ports in Vietnam. We returned to the U.S. Gulf via Japan with general cargo. All told, we steamed 35,000 miles going through Suez once and Panama once.”


Jacobs said he also was grateful for the guidance he received from his watch partners. They pulled him aside when they found out he was a college student.

“They told me they knew I was having fun, but not to stay too long. Go to school and get your education was their message,” Jacobs said. “They also said the first time we went shore, don’t make a drunken fool of yourself. They kept a good watch on me and I appreciated that.”


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