John J. Stevens' Fire Island is set in a time in history when the United States is still just a fledgling nation, a time and strife and change. Every man and woman has a chance to change the course of his or her own history, in a time when possibilities are especially within reach. William Trask became enamored of sailing at a very young age, and becomes one of the finest ship Captains of all time.
Storms and bad weather are a force of nature and quell the mightiest of the ships; when running product from ports around the world the ships then are faced with one of their biggest challenges. But Trask, in command of Young America, has had an uneventful voyage, for the most part. It is only as he approaches his final destination that his luck has run out. He, along with his crew, which includes his 14-year old son, have run into a storm that will change William’s life and begin a new course in the annuls of history. To try and reach safety the ship is routed through the channels of Fire Island, a notorious hotbed of danger and shipwrecks.
Trask must seek shelter in this roughest of areas or the ship and all aboard will perish. Hoping that his luck will hold he moves forward with courage. Little does he understand the motives of those that manipulate the senses, working to turn the tide in their own favor. Trask and his charge of the Young America are pulled from the safety of a deep channel, into the shallows to the side by those seeking to take advantage of the weather and bring down the great ship, leaving the spoils to be taken as plunder.
As the Young America founders, Trask loses his crew to the waves, and to his horror his son too is washed over. In the freezing cold and icy conditions there is nothing that Trask can do to save them. As day breaks only Trask and his cook are still on board, but his cook is in terrible condition. Trask, himself not caring at this point about living or dying now has a reason to keep fighting — he has one last crew member to save.
Living through the night protected from the worst of the icy temperatures and waves in the sail folds, the two are rescued by a small group, those that came together during the worst of times to save those foolhardy enough to challenge the seas. Cassandra Wolff was one of these. Trask and his cook are rescued and looked after by Cassandra and her crew, but there is no hope for Trask as he loses his leg.