The Man Who Stayed Afloat

By Fraser Sutherland

The Man Who Stayed Afloat
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When a Slovenian teenager sneaked into Austria in 1956, it was the start of an epic journey to Canada that almost ended before it started. First, young Ivan Letnik had to overcome cancer. Landing penniless the next year in Toronto, he worked his way up from golf-club dishwasher ... Read more


Overview

When a Slovenian teenager sneaked into Austria in 1956, it was the start of an epic journey to Canada that almost ended before it started. First, young Ivan Letnik had to overcome cancer. Landing penniless the next year in Toronto, he worked his way up from golf-club dishwasher to greasy-spoon proprietor. Building on success, this non-stop worker bought the Normac, a former Detroit fire tug, and turned it into a floating restaurant on the barren Toronto waterfront. Restless for expansion he did not stop there. Twelve years later, he bought a Yugoslav cruise ship, the Jadran, and led a crew to sail it across the stormy North Atlantic and up the St. Lawrence Seaway, launching his second seafood venture at the foot of Yonge Street in Toronto. But in 1981 a city excursion ferry, veering off course, rammed and sank the Normac. It did not sink the man who called himself Captain John, though. Battling financial reverses, he kept dishing out clam chowder to boatloads of tourists when he was not hosting an annual dinner to feed the homeless. "The Man Who Stayed Afloat" tells his triumphant Canadian story.

Fraser Sutherland

Fraser Sutherland (1946–2021) was the author of seventeen previous books of poetry and essays. He was a widely respected critic, editor, and lexicographer. Originally from Pictou, Nova Scotia, he lived for periods in Montreal, Toronto, Sarajevo, British Columbia, Scotland, Portugal, and China.

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