Fourteen-year-old Jack is a daring, impulsive boy, who lives to sail, have adventures and get into trouble. When the Noronic docks at Ward Island, he and his friends gather to admire it. But you need an invitation from one of the passengers to board the ship. So when Jack meets Henry, a lonely 13-year-old passenger from Boston, he talks Henry into inviting Jack's group on a tour of the ship. In the course of the tour, Jack and Henry become friends.
But that night, when Jack wakes up and looks out at Pier Nine and the Noronic, he sees, to his horror, that the ship is on fire and sinking. He races down to the harbour and takes out the island's only motorboat, hoping to help passengers. People are stuck on the upper deck because the only way off the ship, three decks below, is already engulfed in flames. Jack spots Henry and calls to him just as Henry's dad helps him jump into the water. Jack is able to rescue Henry and many others, although Henry's dad is lost. Jack is a hero to many, but not everyone agrees.
Peril at Pier Nine is based on a true story. On September 14, 1949, the cruise ship Noronic, caught fire with 524 passengers and 171 crew members on board. Between 118 and 139 people died. The cause of the fire was never determined.