The term fisherwoman
does not exactly roll trippingly off the tongue, and Linda Greenlaw, the world's only female swordfish boat captain, isn't flattered when people insist on calling her one. "I am a woman. I am a fisherman... I am not a fisherwoman, fisherlady, or fishergirl. If anything else, I am a thirty-seven-year-old tomboy. It's a word I have never outgrown." Greenlaw also happens to be one of the most successful fishermen in the Grand Banks commercial fleet, though until the publication of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm
, "nobody cared." Greenlaw's boat, the Hannah Boden
, was the sister ship to the doomed Andrea Gail
, which disappeared in the mother of all storms in 1991 and became the focus of Junger's book. The Hungry Ocean
, Greenlaw's account of a monthlong swordfishing trip over 1,000 nautical miles out to sea, tells the story of what happens when things go right--proving, in the process, that every successful voyage is a study in narrowly averted disaster.
There is the weather, the constant danger of mechanical failure, the perils of controlling five sleep-, women-, and booze-deprived young fishermen in close quarters, not to mention the threat of a bad fishing run: "If we don't catch fish, we don't get paid, period. In short, there is no labor union." Greenlaw's straightforward, uncluttered prose underscores the qualities that make her a good captain, regardless of gender: fairness, physical and mental endurance, obsessive attention to detail. But, ultimately, Greenlaw proves that the love of fishing--in all of its grueling, isolating, suspenseful glory--is a matter of the heart and blood, not the mind. "I knew that the ocean had stories to tell me, all I needed to do was listen." --Svenja Soldovieri
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From Publishers Weekly
She's smart, hard-working and good at what she does, though sometimes she wishes she had a life. Greenlaw is captain of the Hannah Boden, sister ship to the Andrea Gail, the sword-fishing boat whose disappearance was described with agonizing verisimilitude in Sebastian Junger's bestseller, The Perfect Storm. Greenlaw tells a comparatively quotidian tale, "the true story of a real, and typical, sword-fishing trip, from leaving the dock to returning." Not trying to compete with Junger's operatic tale of death on the high seas, Greenlaw deals with stormy personalities rather than with bad weather. She rounds out the story with her gimlet-eyed description of a captain's biggest headache after nature itself: the crew. Racism, drug use, baffling illnesses: these are all elements of a 30-day journey for six people crammed aboard a 100-ft. boat designed less for human comfort than to carry the 50,000 pounds or more of fish it will eventually take on. But Greenlaw picks her sailors carefully and, through her own example, inspires a fierce loyalty among the menAsuch as the one who extracted his own abscessed tooth rather than return to shore ("In my experience," she notes, "very few men are willing to pull their own teeth"). Greenlaw's narrative should foster an abiding respect in anyone who has tossed a swordfish steak on the grill, and it is certain to induce jaw-dropping admiration among personnel managers everywhere. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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