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The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey Paperback – June 7, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 263 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books (June 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786885416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786885411
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (263 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John R. Linnell on July 8, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I cannot believe I didn't review this book some time ago when I read it in hardcover soon after it was published. In scrolling through the reviews that are here, it is interesting to see the different perspectives people have. Some view the book as an informational book about sword fishing; others see it as an extension of the story told in The Perfect Storm (Linda Greenlaw was the Captain of the Andrea Gail's sister fishing boat, the Hanna Bowden); some see it as a metaphor about life as a woman in what is essentially a man's business; and some see it as proof that those who go to sea to fish are most responsible for the problems we have with fisheries and the ocean environment. Linda's oldest sister sees the book as a "book length personals ad" (Linda would like to get married). I bought the book thinking that I would be reading more about aspects of The Perfect Storm and instead found a compelling story from a woman who all her life wanted to be doing what she was doing and did it against great odds. Sebastian Junger referred to her as the best swordfish captain in the North Atlantic, or words to that effect, which is high praise for anyone and the zenith of such for a woman. In the book she tells you what it is like to put to sea to go swordfishing and she does it without any cleaning up of the life. She also shares her inner thoughts and makes the story very much a human tale. In the end, you will care about her very much. At least I did. She is brave, vulnerable, stubborn, funny and caring and she communicates those attributes quite well.
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Format: Hardcover
In the words of the only woman Swordboat captain plying the Grand Banks fishing fields, you get a glimpse into the life of a modernday Ahab. It takes a special kind of person to sign up for a month of crowded quarters & hardy hygiene; mind-boggling hours of either endless maintenance or baiting & trolling. With a poet's eye for the beauty of her surroundings & her vessel & a fine sense of humor when it comes to her mischievous crew, Linda Greenlaw's memories, aspirations & impeccable courage & skill make this book a grand read. By the way, this is the life & times of the captain of the sister ship "Andrea Gail" about which Sebastian Junger wrote in "The Perfect Storm", soon to be released as a motion picture.
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Format: Hardcover
I was very eager to read Linda Greenlaw's book "The Hungry Ocean" after reading "The Perfect Storm". After reading it I have to say I was impressed with Capt Greenlaw's description of a 30 day sword fishing trip to the Grand Banks. Some may find her descriptions tedious and drawn out but I believe they aptly describes 30 days at sea.Capt Greenlaw attempts to give the reader a basic understanding of the fishing industry. This is sometimes drawn out a tad to in depth but this is a minor complaint. If you are looking for heart stopping action read Junger's "Perfect Storm", but if you want to know what 30 days at sea setting and pulling back fishing nets is like, read "The Hungry Ocean".
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Format: Paperback
Possibly the only female swordfisherman in the world, Linda Greenlaw recounts a typical, 30-day fishing trip in the Grand Banks off off Newfoundland. Greenlaw knew the men of the Andrea Gail, another sword boat whose tale is told in A Perfect Storm, by Sebastian Junger, but doesn't tread on the details of that story. This is a simple slice-of-life tale detailing a typical month in the life of a sword captain, her boat and her crew. There are no harrowing tales of life and death struggle, but a simple telling of the exhaustion, boredom and potential benefit of a swordfishing trip. This makes it an excellent companion to A Perfect Storm. After reading about the struggle and death of the crew of the Andrea Gail, it is enlightening to read about the realities of their lives.
Greenlaw writes in a simple, conversational way. Here story is engaging by its very nature so I found myself unconcerned with her writing style since the story was so compelling. That said, I found her writing straightforward, concise and enjoyable . I completed the book in just under 3 days, another tribute to the quality of the book. I found it difficult to put the book down as I wanted to find out about this woman and her her crew and how they made (or didn't make) their living.
Highly Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the first and only book to get it right. Fishers of the world unite.
Greenlaw gets the tedium, danger, misery and ecstasy of fishing on the North Atlantic. As a deck hand on a crab boat for the past several summers I am constantly asked what its like. I really can't explain to `landsmen', but now I point to greenlaw's book.
I'm gonna write my own book!
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Format: Paperback
There are some people who seem to have a level of talent that is apparent in everything they do; there is nothing that resembles a veneer about them. Captain Greenlaw is an educated woman, when she is on her boat she is a leader and the best fisherman plying her trade. So when she sits down to tell her story, it is no surprise that she can write well. I would not wager this is the last book we will have from her. I certainly hope there are more.
I found her writing to emulate the way she runs her boat, organized, meticulous, and without unnecessary baggage. And when she related childhood memories, or shared dialogue, she related it as well or better than Authors with many books to their name. Individuals who are excellent at what they do are often said to appear to do their task effortlessly. The book certainly was not an easy task for her, but there is a vast difference between being simplistic and relating a portion of a life. Embellishment is best left for ghostwritten memoirs and autobiographies. There is nothing done to complicate her life's work, why should her story diverge from that path?
The closest I have come to a swordfish is with a fork, and it had long since been reduced from the massive creatures these can be, to a sliver of these fish she hunts. She and her crew define risk taking. They don't occasionally face lethal risk or even frequently risk their lives they constantly make this wager. And they do so not knowing whether they will make a dime for a month at sea in conditions that most could tolerate for about an hour presuming the water was calm, and seconds presuming 70 knot winds and the seas that follow them.
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