Thursday, July 22, 2010

Seaworthy, Linda Greenlaw, nonfiction

"Darkness waded in cautiously and headed west.  Hesitating waist-deep, then plunging into the murky chill, the diving night splashed light onto the opposite horizon, which swam like spawning salmon up the riverlike sky. The sun hated as if it were a baby chick, pecking from within the shell until fully risen, yellow and warm, and as unsure as I was...after all, the sun starts anew every day.  This could well be my last chance...and I would make the most of it."

Linda Greenlaw's latest book, Seaworthy, is the story of a female Swordboat captain.  I saw the title and thought, "a woman captaining a boat"  and "swordfish"?  How interesting could that be?  But her picture on the cover looks like a capable outgoing woman with an engaging smile and, being a capable outgoing woman with an engaging smile myself, I decided to check this out .

It had been ten years since Linda's last swordfishing endeavor, and she was eager to immerse herself in life at sea reliving good memories, but also apprehensive that her body might not be up to the strenuous effort involved.  She picked her crew of four (to whom the book is dedicated) and found herself aboard a rusty bucket called the Seahawk.  Whenever anything broke down, which occurred almost daily, the crew called it the Shithawk behind her back.  "How many times did I hear Tim say, 'It's fixed.  I think we're okay now'?  His words soon became known as the kiss of death, in the few moments that we relaxed, we sat and waited for the next thing to break, leak, or malfunction...I didn't have the energy to fly off the handle."

"Fortunately, when things are incredibly bad at sea, humor reigns.  I was thankful and relieved to hear the men joking appeared I had a crew full of class clowns.  They kept working and laughing."

This is an engrossing account of that trip which found her towed into Sambro, Nova Scotia for engine work before they even reached the fishing area.  Soon after, having set out her first thirty-mile set of 800 hooks, she was arrested, handcuffed, and then taken before a judge in St John, Newfoundland for inadvertantly fishing Canadian waters.

In retrospect, Linda realizes that there is a difference in her thinkings as a young person and now as one who is older;  there are things we can fight and change and other things we just have to suck up and endure.

"...I steered the Seahawk through the sheer-faced cliffs that protect the port...I stared down Newfoundland.  Not blinking was, for me, a small yet palpable victory in a sea of seeming random defeats."

I enjoyed Linda's descriptions of the fishing;  putting out beepers and lines, and not pulling the thirty-mile line toward them but rather moving the boat forward slowly to keep pace with the men hauling in the lines.  The reader is right there with her as she checks the weather, the water temperature (swordfish like it cold), and the ocean currents that converge for the best fishing.  Reading this felt like I was on a vacation to a place I had never visited before.  Greenlaw's name may be familiar, as she also wrote The Hungry Ocean and The Lobster Chronicles.

Special thanks to Heather Skinner of Viking (a division of Penguin Press) for the Review Copy.


  1. Funny thing, this is the second review for this book that I've seen in a couple of weeks. The other review wasn't as nice as you were though. I don't think I'm going to take the plunge with this book though... I have some other sea stories to finish first. Nice review! :)

  2. I did so like The Hungry Ocean and Lobster Chronicles. I had no idea she'd written another one! I'm going to have to look for this one. Thanks for the review!