Captain`s return to sea makes a good read

Updated: May 31, 2010, 11:15 AM IST

It had been a decade since Linda Greenlaw fished the deep ocean for a living. Her days as a swordfish-boat skipper, publicized by Sebastian Junger`s 1997 best-seller, "The Perfect Storm," were a long-ago memory.

Instead, she`d turned to writing books such as "The Hungry Ocean" and "All Fishermen Are Liars." Her life was largely onshore, on a Maine island, sticking with small-boat fishing near land. It was safe and comfortable; she had adopted a teenager. But she yearned for what she called "true, hardy saltwater adventure."

So when an old friend asked her to be captain of a 63-foot swordfish boat bound for the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, she jumped at the chance.
And all of us book readers should rejoice. Her chronicle of that seven-week adventure, "Seaworthy: A Swordboat Captain Returns to the Sea," is fascinating.

Hanging over the tale is a nagging question: Being 48 and out of the business for 10 years, how would Greenlaw and her 5-foot-3 frame stand up to the physical and psychological demands of the job?
The answer: beautifully. Her competitive fire still burned as her boat joined others on the water; her age and experience had brought wisdom.

Greenlaw`s writing sweeps the reader along not only for the incidents at sea but also for her candid reflections about them.

She does have plenty to tell: her arrest after the fishing gear accidentally drifts into Canadian water, the exploits and personalities of her four crew members, a storm that almost washes one of them overboard, the silly humor that can redeem a bad day at sea.

She tells us the ins and outs of this way of life, like how a newbie crew member nibbled the still-beating heart of a swordfish to avoid bad luck, and the importance of a load of terrific bait: "Four grown men stood behind me and admired the frozen mackerel with oohs and aahs more appropriate to a bunch of guys looking at a copy of Playboy magazine."

Her book won`t make many landlubbers jump up and sign on for that kind of adventure. But they`ll be delighted to have ridden along with her from the safety of their armchairs.

Bureau Report