Cover image for The hungry ocean : a swordboat captain's journey
The hungry ocean : a swordboat captain's journey
Greenlaw, Linda, 1960-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiii, 265 pages : map ; 22 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 7.3 13.0 41138.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
SH691.S8 G689 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



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

Author Notes

Linda Greenlaw studied English and government at Colby College. During the summer after her freshman year, she became a cook and deckhand on the fishing boat Walter Leeman. She continued working on the boat during free time and vacations, and after graduating from college in 1983. She became a swordfish captain in 1986. She was featured in the book and film The Perfect Storm.

She has written several books including the nonfiction works The Hungry Ocean, The Lobster Chronicles, All Fishermen Are Liars, and Seaworthy: A Swordfish Boat Captain Returns to the Sea as well as a cookbook entitled Recipes from a Very Small Island and two mystery novels entitled Slipknot and Fisherman's Bend. She won the U.S. Maritime Literature Award in 2003 and the New England Book Award for nonfiction in 2004.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Originally profiled in Sebastian Junger's hugely popular The Perfect Storm (1997), Captain Greenlaw pens her account of one memorable fishing trip to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland aboard her ship the Hannah Boden. Greenlaw and crew are in search of a "slammer," one month at sea that hopefully will bring them upwards of 60,000 pounds of very valuable fish. Probably the world's only female swordboat captain, Greenlaw recounts the 20-hour workdays, the frequent equipment breakdowns, and the in-fighting that eventually erupts among her crew. Not surprisingly, her all-male crew includes some macho types, but that's something Greenlaw uses to her advantage; her efforts are always matched or bettered by the men, as "No self-respecting fisherman will allow himself to be outworked by a woman." Exciting and gritty, especially when the big fish are biting and Greenlaw is expertly detailing the dangerous world of deep-ocean fishing. --Brian McCombie

Publisher's Weekly Review

Greenlaw, captain of a commercial swordfishing boat, tells a new brand of salty tale. She is a woman who has succeeded in a codified and clannish man's vocation, and her take on life at sea is clear-eyed and fresh as she relates the day-to-day facts of a single voyage. Reading her diarylike entries, she sounds straightforward and realÄwithout suffering the flatness of tone that often afflicts nonprofessional performers. She starts on sailing day, telling how her boat is prepared, then introduces her five-man crew as they arrive shipsideÄwith telltale pounding hangovers. Then she gets into the dynamic of the job, what it means to spend 30 days in a 100-ft. space, working long hours. With the crew, naturally, come "crew problems": sickness, conflicts, insubordination. Here, Greenlaw shines, giving a wonderful sense of what she calls "the etiquette" of her work. Greenlaw proves that it doesn't take life-and-death conflict to make sea adventure compelling; what sets her world apart is spelled out in the details, as she succinctly depicts her singular way of life. Thanks to the intimacy afforded by the spoken-word medium, listeners will feel as if they're right alongside the captain on her journey. Based on the 1999 Little, Brown hardcover. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger described Greenlaw as "one of the best sea captains, period, on the East Coast." As captain of the Hannah Boden, sister ship to the Andrea Gail, Greenlaw's experiences suddenly seemed interesting to the public who devoured Junger's book. The Hungry Ocean is her account of a month-long swordfishing trip to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. She chose this trip mainly because of the crew: five very hardworking yet individual men who typify offshore fishermen. Greenlaw defines being a successful captain as the management of the crew, the boat, and the fish. The crew must be kept focused; the boat must remain operational; and you need to catch enough fish to make the trip worthwhile. She intersperses the daily grind with interesting stories from other trips to provide technical details, to reveal her philosophies, and to give her audience a clearer idea of what it's like to be probably the world's only female swordship captain. Greenlaw's voice takes some getting used to, both from its lack of timbre to match her deeds and from the unsettling fact that a woman is recounting what seems like a man's story. An absolutely riveting book, this is highly recommended for all public libraries and any academic or special library that collects tales of the sea.--Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll., Kansas City, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-The story of a woman who attended college, worked on fishing ships, and became a fishing captain. Greenlaw's name came to national attention a few years ago in Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm (Knopf, 1997) when her vessel's sister ship capsized, losing all its crew. Here, readers accompany the captain and her five-man crew as they travel in calmer weather on the Hannah Boden from their home port of Gloucester, MA, to catch swordfish on the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic. The readable, straightforward account of the trip reveals the day-to-day regularity of steaming to the site, preparing, setting, and hauling in the four-mile long fishing line, followed by cleaning and icing the catch. This routine allows for about four hours of sleep per day and continues for two to three weeks. It's a demanding job and the necessary precision of tasks handled by the crew is astonishing. Interspersed throughout the book are chapters entitled "Mug-Up," which provide folkloric background about ships and fishing superstitions. A fascinating look at an unusual career.-Pam Spencer, Young Adult Literature Specialist, Virginia Beach, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
1 Turning the Boat Aroundp. 1
2 Mug-upp. 18
3 Second Thoughtsp. 26
4 Mug-upp. 51
5 The Menp. 59
6 Mug-upp. 93
7 Sea Timep. 101
8 Mug-upp. 132
9 Loose Lipsp. 135
10 Mug-upp. 190