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

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 menÄsuch 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. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Greenlaw is the female skipper of a commercial swordfishing boat and was a primary source of technical detail for Sebastian Junger's best-selling The Perfect Storm (LJ 5/15/97). The Hungry Ocean details a 30-day swordfishing trip from Gloucester to the Grand Banks. Greenlaw describes her boat, equipment, and various electronic gear, including the "temperature bird" that is lowered to measure the temperature at the fishing depth, as well as her technique for finding just the right area to fish. The process of laying out the 40-mile longline, with radio beacons at intervals so that the expensive gear and the catch can be hauled aboard, is also discussed in great detail. Greenlaw also tells of life aboard for her crew, including personality conflicts that invariably subside when the tired and busy crew is occupied with the grueling haul-back of the catch. After all their hard work, there is the gut-wrenching suspense of not knowing what the market price of the catch will be. An exciting and detailed look inside the commercial fishing industry, sure to be popular in public libraries.ÄJohn Kenny, San Francisco P.L. (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