Colby Magazine - Summer 1999 The Hungry Ocean

Made famous in Sebastian Junger’s best seller The Perfect Storm, swordboat captain Linda Greenlaw ’83 has written her own account of a 30-day fishing voyage on the Grand Banks. The Hungry Ocean is an unsentimental description of the art and craft of swordfishing, rich with detail about life and work aboard ship.

Greenlaw, who gave up swordfishing in early 1996 and now is lobstering at home on Isle au Haut, Maine, was called by Junger “one of the best sea captains, period, on the East Coast.” The Hungry Ocean explains her success. Greenlaw describes the meticulous process of planning for a month at sea—everything, from the maintenance of critical equipment to the laying in of provisions.

The captain’s greatest challenge may be managing the crew. Greenlaw, one of few women in the Gloucester fishing fleet, says her primary strategy in gaining respect from male crewmembers is to outwork them. She is uncompromising when it comes to safety—she once woke a man who’d fallen asleep on watch with a hard backhand to the face. But she’s known as “Ma” among the crew, and she is deft with the psychological tricks required to keep morale up among men living too close together and working too hard.

Greenlaw’s greatest asset as a fisherman may be her solid practicality, which shows when she writes about her $2,000 fish. She tried for 40 minutes to land the massive swordfish. “This was the one that fishermen dream of, and now that I had seen it, I had to have it,” Greenlaw writes. In the end, the fish escaped and took a “victory lap” around the boat. “I am afraid that I have never possessed much of that ‘Free Willy’ spirit and confess that I have only bitter feelings about the one that got away,” she writes.

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