In his runaway bestseller, The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger calls Linda Greenlaw "one of the best sea captains, period, on the East Coast." He goes on to tell the tale of the six fishermen who perished during the 1991 storm of the century.
Junger was responsible for introducing Greenlaw to the public spotlight. Now she's ready for her close-up with this riveting memoir.
The Hungry Ocean chronicles a month in the life of the Hannah Boden's crew. Captain Greenlaw and her four team members are on the clock from the moment they leave the dock until they return weeks later. A good catch is celebrated. A bad catch means no paycheck. A lot is at stake on this voyage.
Greenlaw begins with the groundwork for the trip. Hannah Bowden leaves the dock with $40,000 worth of supplies on board. The fish don't catch themselves and the author explains the immense preparations for hooking the prize.
It's clear the author is an excellent captain. The descriptions of her crew are fair and honest. She has nothing but respect for her difficult boss and she isn't afraid to stand up to her male colleagues.
There's a point in the trip where the crew work ten 21-hour days straight. Greenlaw's description of the great catch is fascinating, though I admit I got lost in the process. Swordfishing is truly a science and each critical detail must be handled or the trip may prove disastrous.
Greenlaw adds just a bit of autobiography to the pot. The desire to be on the sea hit her at a young age. While other teens were "borrowing" their parents' car, she preferred joyriding in the family boat.
Sections of The Hungry Ocean are divided by little diversions called "Mug-Ups" where Greenlaw takes a break from the trip to talk about various aspects of fishing. These digressions feature humor, superstitions, and legendary yarns woven in for the ultimate armchair fishing experience.
Though the author is one female captain among a sea of men, she doesn't dwell on the fact. You won't find a feminist soapbox here, only the insistence that you don't call the author a fisherwoman.
The Hungry Ocean has an Appendix that includes an itemized list of expenses and profits for this trip, as well as a basic map to see the Hannah Bowden's route. Though the day-to-day operations are clearly explained, readers would benefit from a couple of boat diagrams/photos/visual aids that show how the equipment works.
Linda Greenlaw's ego-free memoir is an educational, interesting look at one voyage of a swordfishing crew. The exhaustive work is fascinating. Even this hydrophobic landlubber is captivated by Greenlaw's fishing and writing talents.