Published by: Coastal Point
She’s a New York Times best-selling author and the United States’ first female swordboat captain, but Linda Greenlaw said she feels strange whenever she’s introduced as the “best-selling author.”
“I really always thought I was a fisherman,” she said.
Greenlaw received a great deal of attention following the release of Sebastian Junger’s book “The Perfect Storm” and the subsequent film adaptation (in which she was portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), which depicted the unnamed super-storm that sank the swordfishing vessel the Andrea Gale and her crew off the Grand Banks in October 1991. At the time, Greenlaw was the captain of the Andrea Gale’s sister ship, the Hannah Boden, which survived the storm.
Having gained notoriety from the book and film, Greenlaw was offered her own book deal and began writing both fiction and non-fiction books, all revolving around the life of a fisherman. She also currently stars on the Discovery Channel reality series “Swords: Life on the Line,” having returned to swordfishing in 2010 after a 10-year haitus.
On Wednesday, July 13, at 7 p.m. Greenlaw will be at Bethany Beach Books to sign copies of her book “Seaworthy: A Swordfish Boat Captain Returns to the Sea,” which was recently released in paperback, along with her other books, which include two books on swordfishing and lobstering, a fiction series revolving around a marine investigator and two cookbooks she co-authored with her mother, Martha.
Greenlaw earned the title of the first female swordboat captain 25 years ago, after spending most of her youth fishing.
“I think I came by it pretty naturally,” said Greenlaw of fishing. “Boating and fishing is pretty much a way of life where I live. I always loved fishing as a kid, and when I got to be at the age where kids are going off to college and needing money, I needed money for college and I went swordfishing. It seemed like a natural thing for me.
“I worked on the deck of a boat all the way through college. I did every job on the boat. I started off as a cook, worked as engineer, cleaned fish – you know, every job on the boat – through the course of my summers.”
Greenlaw noted that, although she’s the first female swordboat captain in a predominantly male workplace, she never felt there were gender issues.
“I don’t know if it’s my attitude or what. People are always pretty surprised it wasn’t more of a battle of the sexes, but it just hasn’t been a problem in my mind and I haven’t made it a problem. Maybe I’m really thick-skinned and never really noticed anything early on, but I love what I do and I work hard. I like to think I earn the respect of my crew the same way that men do.”
While at the top of her game a decade ago, captaining the Hanna Boden, Greenlaw decided to take a break from deep-sea fishing to “settle down” and have a family.
“It didn’t seem like there was any way to improve what I was doing, so I just decided to change what I was doing,” she said. “I was happy to go home to lobster, because I could still make my living on the water. But I was just never really 100 percent satisfied with that.”
Greenlaw said that fishing was put in the “margins” of her life, with her various other projects and numerous books taking the helm.
“There was always something missing. The 10 years that I wasn’t swordfishing, I always dreamed that I would go back. I never thought I wouldn’t return to it. Every time I had the opportunity to go back to it, the timing was never right.”
Over her decade hiatus she had been offered many opportunities to return to sea, but there had always been a schedule conflict. Then, one day, she was offered the chance to captain the Seahawk. That is the basis of her book, “Seaworthy,” which depicts her return to the sea.
“The phone rang one day, and the timing was right, and I realized if I said no, there was a very good chance I’d never get the opportunity to go swordfishing.”
She did, however, run into some trouble along the way; the boat had faulty equipment and was well rusted.
“It didn’t scare me,” she said. “I knew the boat wasn’t going to sink, or I at least hoped that it wouldn’t. As it turned out, the boat was a big problem, but that’s a part of fishing. It’s part of the life I’ve enjoyed since I was 19. It’s not all beautiful boats, nice weather and plenty of fish.”
Greenlaw said that the return to deep-sea fishing wasn’t as easy as one might expect but there were some comforting constants.
“I can’t say it was like riding a bike, but the moves hadn’t changed. Swordfish are still swordfish. They still eat the same things. They still like the same habitats, parameters. The fish were bigger – that was a nice surprise.”
“Seaworthy” was a journey for Greenlaw on many levels, and she looked at her voyage back as somewhat of a test.
“When I first got into fishing, all I was told was all I needed was a strong back and a weak mind, and those two things seemed to suit the job fairly well. Going back as a much older woman, my back was not as strong; I like to think that my mind was stronger.
“I guess the question was, for me, did that combination suit the job as well as the strong back and the weak mind? Do the things that you gain with maturity compensate with the things that fade with youth? The answer at the end of the book is, ‘yes.’”
No matter how one experiences Greenlaw, whether it’s through her television series, novels or even cookbooks, it’s clear that the ocean and fishing is her passion.
“I don’t know… I like the way I feel at sea. It’s hard to explain,” she said. “I’m passionate about catching fish. I always sort of explained it by using the title of my first book, ‘The Hungry Ocean.’ I’ve been fishing for all these years, and I have been consumed by it, but it’s a good thing to be totally consumed by your work, that you love it is actually very fulfilling.”
Greenlaw added that she especially loves visiting the coastal areas, like Bethany Beach, when doing book tours.
“I like the people down there, and I like the store. I love going to the coastal towns. There’s a real connection, there’s something universal about living on and around the ocean.”
For more information about Linda Greenlaw and her work, visit her Web site at www.lindagreenlawbooks.com.
Bethany Beach Books is located at 99 Garfield Parkway and opens at 8 a.m. For more information, call Bethany Beach Books at (302) 539-2522.