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Authors: Linda Greenlaw


BOOK: Seaworthy
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Table of Contents
The Hungry Ocean
The Lobster Chronicles
All Fishermen Are Liars
Fisherman's Bend
Recipes from a Very Small Island
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in 2010 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Copyright © Linda Greenlaw, 2010
All rights reserved
Map by Jeffrey L. Ward
Greenlaw, Linda, 1960-
Seaworthy : a swordboat captain returns to the sea / Linda Greenlaw.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-43471-0
1. Greenlaw, Linda, 1960- 2. Swordfish fishing—Grand Banks of Newfoundland. 3. Seafaring life—Grand Banks of Newfoundland. 4. Women ship captains—Grand Banks of Newfoundland—Biography. 5. Ship captains—Grand Banks of Newfoundland—Biography. 6. Seahawk (Fishing boat) 7. Grand Banks of Newfoundland—Description and travel. I. Title.
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Penguin is committed to publishing works of quality and integrity.
In that spirit, we are proud to offer this book to our readers;
however, the story, the experiences, and the words
are the author's alone.

This book is dedicated to the hardworking men of the
Arthur Jost, Tim Palmer, Dave Hiltz, Mike Machado, and Nate Clark.
he cell door closed with the mechanical, steely sound of permanence. I stood, hands in pockets, and stared through the small rectangular window as the officer's pale, stern face momentarily filled the glass slot. A hand appeared and slid the shutter closed, cutting off my last, tenuous tie to the outside world of statements, processing, and legal procedure. Had they really taken my belt and shoelaces? Sure, this was not my best moment. But sitting in a holding pen in Newfoundland, I hadn't actually considered suicide. On many occasions throughout my career, I had heard people refer to being at sea aboard a small vessel as analogous to being imprisoned. I, however, had always felt that being out on open water gave me a sense of freedom and liberation. My first experience inside a jail cell confirmed that for me a boat is a boat, prison is prison, and the two have nothing in common.
I was so distraught during the processing that when the officer who was emptying my bag and inventorying its contents asked a co-worker how to best categorize feminine products, it hadn't even registered. Normally I would have died from embarrassment. Hadn't they ever run a woman through the system before? Of course they had, I knew. I had watched the parade of reprobates, all tethered together, shuffle by and into a cell, and I was discreetly informed that “Friday is drunk day.” There had been at least two, if not three, women in that lineup. I had looked away quickly, ashamed to have been caught checking them out. I wondered if they wondered, as I did about them, why I was here. So this is what true humiliation feels like, I thought.
A lot of head shaking, shoulder shrugging, and general disbelief had turned to hard, cold reality with the closing of that cell door. “Clink” and “slammer” were both appropriate synonyms, I realized, for a noisy entrance. Now the silence was remarkable. I missed the drone of the diesel engines and the squawking of the gulls. I took a deep breath and forced myself to turn away from the now-shuttered peephole and face my new surroundings. Alone. All alone. I like the feeling of solitude aboard a boat, I guess because I choose it. Being alone at sea was nothing like this. Perhaps being alone with my guilt was worse than rock bottom.
The cell was actually bigger than I had ever imagined one might be, especially a single. Not that I'd ever spent much time contemplating such things, but just in general I was surprised. The walls were white, as was the high ceiling, except for a few dried splatters of something I couldn't perceive as anything other than the semidigested contents of someone's stomach. I couldn't count the times I'd been hit in the face with spew when a seasick shipmate forgot about the wind. I'd always wiped it off with the back of my glove and never even blinked. Now I had to swallow what kept rising in my throat. The floor of the cell was a grayish color that I supposed was recommended for not showing grime. Overall, the cell was not actually clean. Sterilized was more like it. The smell of bleach evoked the image of a high-powered hose deployed on a weekly basis, but not a nice sweet smell like that of a freshly bleached fish hold.
There were a number of names and phrases strung together with four-letter words scratched into the walls and the bench seat that ran the length of the wall opposite the door. Fishermen often did similar scrawling on the underside of the bunk above them. I wondered how the inmates before me had etched the paint down to bare metal. And what for tools? Fingernails? Mine had been gnawed to nearly bleeding in the nerve-racked forty-eight hours since my arrest. And, I realized as I sat in the corner where the hard bench met the cold wall, I was too despondent to lash out even if I could.
Cooperative—that's what the arresting officers had said about me. Well, why wouldn't I be? I'm a nice girl. And I was totally and solely responsible for, and 100 percent guilty of, the charges on which I was now detained. And to top it all off, I was feeling too defeated to put up a fight anyhow. Should I have stood up to the three heavily armed and bulletproofed men who had boarded my vessel to investigate? At five foot three and 125 pounds, I think not. Should I have cut and run from the two-hundred-foot, state-of-the-art Canadian coast guard ship that had escorted me and my crew the 280 miles from the fishing grounds? Aboard the sixty-three-foot, six-and-a-half-knot jalopy of a boat called the
we had no chance. Maybe I should have protested. Now I felt like an absolute patsy. I sat on the bench, stared at the cell door, and quickly fell to a depth of despair that I never knew existed. I was well beyond tears. How could I have been so stupid? It's a long story. But I have time.
I'm Linda Greenlaw, the woman who was launched from near obscurity into a full fifteen minutes on the other end of the spectrum with the publication of Sebastian Junger's book
The Perfect Storm.
Being touted as one of the best swordfish skippers on the entire East Coast was a tough image for me to uphold at the close of a nineteen-year career full of the fits and starts that define commercial fishing. But I managed to make my uneasy peace with that mega image well enough. I retired from longline offshore fishing at the top of my game ten years ago. Since then I have been fulfilling a childhood dream of living year-round on Isle au Haut—an island in Penobscot Bay in Maine—where I reside today. The decade following my coming ashore from blue-water fishing is an example of real and drastic life change. Although hauling lobster traps had kept me on the water between the writing and promoting of six books during that span, small-boat fishing on the inshore waters surrounding my home did little to fill the void left in the absence of true, hardy saltwater adventure.
A bit hardier and saltier than I had hoped for so far, this latest adventure was still in its infancy when I landed in jail. Indeed, I had let my crew down. How and when would I explain this to my parents? And Simon? And what about Sarai? Not even a full year into my responsibility as legal guardian to the sixteen-year-old girl, and there I was in jail. What would Maine's Department of Health and Human Services think about that? I wasn't looking like the ideal role model right now. Unfit at best. I had let everyone down, especially me. Pitying oneself is the most pathetic of all pathetic indulgences in the human psyche. It's even worse than hating oneself. And I had a lot of that going on, too.
I'd been given neither advice nor instruction from the arresting and processing officers. They must have assumed, wrongly, that I had prior arrests and experience in this realm. I actually had no idea how to act, what to say, or what not to say. My acquaintance with jail was limited to vicarious travels through stories told by crew members. This was certainly the end of the prison intrigue I had enjoyed toying with through the years. Not knowing how long I would be locked up, I had nothing to do but sit and reflect on how I'd come to this sorry state and wonder how soon it would be before I got back offshore.
BOOK: Seaworthy
4.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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