Hungry Ocean is a kind of follow-up to The Perfect Storm. The book was written by Linda Greenlaw, the captain of Hannah Boden; the Andrea Gail’s sistership. Greenlaw wrote Hungry Ocean as a window into a typical swordfishing trip to the Grand Banks. The trip she’s talking about wasn’t the biggest or the most dangerous, but a normal one, a far cry from the events that the Perfect Storm covers. Linda tells a great story from the moment when she wakes up on the day of departure to just after the last fish in unloaded.
The book starts off when Linda is woken up while sleeping in her bunk onboard the Hannah Boden on the day of departure. She talks about “turning the boat around”; the process of getting her boat ready for another 30 day fishing trip out to the Grand Banks. I better describe the Hannah Boden right now so you understand what I’m about to get into. Hannah Boden is a 100 foot long steel swordfishing boat. Swordfish are caught 1 of 3 ways, by harpooning them, catching them by rod and reel or fishing with longlines. Hannah Boden is a longliner. She’s about 20 feet wide and is designed to keep her crew out of harsh weather. The cabin house has 2 levels one at deck level and an upper level where the wheelhouse and captains stateroom is located. In addition to the cabin house there is a small 3/4 enclosure at the rear of the deck called the cart house. The cart house is a small shelter used to store leaders, buoys, floats and all of the related fishing gear, except for the mainline, which is stored on a large reel in front of the cart house. Hannah Boden is also equipped with outriggers and “birds”. Birds are small hydrofoils that are lowered about 20 feet into the water and keep the boat from rolling heavily. Now that you have at the very least, a vague idea of the nature of the Hannah Boden, I can continue.
The book is filled with Linda’s feelings during the trip, her premonitions, fears, and hopes. I could almost feel her excitement to go fishing when she left the dock, and her feeling of longing as she passed Isle Au Haut, Maine. The book took a quick turn as the Hannah Boden passed Sable Island; the presumed grave of her friends onboard the Andrea Gail and thousands of other fisherman. Greenlaw also takes breaks or Mug Up’s as she so fondly described them. Mug Up’s are a sort of break from the story being told in the main context of the book, it’s her way of going off on tangents and adding some of her history and ideas to the objective subject of her book. Linda also does a great job of telling of the passing of the minor little storms that would scare the average person.
The book shifts gears as the Hannah Boden nears the fishing grounds on the Grand Banks. The mood of the book is less relaxed and you can tell as the trip wears on that Linda isn’t sleeping much. It’s all routine for her. Time tested from 6 years as the captain on board fishing boats and more than 11 years of fishing onboard boats like the Hannah Boden. Linda’s excitement seems to grow with every fish landed and every set made, until Hannah Boden hits a patch of cold water and catches nothing but blue sharks. Linda goes on to explain the delicate workings of swordfishing and the relationships that comprise a good healthy crew.
The book talks about fishing and the details of longlining for most of it’s length, it’s not worth getting into here, as it would take me writing the book here word for word. The book ends with the journey home and the unloading of the catch, much like the beginning. What sets this book apart from the multitude of others that I have read and now sit on my shelf was the fact that for once I read about someone’s doubts and dreams. This book tells the story of a typical day; it’s about what happens between the great tales that you spin around the table.
As a book for everyone to read, hmm… Probably not, Hungry Ocean is all about commercial fishing, I’d recommend it to anyone who wonders where that swordfish steak came from and how it got caught in the first place. Hungry Ocean is a pretty easy read; I managed to finish it in less than 2 days. It’s enticing if you like this sort of thing and just plain interesting if you like The Perfect Storm. Hungry Ocean, go out and read it.