March 10, 2010

Catch of the week: Linda Greenlaw herself

— PORTLAND — I said a naughty word in front of Linda Greenlaw.

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The totebag company Sea Bags hosted a party Aug. 27 for Linda Greenlaw and the crew of the swordfish boat Seahawk, part of a new series now airing on the Discovery Channel called Swords: Life on the Line. The best catch of the day: Beth Shissler, owner of Sea Bags, Alden Leeman, the original old salt and Linda Greenlaw, Swordfish Boat Captain and author. They all hail from Isle Au Haut.

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It's not like I was at sea with the brave captain, miles away from land, hunting for swordfish. Naughty words are excusable out there.

I was, instead, at a private party for her and others at the very cushy Custom House Wharf in Portland. It was a cocktail reception held in honor of a TV show currently airing 9 p.m. Tuesdays on the Discovery Channel.

The show, called ''Swords: Life on the Line,'' follows four swordfishing boats, Greenlaw's Seahawk included, as they hunt for their prized prey.

Shot over nearly two months last September, the show hit the air on Aug. 11. But this isn't ''Lost.'' You can still tune in now and easily catch up on what you've missed. Basically, swordfishing is a dangerous, uncomfortable, difficult job.

Which makes for great TV. The days at sea are endless, testing humans to the limits of their patience. Miles and miles away from land, you are at the mercy of the elements. Wicked storms rage and the ocean is cruel as men battle to land a 300-pound, lethal-weapon-carrying fish. There is little rest because the one fish you miss could be the one that tips the scale for your competitor, the other swordfishing boat out there hunting for the same catch.

I mean, holy s---.

So, anyway. That's what I said in front of Linda Greenlaw.

I'm thinking, though, that she didn't much mind that I let language go the way of overflow discharge.

The Seahawk crew of rugged, salty men, all who attended the party, have a quite colorful vocabulary themselves. The comments and conversations on the show between Nathan Clark (from Linda's hometown of Isle Au Haut), Archie Jost, Tim Palmer, Mike Machado and David Hiltz (another Mainer) are peppered with so many censorship ''bleeps,'' it's safe to say they've probably heard the phrase uttered before.

There was one saving grace. Jim and Martha Greenlaw weren't nearby at the time. I'd still have my head in the sand if I swore in front of Linda's parents.

Her sister, Beth Shissler, was close, but she was so busy with meeting and greeting, she probably never noticed.

The youngest of the Greenlaw children, Beth also owns Sea Bags, a Portland-based company that creates tote bags and other carry-alls from recycled sails. Sea Bags was the official host of the party.

Eldest sister Rhonda Hartley, who now lives in Harpswell, came to the event with her kids, Drew Hartley and Mattie Hartley, to support her sisters.

Other folks from the island also came down to Portland for the party. Actually, considering that, at last count, Isle au Haut has a year round population of 74, it is possible EVERYBODY from the island came down for the party.

Certainly, Alden Leeman was there. Leeman, a fisherman forever, claims full responsibility for Linda's success. He was, after all, the guy who gave Linda her first swordfishing vessel to captain in the 1980s. Wearing a crisp new blue shirt that he was teased incessantly about, he continually bragged about ''Linnie,'' showing off to anyone who would pay attention the brass swordfish belt buckle she gave him.

Could it be you've never heard of Linda Greenlaw, author of ''The Hungry Ocean''? If so, you should be ashamed to call yourself a Mainer. Here's your cheat sheet:

The year, 1991. A violent storm roars up the New England coast. Fate makes Linda a hero, as she tries to warn, and then come to the rescue of, the Andrea Gail, sister boat to her own swordfishing boat, the Hannah Boden. She never succeeds. The Andrea Gail and its crew of six are lost at sea in the storm. In 1997, Sebastian Junger writes a nonfiction best-seller about the tragedy titled ''The Perfect Storm'' and the book makes Linda famous. In 2000, Hollywood turns Junger's book into a movie that makes Linda look just like Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

She didn't come to the party, by the way. George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg also missed a great time.

No matter, though. The people who did come wanted most of all to see the stars of ''Swords: Life on the Line,'' which included Capt. Scott Drabinowicz, from Florida. A special guest at the event, ''Captain Scott'' is the leader of a competing boat on the show, the Eagle Eye II.

Partygoers went around the room collecting autographs like boys hanging over the dugout at Fenway Park. Most of the strangers (those NOT from Isle au Haut) who approached Linda for an autograph did so with stars in their eyes. And swordfish kabobs in their mouths.

Seems everyone there really did have something to celebrate, as the show is becoming wicked populah (I've decided to put a word in every column ''made Maine'' by ending it with with -ah).

The ''who will go home with the biggest catch'' element of the program is the part that seems to be drawing people back. Since Linda and Scott were in the same room having a great party, it's clear it can't end bad. But to find out which one comes out on top of the swordfish pile, we will all have to wait until the season finale that airs at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

They wouldn't even tell me how it ends, no matter how much I tried to impress upon them that I do not actually own a TV with channels because I can't afford cable. So, I guess you'll have to tell me about it. You, or any one of the 74 people living on Isle au Haut.

Staff Writer Giselle Goodman can be reached at 791-6382 or at:

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Additional Photos

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The totebag company Sea Bags hosted a party Aug. 27 for Linda Greenlaw and the crew of the swordfish boat Seahawk, part of a new series now airing on the Discovery Channel called Swords: Life on the Line. Linda Greenlaw's family: From left, Sarai Johnson (her "daughter"), Mattie Hartley (her niece), Rhonda Hartley (her big sister), David Heltz (her Seahawk crew member) and Drew Hartley (her nephew).


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