Fishing for swordfish is what made Linda Greenlaw famous, and what launched her lucrative writing career.

Greenlaw, of Isle Au Haut, had been catching swordfish her whole adult life when she was included in Sebastian Junger’s 1997 book “The Perfect Storm,” about the tragic loss of a Massachusetts-based fishing boat and crew during a historic storm. Greenlaw was captaining a swordfish boat at the same time, and had contact with the doomed crew shortly before the tragedy.

In the book, Junger called her “one of the best” fishing boat captains on the East Coast. The publicity landed her a book about her own fishing experiences, “The Hungry Ocean” (1999). That was followed by her book about going into the business of lobstering, “The Lobster Chronicles” (2002) and a book of fishing stories called “All Fishermen are Liars” (2004). She’s also written a cookbook and two mysteries.

During this writing period, she stopped fishing for swordfish, which she had done for 20 years. But two years ago Greenlaw, 49, had an opportunity to go back to swordfish fishing, as a captain, and she took it.

That experience led to her much publicized charges for illegally fishing in Canadian waters in 2008, as well as a new book, “Seaworthy: A Swordboat Captain Returns to the Sea” (Penguin, $25.95).

The book goes on sale June 1, and Greenlaw will begin a national book tour. She’s currently splitting her time between Portland and her long-time home on Isle Au Haut. Her next swordfish excursion begins Aug. 1, out of New Bedford, Mass.

Q: Did you go back to fishing for swordfish intending to write a book, or simply to get back into fishing?

A: It was definitely just to get back into fishing. As time marched on, it became more and more unlikely I’d go back. I had opportunities. But whenever (a boat owner) would call, I’d have 800 lobster traps in the water or be on a book tour. But this time (two years ago), the timing was right. I was between book contracts and I got a call from someone who had called me a half dozen times during my ten years away from (swordfish) fishing. This time I said yes.

Q: What were the biggest surprises or challenges you faced when you went back out?

A: Setting and hauling the gear hadn’t changed, at all. But I had changed. Obviously, physically I’m not as strong as I was. Things like driving with one hand and grabbing the gear are physical. Plus just being out at sea for 30 days (a typical swordfish run) is like standing on a giant medicine ball for 30 days. Also, the lack of sleep when you’re at sea, takes time to get adjust to.

Q: At what point did you think you might write a book about this?

A: A few days into the first trip, the boat broke down and we had to be towed into Nova Scotia. I had a conversation with my agent who had been working on a book contract for me. It was very early on in the trip but I knew I had some stuff that could make a book. So I got a contract, for two books, this one and another one.

Q: What will the other one be about?

A: It deals with some big changes in my life, like how I’m now the legal guardian of a teenage girl. I don’t want to talk about it more than that now, but I hope you’ll call me a year from now when the book comes out.

Q: So what is the focus of this book?

A: I think the main thing that will interest people is my arrest, for fishing in Canadian waters (south of Newfoundland in Sept. 2008.) I ended up paying a $38,000 fine, but I’m still dealing with it. I’ve hired an immigration attorney, because I’d like the ability to come and go freely in Canada.

It was a stupid and honest mistake, I made a legal set (putting lines in the water) but my gear was run over and towed into Canadian waters. We have 40 miles of gear in the water, something happens to it while I’m on deck, and I’m not going to know about it.

They have very tough fishing regulations in Canada, which is a great thing. It was hard for me to prove I used due dilligence.

The main thread of the book is going back to something 10 years later and 10 years older. This was my identity, I still introduce myself as a fisherman, not a writer. And I wanted to know if I still would love it.

Q: After seven books, writing must come fairly easy to you, right?

A: No, it’s not easy for me at all. Writing is still the biggest challenge. I sign a contract and then I know it’s serious, and I have to be driven to sit myself down everyday and write. I’d much rather be hauling lobsters.

Q: So why do you keep writing?

A: I love my books. I love the finished product. I like the product, and the financial gains. My heart says I’m a fisherman but my checkbook says I’m a writer. I used to fish to support other hobbies, now I write to support my fishing habit.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]


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