Quite a tale

Alisha Morrissey
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Fisherwoman’s harrowing story on the page

A famous fisherwoman who found herself facing charges in a St. John’s courtroom last year has released a new book about the fishing expedition that landed her in front of the judge.

American swordfishing captain Linda Greenlaw speaks to reporters in St. John’s recently after she was found guilty of fishing within Canada’s 200-mile limit. American swordfishing captain Linda Greenlaw speaks to reporters in St. John’s recently aft

Linda Greenlaw, possibly the only female sword fisherman on the east coast, has been fishing lobster and writing novels for the past decade. But when she was asked to captain the Sea Hawk in the summer of 2008, she jumped at the chance.

The following disastrous 52-day fishing trip, including Greenlaw's arrest are described in the new book from Viking Press.

But readers looking for a courtroom drama or more information about Canada’s strict fishing regulations, should look elsewhere.

While Greenlaw writes at length about the initial arrest and the feelings she had about spending time in a jail cell, Greenlaw only mentions the trial, her conviction and subsequent fine as an endnote on the last page of the book.

She prefers instead to focus on the misadventure, during which every piece of equipment — from navigational computers to the ice making machine, and even the engine — broke down.

Greenlaw is admittedly stubborn and never entertains the idea of going home without trying to go fishing.

Even after her arrest, all she’s interested in is getting back to the Grand Banks.

An English graduate, who started fishing at the age of 19 and never stopped, Greenlaw is a surprisingly good writer.

From the first page, when she’s describing being held in the St. John’s lock up for a court appearance, the reader is in that cell with her.

Her analogies are strong, for example comparing the solitude of a cell to passing time on a boat at sea and the names scratched in the paint on a metal bench inside the lockup, like that in the bottoms of the bunks stacked inside a fishing boat.

Greenlaw has an amazing grasp on the English language and knows how to tell a story in a compelling way.

Unfortunately, she’s wordy.

Greenlaw’s book, just shy of 300 pages, feels far too long.

She tends to repeat herself, rephrasing the same concept over and over again.

For example Greenlaw ponders no less than a half-dozen times how she’s behaving differently than she would have when on the water a decade before.

It’s a concept that provides insight into her character, but in a book that could be potentially read in one sitting, the repetitiveness is striking.

The dialogue, obviously remembered after the fact, was weak, as well.

One glaring omission from the book, was that Greenlaw was travelling with a film crew.

During the trial she brought up the fact there was a documentary film crew on her at all times, that even if she was the type to do something illegal, she wouldn’t do it with a camera filming her around the clock.

The camera crew was never mentioned in the book, though the specific experience seems to be featured in a Discovery Channel show called “Swords.”

She does mention in the epilogue that some wondered whether she got arrested on purpose for publicity, but she denies that now like she did after the arrest.

I was anxious to read the book as I met Greenlaw in the midst of her five-day trial in St. John’s. I covered the story of the swordfisherwoman’s week-long trial for The Telegram.

I spoke to her casually and on the record several times during the trial and subsequent sentencing procedure. While I wasn’t impressed by her reputation, I was by her personality.

She seemed funny and incredibly capable.

Greenlaw wore oversized sweaters, Khaki pants and deck shoes to nearly all her court appearances and regularly tucked her short hair behind her ears.

I remember she was overcome with emotion when she was testifying, either out of nervousness or guilt and perhaps a combination of the two.

She never denied that she’d crossed into Canada’s 200-mile limit.

The whole trial appeared to be a palm to the forehead for her. A “d’oh” of sorts, and she apologized several times for crossing the imaginary line and driving her boat four miles in the wrong direction.

The 47-year-old from Maine — who was portrayed in the popular Hollywood movie, “The Perfect Storm” (starring George Clooney) — is the author of three other best-selling books about life as a commercial fisherman — “The Hungry Ocean,” “The Lobster Chronicles” and “All Fishermen are Liars.”

She also writes mystery novels.

amorrissey@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Viking Press, Discovery Channel, The Lobster

Geographic location: Canada, Sea Hawk, Maine Hollywood

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