‘Perfect Storm’ skipper makes a comeback

2010-09-06 00:00

IMMORTALISED in print and on the silver screen as the captain of the Hannah Boden in Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm, Linda Greenlaw spent the past decade fishing for lobsters and writing autobiographical books on her life at sea, cookery books and the murder mysteries Slipknot and Fisherman’s Bend.

When, however, the New England fisherwoman got the chance to captain the Seahawk and head back to the Grand Banks in the Atlantic Ocean to catch swordfish, she grabbed it with both hands.

Her exploits and those of her crew can be seen in the new Discovery Channel series Swords: Life on the Line, which can be seen on DStv channel 121 at 8 pm on Fridays as part of Life on the Edge month. The series follows four boats and their crews as they seek out swordfish.

Born and raised on the coast of Maine in the United States, Greenlaw spent her early childhood trying to catch anything that “swam or crawled along the shores”, but it wasn’t until she was 19 that the fishing bug really bit.

“I needed a good summer job to pay my way through college and I signed on to work on the deck of a commercial swordfishing boat. I fell in love with it,” she says.

“The very worst experience I ever had was when we had 40 miles of gear in the water… and it was blowing 100 knots of wind,” she says.

“We can’t leave the gear out in bad weather, so we had to haul it back, [but] the wind was blowing so hard that I could barely even get the boat to the first buoy to start hauling. [And] I was very concerned about my crew just staying on the deck because the seas were building and getting very high … it was a pretty terrifying, long, long day.”

Asked what she thought of The Perfect Storm, Greenlaw says that while she was thrilled to have Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio portray her on screen, she was disappointed that Warner Bros didn’t let her play herself when she heard that George Clooney was playing Captain Tyne, skipper of the doomed Andrea Gail.

The film tells the harrowing story of the 72-foot swordfish boat that disappeared in a hurricane in October 1991. Greenlaw was captain of the Andrea Gail’s sister ship, the Hannah Boden, and the last person in contact with Tyne and his crew.

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