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Linda Greenlaw: Courageous, Trailblazing Star of the High Seas

The world's most famous female mariner, now appearing in "Deadliest Catch," appreciates the gifts that come with maturity and age.

Except for Captain Ahab, commercial fishing is not a normal route to celebrity. Especially not for a woman. But Linda Greenlaw, the only female sword-fishing boat captain on the East Coast and a bestselling author, has adeptly navigated her way to become one of the world’s most famous mariners. 

A sailor since she was young, Greenlaw has an unrelenting passion for the sea, which quite possibly has helped her survive the ocean’s often-brutal waves and storms.

Her courageous efforts to warn the crew of the Andrea Gail were showcased in the 1997 book The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, as well as the film of the same name, in which actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio played her. (In fact, she was the last captain to speak to the commercial fishing boat that was lost at sea in the ferocious gale.)

Overall, Greenlaw was thrilled with how the film came out. “When I heard that George Clooney was the lead, I begged Warner Brothers to let me play myself,” she acknowledged to NextTribe. “No dice. Still, I was delighted and quite relieved with Mary–she played me better than I could have done myself!” 

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“I Am Far from Fearless”

For all of her accomplishments, Greenlaw remains humble. “Believe me, I am far from fearless,”she says. “But if working hard at what one is passionate about makes me a badass, I am that for sure.” The legendary captain recently joined Discovery’s Deadliest Catch, an exciting series that follows the adventures of some of the world’s greatest fishermen maneuvering extremely troubling situations at sea.

The ironic thing is that up until recently, Greenlaw never even watched the documentary series, which has been a fan favorite with viewers for the past 19 seasons.

‘If working hard at what one is passionate about makes me a badass, I am that for sure.’

“In all of the years that Deadliest Catch has been on, I have spent most of my time offshore with no time to tune in,” she says. “I never even watched Seinfeld! And that makes me socially inept according to most of my friends! I was, however, very aware of the series, as it has been part of so many conversations for so long.”

Now that she is an avid watcher and fan of the show, Greenlaw loves that it portrays commercial fishermen in their element. 

“It’s not glamorous or romantic,” she says. “It’s a grind most of the time. I really like how the show sometimes focuses on the very real parts of life, such as Captain Sig Hansen missing his mother’s death because he was at sea. And it does not ignore issues like substance abuse and overdose. I was completely honored to be included this season.”  

Getting Close to God at Sea

Courtesy of her supportive mom, Greenlaw was raised knowing that she could do whatever she wanted; gender was not an issue. “When I was young, and very much a tomboy, I complained to my mother about having been born a girl,” Greenlaw says. “When I asked her if I HAD to be a girl, she answered, ‘No, you can be anything you want to be.’ Since that day, my world has been pretty great. My mom’s words are still the best advice I have ever received. Because I was raised knowing that gender was not an issue, I have never made it one. I love my life! And in my opinion, there has never been a better time in our history to have been born female.”

Nevertheless, Greenlaw is aware of the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated profession. “To be clear, I have always cringed at the phrase ‘male-dominated,’” she says. “I have been outnumbered—never dominated. Being female is an asset in many ways. But gender also has inherent challenges, most of which are the obvious physical requirements of working on deck. There isn’t a job that I can’t do aboard a boat.”

‘There has never been a better time in our history to have been born female.’

She continued: “I have had to learn to put female moves on what most people would consider to be male work. And now that I am older, I have to find new ways to do the same work. I am not as strong or fast as I once was. But I still manage to get it done.”

Greenlaw aspires to boldly embrace aging as much as possible. “What do I like about getting older? That’s a short list!” she quipped. “But I suppose I do embrace aging—as if there were a better alternative! I am proud to still be doing what I want when I want. I don’t color the gray out of my hair or botox my wrinkles away. Hell, the only makeup I use is chapstick!”

Looking at her life, Greenlaw noted that it really hasn’t changed much in the past 30 years. “I have found new ways to do the same physical parts of my job,” she says. “I like my perspective now; I like my attitude. The things I have gained in maturity far outweigh what has been lost with youth. I wrote an entire book about this very thing, called Seaworthy.”

It is the ocean that is the veteran captain’s greatest teacher. “To misquote Henry David Thoreau—‘I went to sea because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life . . . and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.’ Essentially, I want to live while I’m alive, then die and be done with it. And to go a shade of Walt Whitman with this, I feel closer to my god when I am at sea. People of the sea get very prayerful at times.”

By Susan Hornik


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