Salt of the Sea: Stories Told by the Fishermen of Point Judith
By Cindy Follett Guldemond
Fowler Road Press, 2012
Paperback, 210 pages, $22
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever caught in your net? You probably can’t beat Rhode Island fisherman Leon “Buddy” Champlin who hauled up a torpedo:
“In 1947, the boat was blown up. We picked up a torpedo in the net. We were steaming and pulling it behind the boat, going two to three miles an hour. It was heavy. We were trying to get it up to the surface so we could pull it in. I was looking for it to come up, and just as it got to the surface, it blew up. Bent the stern of the boat up and sheared off sixteen five-eighths bolts, which left the engine sitting in the bilge.”
Buddy is one of the fishermen interviewed for the book “Salt of the Sea: Stories told by the Fishermen of Point Judith” by Cindy Follett Guldemond.
These stories come direct from the people who lived them. Guildemond, who grew up in a fishing family in Point Judith, interviews 28 elderly fishermen from her community. She also includes a section of old photos and of the true “old timers” who fished these waters from around the turn of the last century.
The sea has plenty of bombs it can throw, and these fishermen have seen it all. From decades on the water they share stories about surviving hurricanes, sinkings, run-ins with the law and being run through the middle by a Norwegian steamer.
Besides drama, the book also provides a look at what it was like to be a fisherman back in the 30s, 40s, 50s. Back then electronics included a short-wave radio at best. You had no facilities, no heat in the wheelhouse, and certainly no fish-finders. The fishermen interviewed here were dedicated professionals who knew what they were doing.
In her introduction, Guldemond said growing up in Point Judith, she always idolized the fishermen, who included her father and now three brothers. “Above all I loved hearing the stories they told when they returned from the sea. Having talked about recording their stories for the past twenty years, I finally raised my nerve and did it.”
She should be commended for doing so. If you like stories about fishing, check out this book.