Bering Sea Strong: How I Found Solid Ground on Open Ocean Info

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Full of unusual characters, mischief, camaraderie, and
testosterone-fueled man gossip.


Bering Sea Strong is a
tale of adventure and self-discovery. The story portrays a young woman
on a solo journey, pushed to the edge of the earth and further from the
weight of family—marked by divorce, death, disability, and
depression—and a life she desires on land.

Locked at sea
for ninety days as the lone female trying to tuck in tight alongside
twenty-five rough-and-tumble commercial fishermen in Alaska, Laura
Hartema offers a rare glimpse into the intertwining worlds of a
fisheries observer and the crew she works beside. She graphically
illustrates the challenges of daily life and relationships in a way few
have seen before. Her story provides an unprecedented portrait of the
bizarre and entertaining human dynamics aboard an at-sea
catcher-processor vessel, where men battle dangerous working conditions,
loneliness, and boredom while rivaling for the attention of the only
woman.

Between trough and crest, Laura ponders the trauma and
tragedies of her Midwest childhood as her capabilities and resilience
are regularly tested. She is often left deciding when to “blow it
off” and when to “blow a gasket.” In the end, the
tumultuous Bering Sea is where she finds the strength to overcome the
wounds of her past, embrace life’s uncertainty, and steam ahead
into the unchartered waters of her future. Bering Sea Strong
demonstrates one woman’s determination to overcome obstacles in
pursuit of a satisfying career and a better life.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.27

107 Ratings

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Ratings and Reviews From Market


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Reviews for Bering Sea Strong: How I Found Solid Ground on Open Ocean:

3

May 06, 2019

3.5 Who in their right mind would take a job on a fishing vessel, headed for the Bering straight and manned by 25 fishermen? Certainly not I, but it made for some interesting reading. Not sure which way her life was going, but definitely tired of minimum wage jobs, Laura takes a job as an observer aboard a fishing boat. As an observer, her job was to sample, size and weight what the ship caught as well as making sure they didn't keep any fish on the endangered list. As the only woman aboard, she 3.5 Who in their right mind would take a job on a fishing vessel, headed for the Bering straight and manned by 25 fishermen? Certainly not I, but it made for some interesting reading. Not sure which way her life was going, but definitely tired of minimum wage jobs, Laura takes a job as an observer aboard a fishing boat. As an observer, her job was to sample, size and weight what the ship caught as well as making sure they didn't keep any fish on the endangered list. As the only woman aboard, she would share bunk space with three other men. At sea for ninety days with only a short port visit, she looked forward to having her shore life back. Just to find out sometimes life throws us curves and bumps.

Fascinating book, a job I never knew existed and in a place I will never visit. As Laura did I experienced and learned much. Weathering some mighty waves, seeing men almost get killed by their own mistakes, storms at sea, and running out of toilet paper does not mean one heads for the nearest port. Friendship, teamwork, looking out for each other, nicknames and pranks.

Never knew there was black for, a fish much prized by Leaves. Orcas eat 550 lbs of fish each and every day. In between life aboard the ship, we hear pieces and bits of Laura and her family's story. Some great pictures as well. A book that definitely held and kept my interest. ...more
4

Nov 26, 2017

I received an eARC of this title from the publisher through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. The book comes out in March 2018.

I was poking around my review titles for non-fiction to read during Non-Fiction November and this caught my eye. I had recently booked a trip to Alaska and wanted to read more about it, and here was a book set north of where I will be! The life of the commercial fisherman is one of the hardest there is. Laura quotes a statistic that it has the fatality rate, I received an eARC of this title from the publisher through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. The book comes out in March 2018.

I was poking around my review titles for non-fiction to read during Non-Fiction November and this caught my eye. I had recently booked a trip to Alaska and wanted to read more about it, and here was a book set north of where I will be! The life of the commercial fisherman is one of the hardest there is. Laura quotes a statistic that it has the fatality rate, and that half of the deaths in the profession take place in the Bering Sea. Yet this is where she decided to work on a commercial fishing boat, measuring and counting as the "observer," no less in danger than those pulling the fish from the sea.

Plus she is the only female on board! I was a bit surprised at her lack of preparation for some of the practicalities related to this, but she was honest. And maybe she was more focused on being fearless than on being practical. She learned a lot.

Threaded throughout the recounted tales of fishing are pieces of Laura's life story, from her childhood to failed attempts to pursue a graduate degree. This is a good look into what life is like in one of the most extreme places there is.

Cross-reference: I read a 19th century account of one of the first non-indigenous women to travel to this same region, and she stopped at the Pribilof Islands, which is south from where Laura and her crew are fishing. The challenges were slightly different - hunger, cold, seals - but I just kept thinking of these two women together. You can read that account here: Libby: The Sketches, Letters & Journal Of Libby Beaman, Recorded In The Pribilof Islands, 1879 1880, ...more
5

Apr 27, 2018

Laura’s story was fun to read and I found her honesty and humor very refreshing. Learning what she went through, both during her time in Alaska and growing up in the midwest, helped me to get to know her better and develop a deeper understanding of her character. Bravo!
4

Mar 12, 2018

What a fascinating, funny, thoughtful invitation into a wild, watery world I would never otherwise have experienced. Laura's story is for those attracted to the ocean and the fishing life and for those (like me!) who have never, ever baited a hook. Not only did I love this page-turning introduction to a completely alien world--the danger and tedium of commercial fishing on the Bering Sea--but I appreciated how Laura wove that story in and out of a more ordinary yet still compelling tale: this What a fascinating, funny, thoughtful invitation into a wild, watery world I would never otherwise have experienced. Laura's story is for those attracted to the ocean and the fishing life and for those (like me!) who have never, ever baited a hook. Not only did I love this page-turning introduction to a completely alien world--the danger and tedium of commercial fishing on the Bering Sea--but I appreciated how Laura wove that story in and out of a more ordinary yet still compelling tale: this one about growing up, about difficult families, about longing and love. I wouldn't call this an especially "literary" memoir (it's the story that matters here not the artfulness of the form), but Laura Hartema is a master of the metaphor. Her writing is full of energy. ...more
5

Feb 10, 2018

Bering Sea Strong is a tale about strength and searching. The author, desperate to get into grad school, took a job with a government agency to report on catches from fishing ships. With interesting snapshots of her past, she writes of her adventures of being the lone female aboard testerone laden boats. Ultimately, her time at sea had a profound impact on her life and the undulating waves sent her in the direction she was supposed to go on land. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
4

Mar 11, 2018

I wanted to like this more- it's a great topic with a lot of potential- but I thought it was weighed down by extraneous info and worst of all, I wanted to tell Hartema to get over herself. Yes it's a challenge being the only female on a fishing boat but she's not a princess. I get where she's coming from but at the same time, it felt to me as though she expected these men to modify their behavior, which would not have been an issue if she had not been there, and criticized them when they didn't I wanted to like this more- it's a great topic with a lot of potential- but I thought it was weighed down by extraneous info and worst of all, I wanted to tell Hartema to get over herself. Yes it's a challenge being the only female on a fishing boat but she's not a princess. I get where she's coming from but at the same time, it felt to me as though she expected these men to modify their behavior, which would not have been an issue if she had not been there, and criticized them when they didn't rise to it immediately. Don't get me wrong- admittedly some of it is pretty rotten and I appreciated the insight. I'm not defending them, only asking the reader to give everyone a break. This also would have benefited from a strong edit, which it might have received since I downloaded my ARC from Edelweiss. Recommend this to those interested in fishing in Alaska and in stories of personal growth. ...more
1

Mar 23, 2018

Horrible . It is amazing how an estranged step sister can publish in a book so many lies. I worked on my doctoral degree from age 18 to 32 and she says I lived off my dads credit cards, he never gave me a dime after age 22.. She makes it seem like I was always trying to lead her astray I was just a rebellious teenager. Her mom, 32 years younger then my dad seduced him out of a 40 year marriage and then emotionally and physically abused us. My dad bought her a $6000 horses and spent thousands on Horrible . It is amazing how an estranged step sister can publish in a book so many lies. I worked on my doctoral degree from age 18 to 32 and she says I lived off my dads credit cards, he never gave me a dime after age 22.. She makes it seem like I was always trying to lead her astray I was just a rebellious teenager. Her mom, 32 years younger then my dad seduced him out of a 40 year marriage and then emotionally and physically abused us. My dad bought her a $6000 horses and spent thousands on her, but she is such the princess ( see the other review) she calls me pig face in the book and talks horribly about me, what a Christian!! This is a very disturbed person anyone who can lie like that and I have the pictures and letters to prove it. ...more
2

Feb 05, 2018

Laura Hartema has a very interesting story to tell, but she is not a good writer. This book is at its best when she is describing life on the boat and the day-to-day activities related to fishing. This is something I knew nothing about before reading this book, and I found it interesting and informative. She is certainly very knowledgeable about fish and fishing methods, and she communicated that knowledge well.

Unfortunately, though, the book was in many other respects distractingly poorly Laura Hartema has a very interesting story to tell, but she is not a good writer. This book is at its best when she is describing life on the boat and the day-to-day activities related to fishing. This is something I knew nothing about before reading this book, and I found it interesting and informative. She is certainly very knowledgeable about fish and fishing methods, and she communicated that knowledge well.

Unfortunately, though, the book was in many other respects distractingly poorly written. Her attempts to link the challenges of her upbringing to her time on the boat felt like a stretch. Ending up on a fishing boat in Alaska to escape family drama in the Midwest is only a coherent narrative if she hadn't already escaped to Washington State. She was really escaping the boredom of waiting tables in Seattle, which made her clunky segues back to life in Chicago and the Ozarks very jarring.

Another major theme of the book is her status as the only woman on the boat -- definitely an experience if there ever was one. It rang a bit hollow to me, though, because she came across as excessively prudish and expecting a bit too much from everyone. I don't want to see my coworkers in their underwear or to see them drinking and smoking pot at work either, but I work in an office, not on a fishing boat. Without a doubt, some of her experiences (especially on boat #2) were shocking and insupportable, but I would have felt more indignant on her behalf if she hadn't already been so shocked by comparatively mild offences. (Many readers will undoubtedly disagree with me - poor behavior is poor behavior, no need to classify it as mild or severe. I understand that position -- many readers will not find these portions of the book problematic.)

This e-ARC, generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, was riddled with typos, grammatical mistakes, incorrect descriptions of Chicago geography, misused words (lay vs. lie, for goodness' sake!), and tortured metaphors straight out of a Bulwer-Lytton contest. I assume that many of these errors will have been corrected in the published version.

I would recommend this book to readers who are interested in the subject matter but who are less picky than I am about the writing. Her story is well worth telling. ...more
4

Mar 31, 2018

I met this confident young woman in Alaska a few years ago when this book was a seed. We were at a writer's workshop in the wilds. She boarded the ship as a young woman full of doubts, and learned confidence and fortitude to go on.
We all have events in our past that shape us--good and bad. When we don't deal with them, we don't grow. A very interesting read, but not one word of sea sickness that I remember!
4

Mar 20, 2018

A Must read for all young people wondering what to do with their lives.

Wonderfully written! Laura put her heart into this wonderfully touching story. I am proud to have met her and to have worked for the same goal of protecting our endangered salmon.
4

Oct 29, 2018

Dangerous Job

I enjoyed this true story of a young lady working on a fishing trawler in the Bering Sea. Overcoming obstacles with the work, coworkers, and weather is inspiring.
5

Apr 20, 2018

As the subtitle implies, this book is about a whole lot more than life on a commercial fishing vessel. There’s plenty of adventure and shenanigans like you’d expect, but it’s interspersed with some fascinating detail about the important duties of a fisheries observer and the inner workings of a factory ship. The book also explores the complicated dynamics of the author’s family life growing up, which serves to reinforce the overarching theme of inner strength and self reliance. Worry not though As the subtitle implies, this book is about a whole lot more than life on a commercial fishing vessel. There’s plenty of adventure and shenanigans like you’d expect, but it’s interspersed with some fascinating detail about the important duties of a fisheries observer and the inner workings of a factory ship. The book also explores the complicated dynamics of the author’s family life growing up, which serves to reinforce the overarching theme of inner strength and self reliance. Worry not though - the book never gets too heavy. There’s plenty of humor and energy to keep the pages turning effortlessly. ...more
4

3.5 Who in their right mind would take a job on a fishing vessel, headed for the Bering straight and manned by 25 fishermen? Certainly not I, but it made for some interesting reading. Not sure which ...Full Review

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