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

By Laura Hartema
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.

"Laura Hartema is a woman made of steel navigating the rough waters of life on and off the Bering Sea. Good read." --Edgar Hansen from the Discovery channel documentary series, Deadliest Catch, cocaptain, chief engineer, F/V Northwestern

"Lock a beautiful, young woman up with a couple dozen of the most testosterone-burdened men on the planet for a few months and what could possibly go wrong? Apparently quite a lot. Over the years I've worked with a few female fishery observers, and I've often wondered what went through their heads; now I know. This book should be required reading for any woman thinking about shipping out to sea or living and working among a group of men." --Jonathan Allen, captain of F/Vs Arctic V, Glacier Enterprise, Lilli Ann, and Blue North, author of The Big Bucks Guide to Commercial Fishing in Alaska

"After working many years in the industry, I enjoy reading books about Alaskan commercial fishing. This is one of the good ones--informative and fun to read." --Eric Dunn, deck boss, F/T Alaska Ocean

"Laura Hartema found her strength on the Bering Sea. Through her beautifully written book, we can discover adventure and strength in our own lives." --Barbara Oakley, New York Times bestselling author of A Mind for Numbers and Mindshift

"It's exciting to read a no-bullshit story that captures the genuine Alaska experience. Laura Hartema's unique memoir is as engrossing as it is seaworthy." --Chuck Thompson, author of Smile When You're Lying and To Hellholes and Back

"Bering Sea Strong is sure to become a favorite of all those who've challenged themselves to do more than they once believed they could and those who are preparing for such a challenge. Laura Hartema writes with honesty, wisdom, and not a small amount of humor." --Theo Pauline Nestor, author of Writing Is My Drink

"Bering Sea Strong is at once disarming and savvy, funny and hard-hitting, deep and wide. Laura's story of being a female fisheries observer on a boat full of male fishermen at the far end of the earth is, finally, an intimate coming-of-age story, and a reckoning with her past: only by getting as far away from herself as she can will she ever really find herself. This is a wonderful read, vivid and heartbreaking." --Bret Lott, author of Jewel

"Bering Sea Strong is not only one woman's grand, gritty, and sometimes absurd adventure among some of the fiercest waters and wildest men in the world, but it leads to the deep questions of who we are and how we find and make ourselves. Dive shallow or deep--either way, it's a terrific read!" --Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Surviving the Island of Grace

"Hartema's personal account of her time at sea is thoughtful and packed full of fascinating details about the seafood we eat, and the lives of the men (and rare women) who bring them to our tables." --Kalee Thompson, author of Deadliest Sea

"This gripping odyssey through the Bering Sea is like no other. Along the way Hartema shares the ferocity of nature, fickle men, and her love of fish. She navigates the rough spots of life with humor and a big heart, showing us how to wring happiness from sorrow and hardship." --Anne Bikle, author of The Hidden Half of Nature


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