Highliners are the elite of the fishing world, the skippers and crews who make the biggest catches—salmon, king crab, halibut, shrimp—and deliver them first to the bustling canneries of Kodiak and Dutch Harbor. For these men—and for their women—the safe eight-hour day does not exist. It never will. Some fishermen get rich, many die broke. But they find a special joy in their work that can never be matched by the easier world of the landsman. No matter how great the hardship or how bad the storm, the highliners put out to sea in their primitive battle against the elements.
The protagonist of the novel is Hank Crawford, a young greenhorn who first comes to Alaska to work in a cannery to earn money while on summer vacation from college. He is quickly hooked by the fisherman’s life, and this novel re-creates how a young man becomes a highliner. He succeeds because he is young enough, strong enough, and brave enough. He learns the brutal business from hard-fisted skippers, penny-pinching cannery managers, and the pirates of the fishing world. Hank also meets the tough women who endure the hardships of Alaska alongside their men.
Journey with him as he learns to survive the elements (100-mile-an-hour winds, ice storms, tidal waves, and fire at sea) and attempts to become a highliner.