THE RIVERKEEPER is Alec Wilkinson’s sensitive portrait of those who draw their lives from the water. The first essay, “The Blessing of the Fleet,” is about the Portuguese fishermen of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Descendants of fishermen from the Azores and Cape Verde Islands who came to America in the mid-nineteenth century, they are a superstitious and irascible lot. Wilkinson describes the Provincetown fleet, how the boats are constructed and the relationship between the quality of a vessel and the success which fishermen enjoy. There is an account of the blessing of the fleet, an annual ritual which, it is hoped, will ensure the safety of boat and crew and guarantee a year of prosperous fishing. As Wilkinson discovered however, danger can be as near as the next ocean swell, and boats and men are frequently lost in the bays and along the treacherous shoals off the New England coast.
"The Riverkeeper” concerns the experiences of John Cronin as he single-handedly monitors the 154 miles of the Hudson River. Hired by the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, Cronin pilots a twenty-five foot boat called RIVERKEEPER up and down the river searching for evidence that towns or factories are dumping pollutants into the Hudson. He also keeps track of the runs of spawning fish and makes notes on the river’s overall condition. Early in his tenure as riverkeeper he discovered that Exxon tankers were illegally flushing contaminants from their holds into...
(The entire section is 416 words.)