GAFF TOPSAILS - American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

GAFF TOPSAILS (1996). Gaff Topsails is set in a small coastal Newfoundland town during the Feast of St. John the Baptist, 24 June 1948. Local mountain peaks known as Gaff Topsails loom over the town; a melting iceberg looms at the cove’s mouth. The characters are depicted serially as each relates to the ocean: a drunken war hero mans the lighthouse* and lives in delusions of heroically rescuing fellow sailors; a woman awaits the return of her husband lost at sea; a teenaged boy concludes a fishing trip with a seal-killing on the iceberg.

Author Patrick Kavanagh (1950-?) was raised in a Newfoundland town resembling his novel’s setting. He sailed and fished as a youth, encountering both storms and icebergs. [See also CANADIAN LITERATURE OF THE SEA]

Mira Dock