Writing World: Jim Wellman

Newfoundland’s own journalist and author, Jim Wellman, speaks out on his 10th book, Challengers of the Sea, and life as a writer immersed in his marine roots.


Originally from Port Anson, Newfoundland and Labrador, Jim Wellman has lived a life very much immersed in the sea and all it encompasses. 

With a family history deeply rooted in fishery endeavours and ship escapades, Wellman never strayed too far from his marine roots, despite choosing a career as a journalist and an author. 

His latest paperback, Challengers of the Sea, dives into the rough, yet rewarding life of the men and women who take on the best and the worst of what the Northwest Atlantic ocean has to offer. 

Unforgiving Seas 

Stories of tragedy, loss, and mystery turn this book about the unforgiving seas into a must-read. 

“My father was a schooner captain, and they’d fish up around the Northern Peninsula and Southern Labrador,” Wellman shared with The Newfoundland Herald.

“I like fishing people, I find them to be really interesting. I’ve travelled to every single nook and cranny in Newfoundland and Labrador. Wherever there’s a boat that ties up, I’ve been there. I got to know an awful lot of people everywhere, and I really like the people in the outports and I identify with them, I’m from an outport. I’ve been so fortunate.” 

Wellman was one of the original founders of Navigator Magazine. After years as freelancer and editor, he still works with them as a contributing writer, having written in every single issue since it’s inception. He also worked with CBC for 30 years, including hosting the program The Fisheries Broadcast for the second half of his career there, which is the longest running daily program on radio in all of North America.     

“CBC started cutbacks, the funding was drying up big time. They came to a bunch of us who were old enough or had enough service with the company, and offered us a package. We had enough time in for a little bit of a pension and so I liked that, I took the money and ran,” Wellman laughed.

“That was 20 years ago, and I haven’t had a day off since. I loved working with CBC, and I really did love The Fisheries Broadcast, it was a good show.”

Although he may have technically retired, Wellman couldn’t give up his passion for writing. “I needed another income, I knew that. Not only that, but more importantly I just wasn’t ready, and I’m still not ready 20 years later, to sit in a rocking chair,” he confessed.

“I decided to write a small book about The Fisheries Broadcast because it’s a unique program. It’s different because it features the common people. The type of person from, you know, Cook’s Harbour who might just be out painting his boat that day. You don’t have to be the executive director of this, or the president or CEO of that. If you’re just a small boat fisherman, that’s who we’re interested in.”  

Challengers of the Sea is Wellman’s 10th book, and probably close to his millionth piece of writing. The book focuses on getting to know those whose lives have been touched by the sea in a variety of ways. A collection of gripping, true short stories from around Newfoundland and Labrador, and also some from Nova Scotia.

“These are the stories I enjoy doing the most. I only write about the smaller boats, I don’t write about the schooners or the big ships at sea because somebody else has done that already,” Wellman explained.

“Nobody writes about the little fella in a boat, an open speed boat for example. Lobster fishermen who go out and got too many lobster traps in the boat and it’s overloaded, and a lot comes in and she fills up with water and he drowns. Nobody writes about him, but he’s important. When I do these stories, the families, because now they have something in writing and public record, are always very grateful. That’s heartwarming and gratifying for me.”

No Closure 

“They open up and bare their soul to me. There’s something about, for them, telling people like me the whole story as they remember and recall everything. There is something that seems to add another dimension to their closure, because they don’t have full closure. They can’t, because generally there’s no body,” he shared. “They all tell me the same thing, that they always imagine their sons or their husbands or whatever the case may be, are still out there somewhere on an uncharted island or something like that. They’re still alive, they can’t be dead. There’s no tangible evidence, right? I don’t get satisfaction from writing about death or tragedy or grief, it’s the end result that gives me satisfaction. Getting the story across, and their families being appreciative of it.”

Challengers of the Sea is available for purchase through flankerpress.com, Amazon, or online and in-store at Chapters-Indigo.

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