CALM AT SUNSET, CALM AT DAWN (1989). The second novel of Paul
Watkins (1964– ) tells of one man’s coming-of-age at sea. Despite the
wishes of his fisherman father, twenty-year-old James Pfeiffer, newly expelled
from college, signs aboard a decrepit scallop trawler out of Newport, Rhode
Island, hoping to discover the lure that the sea has for his father and other
men. There he performs backbreaking, often dangerous work with men,
each of whom reveals some sort of sordid past or secret and is using the sea
as a personal escape or as therapy. He suffers physically, emotionally, and
mentally as he attempts to fit in and discover what meaning the sea has for
him. The often brutal lessons are revealed in graphic, frequently gory, firstperson detail as the reader comes to know life aboard a scallop trawler.
Son of Welsh parents, Watkins writes from firsthand experience. His father, an oceanography professor, introduced him early to Narragansett Bay
when the family lived in Saunderstown, Rhode Island. As a child, Watkins,
who had attended school in England, gloried in life on the water and the absence of uniforms. While a student at Yale, Watkins spent summer vacations working out of Newport, first on a trapboat that made daily trips
tending semipermanent fixed nets and later mostly on scallop trawlers.
Throughout his trips, he kept a diary and took notes, which he incorporated
into this book two years later.
Calm at Sunset, Calm at Dawn was awarded Britain’s 1989 Encore Prize
for best second novel and was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie,
Calm at Sunset, in 1996.