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.