Gale of February 24, 1862

This week we received confirmation that New Bedford, Massachusetts, for the 19th consecutive year is the most valuable fishing port in the United States, based on the revenue of the catch landed at our docks. All of us here in New Bedford are very proud of this accomplishment.

I also noticed today when updating my calendar, that this week is the date of a terrible fishing tragedy that occurred on Georges Bank on the night of February 24, 1862. On this night, a gale descended onto the fishing grounds and pummeled the Gloucester fleet of approximately 70 schooners. These schooners were dory fishing, so they were all anchored up for the night. As the storm intensified, the vessels began to drag their anchors and crash into one another. The result was 15 schooners with a total of 120 Gloucester fishermen lost on this one night.

The fishermen of Gloucester paid a heavy price to open the Georges Bank fishery, an area that is primarily responsible for New Bedford’s current success. In the 1800s, Gloucester lost more than 3,000 men while dory fishing, while New Bedford was losing men pursuing whales in every ocean of the world. Both of these maritime Massachusetts cities know well the risk of putting to sea. During the Civil War years of 1861-1865, a young man from Gloucester was statistically safer if he joined the Union Army than if he became a Georges Bank fisherman.

As we celebrate our current success as America’s Most Valuable Fishing Port, we recognize the sacrifice and the efforts of all who paved the way to today; our New Bedford fishermen past and present, the men of Gloucester, the fishermen of the Canadian Maritimes, and the fishing fleets from Europe that opened the Grand Banks. It is all linked, it is all of our history and our legacy!

My Dog Lily

Lily Doucette
RIP

It is with a heavy heart that I must report that my constant companion and friend, Lily, a Golden Retriever dog, passed away on November 27th at the age of 13-years and 8-months. I rescued Lily when she was seven, and we have been inseparable since that day. For those of you who have purchased Neptune’s Nor’easter in paperback, you have seen her picture on the back cover of the book, as she and I were sitting on Pier #3 in New Bedford. Lily was by my side during the four years that I spent researching and writing Neptune’s Nor’easter. We had many adventures together including riding out a hurricane in Georgia, and multiple car trips between Massachusetts and Georgia.

I have written this post not to elicit sympathy, but rather to honor the memory of a great dog. Lily came to me abandoned, afraid, unsure, and she blossomed into the greatest dog I have ever known.

In Memorium

Lilly “Billie” Doucette

March 30, 2006 – November 27, 2019

A TRIBUTE TO A GREAT DOG

In this urn are deposited the Remains of one who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery if inscribed over Human Ashes, is but a tribute to the Memory of Lily, a Golden Retriever Dog who was born in Budapest, Hungary on March 30, 2006, and died at Fairhaven, Massachusetts, United States of America, November 27, 2019.

This Dog, in life, my firmest friend, The first to welcome, foremost to defend, Whose honest heart is still her Master’s own, Who labors, fights, lives, breathes for her Master alone, Unhonored falls, unnoticed for all her worth.

Ye, who behold perchance this simple urn, carry it with respect, it marks my loyal friend’s remains.

Until we meet again, Boo Boo!

(with respect to Lord Byron’s Epitaph to Boatswain, his Newfoundland dog in 1880)

The Vigilant Incident

USCGC VIGILANT
Mr. Simas Kudirka

On the evening of November 15, 2019, I attended the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center Dock-U-Mentaries presentation for November. This series is presented on the third Friday of every month at the New Bedford Whaling National Park auditorium, and it is free to the public. The subject this month was an event that occurred on November 23rd, 1970. It has come to be known as the “Defection of Simas Kudirka” or the “Vigilant Incident.” The offering was a movie depicting this day in 1970 when a radio operator on a Soviet fishing factory ship jumped onto the deck of the USCG Cutter Vigilant and requested asylum. This situation became an international incident, and our government, through a series of miss-steps, forced the Commander of the Vigilant to return Mr. Kudirka to the Soviet fishing ship. Unbeknown to those of us in attendance on this night, the Executive Officer of the USCGC Vigilant on November 23rd, 1970, Lt. Cmdr. Paul Pakos was also in our audience. After the film, he told us additional details of his experience during this incident, which resulted in military disciplinary action for everyone in the chain of command above him, including the forced retirement of a Rear Admiral. This experience is still raw and disturbing to him, 49-years after the event, and at one point, he had to stop and compose himself.

I have read an after-action report of this incident, and Lt. Cmdr. Pakos, a graduate of the United States Coast Guard Academy, was praised for his judgment and attempts to bring clarity to this terrible day as it was unfolding. He was not sanctioned in any way, and he completed his career in the U.S. Coast Guard. His words on this night were riveting and compelling, and his story was one of the best investments of my time in my entire life. I will never forget his words and his lesson on leadership.

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center hit a home run on this presentation!

F/V Addie Mae – 1930

Al and I are working through my father’s collection of photo’s and here’s one from 1930 that I especially like. Grandpa must have been a good teacher because most, if not all, of these four young men later in their careers became captains themselves.

 

The Crew of the F/V Addie Mae working on gear in New Bedford – July 1930

Addie Mae - 1930 or 31 - New Bedford - Repairing Scallop Dredge B&W

Left to Right;

Louis Doucette, Jr.  –  Bill Rose  –  Captain Louis Doucette, Sr.  –  Eli Pothier  –  Louis Sears

Chasing Swordfish – Beware!

The following is an excerpt from the book Neptune’s Nor’easter;

My father loved to go swordfishing in the summer months, and I always thought that to him, harpooning swordfish was as close as he could come to having fun while fishing. Swordfish are a predatory fish, they hunt and eat smaller fish, and they are fighters. They fear no other fish in the sea. Fishermen have a high level of respect for swordfish because whether they are aware of it, or not, they both share some of the same traits. Fishermen are predators, they hunt and catch fish, and they will fight. They fear no fish in the sea, nor any other man on the sea. In some ways, fishermen have more in common with Mr. Swordfish, than he does with Mr. Smith, his next-door neighbor, at home.

The scientific name for swordfish is Xiphias Gladius, the Gladiator of the Sea. This is a fighting fish, and they will attack anything; big boats, small boats, any fish they come across, and humans if they decide you are a threat or a nuisance.

The following is a clip from a television fishing show. These gentlemen are fishing for swordfish in the Florida Keys with rod and reel. They are annoying the Gladiator and he’s watching.

Swordfish Eye

Click on the link below and watch this crazy fighting swordfish attack a cameraman in the water. This attack occurs at the 18-minute mark of the video.

Crazy Swordfish

The Gladiator

Swordfish image