The Gloucester I Love - 2

Ron Gilson

No profit was made in the creation or presentation of this blog.  Its content is presented for educational purposes only and is not for sale.  The material herewith, either in whole or in part, may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form. 

Ron Gilson

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The following blog is intended to define Gloucester's fishing industry and its people over our 400 year history.  It is true and factual as I witnessed the daily activities in my lifetime.

Ron Gilson, February 9, 2019

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Additional Historical References Are Available on YouTube

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YouTube subscriber compliments

Regarding documentary “Gloucester’s Golden Age of Fishing, Part 2; 1940-1955”:

“The 2-part series should have hundreds of thousands of views, and every New Englander should view this.”

“What an incredible memory of Ron Gilson (narrator).  He’s like a computer.  I can barely remember the names of 12 people!  He remembers hundreds, along with details of all their lives.”

“Absolutely a great great story, thanks so much for taking the time to share with us.”

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In memory of Ben Pine & Joe Cody 
Waterfront visionaries;
Prosperity builders in Gloucester's Golden Age of Fishing

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1933 ~ RICHARD J. ELLIOTT ~ 2021
My Life-long friend "Thanks for the memories"

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There’s an old saying...

“You can take the boy out of Gloucester,
but you can’t take Gloucester out of the boy

"There's No Place Like This Place"

As Joan and I prepare to leave our Gloucester "place", we do so with mixed emotions: excitement and dismay.  Where else can you find a place like Gloucester?

From the snobbery of gated communities to Harbor Terrace; from the Beauport Hotel to Maggie Wallace’s Wayside Inn, and Jerry "pack 'em in" Quinn’s orchestra at Mae Silva’s Paramount Cafe; “Portagee Hill” to Beach Court; the Fort and Judy Miller’s Parlor; those Laneville girls and the pits... it’s all here, it’s our Gloucester.

What politician in the world would come up with a platform of “ hot-topping the Harbor” as a solution to the scarcity of downtown parking?  How about an elderly retired spinster English teacher riding into Kelleher’s bar on horseback!  From Sarah Vaughn at the upscale Delphine in the heat of summer to local song bird Lee Doucette at the downtown Savoy Hotel in the dead of winter... from summer boom to winter bust.  From fish cutters to poets; from immigrants to natives... there’s no place like Gloucester.

I mean it: “it’s all here”...

Ron Gilson “We’ll miss this place!”
February 2021

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June 2022

As Gloucester approaches its 400th Anniversary year, I offer these final thoughts of a long lifetime waterfront experience.

Our first 300 years established Gloucester as a world fishing leader while repeating the same life-taking fishing tragedies year after year.  In a way, Gloucester stood still.  To quote New England’s fishing vessel preeminent naval architect, Thomas F. McManus, “Vessels were cheap to build, fishermen were abundantly available, safety features were of little concern to the vessel owners, and sadly, the vessels and men that sailed them were considered “expendable”!  The emphasis being… (volume production.)

This stark reality was the corporate attitude of vessel owners during our first 300 years of industry progress.  To our immigrant fishermen arriving from foreign lands, it was “their way of life”: take it or leave it!  It gave rise to a tragic chapter in Gloucester’s early years of industry progress.  This history is graphically chronicled on cenotaphs in front of Gloucester’s iconic “ Man at The Wheel” statue.

Thousands of our men went “down to the sea in ships”, leaving behind thousands of widows and orphans.  Gloucester paid a monumental price in this life-taking fishing business!

Our early 300-year history, romanticized annually on Labor Day’s “Tall Ships” weekend, is a public relations invention.  This P.R. spin ironically is a reminder of a tragic period in Gloucester’s fishing history.  Our city moved on in the pivotal year 1923 as we entered “my time”, our fourth century.


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                                            1923                                                                         1944 

1623 ~ 2023
(Reflections by Ron Gilson 2022)

As Gloucester's 400th anniversary committee plans our 2023 birthday celebration, looking back over a lifetime, our fishing heritage is central to our past.  It is this Golden Age of Fishing - the decades of the '30s, '40s, and '50s Gloucester and its citizens witnessed our own Industrial Revolution.

It was an "electric era".  I was fortunate to have witnessed this phenomenal industry transformation, especially understanding the IMPORTANCE of the era, as a teenager!  While it will never be repeated; it must always be remembered!

General Seafoods
Harbor Cove

Gloucester, its industry, and its population existed and prospered entirely on what sailed around Eastern Point.  Fishing was Gloucester!  In the 1930s, we were introduced to the refined diesel engine that allowed Gloucester's adoption and universal acceptance of the otter trawl, enabling immense volume harvesting.

Outer Trawl Haulback
Aboard F/V Joseph and Lucia

Starting in the 1930s, modern side trawlers (draggers) replaced all our outmoded dory trawlers.  Vessel construction in the 1930s, (during the Great Depression) expanded rapidly.  A new modern fish pier came on line in 1938.  Redfish wharves from Harbor Cove General Seafoods, North Atlantic, etc., to American Fillet's modern processing plants on the North Channel were built.  Also, a new Rocky Bay Fish Co. property was developed in East Gloucester.  Two dehydrating, rendering plants also were constructed on the new fish pier, so necessary to process the ever-increasing fish waste, generated during our peak production years.

American Fillet's modern processing plant on the North Channel
F/V Mary Rose ~ discharging trip

F/V Joseph and Lucia Launching
James Yard, Essex, MA

F/V Tina B.
Jonathan Story Shipyard, Builder
1945, Essex, MA

F/V Pam Ann
Capt. Russell Grinnell, Owner

Gloucester Community Fish Pier

Codinha & Small d.b.a. American Fillet Co., Community Fish Pier
Fish scaling machine

Pogey seiners at fish pier
Circa 1950

Portguese blessing of the fleet
Community Fish Pier

North Channel Gloucester Harbor
In background, United Fisheries Complex

F/V Ida and Joseph ~ bailing

F/V Ida and Joseph ~ loaded

F/V St. Mary
Spinola Family Vessel

Harbor Cove

Gorton's Cold Storage
Harbor Cove

Now TD Banknorth
Harbor Loop

Before the end of WW II, beginning early in 1944, new vessels arrived, often one and two per week - investors, fishermen, their families, fish companies, private absentee investors, doctors/lawyers, all wanted to cash in.  We lived in an unbelievable economic era!

Dana Story Shipyard
Essex, Mass

F/V Benjamin C ~ launching party
L to R: builder, Dana Story; Capt. Joseph Ciaramitaro; sponsor, Mary Curcuru; and owner Benjamin Curcuru


F/V Benjamin C
(off to Gloucester) towed by Gloucester tug "Mariner"

Capt. Joe Ciaramitaro
Would establish himself as a highline captain of the F/V Benjamin C

F/V St. Nicholas
Parisi family vessel

F/V Margie L ~ Libro Brothers
Melanson Boat Yard
Parker Street, Gloucester
Launched 1946

F/V Felicia
Capt. Salvatore Nicastro ~ redfish highliner

F/V Thomas J. Carroll
American Fillet Co. Owner

Joaquim "Joe" E. Codinha, Jr.
Fisheries Leader
~ Photo courtesy of Harrison Golden ~

F/V Yankee
Capt. Cyril Dyett

Both vessels built at Montgomery Shipyard
Ferry Street, Gloucester, MA

F/V Immaculate Conception
Circa 1945

F/V Columbia
Capt. Matthew Sears

F/V Edith and Lilian
Capt. Frank Rose, Sr.

F/V Judith Lee Rose
Capt. Frank Rose, Jr.

F/V Villanova
The last Gasper family vessel over four decades

Cape Ann Museum
Erik Ronnberg, Jr., Maritime Curator
~Ron Gilson's lifelong friend~

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F/V Julie Ann ~ builder Jonathan Story
Capt. Leo Favaloro

F/V Our Lady of Fatima

Blessing of the fleet
General Seafood Wharf, Harbor Cove


Gloucester was on the threshold of its own industrial revolution! 
"Golden Age of Fishing", 1940-1955

Gloucester was positioned to move into the productive all-time record breaking '40s and '50s!  We had the fishermen, the vessels, the market demand and huge supply of red fish and/whiting (silver hake).  The ocean was full from Ipswich Bay to the Grand Banks - there for the taking - we had it all.  I thought Gloucester's fishing dominance would never end!

Ron Gilson

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1623 ~ 1923

Considered by many historians, the period that elevated Gloucester's fishing industry to worldwide prominence has been romanticized down through the centuries.  While our local supply and demand industry prospered and expanded, in size to 500 vessels in the 1800s, Gloucester's widows and orphans paid the price.  This tragic history is graphically portrayed on cenotaphs in front of the famous Gloucester Man at the Wheel statue on the George O. Stacy Boulevard. 

The Sch. Gertrude L. Thebaud

Gloucester's famous Fisherman at the Wheel statue. . . looking seaward over cenotaphs, remembering our local fishermen lost at sea over four centuries

Carol A. (Churchill) Maciel

At a recent showing of this blog at Seacoast Nursing Home, Carol A. (Churchill) Maciel came forward at the conclusion of my presentation.  She and her Dad, Robert Churchill, sang a hymn at the Fishermen's Memorial service, July 14, 1963.

Holding a framed copy of the memorial program and smiling for the camera, she proudly reminisced about that eventful day over 50 years ago.  At this annual tribute, Carol Ann and her Dad honored Gloucester's 5,000+ fishermen lost at sea since 1623.

Knockabout Schooner Helen B. Thomas
McManus design
Circa 1904

Knockabout Schooner Catherine
Largest dory trawler
Designed by Thomas F. McManus
Circa 1915

Thomas F. McManus and A.D. Story 
at Story's Shipyard, Essex, MA, 1920

THE GREAT NAVAL ARCHITECT, THOMAS MCMANUS,  designer of many Gloucester sailing vessels, had this to say about the age of sail: “The vessels were cheap to build, fishermen were abundantly available, safety features were of no concern to vessel owners, and sadly, the vessels and the men that sailed in them were considered expendable”!  

While nearby  fishing communities adopted early  innovative changes, i.e., steam and diesel power and experimented with other fishing methods, Gloucester for decades  “stood still”, steadfastly clinging to archaic hook and line, tried and true,  fish harvesting at the expense of its fishing community population.

Safety features, ship-to-shore  radio telephone communication, and weather reporting  was not available in those early days. Medical first aid was minimal.   Personal hygiene, and lavatory facilities aboard these vessels were non-existent. Living conditions in crowded, damp, stuffy, warm, fo’c’sles were often home to cockroaches  and bed bugs. Fresh vegetables, dairy products, and fresh meats were replaced with salt spare ribs,  corned shoulder, salt pork, smoked hams, potatoes, canned vegetables, etc.

Men endured  primitive living conditions, away from their homes and families,  hundreds, thousands of miles, gone two  to three months, working 18 hour days, always in unpredictable weather conditions. This often culminated in a broken trip (no pay at all!!) Terrible inhuman conditions were the norm, routinely accepted as a “way of life”!   This was dory fishing in the first three hundred years of Gloucester’s fishing history.

 Man at the open wheel

Men midship mainsail storm scene

 Baiting up on schooner Corinthian
Circa 1920

Men on deck in seaway

Men on bowsprit ~ the widowmaker ~

Breakfast ~ first gang ~ dory fishing
Circa 1920s

Fo'c'sle scene F/V Ruth and Margaret
Circa 1944

Around the turn of the century, 1900, Boston steam trawlers entered the Boston fishing fleet. They were numerous and often fished alongside Gloucester sailing dory trawling schooners. It was the beginning of change in the New England fishing industry.

Rudolph Diesel's Diesel engine was not perfected to the extent required to impact the fishing industry at the turn of the century. By 1910, entrepreneurs, forward thinking fishermen, were beginning to explore and invest in innovative designs in their fishing craft. Combining sail and crude oil engines for power, change was entering the N.E. and Gloucester fleet.

"Changing Ways on Banquero" by Thomas Hoyne

Boston Fish Pier
Showing steam trawler and 
Gloucester schooner "Elsie" in foreground
Circa 1911

Thomas McManus in 1921 would design the first "eastern-rig" dragger with pilot house aft and gallow frames for hauling her gear, drag net, over the side similar to Boston steam trawlers. The first of its design, F/V Blanche Ring, was built for Capt. Herbert W. Nickerson. On May 24, 1921, McManus completed Plan No. 417 and delivered working drawings to "Honest Dave" Waddell’s shipyard in Rockport, Mass. This schooner dragger changed New England fishing completely in the 1920s and dominated the fishing industry for nearly fifty years.

  F/V Blanche Ring, Waddell Shipyard
Rockport, MA
Circa 1921

F/V Blanche Ring, sea trails, Boston Harbor
Circa 1921
Gloucester's 300th birthday brought pivotal change to our anchor industry.  On April 17, 1923, the last all-sail schooner Columbia was launched from the A.D. Story Shipyard in Essex, MA.  It marked the end of an era.  Essex records indicate that fishing vessels launched from that date forward were all auxiliary diesel powered.
With the launching of the McManus designed side trawler, Blanche Ring in 1921, "the genie was out of the bottle".  Side trawling, dragging, was made possible by the refinement of the diesel engine.  Dragging provided a safer, more efficient (less crew), quicker method of harvesting much larger volumes of ground fish.  There was no turning back!  Capt. Matthew Sears (1939) was the first redfish highliner in the F/V Ramonde.  It was just the beginning.

"Down The Road"....

Gloucester will always be fishing.  The "old days" are gone - change is the only constant.... it's inevitable!  Our fishermen no longer routinely land millions of pounds for pennies.  Instead they deliver thousands of pounds for dollars!  Today’s fishermen are constantly evolving.  They will not accept the past as a “WAY OF LIFE”!

Ron Gilson

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Carla Grillo is the author of “The Past Is A Present”, a book profiling 28 seniors from the Gloucester senior community.  All proceeds will benefit The Gloucester Council on Aging and the Rose Baker Senior Center. 

The book is sponsored by the Friends of The Gloucester Council on Aging.


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 One of Gloucester's waterfront legends has castoff.  Ray Chandanais, Gloucester's resident Caterpillar master mechanic for over 50 years, faithfully served our fishing vessel owners with expertise and professionalism.

Ray was a valued member of our waterfront community, a devoted family man and my long-time friend... a straight shooter to all who knew him.

Ray... until we meet again, smooth sailing... Ron Gilson

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1933 ~ RAY CHANDANAIS ~ 2022
My friend and a great guy

Looking back over 50 years ago, when I first met Ray, we both were so young.  Ray had teamed up with “Ozzie” Howard and after a few years, they moved their successful marine repair business to Pond Road.  At that time, I had just opened my Gloucester Marine Insurance Agency.

Ray and Ozzie both serviced our fishing fleet, and in a way, complimented each other’s work.  Ray approached his Caterpillar customers with the tools and expertise of a brain surgeon.  His partner, Ozzie, serviced his customers with his “jack of all trades” experience and a sledge hammer!  IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF ONE ERA AND THE END OF ANOTHER!

As our business relationship grew, our friendship intensified.  In my life, the friendships I’ve made along the way, are all important.  Ray Chandanais is my good friend, along with his family:  wife, Helen; son, Jay; sister, Theresa Wilkins; mother, Mary, and their own family relatives come to mind.

Ray and Ron ~ 1981 ~
Opening Day at Union Hill Coffee House

When our coffee house opened in 1981, the first daily breakfast customer was Ray!  No one supported our business more than Ray, and on weekends, his entire family.  Our friendship went far beyond business.  Ray, Helen, and their family were our family.  Joan and I were invited to their wedding at the Surf in Magnolia.  Family birthday parties, Veteran’s Day and Marine Corps (10 November) annual restaurant birthday celebrations, when Ray loaned his sons’, Randy and Michael, Marine Corp portraits for display above our restaurant dessert case.  Ray was so proud... GREAT MEMORIES!

Gilson’s 60th Wedding Anniversary

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Joe G... F/V St. Peter says "He kept us running!"

Sebastian “Buzzy” Parisi, now retired, was a Number One diesel mechanic, just like his dad, Joseph “Three Finger Joe” Parisi, before him.

“Buzzy” Parisi possessed the same mechanical genes as his father, Joe, who was the legendary Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine Master Mechanic from the Golden Age of Fishing 1940 - 1955.  I can’t resist offering this memory of the 1940’s.

As a 12 year old boy in 1945, I sat on the threshold of the engine room companionway looking down at the initial starting of the Catherine Amerault’s big six-cylinder 400 H.P. Atlas Imperial diesel engine.  As the Atlas Company representative checked all the operating systems and the Lister auxiliary engine pumped up the air, I watched Walter Davis, Alec Grimes, and “Slim” Cook ( Groton’s Machine Shop employees) doing their thing in preparation of starting this monster AWESOME (to a young boy) green machine!

Unlike the stream-lined Cooper Bessemer, the Atlas had a Rube Goldberg character - the push rods, rocker arms, valve cages - moving parts were exposed!  When the Atlas rolled over, belching the sound of escaping air, gears engaging, chain drives rattling - in unison, all responding to engine room bells and buzzers - it was a MIRACLE beyond words to a young boy!  That was the world of “Three Finger Joe” Parisi. I’ll never forget it!

Joe’s son “Buzzy” would follow his dad into the GM "General Motors" era only a few years later. 

As the 1950s faded, more and more the heavy-duty slow turning engines were being replaced by small Buda’s, Cummins, and GM 6-71s, etc., especially in the day-boat fleet.  Many old timers thought that horses were being replaced by ponys!  That the small high-speed engines would not last - not true.

Three-Finger Joe's Son, Buzzy Parisi, a GM man
His father was a heavy-duty Atlas genius!

Buzzy Parisi’s era was dawning.  He would be in on the ground floor.  The fleet quickly adapted to these smaller high-speed GM’s and Cats.  Buzzy would be the waterfront’s “go to” GM diesel man!

In a 1999 GDT article by Peter Prybot, he mentioned the F/V Serafina N., St. Jude, and Diane Carinhas, as a few of Buzzy’s engine customers.  They were all my insureds!  I can see Lakeman’s Diane Carinhas loaded, coming like a train down the North Channel, thanks in part to Buzzy Parisi’s expert maintenance.  The fleet - at least 50 - 60 boats equipped with Detroit GM diesels - depended on Buzzy Parisi.

Like his dad before him, MASTER MECHANIC SALVATORE “BUZZY” PARISI had no equal when it came to GM diesels!

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Presented by
Ron Gilson and Erik Ronnberg

Arthur D. Story Shipyard
Essex, MA
Circa 1947


The following history is the story I promised, from the year 1947, when Gloucester's Fishing Industrial Revolution was in full swing.

It is presented here from my memory as a 14-year old working on the Gloucester waterboat, "Wenham Lake".  This F/V Kingfisher story is recounted from official Essex shipyard records; Dana Story's Kingfisher construction photos; my personal records and interviews with E. Lewis Knickle, Kingfisher's startup chief engineer; and lastly, my early advisory contribution to Erik Ronnberg, Jr., the model builder of the F/V Kingfisher.

Ronnberg is a nationally acclaimed vessel model builder, currently serving as Maritime Curator at our Gloucester Cape Ann Museum.

Ron and Erik at Cape Ann Museum

This in-depth presentation is for historical purposes.  The facts as presented are done so in hopes that this history will live on in Gloucester's fishing industry annals.  

Ron Gilson
June 2020


Ten years ago, Erik called me and asked "in my opinion" what vessel was the most innovative, modern in concept, architecturally designed, "easern rigged side trawler", built in an Essex shipyard in the 1940's era.

As Erik listed the desired characteristics, there was only one vessel that qualified. . . the F/V Kingfisher!  Owned by business partners Larry McEwen and Thomas Hudgins, the 109' Kingfisher was launched from the A.D. Story Shipyard, Dana Story, Builder, Essex, MA on Marc 25 1947.

Illustration April 1947 feature aticle of Fishing Gazette

The Kingfisher ahead of her time, was destined to be a proven highliner. . .  she would be the flagship of the Gloucester fishing fleet of the 1940's and 1950's!

Illustration October 1947 issue, Fishing Gazette

~ Due to COVID-19, we unfortunately needed to suspend blog production for nine months! ~
Up and running again!
December 5, 2020 

Dana A. Story, Essex Shipyard 1946-47
~ All photos taken by Mr. Story ~

Owner L. McEwen 
Reviewing Kingfisher Plans

Larry McEwen was the N. E. Eastern Seaboard Sales Representative for Cooper-Bessemer Diesel Engine Corp.  The Cooper-Bessemer heavy-duty marine engine was considered the Cadillac of H.D. engines in the 1940s era.

Larry McEwen was a vessel owner/operator - McEwen also owned two other successful highline fishing vessels i.e., Curlew and Golden Eagle.  Kingfisher would be his third and largest vessel.  It was a phenominal era - 

Gloucester's Golden Age "1940-1955"  1947 the year of Kingfisher's launching was a banner year!

Keel Members in Place

Keel Members Assembled
Upside Down - Shoe on Top

Turned Keel
Framing Stage Assembled

Assembling Sawn Frames

"Frame Up"

Square Frames in Place on Keel

Keel Ready to Receive Bow Cants

Inside View Square Frames
Two Huge Timbers - Future Engine Bed

Side View - Square Frames
Starboard Side

Forefoot & Stem in Place

Starboard Side View of Stem
"Bow" Section

Looking Forward to Stem

Assembling Bow Cants

Stern Assembly

Completed Bow Cants in Place

Looking Aft Sternpost

Engine Bed Stringers

Garboard Plank
Rabbited into Keel - Driving Trunnels

Stern Circle in Place

Port Side
Planked & Trunneled

Port Side View
Whaleback & Stanchions

Starboard Side Close-up

Caulker - Young Willie Amero
on Staging Driving Oakum

Bow & Whaleback Framing

Ceiling & Shelf Installed

Deck Framing 
Fwd., in Place

Framing Deck

Interior Before Decking 
is Installed

Interior Installing Ceiling

Band Sawer

Break Beam Clamped Down

Fwd. Decking & Fo'cstle Hatch Combing

Whaleback Begun

Break Beam
After Deck & Stern Circle

Fwd. Closed in
Whaleback & Starboard Gallows

Stern Bearing
Shaft & Rudder

Quadrant Assembly

Port Side View
From Essex Causeway

Deck Assembly Coming Together

Hatch Work

Starboard Side Catwalk View

Fwd. Crews Quarters
With Coal Fired Stove

Painted Spar Ready

Spar Maker Arthur Gates At Work

Crew Bunks

Fwd. Interior

Fo'csle Locker Area

4-Blade Propeller
Shaft & Rudder

Starboard Side
Gallows Frames in Place

Port Side - Ready
Final Coat of Paint


As construction of the Kingfisher progressed over the months of 1946 into winter and early 1947, McEwen and his highline skipper, Bob Fralic, of McEwen’s second vessel, Curlew, made frequent inspections of the progress.

It was expected Fralic would move into the larger Kingfisher as a reward for his highline performance as captain of the Curlew.

The Kingfisher was nearing launch time, when Fralic announced that he would prefer to stay in his smaller Curlew.  He was reluctant to move into the larger, more expensive vessel, not wanting the pressure to produce more, longer trips at sea, etc.  Besides, the Curlew was like an “old shoe”, an excellent, comfortable vessel and the fastest vessel in Gloucester’s 200-vessel fleet at the time.


Greasing Launching Skids

Two Shipyard Workers

Ready for Launch

Launching Ways Greased

Sponsors, Flowers & Champagne Ready

Owners and Their Wives Ready

Sawing the Launching Ways in Unison

“I Christen the Kingfisher

Initial Dip 3-25-1947


Overboard - Afloat At Last!

Taken in Tow by Tug Mariner

Robinson’s Marine Basin
East Main Street, Gloucester, MA

Installing Engine

Pilot House on Dock

Pilot House and Main Winch Installed

Main Engine
425hp Cooper Bessemer

Main Engine - Starboard View

Engine Room - Electric Switch Board

Ship's Wheel & Compass

Trial Trip - Engine Workout
Gloucester Harbor
June 30, 1947

Taking Drag Nets Aboard

Finally Ready
July 3, 1947

Leaving Gloucester
 Maiden Trip
July 3, 1947
Capt. Michael "Mickey" Densmore

Operating from the Sherman B. Ruth Wharf was the F/V Leretha, a smaller, older vessel built in the Essex James yard in 1929.  Her skipper was a young rising star, Michael “Mickey” Densmore.  Capt. Densmore was breaking records in his Leretha.  He was a young, ambitious skipper, well-liked in the fleet, married with a large family to support - the perfect candidate for McEwen's Kingfisher!  The break of a lifetime... Capt. Michael “Mickey” Densmore would take command of the beautiful 109’ Kingfisher!  She would sail on her maiden trip July 3, 1947.

Capt. & Mrs. Michael "Mickey" Densmore

Chief Engineer E. Lewis Knickle

My lifelong friend, “Lewis” Knickle emigrated with family from his native Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, in the 1920s. Graduating from Gloucester High School in the early 1930s, he attended Peterson’s Diesel Engine School in Boston and became a licensed diesel engineer aboard General Seafoods’ growing fleet of Cooper Bessemer powered beam trawlers in Boston during the 1930s-40s.

Interrupted by WWII, Knickle served as a Lt. Commander in the USNR.  Returning from naval service, he was attracted to the redfish bonanza then playing out in his hometown.  While his father served as a cook on the highliner, F/V Benjamin C., “Lewie” was recruited to serve as Chief Engineer on McEwen’s new F/V Kingfisher.  He paired up with Capt. “ Mickey” Densmore to the delight of owner McEwen, as Knickle was a licensed marine engineer and had considerable Cooper Bessemer experience - all, I might add - on the engines sold to the General Seafoods by Larry McEwen previously... get the picture?  Everyone knew each other; it was a unique situation.  E. Lewis Knickle would sail as the Chief Engineer of Larry McEwen’s new F/V Kingfisher.

Landing First Trip
July 13, 1947
General Seafoods Wharf
Harbor Cove, Gloucester, MA

Landing First Redfish Trip
~ 10 Days Later... Just the Beginning!  ~

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A Time for Reflection and Remembrance

This weekend we celebrate a time-honored tradition. My friend and shipmate, William A. R. "Bill" Chapin, comes to mind.

In the early '80s, we met as directors of Adventure, Inc., a fishing vessel historical restoration project. We both shared marine backgrounds and a mutual pride in our families.

I am pleased to post this piece.
My friend Bill and Me

Bill and Ron aboard Adventure on return sail from
Bath, Maine to new homeport Gloucester

Bill loved his children unconditionally, three lovely daughters, Liz, Suz, Annie, and his son, Jack, a former Navy Seal.
Jack will be the principal speaker at the Hingham Memorial Day service. 

Bill would be so proud.

Chief Warrant Officer Chapin
U.S. Navy SEAL

Chief Warrant Officer Chapin is a U.S. Navy SEAL serving over 30 years combined service in both the Active and Reserve Components.  He is a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving multiple tours of duty in South West Asia 2005-2010.

CWO Chapin officially retired from Naval service in 2014, and is currently employed as a Detective with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Environmental Police.  He resides in Hingham with his wife, Mary, and two daughters, Erika and Samantha.

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"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.  Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking.  Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."
Steve Jobs
2005 Standford Commencement Address

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May 15, 2020


Seafood delivered daily from their boats to their newly acquired 
the freshest seafood known to man!

Four Giacalone brothers and their young wives answer the call during this coronavirus pandemic.  Business is "off the wall".  The wives and husbands are making it all happen at Fisherman's Wharf on Rogers Street.

To me, this is the Gloucester I love!  Young waterfront entrepreneurship finding a way, "rolling the dice" with masks and gloves, delivering the freshest local seafood!  These young risk takers are stepping up, answering the call!
Ron Gilson

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Coming soon to a blog near you... a fascinating story from the Gloucester waterfront you don't want to miss!

"It all began in 1947....." 

stay tuned!

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Our Holiday Wish For You 

Life is all about connections and friendships.  
Thank you for being part of our memories!
The Gloucester I Love ~ 2 and its extended family
wish you all a very 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday!

Gilson~Pish Thanksgiving FamilyVacation
Vero Beach, Disney Cruise

Nicholas' Great Grandparents 
Pat and Joe

Kim and Nathan Pish

Three beautiful sisters

Youngest Great Grandson, Nicholas

Ron's Vero Beach Waterslide

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Carla Grillo and Joan

A WWII Navy Patriot

Joe and Marie Giacalone

Father's Day at McDonald's


Tony DaCruz and Chris Carlson
~ Two Old Timers ~
Graduates of Harry Cusick's Finishing School

The Shipwrights of Rose Marine

I got crabs!

Wyatt and Logan's first day of school!

GHS Classmates

Sara Favazza, my friend

Three-Finger Joe's Son, Buzzy Parisi, a GM man,
His father was a heavy-duty Atlas genius!

Bob Rudolph ~ Life-long friend and high school classmate

June 1951 - ROTC Field Day Street Parade
Young Ronnie Cluett; Ron Gilson; and Bob Rudolph

ROTC Gloucester High School Band
Larry Collins, Drum Major (down Main Street)
Field Day, June 1, 1949

Photo of Clark's Drugstore
Daughter Miriam Clark with her mother ("Ma" Clark) at soda fountain.
In the foreground is young Harvey Rudolph, Bob Rudolph's brother.
Circa 1945
(Photo courtesy of Barbara Clark Arnold

Vincent and Ron ~~Vincent, a wonderful friend

Vincent and Palma Sette
"An American Success Story"

Our Nova Scotia Friends
Leanne and Keith Lohnes

Our cherished Rhode Island friends
Richard and Lana Hurst

My Gal Friday... Susan Chapin

An Old Sea Captain and a Gourmet Cook
Mark Ring

Joey the Executive and Super Blogger

Frankie in real life
The Executive Partner

Peter Mondello
A good guy who bailed me out years ago!

F/V Freemantle Doctor

Capt. Mike Tupper
Highline Fisherman out of Capt Joe's Wharf, Gloucester, MA
As the old timers would say, 
"Freemantle Doctor is a Home on the Ocean"

Music on a Saturday afternoon at the Dory Shop

The Proud Great Grandparents
with their yougest grandson, Nicholas

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GreatGrandson, Logan Gilson, 
''STANDS TALL'' for his Dad,
Master Sargeant Ethan J. Gilson, USAF

Observing Veteran's Day
with oldest Great Grandson, Wyatt,
and his Dad, Ethan


Chorus Director, Wendy Betts

Veteran's Day, 2019

November 10, 2019
Established 1775 ~ 244th Anniversary

On 15 December, 1956, I was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Marine Corps.  
It was the proudest day of my life!

Ron Gilson

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In the early '70s, Edmond W. Lakeman and his four sons appeared on the Gloucester waterfront.  They were new to Gloucester's waterfront.  They created an undercurrent of curiosity among the locals.  They were outsiders, asking many questions, quick studies, eager to learn and willing to work.  They were undaunted.

The Lakeman family:  Edmond, mother, Jacqueline, and their sons, Edmond III - "Ned", "Larry", "Fred", and "Jack", were poised to write a new chapter in the history of Gloucester's fishing industry.
Capt. "Ned" Lakeman

The Lakeman's acquired "Jimmy" Madruga's small day boat "Belinda" and renamed it "Four Brothers' ... as Cody would say at the time, "watch those Lakeman's - they're "comers"!  Much to the chagrin of established waterfront highliners, the newcomers, guided by their parent's leadership, worked hard, prospered, invested wisely, and over the years owned and operated the F/Vs Silver Lining, Curlew, Essex-built Kingfisher, and the traditional southern pogy seiner Dianne Carinhas.  The Lakeman's would become knowledgeable, experienced captains/engineers...highliners all!  The family became very successful utilizing old, tired, obsolete fishing vessels for their fish carriers!

Local retired lumper, "Joe" Mello recalls unloading the F/V Dianne Carinhas, and other Lakeman carriers twice in one day!  The Dianne Carinhas loaded with 500,000 pounds of pogies presented an exciting spectacle as she steamed "like a train" down the North Channel.  Capt. "Ned", Sr., his four  sons, and University of R.I. fisheries students as supplemental crew members routinely "ran the mail" in delivering pogies to Gloucester's By-Products plant on the state fish pier.

Sadly, along the way, the family lost Capt. "Larry" and Capt. Frederick W. Lakeman.  Their oldest son, "Ned", resettled in Belfast, Maine, and continues fishing on the F/V Western Sea and other vessels.  Capt. "Jack", the youngest son, owns and operates the modern F/V Kingfisher, a steel 100' pogy seiner that fishes out of New Jersey in the spring and summer seasons.  In the winter, "Jack" resides in Florida.
Capt. "Jack" Lakeman
F/V Kingfisher
F/V Kingfisher

This year, 2019, after the pogy season, Capt. "Jack", with downsizing and approaching retirement in mind, ventured to Blanc Salblon, Quebec, to purchase a 50' Hobble Built Clark's Island, Nova Scotia, herring seiner.  F/V Atlantic Traveller, is powered with a 3406, 365 h.p. CAT.  The new vessel is currently hauled out at Rose's Marine in Gloucester, undergoing modifications to her wheel house, installation of winches and rail rollers in preparation for the 2020 pogy fishing season.
F/V Atlantic Traveller
Bow of F/V Atlantic Traveller

Jack's son, John, who continues to fish with his father is currently overseeing the conversion to pogy fishing on the new vessel Atlantic Traveller.  A new generation steps up to the plate.

Son John Lakeman, the New Generation


After 50 years of highline fishing out of Gloucester, the Lakeman family are in the twilight of their fishing careers, Capt. Edmond and Jacqueline, now in their 90s, are enjoying retirement in Florida near son "Jack's" home.  Capt. "Ned", still fishing, resides in Belfast, Maine with his family.  "Jack's" son, John, is minding the family vessels Kingfisher, Ugly Duck, and the newly acquired Atlantic Traveller.

As winter approaches, all lines are doubled up at Rose's Marine.
F/V Kingfisher - Tied Up for the Winter

Ron Gilson, October 2019

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~ Opening Day 1981 ~

When our family - sons Brent, Blake, Joan and I opened our restaurant, September 17, 1981, our lives changed... our new family, our Union Hill customers led by the Chandanais, became our life!

~ Ray and Ron Opening Day ~

U.H.C.H. Ready for Business, 1981

On September 17, 1981, Union Hill Coffee House, 284-286 Main Street, opened its doors to Gloucester's breakfast community at 6 a.m.; by 8 a.m. it was bedlam!  The Gilson family: our son Brent (the prime mover) and more importantly, the cook; Blake, when home from a Merchant Marine voyage.

Joan and Ron were embarking on a life-changing twelve-year family adventure.
Son Brent, Joan and Ron – office photo 1981

For starters, we worked six months totally renovating the building. When we opened, we worked seven days a week for the first 18 months. We were closed only Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Looking back, ignorance and tenacity were our salvation. From the first day, Union Hill Coffee House prospered beyond our wildest expecations. Our opening day dining room capacity was 60 seats. With lines of customers both inside and up Spring Street, we had to get these customers seated! A panic call to Eastern Baker's Supply delivered 10 tables and 40 chairs after we closed the first day. Now the trouble was a slow kitchen. We couldn't cook fast enough. Eastern Baker's again delivered duplicate kitchen appliances, doubling our ability to serve our waiting customers. Our plumbers worked into the night. By October 31, after many changes, we finally had it together.

From the very beginning, we wanted to provide a different breakfast experience. We came up with our popular "Lumper's Special" (our super breakfast) and we served "S.O.S." (creamed chipped beef on toast) on the Marine Corps birthday (11/10) and Veteran's Day (11/11). We baked our bread, muffins, etc.
We squeezed our own orange juice, cooked our own home fries and served generous portions. We made sure the restaurant was the cleanest eatery in town. ….. Adding friendly hospitality and an experienced wait staff; we were off and running for 12  unbelievable years! Soon, we were featured in Boston Magazine as the “best breakfast place on the North Shore”. North Shore Weekender supplement also was complimentary to Union Hill. Our son Brent, having realized his dream, left Union Hill within two years for the big city and its culinary opportunities, leaving mom and dad with our new reality:

Newly Constructed Union Hill Bakery & Came On Line - Grand Opening, Flag Day, June 14, 1987

Looking back, none of the above could have happened without our long-time dedicated employees: Paul Spinola, Lillian Fortado, Peter Araujo, Michael Feeney, Nancy Cutting, Rhonda Goulart with Richard Mahoney, our maintenance man along with a host of part-time  employees over the years. Union Hill became our life and our faithful customers became our family: Joy and Tarek El Heneidy, volunteers, donned aprons, and bussed tables on busy Saturdays in 1981. This new friendship would span 40 years with trips to Rome, Egypt and beyond. Helen and Ray Chandanais with family, the Chapin’s, the Hogan’s, our U.S. Marine Corps friends, and special summer visitors, Ann and John Radossich, annual visitors from Rochelle Park, New Jersey, guaranteed our ongoing success. John penned the following poem:


If heaven allows breakfasts….
And we gain entrance there,
Do you think the Lord would mind
If we asked Joan and Ron prepare?

Our morning meal, 
Spiced with their
Love and friendship
in our memories still,
Of that wonderful earthly eatery
We all knew as the Union Hill

And just one more request Dear Lord,
We know you’ll understand….
We’d love to hear just one more tune
From the Union Hill Banjo Band!
John Radossich
Union Hill Banjo Band 1988

Ron setting up for rehearsal night

Joan and I continually strived to make Union Hill a different place, unique in its offerings of food and friendship. Locals and visitors were attracted to special annual celebrations on Veteran’s Day and the U.S. Marine Corps birthday (Nov. 10th). We also sponsored the Union Hill Banjo Band. Yes, our Union Hill Coffee House was indeed a special place. We are forever grateful for our loyal customers and immensely proud of our dedicated employees. 

Joan and Ron Gilson

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St. Peter's Sunday Outdoor Mass
St. Peter's Square
June 30, 2019

St. Peter's Parade After Mass

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Since 1927, June is Fiesta time in Gloucester.  Capt. Salvatore Favazza, a Sicilian immigrant, was a fisherman from our Fort section of town.  As the story goes, Favazza commissioned a statue of St. Peter, patron saint of the fishermen, for his Italian fishing community.
Capt. Salvatore Favazza

This year, 2019, is especially meaningful to me as I recognize Sara Favazza, my friend for many years.  Sara is synonymous with St. Peter's Fiesta.  She is one of Gloucester's treasures, the last Favazza sibling.  My connection to the Favazza family and their vessels has been close and ongoing over many decades.

While St. Peter's Fiesta is traditionally a June event, I am reminded everyday throughout the year of this Gloucester tradition, thanks to Sara Favazza.  In my visits with Sara over the years, when researching Gloucester's fiesta story, I would always come away with a gift from Sara.  As I sit in my recliner, looking down upon me is a pewter key chain of St. Peter.  Throughout the calendar year, this gift reminds me daily of Sara Favazza.

Capt. and Mrs. Salvatore Favazza

Burnham, Linquata, Verga, and Gentile....Italian

Michael Linquata and Son

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Monday, June 17 - Tuesday, June 25, 7p.m.
American Legion Hall

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St. Peter's Sunday Morning Social Hour Gathering at St. Peter's Club, Rogers Street, Gloucester

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2019 St. Peter's Fiesta Vignettes
Veteran Greasy Pole Winners
Ross Carlson and Proud Dad, Chris Carlson

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July 4th Parade, Manchester by the Sea

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Mondello's Shoe Shop
Pleasant Street, Gloucester, Mass.
Wall of Fame

Joe Mondello
Lifelong Gloucester Cobbler

A spectator packed room and observation deck at Geno's Dory Shop, greeted Ron and Joan Gilson on this sunny, mild mid-winter afternoon for Ron's patriotic tribute to his friend, Joe Mondello.  It was to the sound of bag pipes, guitars, concertina, and mandolin, playing light, spirited music, Ron delivered his tribute to his longtime boyhood friend, Joe Mondello, on the occasion of Joe's 93rd year.

Joe Mondello, a lifelong Gloucester cobbler, still working daily, is a proud U.S. Navy WWII veteran.  Surrounded by his family and friends, he stood at attention and returned Gilson's respectful salute while the audience sang Irving Berlin's "God Bless America".

Following this tribute, Mondello, "the Dog Hill legend", and his guests shared a delicious cake, frosted with the patriotic colors of red, white and blue, as the crowd congratulated Mondello and "the band played on"!

Ron at wheel of Adventure
August, 1988
Sailing seaward on Kennebeck River 
from Bath, Maine to new homeport Gloucester
William A. R. Chapin (Bill)
Friend and shipmate crewing Adventure on our return sail 1988
Composite photos of "Bill" Chapin crewing Adventure 1988

Ron at Adventure's wheel
Circa 2016

My Thought For You

"If you go aground, work yourself off.  Cast off all self-pity and beat to windward again and again and again, so that in the fullness of your years, you can come about and run downwind free and easy with the tide."

Capt. Frank Hynes, Sch. Marjorie Parker (1951)
"A Doryman's Day" Capt. R. Barry Fisher

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Italian Blessing of the Fleet
Harbor Cove Circa 1945
Portuguese Blessing of the Fleet, 1947
Community Fish Pier, Gloucester, MA
Original F/V Joseph & Lucia
Built 1944 at the James Shipyard, Essex, Mass.
Capt. Giuseppe Brancaleone

F/V & Lucia II
Brancaleone family vessel
of the 60s, 70s, & 80s
Capt. Antonino "Nino" Brancaleone

F/V Joseph & Lucia III
Capt. Gaetano "Tommy" Brancaleone
70s & 80s

Scenes of General Seafood's Wharf
Harbor Cove
Circa 1947

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F/V Julie Ann
Favaloro family vessel
Circa 1946

Of all the 1940s commercial fishing vessels (side trawlers) that were launched from the Essex building ways of John Prince Story Shipyard and later his grandson Jonathan Story, "in my opinion", the F/V Julie Ann was the best designed of similar hulls produced by both builders.
Ron Gilson - 2019

The F/V Julie Ann launched 5/5/46 for Capt./owner Leo Favaloro, measured 93'x22'x11.5', powered with a 350 h.p. Cooper Bessemer heavy duty marine diesel, equipped with Hathaway trawl winch, Hathaway deck gear, and the latest electronics.  F/V Julie Ann was a highline addition to the growing post WWII Gloucester fleet of modern fishing vessels.

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Erik Ronnberg's model of the 
F/V Bright Star

Last fishing vessel constructed at the James Shipyard - April 5, 1947
Builder Fred Head - 71.6' x 19.4' x 10.8'

Recently, at the Cape Ann Museum, Ron and Erik Ronnberg, the museum's Maritime Curator, and a renowned ship model builder, discussed his 1947 era model F/V Bright Star that Erik created

Essex Shipbuilding Museum
Adventure lecture and slide presentation
Circa 2012

Gloucester's famous Greasy Pole

One of the popular sporting events of the annual St. Peter's Fiesta celebration.  In the background is Gloucester's new Beauport Hotel facing the outer harbor.

Ben Pine's Atlantic Supply Wharf
Gloucester's urban renewal area of the 1960s
Wharf Street "Harbor Loop"
Site of Geno Mondello's Dory Shop
Circa 1944

 United Fisheries background
Circa 1945

 Gorton's Machine Shop Wharf
F/V Conquest - Capt. Joaquim Gaspar
Circa 1946
Today's location of the Cruiseport

F/V Benjamin C., Launching day 1946
Dana Story Essex Shipyard

Benjamin C. . . OVERBOARD!! . . . undertow

F/V Joffre, 1918
Builder - A.D. Story Shipyard

105' dory trawler converted to dragger in 1940, sailing under command of Capt. Simon Theriault and First Mate Donald Laurie, Sr. in 1945.

On a Wednesday night, December 12, 1945, the F/V Gale, one of General Seafoods Corp. Boston vessels, went ashore on Sable Island Bar, known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. The Gale, Capt. Douglas Schwartz, with 17 men aboard, was feared doomed in a raging 80 m.p.h. snow storm, caught in shifting sands off Sable Island, Nova Scotia.  The crew wanted to escape the powerful running tides and storming breakers that suck and break up a captured vessel. Capt. Simon Theriault and crew, steaming in the F/V Joffre 15 miles away, heard the Gale’s SOS and made radio contact. Theriault and mate Donald Laurie, huddled around their ship to shore radio telephone and convinced the 17-man crew to remain aboard the Gale……the winds will shift, the tide recede, and the breakers will abate hours later, allowing the crew to take to their dories in mid-afternoon and row to the rescue vessel, beam trawler Breaker, with Capt. Halley of their General Seafoods Corp.  All 17 members of the Gale crew were saved. They all thanked God, Capt. Theriault and mate Donald Laurie for their sage advice.

Joe Cody was my lifelong waterfront friend, mentor, and business associate.  Joe was a common sense, street smart, respected industry leader….a straight shooter. He was a kind, caring friend in the mold of our mutual mentor, Ben Pine, whose teachings would profoundly influence both of our lives.

Manuel P. "Jeff" Domingos, Jr., President of the United Fisheries
Portuguese Leader in the 1940s & 50s
My boyhood friend and waterfront mentor

Escaping Portugal in 1942 (WWII) arriving on a tramp steamer in Baltimore, MD made his way to the family home in Gloucester on Herrick Court arriving at 11:00a.m.  DaCruz left that same night fishing on the family vessel at 6:00p.m. out of New Bedford, Mass.


Highline Capt. Joaquim Gaspar
In my opinion, Gaspar was the most creative forward-thinking innovator in the developing fishing fleet of the 40s & 50s
Ron Gilson - 2019

Highline Capt. Frank Rose
Recognized leader in the Portuguese fishing community 1930s & 40s

Sch. Edith L. Boudreau
Capt. David Ribeiro
Circa 1945

Mary Jean Ribeiro Mason, with her father's crew behind her, leading Portuguese Blessing of the Fleet parade, 1947

Richard Saulnier, Tommy Brancaleone, and Tony DaCruz
Career Waterfront Mechanics
Rose's Boat Yard

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1.  The refined heavy duty diesel engine became available in the late 1920s.

Advanced version, heavy-duty diesel engine of the 40s & 50s

2.  Redfish (bottom fish) were discovered in the 1930s.

Scenes of General Seafoods Wharf
Harbor Cove, 1947

3.  Dragging (outer trawling) provided the means to catch this untapped species in volume.
F/V Joseph & Lucia II
Deck Load of Redfish

4.  Birdseye's flash freezing, invented in the late 1920s, allowed volume catches of redfish to be processed daily.  The fresh frozen fish market made salt fish products obsolete.  Flash freezing refrigeration forever changed Gloucester's fishing industry.

General Seafoods
Grand opening, June 12, 1942

Gloucester's newest redfish processing plant began operation on Commercial Street, (formerly the Clarence Birdseye property).  It would prove to be a major processor on our newly developing post depression waterfront, all part of the rise of the redfish era - GLOUCESTER'S GOLDEN AGE OF FISHING 1940 - 1955.

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Haulback F/V Maryanne
Capt. Ollie Palazola

St. Peter's weekend, time off for family outing

Haulback Off-Shore F/V Joseph & Lucia III

Haulback Scene F/V Joseph & Lucia III

F/V St. Peter
Capts. Joe Giacalone & Bike Scola
Launched A.D. Story Shipyard, Essex, Mass. 1927
Early example of diesel-powered transition vessel entering Gloucester's fleet in the late 1920s

F/V St. Mary
Capts. Dominic Spinola . . . son Emilio
Engineer Michael Spinola
Builder Harvey Gamage Shipyard 1951

F/V Hunter
Capt. Accursio "Gussie" Balbo & sons Danny and Joe
Day boat Whiting Fisherman
A typical fishing family

GLOUCESTER . . . A City of Immigrants!

We all come from another place.  In early years, Canadian Maritime fisherman migrated south to Gloucester seeking better economic fishing opportunities.  Portuguese fisherman, fishing the Grand Banks from their native Portugal and Azores homeland, soon found Gloucester as their second home.  Irish in the early days populated our Fort section of Gloucester prior to our present day ~ turn of the century, Italian fishing community inhabitants .

Highliner . . . F/V Caroline & Mary
Capt. Joe Rose
Circa 1945
Fisheries Redfishing & Swordfishing

Ben Pines F/V Puritan
Capt. Oscar Ribeiro

F/V Catherine L. Brown
Capt. Louis "Louie" Brown
Highline Redfisherman of the 1940s

As a general observation, the Canadian and Portuguese fishermen were offshore fishermen.  The Nova Scotias and Newfoundlanders were very familiar with their North Atlantic fishing grounds.  The Portuguese found Gloucester's closer proximity to their traditional fishing grounds "The Grand Banks" much more advantageous and eventually settled in our Ward II Portuguese Hill area.

The Italian fishermen following in their European tradition were more inclined to fish the inshore fishery.  For decades in early years, they excelled in inshore fishing and gradually moved into mackerel seining, again following the inshore areas but venturing further south in the early spring to catch mackerel as they traditionally moved north as the climate/waters warmed.  As we moved into the decades of the '40s & '50s, Italian fishermen ventured into the offshore fishery as well.

Traditionally, the Canadian fishermen were North Atlantic ground fishermen.  The Portuguese were also offshore fishermen.  They were considered expert in swordfishing, and fleet leaders in this fishery.

The Italian fishermen were always successful in the inshore fishery and excelled in the offshore mackerel fishery.  They were the undisputed leaders in mackerel fishing in the '30s & '40s.

Italian Highline Mackeral Seiner
F/V Santa Maria
All-time highline mackeral seiner
Capts. Peter Mercurio and Peter Guarrasi

As a boy, I was intrigued by all the goings on.  In 1944 at age eleven, I was introduced to our busy waterfront as an employee of John Wenneberg on the waterboat Wenham Lake.  
Our customer base was located in the North Channel of our inner harbor.  This included the United Fishery complex at the head of the North Channel; Gorton's Main Street complex; John J. Burke's ....; Sherman B Ruth wharf; and finally, Ben Pines Atlantic Supply Wharf at the further end entrance to the North Channel.  In all, we probably serviced 120 vessels at the height of the summer season (there was also a southern fleet that came north in the summer months).

During these formative years at age 14 in 1947, I started fishing, it was an exciting time for so many male teenagers in the '40s era.  I wanted to experience every facet of the industry: seining, dragging, and in 1951, I witnessed dory trawling in its waning years.  My only remaining desire was to experience swordfishing.  This meant extended trips, 30+ days minimum.  My parents would not allow any such long absence from home.  (Fishing was always discouraged by my parents.)

Highline F/V Evelina M. Goulart
Capt. Manuel Goulart
Typical Portuguese Swordfisherman
Circa 1930s
Swordfishing George's Bank

 Joseph Mello, Lifelong Friend (at age 13)
Sailed on F/V Magellan, Swordfishing Summer of 1945
Highline Owner/Capt. Edward "Eddie" Silva
Chief Engineer Manuel "Manny" Mello, Joe's Father

Joe Mello made the trip swordfishing that I longed to do in my teenage years.  Joe recalled recently of being gone 30 days wharf to wharf in the summer of 1945.

Capt. Eddie Silva was a highliner, at the top of his game, in those years.  With a crew of eight men, the F/V Magellan arrived in Gloucester from Georges Bank with a banner fare of swordfish averaging 100, up to 400 pounds each.  Some fish tipped the scales weighing 600 lbs. dressed weight, i.e., head sword and innards removed!

I asked Joe about Capt. Eddie and Joe had nothing but praise for his captain.  Mello said the captain was always well dressed, neat as a pin.  He was always in command.  As a boy of 13, Mello knew who was in charge . . . the captain!  Joe couldn't recall the striker's name and the other crew members, but he did say it was "all business aboard the Megellan".

Joe was 13 in 1945, I was right behind him in 1947.  I would make my first trip seining on Ben Pine's Yankee, with Capt. Cyril Dyett.  I entered G.H.S. that fall.  One of my classmates was Helen Silva, Capt. Eddie's daughter.  Helen was a wonderful, attractive, bright classmate.  She was friendly, simply a nice person - just like her dad.  Joe Mello agreed.  About 55 years later, after graduating in 1951, Helen and her husband came east from their home in Eugene, Oregon and joined my wife and me at our class reunion dinner table.  It was a wonderful evening recalling memories. 

Classmate Helen Silva
Flicker Yearbook Photo 1951

F/V Tina B.
Launching Day September 23, 1945
Builder John Prince Story Shipyard, Essex, Mass
Owner/Capt. Simplicio Bichao
Ron Gilson's first launching with his Uncle John Sticklen

Cardinal Richard James Cushing, Archbishop of Boston (1944-1970)
Pictured on steps of Our Lady of Good Voyage Church with my boyhood friend, Louis Costa of Sadler Street, et al

F/V Our Lady of Fatima
Owner/Capt. Chris Cecilio, 1945
WWII minesweeper conversion

5.  Huge domestic and European markets for redfish developed from the depression of the 1930s to the post WWII era of the 1950s.  These were a result of WWII military demands and post WWII Marshall Plan European commitments.
Launching Day F/V Judith Lee Rose
Owner/Capt. Frank Rose Jr.
Southboro Shipyard, ME  1953

Crew of F/V Ocean Life 1951
Capt. Manny Marques and his 11-man crew of the F/V Ocean Life - largest redfish dragger of Gloucester's Golden Age of Fishing, carrying capacity 500k redfish!

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"The Good Old Days" are gone; the industry that I knew and grew up with is over.  Gloucester and its people have moved on.

Community Fish Pier
Circa, 1947

West End of Gloucester's Main Street
Circa, 1947

Gorton's Cold Storage
Harbor Cove

I witnessed the greatest period in Gloucester's 400-year history of fishing.  It was a phenomenal chapter, Gloucester's own Industrial Revolution.  I thought it would go on forever!  Gloucester was fishing!  We had the boats, the men, and we enjoyed a worldwide market for our fish!

We had it all!!

Launching Date was 4/17/45
Lyman James Essex Shipyard

F/V Villanova
Burnham's Railways
Capt./Owner Joaquim Gaspar
Last vessel built by Gaspar family
Circa, 1960

F/V Wild Duck
Capt. Cecilio
Circa, 1955

F/V Linda B
Capt. Rosario Testaverde - Cut Bridge

The family breadwinners of today will not accept what fishermen routinely endured only 70 years ago.  Millions of pounds of whiting and redifsh were landed @ 1-1/2 to 4 cents per pound.  Boats on trips for 7, 10, 14 days, away from their families.  That's unacceptable today.


Gone are "button" fish
Gone are hyped brine tanks
Gone are "green fillets"
Gone is "rewrap"
Gone is the 10-lb. layer pack

Scaler Machine
1950 Vintage

American Fillet Company
Fish Handling
Circa 1950

We once fished 200 offshore Gloucester vessels; today, 2019 we service maybe ten offshore local and visiting vessels.  Day boats can be counted on one hand, and there is only one pogy harvester, Lakeman's Kingfisher.

The few vessels still fishing are landing only modest catches, compared to the '40s and '50s era.  They are receiving exceptionally high prices for their landings and the product reaching the consumer is fresher and superior.  Gloucester's diminished fishing industry survives, a shadow of its former self.

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Fishermen's Wharf, an iconic leader on Gloucester's waterfront, dating back to Ben Pine's Atlantic Maritime Company of the 1920s, to the boat owner's Gloucester Whiting Association of the 1950s, is now enjoying its latest industry resurgence.

Fishermen's Wharf
Circa 1950

Fishermen's Wharf
F/V Teresa Marie II

F/V Midnight Sun
Testaverde Family Vessel`

F/V Teresa Marie IV


Today's offshore vessels manufacture their own salt water slush ice.  Sea water cooled to 1/2 degree above freezing temperature, produces a salt water slush resulting in unbruised, unmarred fish.  The fish are individually processed by hand aboard the fishing vessel, no longer forked multiple times, arriving dockside in individual tubs in a superior unblemished condition  Today's fresh fish are rock hard, vivid in color, and delivered absolutely fresh to the consumer.

Recently, I visited Fishermen's Wharf, 37 Rogers Street, owned and operated by the Giacalone Bros., Vito, Jr., Chris, Marc (investment counselor), and Nick representing three generations of Giacalone fishing family involvement on our waterfront.  We can thank the vision of the Giacalone family for their investment and confidence in a diminished continuing local fishing industry.

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With the family patriarch, grandfather "Joe G." (Capt. Joe), I was treated to a guided tour of this amazing modern fresh fish facility, complete with its newest redfish culling machine, its pristine fresh fish stainless steel processing facility, huge cold storage capability, and modern day "no hands on" approach to unloading fresh fish.
Redfish Culling Machine

Redfish Cooling Area

Fishermen's Wharf utilitizes the latest computerized, visual monitoring capability, that allows the young, ambitious partners to be in constant touch with the day-to-day, minute-by-minute operation of their dockside facility.  The Giacalone brothers have succeeded in reinventing the fresh fish processing industry.  They are leading the way on Gloucester's waterfront!


Ron Gilson, 2019

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Father and Son
June 16, 2019

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