Charting the Past

Olin Kelly’s last laugh

Olin Kelly’s last laugh

Around 1970 I was catching, buying and selling lots of mussels. I had an Interstate Permit to buy and ship shellfish. The market was primarily in NYC. I lived in Chatham. Trucks with Chatham fish departed for NYC every night but Friday and Saturday. I would ship my bags of mussels on the fish trucks to my NYC customers.

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Stuart Smith looks back at a fishing village, forward at a sustainable community

Stuart Smith looks back at a fishing village, forward at a sustainable community

For much of Chatham’s history, everyone in town worked for the fishing industry either directly or indirectly.
“Chatham was entirely a fishing town,” Stuart Smith said. “It revolved around fishing.”
Smith, recently retired as harbormaster after 39 years working for the town, was no different.
One of his first jobs out of school, in 1983, was for David Carnes and Dick Larsen at Chatham Fish and Lobster, which opened in 1981.
“We did everything,” said Smith with a smile. “I smelled like a fish for years.”

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An eel foray, courtesy of Lower Cape TV

An eel foray, courtesy of Lower Cape TV

Retired fisherman Jim Harrington has great eel stories, like the time he set 25 pots in Upper Mill Pond in Brewster and caught 400 pounds. He got good money for them, too.
Harrington is willing to tell people how he caught the snake look-alike. And on camera no less.

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Fisheries report from 1970s tells tales

Fisheries report from 1970s tells tales

“The good ole days weren’t always good. And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”
We thought of that line by pop star Billy Joel when we came across a copy of a fisheries report from 1978 that has observations about the industry as well as descriptions and landings of Cape ports.
“An Economic Profile of the Cape & Islands Fisheries” was prepared by the Cape Cod Planning and Economic Development Commission (precursor of the Cape Cod Commission).

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Heroes in the storm

Heroes in the storm

Before the Portland Gale swept in on Nov. 26, 1898, there was disagreement whether this would be a significant storm. Some chose to risk it, such as the captain of the ill-fated Portland with 192 passengers.  Others took a more precautionary approach, such as Tony King’s captain. That decision meant King, a doryman from Provincetown, was available to help others when the storm hit.
Stephan Cohen knows King’s story because he has been doing research on three historic villages of Provincetown — Long Point, Race Point and Helltown, located at Herring Cove. “What I found really interesting was there were three villages that weren’t part of the main town proper,” Cohen said. “Naturally that led to an interest in the kind of fishing that was going on and the kind of boats that were going out.”

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Provincetown fishermen’s monument effort is reborn

Provincetown fishermen’s monument effort is reborn

A monument to honor Provincetown and Truro fishermen who lost their lives at sea has been talked about for decades.
“For 47 years. The idea was conceived by Carol Peters, the daughter of a fisherman, in 1976 after the sinking of my father’s boat, the Patricia Marie,” said Lisa King. “It has stalled.”
King, who has the energy of a coiled spring, is determined to make sure the monument happens, and soon. She brought together about a dozen people and created the Fishermen’s Memorial Foundation, which she chairs, because she feels this may be the last chance.

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The Wellfleet Oyster: An Excerpted History

The Wellfleet Oyster: An Excerpted History

Diamond Jim Brady once spat out an oyster served him at New York’s Delmonico’s restaurant. “That’s not a Wellfleet oyster!” exclaimed the Gilded Age gourmand.

Discriminating diners have long prized the Wellfleet oyster for the flavor that comes from the salty, plankton-rich seawater it ingests: Plump and clean, the Wellfleet oyster has a briny sweetness with an undertone of seaweed.

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Smokestacks Come to Yarmouth

Smokestacks Come to Yarmouth

By Haynes Mahoney

When it first came to life in March, 1917, the 100-foot stack belching plumes of smoke from its coal-fired engines, buckets of fish rising to freezers in the five-story building, it must have been an incredible disruption to the quiet marshside world of Yarmouth Port at the end of Wharf Lane.  The local stockholders hoped the Bay State Freezer Company, Inc. would bring them riches.

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Tales of Old Harbor

Tales of Old Harbor

Matthew Griffin heard a lot of fishing stories growing up, after all his grandfather, dad and several uncles were commercial fishermen.

“Who doesn’t love a story?” he asked. “Even if you have heard it more than once, and you envy those who are hearing it for the first time.”

That love, in Griffin’s case, was fanned by his grandfather Alexander “Allie” Griffin’s gift as a raconteur and his subject — fishing and Chatham, the town that turned toward the sea.  

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