By Doreen Leggett
Running boats for other fishermen, crewing on trips for monkfish and skate, working on his own boat, Sam Fuller has been busy.
“I don’t think I’ve had a day off since March,” Fuller said, paint brush in hand.
Fuller was high above ground, his boat on blocks in a quiet Orleans neighborhood on a cloudy June day.
The huge time commitment is meant to give him more flexibility in the future, sticking with a life plan that has fishing, and the Cape, at its heart.
That includes the purchasing of his new boat, Mary Alice, from Sam Linnell (who just bought a bigger boat, The Great Pumpkin) and redoing it to go lobstering.
Fuller bought some lobster tags from a retiring Outer Cape fisherman. Each trap requires a tag that can run about $500, so purchasing the maximum 800 tags allowed wasn’t in the business plan.
“I’ll hopefully buy more over the summer,” Fuller said.
He will be partnering with Captain Nick Muto, who owns a lobster boat, the Miss Evelyn, as well as the fishing boat Dawn T., and whose yard the Mary Alice was occupying.
Muto was down in the engine room and poked his head out before he left for Cape Fishermen’s Supply in Chatham.
“Sam is great. He’s way calmer than I am,” said Muto with a grin.
The partnership works because they can help each other on both boats. They are both looking to gillnet less, which can be an everyday proposition.
Muto is looking forward to the collaboration.
“It’s tough to find guys who have the vision and the drive to get it done,” he said.
The two fished together a time or two on Matt Linnell’s earlier boat, the Lori B.. Fuller fished for Linnell (Sam’s uncle) for close to half his life.
It began when Fuller was 19, just graduated from Nauset High, working as a landscaper. One of his friends from the Denn family who owned Cape Fishermen’s Supply asked if he wanted to go fishing.
“I never stopped,” Fuller said. “It clicked for me and I liked the pay.”
Fuller was born in Hyannis and had grown up in Chatham and Brewster. His dad, Jon Fuller, owned a building company in Chatham, but Sam went to boarding schools off-Cape because his grandparents and parents were big believers in education.
A brouhaha landed him at Nauset for his senior year, which his parents were fine with.
“I got into a bit of trouble,” he said.
Sam Fuller has been benefiting from his dad’s construction skills as Jon has been at the boat a lot. He built the pilot house and was down at Ryder’s Cove when Fuller and Muto launched in the middle of June. Fuller’s mom, Peggy was there too, and she thanked Nick for giving the family some lobsters.
Sam’s parents are supportive of his new venture.
“I’m all in,” said his dad, giving a thumb’s up.
“We pretty much rebuilt this boat front to back,” the younger Fuller said. “There isn’t much that hasn’t been replaced.”
Fuller and Muto were running through some last-minute fixes before they took the boat over to the fish pier.
Mike Abdow, who owns Magic Charters, stopped down to visit and check out the engine, which he sold to them when he bought a new one.
“I love the engine,” Abdow said, hearing that it ran like a dream. “I should have charged more money,” he joked.
Before Fuller and Muto pulled away (after Abdow serenaded Fuller with a sing song “Sammy is going fishing”), they chatted about adding a bench on deck, with a plan in mind:
Taking people out to harvest their own lobsters was something Fuller and Muto are considering, particularly with new interest in dockside sales. Seems like people would enjoy and pay for a trip to pick their own lobster.
Until recently, Fuller would crew or run a boat for Matt Linnell for half the year and come winter leave the Cape, “a good arrangement,” Fuller said, in part because he loves skiing.
“I was ski patrol for a decade or more, in Colorado, New Zealand,” Fuller said. “I was an EMT, but most of what I did was avalanche control.”
He remembers taking the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives test with a bunch of crusty old miners who had were still working active mines in Western Colorado.
He passed and did a lot of the explosives work by hand, making bombs to help bring down dangerous snow packs, having mini-competitions to see who could land the lit fuses perfectly.
“It was a very fun job,” he said.
He did that for years, then came back to the Cape in 2016, when he was 30. His best friend, Asa Barker, had died suddenly and Fuller took over the sailing business he had on the Cape.
“I kind of fell into it,” Fuller said.
He also met his fiancée and bought his grandmother’s house in Chatham.
The mortgage created pressure to get back to work after an injury and back surgery. That wasn’t smart; three surgeries convinced him that he should transition from seven days a week of hard fishing to the more manageable lobster business. He can do a trip in the morning and still do charters on “The Pipe Dream,” a roomy boat at Stage Harbor. As more people are looking to enjoy a stress-free sail right about now, “my phone and email is going bonkers,” Fuller said.
Fuller feels very fortunate to have been able to buy his grandmother’s house, named “No End” (as is his fishing business). The historic house on Bassing Harbor is one of the oldest in town.
His grandmother, Shirley Fuller, was an incredible woman, he said, the first hospice nurse on the Cape, who went to Nicaragua during the Iran-Contra War to aid in relief efforts.
Fuller maintains ties in Nicaragua and is thinking of going down there off-season to do sailing charters, another benefit lobstering affords. But the lifestyle depends on commercial fishing staying strong.
“I would love to think the next generation would be able to do this,” he said.