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Jim Morgan’s Mary and Verna
is on the Ways

Martha's Vineyard Times October 29, 1998


Mary and Verna, a Menemsha trawler owned and operated by Jim Morgan, is hauled out at Ralph Packer’s Tisbury Marine Railway. While Morgan applies more coats of green paint and catches up on some maintenance, Gannon and Benjamin boatwrights are adding several sister frames (new frames beside old ones) in the stern of the wooden dragger. "She needs even more frames," Morgan said during a break from painting on Friday, "but the fishing hasn’t been that good. You just do what you can."

Morgan was fishing for fluke this spring, but the Massachusetts quota in that fishery was reached on July 24th, and the vessel has been tied to the dock ever since.

Mary and Verna, launched in 1967, was built by Henry Conklin, an Industrial Arts teacher from Warren, RI, who named the boat for his wife Mary and his niece Verna. Conklin died in 1970, and Jim Morgan bought the boat from his widow. Morgan had been skipper of Conklin’s Mary B, another Menemsha fishing boat. "An old superstition says don’t change the name of a boat, and my family didn’t mind," says Morgan. So, he kept the original name.

Until 1992, Morgan was fishing on the Mary and Verna year round, in a variety of fisheries: fluke, scup, cod. He would bring along another man as crew. "Fish have been scarce the last few years, so I don’t have any crew now." Since 1992, the 74 year old mariner has been running the dragger alone and fishing exclusively for fluke. He is making ends meet with his rental properties and his carvings.

Morgan’s carving of the Schooner Alabama was displayed at the Agricultural Fair this year. His wife, Roberta, runs the Harbor Craft Shop in Menemsha, where his carvings are sold.

Morgan has been fishing out of Menemsha since he was a child and has seen a lot of changes. He recalls a time when there were over a hundred swordfishing boats packed into the snug harbor waiting out a storm. "That’s what I miss the most," Morgan said of swordfishing." You had to have a good crew with eyes to see ‘em, and a good striker. One year on the Margie O we got over a hundred." Morgan said that longlining, which began in the 1960s, precipitated the decline of the swordfishery.

"The fluke are coming back strong," says Morgan. He and many of his colleagues are hoping for an increased fluke quota in coming year, and they are lobbying the state to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for the increase. Though, Morgan says, NMFS is hesitant to raise the quota because they are not finding enough two and three year olds in their study trawls.

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