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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