A Provincetown classic

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The Provincetown fleet was comprised mostly of Eastern rig draggers, 50- to 60- foot wooden vessels with rounded sterns, deep drafts and aft pilot houses, hulls that dated back to when masts first were cut off fishing schooners and engines were added. Here, the Plymouth Belle, a 55-footer built in 1948, is shown underway with her nets hung to dry off Provincetown in 1979. In a 2006 storm, Liberty Belle wrecked on Race Point, and at low tide, her bones are still visible there.

Frozen dinner

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A gull walks the graceful taffrail of a dragger at MacMillan Wharf with a frozen starfish it scavenged from the deck.

Winter work

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A catch of flounder is landed at Sea Food Packers on a cold mid-winter day in 1980.

Sunrise start

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Liberty, a graceful 1940 vintage wooden dragger owned by Norbert Macara, motors from MacMillan Wharf in a wash on morning sunlight across Cape Cod Bay in 1979.

Hard-working wooden boats

Co-op boats

During fishing season, there was little time for upkeep. The hardscrabble working life of the wooden dragger is reflected in the wear and tear of these boats off-loading at the Provincetown Fishermen’s Cooperative

Setting the trawl

Provincetown trawler

Russell Perry mans the winch as the rig, called an otter trawl, plays out from the Reneva, a 56-foot wooden dragger out of Provincetown skippered by Raymond Duarte. Hanging aft and about to be dropped is one of two 700-pound “otter doors.” Made of wood and bound in rusty metal, the doors act as vanes that fly outward on the forward current to hold the mouth of the net open as it is pulled along the sea floor. On this August day in 1980, Reneva works Stellwagen Bank off the tip of Cape Cod.

The quiet time

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During the hour-long first trawl of the morning, all is calm on board the Reneva. Skipper Raymond Duarte is lost in thought in the pilot house while Russell Perry minds the winch. Duarte learned his craft from his father, Henry, a native of Portugal and a highly respected Provincetown skipper in his own right.

Hauling back

Provincetown trawler

As the trawl is hauled back, Reneva crewmen David Carreiro, left, and David Gonsalves use steel bars to guide the cables evenly onto the winch drums. At the end of each cable is a 700-pound otter door holding the net open. In the complex winch system of an eastern rig, one cable plays out through a pulley forward on the boat, and the other plays out aft. Gonsalves has the hard job, guiding the shorter length of cable with less leverage.

A bagful of fish

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The business end of the otter trawl rig, called “the bag,” is winched over the deck to be culled.

Bottom life from the trawl

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A yellowtail flounder hangs from the gaping mouth of a goosefish as the trawl is dumped on deck, with its hundreds of pounds of small cod and haddock, goosefish, crabs anemones and other bottom dwellers.