A big payday

Provincetown tuna

Reaching out toward Cape Cod Bay from the heart of Provincetown, McMillan Wharf swarmed with activity. The end of the wharf held an ice plant and two fish packing houses: Sea Food Packers and the Fishermen’s Cooperative. All three are gone now. Here, a 900-pound tuna, landed on a hand-line from the dragger Jimmy Boy, is hoisted up to the Coop packing house in 1979. Even then, the fish was worth about $2,000.

A crowded harbor

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In the late Seventies, more than 70 boats worked out of Provincetown, often rafting at MacMillan Wharf, where they had to tie up four and five boats deep. Several Western-rig boats, with forward pilot houses, are visible here, and in the foreground are two classic, long-and-lean Eastern rigs. The Charlotte G, AT RIGHT, built in 1952 and skippered by Henry Duarte, was one of the most successful. Even 30 years later, mention Charlotte G to a former crewman, and his voice will soften with affection, as if recalling a past love. A site on her deck was profitable indeed.

Heading into the chop

Catherine and Mary

The New Bedford dragger Catherine and Mary motors out of Provincetown, heading for the Cape Cod Canal. When weather conditions favored fishing in Cape Cod Bay, New Bedford boats frequently landed their catches in Provincetown to save time and fuel. The small “travelling sail” was used to minimize the round-bottomed boat’s roll.

A stick boat


A highly sought catch was bluefin tuna – a single tuna could be worth $2,000. Tuna could be taken by many techniques, but here, the lobster boat Pinky has been rigged as a “stick boat” with a bow pulpit for harpooning tuna. Crewman Marty Cordeiro mans the pulpit.


Landing dogfish

Lumpers land a catch of spiny dogfish at the Fishermen’s Cooperative packing house on MacMillan Wharf in 1979.

Provincetown harbor

Divino Criador

In a classic Provincetown image, the Divino Criador, owned and skippered by Francisco Soares, motors into Provincetown Harbor. The two large otter-trawling “doors” can be seen stowed on the port rail.

The faces of Portugal

Provincetown fishermen

The faces of Portugal, both resident and visiting, on an incoming dragger reflect Provincetown’s fishing community. Fishing was the family business, and often relatives from the Azores would spend a summer season visiting kin and working on a Provincetown boat.

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.

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