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.

Culling the catch

Provincetown trawler

The crew culls the catch in a checker full of flounder and small cod and haddock while the skipper pilots the Reneva during a tow. The fish are sorted by species in the plastic baskets. Removable wooden planks are used to form the checkers, dividers that keep the catch in one place on the rolling deck.

In the hold

Provincetown trawler

On a hot August day, the cool spot on the Reneva is in the hold, where David Gonsalves waits for baskets of fish to be lowered to him. The old wooden boats lacked refrigeration. They stocked in hundreds of pounds of crushed ice from the ice plant on MacMillan Wharf each day.

Securing the doors

Provincetown trawler

There’s no substitute for muscle on a work boat. David Gonsalves secures the heavy otter door to the aft gallus, the heavy steel framework used to secure the tow cable pulley. The name “gallus” is derived from “gallows,” and refers to any free-standing framework on the deck of a fishing boat for hauling gear.

Daily repairs

Provincetown trawler

Every tow puts wear and tear on the nylon nets. Bottom debris, rocks and even the abrasive skin of dogfish can cut and chafe the nets. Small repairs are never-ending, and the motor back to port offers time to tend the tears.

Landing the catch

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Wooden boxes of iced fish are landed at Sea Food Packers on McMillan Wharf. Raymond Duarte waits with the fish lumpers to keep an eye on the count, as skippers always did.