GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Fishing Industry Stories

December 12, 2013

Displaced by fishing war

Gloucesterman haunted by urge to go to sea, loss of vessel

Joe Orlando still wakes up in the night, when the wind is whistling, and wonders if he should go down to the Gloucester House and make sure the Padre Pio’s lines are secure.

There still are days when the longtime Gloucester fisherman, as if lured by something invisible and irresistible, finds himself heading toward the dock to check on his boat.

“I say to myself, ‘What am I doing’?” Orlando said.

He is doing what he’s done for the past 30 years, what he’s done since he bought the 65-foot steel fishing boat in 1983 in partnership with his sister Angela Sanfilippo and her husband John.

There’s only problem: Orlando no longer owns the Padre Pio.

Buffeted by the same economic and regulatory forces that have blown cannon ball-sized holes in the once-legendary Gloucester small-boat fishing fleet and unable to make a living in the only manner he’s ever known, Orlando sold his boat on Nov. 11.

In doing so, he joined the growing ranks of the fishing displaced and became, at least for now, a man of the land, an unperson of the sea. His boat, though now the possession of a Boston fisherman, is the phantom limb he still feels.

“My wife Nina says it’s not like we lost a boat, but like we lost a member of the family,” Orlando said. “That’s how important that boat was to us.”

He is sitting in a Gloucester breakfast shop, a cup of coffee and a jelly-filled cruller in front of him. He is wearing a black hoodie and a couple days’ worth of stubble. A black ball cap, with the logo of the Fishing Partnership Support Services, sits atop his head, a meager deterrent to the frigid and unwelcoming day outside.

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