ROCKPORT — An experienced fisherman is dead after a boat he and another crewman were taking from Gloucester to Maine, reportedly to dismantle because it was no longer seaworthy, sank this weekend.
The Provincetown-based fishing vessel Terra Nova began taking on water about three miles off the coast of Rockport around 8:30 p.m. Friday. The crew said the water pumps could not handle the load and abandoned ship.
Although both David “Oakesy” Oakes and Jason Randall were pulled from the sea around 10:30 p.m. Friday, Oakes died, according to a family member who wished not be named.
Oakes, of South Thomaston, Maine, was airlifted out of the water by a helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod and taken to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said the state accepted jurisdiction of the Oakes case but the cause of death has not been determined.
Harris said it is unclear if Oakes died at the hospital, on his way to the hospital or in the water.
Meanwhile, Oakes’ son-in-law, Randall of Rockland, Maine, was rescued by Rockport Harbormasters Scott Story and Rosemary Lesch. He was taken to Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester. He has since been released.
Waves were choppy that night, reaching 4 to 6 feet in height, Lesch said. Both men were wearing emergency immersion suits when recovered.
Oakes leaves behind a loving family. Family members uploaded a digital tribute to the fisherman on YouTube. He was the owner-operater of Dirty Girl Lobster, a food transportation business based in Warren, Maine, according to government filings.
A MGH spokeswoman said Oakes was not in a “public directory,” but that did not mean he was not admitted to the hospital.
According to a prepared statement by the Coast Guard, the crew reported 6 feet of water aboard the vessel and that pumps could not keep up with the flooding.
“That’s definitely going to take you down if your pumps are not keeping up with it,” Lesch said.
Randall is recovering but is still in shock, according to the family member.
“We are doing the best we can,” the family member said of Oakes’ death.
Harbormasters from Rockport and Gloucester responded Friday, along with state police, the Coast Guard and nearby good Samaritan vessels.
The Terra Nova was docked at Rose’s Marine in Gloucester as of Friday. Oakes and Randall were tapped to take the boat to Maine, according to marine owner Frank Rose and an Oakes family member.
“It was determined that vessel was not worth the reinvestment to put it in a seaworthy, fishing condition,” Rose said Monday.
The boat’s owner had two options: either have it purposefully, legally sunk at sea; or have it dismantled, Rose said.
“Wood boats are very expensive to repair,” he said. “My understanding is that it was going to Maine to be dismantled.”
He said at one point Friday there were three people on the vessel.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Myeonghi Clegg said there is an ongoing investigation to find out why the boat sank, but that there was no indication there were any more than two crew members aboard when it sank.
Terra Nova is Latin and Portuguese for New Land, but the wooden vessel was coming full circle. Records show it was built in Thomaston at the Newbert & Wallace shipyard in 1965.
Provincetown Harbormaster Rex McKinsey said he had increasing concerns for the boat’s seaworthiness as it was in poor condition. The Terra Nova had been in the Provincetown fleet for a long time, he said.
A recent owner was a South Welfleet man, Richard J. Merrill, according to boating records. The 48-year-old Terra Nova measured more than 65 feet long and had a gross tonnage of 78 tons.
McKinsey said he notified a different owner of the Terra Nova last year that the pumps had been on more and more often.
The boat was last rigged as an Eastern-rigged hydraulic clamming vessel, but McKinsey said the boat had been sitting at the dock for awhile.
Like other vessels, McKinsey said the Terra Nova was probably passed around from one owner to another, each trying to get one last fishing trip out of it.
McKinsey said about two months ago, citing safety concerns, he recommended the boat be examined and fixed; it was then sent up to Gloucester.
“Boats that sit around on piers and are not being worked tend to fall into disrepair pretty quickly,” he said.
Janna Hedrich, the funeral director for Burpee, Carpenter and Hutchins Funeral Home, said wake arrangements for Oakes are set for Friday, Nov. 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the funeral home at 110 Limerock St. in Rockland, Maine. The funeral is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 2.
This marks the second time a tragedy has struck a Maine family when a boat sank off Cape Ann in the last year.
In December, the Gloucester-based Foxy Lady II was found in multiple pieces from Provincetown to Cape Ann. A vigil was held at the Fisherman’s Memorial for the two crew members, Wallace “Chubby” Gray II, 26, and Wayne Young, 50, both residents of Deer Isle, Maine.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3455 or email@example.com.