Numerous Gloucester mariners, such as solo sailor Gordon Baird and lobsterman Tom Burns, have seen Tom Jarvis do his unique thing in Gloucester Harbor.
Except for his wire traps, Jarvis has gone back in time and also unintentionally green with his non-commercial lobstering in the Outer Harbor. He lobsters throughout the year, except in winter, either before or after work or on weekends by hand-hauling traps out of a 19-foot, wooden Banks dory, which he rows and sails.
Lobstering off of Cape Ann, especially after 1960, has evolved from many operations which used wooden traps into ones working bigger strings of wire pots out of larger, motorized fiberglass craft equipped with hydraulic pot haulers.
The 37-year-old Gloucester native, who majored in aerodynamics and mechanical engineering in college, doesn't do this for the reason most would immediately surmise.
"Simplicity is what I like the most about it (his lobstering style). I often spend all day working on complex noise and vibration issues on vessels. It's just so great to have mine so simple," explained the fit and affable young man, whose prime job is an engineer for Sound Down. The Salem company manufactures sound-proofing materials, especially for vessels' engine rooms. "My job takes me all over the world," Jarvis added.
"I started the lobstering about 10 years ago with my first dory, a 16-footer which had no sail," Jarvis said. "I previously worked both on the water crewing on lobster boats and gillnetters and on the waterfront at A.L. King & Sons (a defunct local lobster dealership)."
Jarvis is the first fisherman in his family, which includes five brothers and sisters.
"I feel the dory is a good, secure boat. I also appreciate how it functions and how capable it is," he said. "The dory is like the all-ocean thing. It has withstood the tests of time."
He purchased his current dory about three years ago from an Eastport, Maine, couple.
"I was looking for a dory with a sail. I saw their ad in a paper," he recalled. "It looked like a disaster; much of it was rotten. But, the dory came with a mast and both a main and a jib sail, plus a brand new trailer."
After some bargaining, he bought the package for $800 and soon trailered his acquisition to Geno Mondello's Boat Shop at Harbor Loop. Mondello is a master dory builder and repairman.
"I've known Geno since ever; I can't say enough about him," said Jarvis. "We ripped everything apart except for the bottom. Geno and I started repairing the dory in late December, and we had it in the water by the first of May."
The repair job required Jarvis to have a dozen 11�Ñ16-inch-thick, 21-foot-long white pine planks custom milled at a western Massachusetts mill. Friend and Gloucester High School teacher, "Jack Sulton and I went up there (Charlemont) and brought the planking back on his trailer," Jarvis said.
Jarvis regularly combines rowing and sailing to get to his traps in the vast Outer Harbor and back to his berth in East Gloucester. "It's an easy boat to row. I love the feeling of rowing it. That's also a great workout," said Jarvis, who rows with a pair of 9 1�Ñ2-foot oars.
"I like the wind out of the southwest the best. This way I row out, get the work done, and then sail back in. The dory doesn't sail upwind too efficiently. I've worked in every wind direction," he explained. The wind often propels his dory around 5 knots. Its mast, complete with jib and main sails, simply sets in a center hole of the forward seat. "I just pop the mast out and bring it home," Jarvis said.
"Sailing is so quiet. You just feel the energy of the wind getting captured in the sail. Sailing is a lot like flying," explained Jarvis, who earned his pilot's license at age 20. He's also an avid skier. His dory has no centerboard. "It will go over all along its side, but it won't tip over," he said. Jarvis stands up near the stern while sailing and uses an oar there to steer.
An old-fashioned wooden trawl roller affixed to the starboard rail aids his hauling in the traps by hand. He purchased the roller at a marine store at North Haven Island off of Maine.
Going into that store "... was a trip back in time," he said. Mondello also made him a traditional wooden scoop to bail out his dory. "I'm not that much of a purist. I usually use a Clorox jug to bail the dory," Jarvis said.
Jarvis often trailers his dory up to Maine in the summer and sails it around Penobscot Bay. "You often see minke whales, osprey and fog there. I take along a Nav chart, a compass and battery-powered VHF, which I have yet to use," he stated. During foggy days lobstering in Gloucester Harbor, "I'll put up a high flier so I show up on the radar," Jarvis added.
"I'm just happy with the dory. If I had a motor, I would be in and out in no time. Doing it this way, I can spend a lot more time and enjoy it. It's just fun," said Jarvis.
Oops! Ebb & Flow inadvertently got two Jodreys mixed up in last week's column on the Gloucester Fishermen's and Seamen's Widows and Orphans Aid Society.
It erroneously stated that the Jodrey State Fish Pier was named after a former Society Ppresident, the late Honorable H. Lawrence Jodrey.
"The fish pier was named after my grandfather, Everett R. Jodrey, who was also the Society's president for 17 years. He dedicated his life, money, everything to the fishermen and the industry. His life was Gloucester and its fishermen," explained Debra Ryan in Gloucester. She added, "My cousin H. Lawrence would never have gone to college without my grandfather's financial help."
Gloucester lobstermen Peter K. Prybot writes about the fishing industry and related issues for the Times.