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January 9, 2009

Lobsterman collects pots old-fashioned way -- in a dory

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."

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