When the distinctive white-tipped orange mast of the fishing vessel Little Sandra slipped below the ocean’s surface 18 miles off the coast of Rockport beyond Thacher Island this past weekend, the intentional sinking marked more than just the end of the line for the 63-foot-long vessel.
It was the end of an era for Gloucester’s historic fleet of eastern-rigged trawlers as well.
The trawler, built in Southwest Harbor, Maine, in 1946, now lies 345 feet underwater. It measured 63-feet long and weighed 56 net tons.
Originally called the Anthony and Josephine, the ship has been in family hands since it was built.
Peter Prybot, the late author and columnist for the Times, notes in his 1998 book “White-Tipped Orange Masts” that the boat was passed down from Anthony and Josephine Favaloro to their son, captain Vito Favaloro. Other crew members were his brothers Salvatore, nicknamed “Red” and Serafino as well as Claude Souza.
Dominic Favaloro, Salvatore’s son, who now works at Rose’s Marine on Main Street, recalled some early memories aboard the boat.
“My fondest memories as a young boy was a week or so before St. Peter’s Fiesta, the boat would be hauled up on dry-dock and given a ‘new dress’ painting,” he wrote in an email to the Times. “Being the smallest and lightest, I got duty on being hauled up the mast sitting on a pen-board as a seat to paint the white mast with orange tip. I guess I was too young to be afraid of heights.”
Favaloro noted since his father was a bit colorblind, the forest green hull needed to be darkened with black paint. He fondly recalled the smell of steamers, hot dogs and hamburgers as family members rode around Cape Ann.
The vessel was eventually handed over to the LoGrande family; Gloucester Fire Department Capt. Tom LoGrande is the son of the most recent owner.
“We would end up in the harbor in time to have a great vantage point for Greasy Pole, seine boat races and the blessing of the fleet,” he wrote.
The boat was coated from stern to stern in Gloucester Sea Jacket paint.
Prybot described the fleet in the 1970s as a mixed bag of shapes, sizes and materials. There were 94 boats in the early 1970’s, a majority were made with wooden hulls, like Little Sandra.
The author cites a former Portuguese boat owner and captain who said the iconic white and orange look originated in Portugal and it was later carried on into the U.S. Coast Guard to better recognize a ship in the distance.
Prybot notes the time period marked the beginning of the end for wooden eastern rig side trawlers as well as the freedom of the seas.
Joe Curcuru, a longtime Gloucester fisherman who is now retired, worked on Little Sandra as well as countless other vessels throughout his career, which spanned decades.
“The eastern rigs just started to fade away,” he said of Gloucester’s fleet.
Curcuru, who married Favaloro’s sister, said that, because of where the wind would hit a vessel, differently rigged boats eventually became the popular choice.
“She was probably just about ready to cave in,” he said of the Little Sandra.
Curcuru said boats of this era were routinely worked on and serviced, but the fishing trawler had just gotten too old.
The boat took about one hour to prepare, according to Bill Lee, captain of the Ocean Reporter. Lee, a retired fisherman, owns a marine surveying and consulting firm out of Motif No. 1 in Rockport.
The Ocean Reporter towed Little Sandra to her final resting place Saturday, where he said the boat sunk quickly. Then Lee helped remove the battery and all hazardous materials, as required by the Environmental Protection Agency.
‘It was brutally sad,” he said.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.