With the names of John B. Orlando, Jaime Ortiz, Matteo A. Russo, Duane Charlie Rine and Peter K. Prybot added to the cenotaph at the Fishermen’s Memorial on Stacy Boulevard, the documented number of Gloucester fishermen lost to the sea and recalled by name on the 10 brass plaques has risen to 5,384.
Removed and missing for about three weeks while names of the most recent casualties of the fishing life were added, the 10th plaque was re-installed on Monday, July 23.
“We’re very happy,” Gaspar “Gap” Lafata, chairman of the Cenotaph Committee, said Monday. “We had a four-month contract that lasted seven months.”
The work — removing the plaque, shipping it to the foundry in Rhode Island so that a block of blank space in the far right column could be cut out and replaced with one that includes the raised and polished letters of the names of five more fishermen taken by the sea — was done at a cost of between $1,800 and $1,900, Lafata said.
Already, the work is not going unnoticed. Monday, a visitor from San Francisco said she had been wondering what had happened to the 10th plaque, and had heard rumors it had been stolen or defaced.
She and her friends carefully read the restored tablet — it also includes the names of the crew of the Andrea Gail, the swordfishing boat given immortality by Sebastian Junger’s narrative book “The Perfect Storm,” and the subsequent film about the demise, while also giving American English a phrase for a compound catastrophe.
Then, they wandered back in time to consider the war-scale losses from the 19th century when schooners brought an industrial scale, along with style and grace, but no weather science to fishing the banks.
So many McDonalds listed one after another caught the eyes of the Californians and a pair of Texans, who were unaware that the names on all of the plaques are alphabetized rather than being listed boat.
As fishing as been scaled back in recent years, the losses, too, have diminished in number.
Yet there were three in 2009: Orlando, Ortiz and Russo, listed alphabetically, while Rine was lost in 2010 and Prybot in 2011.
Russo and Orlando, the captain and his father-in-law mate, respectively, on board the Patriot, were gone in a still mysterious sinking on Middle Bank in the early-morning hours of Jan. 2 to 3, 2009. Ortiz, a Honduran national working the back of a lobster boat, slipped into the water and, unable to swim, drowned in October 2009.
Rine, a Navy veteran, went under a herring boat to untangle a net and became entangled himself and drowned in 2010. Prybot, a Saturday columnist at the Times and an author of books on fishing and lobstering, was caught in the line of a trawl of traps just off Rockport, while working alone. He had written of the dangers of the trawl line.
The additions to the cenotaph, together with 11 more names that were added in 2001, including three lost soon after the erection of the memorial, mean the narrative story, which put the grim total at 5,368, is now an understatement by 16.
But in truth, the written narrative is probably off by hundreds, if not thousands, of Gloucestermen lost while fishing in distant ports which either did not have the records or required expensive research the Memorial Committee was unable to conduct.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.