By David Joyner
Editor's note: This story was originally published Oct. 23, 2002.
The fishing vessel Lady Grace — used by Hollywood to tell the story of the lost swordfishing boat Andrea Gail — may soon become a platform to study New England fisheries.
Legal Sea Foods, the Boston-based restaurant company that bought the Lady Grace in an on-line auction in July 2000, has given the 72-foot boat to the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center. The company also agreed to give the heritage center $25,000 a year for three years, to pay for the boat's maintenance and dockage. The center is discussing a possible partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to use the vessel for research, according to Harriet Webster, the center's executive director.
The project, she added, would involve fishermen.
The Legal Sea Foods Foundation, the company's charitable arm, is also helping plan how the Lady Grace will be used.
The vessel, officially transferred on Sept. 27, will not have to move far. It has been berthed in Gloucester, and at the heritage center's Harbor Loop wharves, for much of the time it has been owned by Legal Sea Foods.
The Lady Grace has been a tourist attraction, especially among those searching for local landmarks from the movie "The Perfect Storm." Geoffrey Richon, the Maritime Heritage Center's president, noted it has "a certain amount of star appeal."
"That's not particularly interesting to us," said Richon, who added that the center is instead focused on the boat's practical uses.
"We're working on putting it back to work. That boat is not going to be a stagnant display," he said. "I don't expect that boat to be tied to the dock." Built in Ocean City, Md., in 1978, the Lady Grace was an ideal stand-in for the Andrea Gail because the two were built together.
The Andrea Gail and its six-man crew were lost in the October 1991 no-name storm, which was chronicled in Sebastian Junger's "The Perfect Storm." Warner Bros. acquired the Lady Grace in March 1999 to produce the movie version of Junger's book, much of which was filmed in Gloucester.
Shortly after the film's June 30, 2000, release, the company sold the steel- hulled, 93-ton vessel on the on-line auction site eBay. Legal Sea Foods won the bidding and purchased the boat for $145,100. The company's chief executive, Roger Berkowitz, had discussed buying the boat with state Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester. Liz Walsh, a Legal spokeswoman, said Berkowitz was interested in keeping the Lady Grace in Gloucester and preventing it from becoming a theme park attraction.
Walsh said the company primarily has used the vessel to teach others about the Andrea Gail and "the high-risk industry of fishing."
She said the company decided to give it to the heritage center to ensure it would stay in the city and continue to be used for outreach, research and education. Walsh said the gift underscores "our commitment to Gloucester as a community." Though nothing in writing stipulates how the vessel is used, Richon said, "I would think by spring, that boat will have a purpose."
He added that he was "thrilled" Berkowitz decided to give the boat to the heritage center.
"We think it will reflect very, very well on his business to have that boat put into research for saving the species," he said.