In our county, we have a wonderful piece of history called the Dory Fishing Fleet that continues to flourish today. Founded in 1891, the Dory Fishing Fleet is the only commercial fishing fleet that is permitted to cast off by the Newport Pier. The number of boats has shrunk since its heyday, at which time around 30 boats were active in the fleet. Today there are seven or eight who still ply their nets in the open ocean, setting out as early as 2 in the morning. The age old tradition stirs images of a time when we lived closer to the earth, gathering our consumables and using them immediately rather than the convenience shopping we experience today.
When I was a child, my mom would sometimes go down to the Dory Fishing Fleet market to pick up some fresh caught red snapper or the like. We often ate fish and this was a great way to get outside and do some shopping at the same time. I have a distinct memory of going down the to Dory boats with my family and grandparents one year. I was around 8-10 years old I’d guess. We arrived while they were still bringing in the boats, close to 8 a.m.
The process of bringing in the boats involved placing wide rollers under the boat to drag it up onto the sand, and they acted a bit like wheels on a tank. There were a limited number of these rollers, so when the boat rolled over the last one in the rear, it was run around to the front, and this was repeated over and over, a circular process, until the boat reached its destination.
On this particular visit, my Grandpa Jim worked on recapturing his youth. At the time he might have been in his early 70s. He was a youthful man, strong and happy and I always remember him with a smile on his face. He had a great affinity for very loud, very plaid slacks, golf shirts and (gulp) white belts and shoes. I think that day it’s a safe guess he wore sneakers though, since we were going to be in the sand. Well, when we arrived down there at the beach, Grandpa Jim surprised us all be heading down to the boats and helping pull them up on the shore. He was having a fantastic time, helping pull the boat while the rollers were run from rear to front. I remember the air was damp and chilly and he had on a white hat. The smells were of the sand, the ocean, and the fish. It has embedded itself with the visual memory of Grandpa Jim pulling on that boat with a huge grin on his face.
He had the time of his life!
Somewhere there is a picture of this. My sister, dad and I all know exactly the picture but we cannot find it. We recently looked through every old photo album and shoebox of photos we could find. I’m sad to have misplaced the photo, but I am delighted to have the memory. Create a few memories of your own by visiting the Dory Boats. Your kids are gonna love it!