by Brian Robbins
ROCKLAND, ME – I’d heard Paul McFarland’s voice nearly 40 years before I met him face-to-face. I can’t tell you that I recognized the voice when the tall, smiling man met me in the main office of the O’Hara Corporation in Rockland; I’d only heard it over the single sideband radio back in the late 70s and 80s. If it wasn’t Frank O’Hara himself calling various boats in the fleet to get an idea of what they had on board for catch (redfish was usually the target species) and when they expected to make port, it would be Paul.
A poem Paul wrote a couple issues back for our Open Mic column – a tribute to the late Sanford Doughty – inspired me to connect with him and line up a sitdown to talk a little history.
And I’m glad I did.
With 40 years of full-time service with the O’Hara operation (and, as we’ll hear, a few summers previous to that), Paul has seen and experienced a lot. A young-looking 72, Paul has witnessed massive changes in the how, when, where, and what of fishing in the Northeast (and, for the O’Hara fleet, the migration to the Pacific Northwest); he’s been there for some amazing landings and the inevitable broker trips; he’s known men who are legends in our little corner of the world … and he’s known men who never made it back to port.
The O’Hara Corporation’s roots reach back over 100 years and the proper telling of the story could fill a book; and Paul’s 40-and-counting year history would take many chapters itself to tell properly. For now, we’ll just share a few memories of the O’Hara fleet of the 70s and 80s – the last of the eastern rigs and the first of the stern trawlers.
A working arrangement
BR: Paul, I want to begin by saying that the O’Hara fleet played a big part in my brother Stevie venturing off into the Gulf of Maine 40 years ago to go offshore lobstering. Your boats were there; they were highliners; we respected them and we didn’t want to be in conflict with them by trying to…
To get the rest of this story and much more – you’ll need the November 2016 issue of Commercial Fisheries News.
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