Stan and Eric’s excellent adventure

They’re starting a squidding venture on a famed wooden dragger.

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Some folks may think Stanley Larsen, owner of Menemsha Fish Market, could have a screw loose, or perhaps it’s a midlife crisis, but standing with him overlooking the painting and freshening-up of his recently purchased wooden dragger Richard & Arnold, you know this new love in his life runs deep.

It’s been raining a lot, and the famed wooden dragger just arrived from Provincetown, its home since 1982, when it was purchased by Capt. David Dutra. According to his wife, J.J. (Judy) Dutra, in her book “Nautical Twilight,” “the boat was built in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, by Casey Boat Building Co. in 1924, and began fishing in 1927. She’s 52 feet on the waterline and 60 feet overall, with a beam of 15 feet. She draws seven feet, a deep keel for such a small boat, but that’s what makes her seaworthy.”

Larsen is excited to own a piece of history. Ms. Dutra’s book notes that a former Casey boatyard employee claimed that the boat was commissioned by Dutch Schultz, the gangster. Schultz, however, never picked the boat up. A few years later she was bought and taken to Provincetown for fishing, spending many summer hours over the years in Menemsha. Larsen remembers seeing the boat docked at Dutcher, and admiringly adds, “She’s been fishing up and down the coast, and was a schooner at one time. We’re gonna rig the boat out for squidding, so when you see a big fleet off the shore, hopefully we’re gonna be one of them.” Larsen continues, “It’s the kind of boat that can go out in any weather, and we’ll go out every day. It’s been about 20 years since I was squidding regularly.” They’ll be able to go out in early morning and be back by noon. For now, Larsen and his new partner are awaiting their final documentation papers and squid permits. While Larsen and I are talking, Cheryl DeWitt walks up, and we get introduced. Her husband was driving former owners Judy Dutra and her son back to the ferry.

Larsen has brought on Eric DeWitt to skipper the Richard & Arnold, and they’ve been working together for the past couple of months. DeWitt and his wife Cheryl moved from Ohio a couple of years ago to work at Island Alpaca. She is a veterinarian who specializes in alpacas, and has been on the Island for the past decade running a special clinic at the alpaca farm. In addition, she has worked for the Black Dog Tall Ships for the past two summers. DeWitt explains how they got here: “Two years ago they were short-staffed on the [alpaca] farm, and my husband jumped in to help. By the time we left that weekend, [Barbara Ronchetti] made him an offer. So we moved to the Island. My husband’s no longer at the farm, he’s with Stanley. Both Stanley and Lynette have been fantastic, just like family.”

I’m still wondering how her husband and Larsen met. DeWitt explains, “My husband was working at the alpaca farm and on his days off he’d come over. One day he asks Stanley, ‘Can I go out and be an extra hand on the boat?’ Stanley says ‘No.’ He asks, ‘Why not?’ And Stanley says, ‘Because people always get in the way, and all they do is ask questions.’ My husband is still hanging around, and an hour later Stan comes out and sees him and says, ‘You’re still here.’ My husband says, ‘Seriously, I’d like to give you a hand. I want to learn more about the fishing boats, and I can help.’ Now the day is wearing on and Eric is still there. Stan comes out, sees him and says, ‘You’re still here? Be at the dock at two in the morning and not drunk.’ Eric shows up at two the next morning. Stanley didn’t roll in until 4:30 and says, ‘You’re still here?’ So he got to go out on the boat and help. That was last summer, and he’s been out a time or two since then. This summer when Eric’s employment opportunity became more flexible, Stan asked if he’d like to work for him full-time. And here we are.”

Later I spoke with Eric DeWitt, who told me that in his late 20s they lived in Florida, and he worked in the marine industry for 15 years, though mostly in offshore powerboat racing. He was in the graphic design business, and painted the offshore power boats.

DeWitt says that working on a squid dragger is very physical, very demanding, and very satisfying: “We’re also going to be using this boat as a dive platform, and we’ll be doing some rec-mapping.” Rec-mapping refers to a method for mapping recreational experiences.

The opportunity to work with Larsen is one DeWitt relishes at this point in life. He looks back on that moment when Captain Dutra transferred ownership of Richard & Arnold to Larsen. “I think it was a very sad day for them,” said DeWitt. Now DeWitt and Larsen look forward to getting out on the Richard & Arnold and beginning this new chapter of their lives. And if you want fresh squid, you know where to go.