Captain Phillips (Flip) Harrington died peacefully in Sarasota, Fla., on April 5, 2018, with his wife of 43 years, Susan (Soo) Whiting, and his brothers Brian Harrington and Stetson (Tack) Eddy at his side.
Flip was born in Providence, R.I., on April 25, 1939, son of Gerald W. Harrington and Catherine H. Phillips, and spent most of his childhood years in Little Compton, R.I., and his later years on Martha’s Vineyard.
Flip was born a seafarer. His first fishing boat, a small skiff and outboard, was given to him at age 11 by his uncle, Bill Phillips, giving him a great start to his lifelong love of fishing and the sea. In his late teens, his friend David Brayton had a larger boat, the Xiphias, which was rigged for swordfishing. Flip alternated between swordfishing on the Xiphias and mating on his Uncle Bud Phillips’ charter fishing boat, Surfmaster, into his early 20s.
Flip joined the Army after high school. After an honorable discharge, he attended the University of Rhode Island for a spell, but the call of the sea quickly drew him away from academic pursuits. He took various jobs in banking, real estate, and in sales, but quickly jumped ship when offered the job of running the Hurricane, the safety boat for the Outward Bound School at Hurricane Island in Maine.
With his new captain’s license, he was hired by Blount Marine out of Warren, R.I., as captain of the Eaglet, a steel-hulled 57-foot vessel. As captain of the Eaglet, he conducted humpback whale research and underwater filming charters with the University of Rhode Island and Marlin Perkins of “Wild Kingdom,” off the Dominican Republic, and then commercial swordfishing on Georges Banks in the summer.
Blount Marine then asked Flip to deliver a new oil-supply vessel to State Boat in Morgan City, La. Upon delivery, State Boat hired Flip to captain supply vessels to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and then to take a seismic exploration vessel to operations in the Aleutians Islands and Bering Sea.
In the fall of 1975 Flip met Soo Whiting, and was introduced to Martha’s Vineyard through Soo and her friends’ eyes. Flip found productive areas to surf fish, and joined a group of deer hunters known as the “over the hill gang.” Flip hunted with this gang, and brought in “new blood,” including Prescott Walsh, Davis Solon, and Will and Everett Whiting. More recently Flip was asked to join Frank LoRusso and Frank Fenner hunting in “upstairs” New York. In his early years on the Vineyard, Flip hunted waterfowl with Danny Bryant, Pete Huntington, and Larry Hepler.
Flip and Soo purchased Osprey, a 41-foot ketch, after Flip’s seismic research was completed. Together they chartered Osprey for scientific research, plying waters from Maine to the Lesser Antilles with research charters including projects on humpback whales, Bahamian rock iguanas, and colonial nesting birds of Chappaquiddick. They also offered courses on seamanship and navigation, and the literature of the sea.
Flip and Soo’s taste for travel led them to form Osprey Tours, a company that offered bird watching and natural history trips to all Latin American countries except Uruguay, Bolivia, and Surinam. Flip and Soo continued their world travels after retiring from Osprey Tours.
Upon selling Osprey, Flip purchased the Scrimshaw, a powerboat for charter fishing out of Menemsha. After a couple of summers he sold Scrimshaw, and he and Soo bought the Shearwater, a 43-foot sailing catamaran, but then took jobs together working for Luther Blount for several years on the small cruise ships New Shoreham, the Niagara Prince, the Grand Caribe, and the Caribbean Prince. Their itineraries included the Inland Waterway, Bahamas, Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Venezuela, and Canada.
Next Flip was then hired by Woods Hole Oceanographic to captain Lulu, the mother ship for the small research submarine Alvin. Then Flip and Soo worked together on the Eastward, the escort ship for Lulu, in research exploration of warm-water vents in the Galápagos.
The year 2000 found Flip and Soo in Bellingham, Wash., where they had a 32-foot power catamaran, the Dovekie, built. They sailed her up the Inside Passage from Washington to Glacier Bay, and then outside to Vancouver, Canada, and finally back to Bellingham, where Dovekie was shipped to Massachusetts. Dovekie was used for fishing and bird watching out of Menemsha, but chronic engine problems ended with her sale, and the purchase of a 26-foot power catamaran, the Auklet.
Flip’s love of the sea, fishing, and bird watching was something he loved sharing with young boys and girls on the Vineyard, who he affectionately tagged as his “fish heads.”
Flip is survived by his loving wife Soo Whiting, two children by a previous marriage Cabot and Kiki of Roswell and Braselton, Ga., five grandchildren, a brother Brian Harrington of Plymouth and a half-brother, Stetson (Tack) Eddy from Little Compton, R.I. He was predeceased by his brother Mike Harrington.
Memorial donations may be made to Martha’s Vineyard Fisherman’s Preservation Trust, P.O. Box 96, Menemsha, MA 02552 or DU (Ducks Unlimited), 1 Waterfowl Way, Memphis, TN 38120. A memorial service will be planned for a later date.