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You saw a different foto of this vessel a few days ago here.  Besides being a veteran of both World Wars and serving a navy of  restaurant diners, she fished.  Dave Williams writes

about menhaden boats such as as this:  The Delaware “restaurant boat”  is identical to the first boat I served on–Elmo, a menhaden boat.  The mast had two functions – a lookout would climb aloft and scan for schools of menhaden, no easy feat even moderate seas.  In the late 50s and 60s companies began to use spotter planes.  Two 40′  purse boats would be dropped from davits and the net would be drawn around the school – you can see the davits and one boat astern in the third photo on your Jan 5 post.  As the net was pulled alongside it would be brailed with a cord and portions lifted aboard using the jib boom at the top of the mast – your picture of the crows nest shows the boom.  Later large pumps were used to suck the fish directly out of the net.

The entire center section of these boats (where the picture window shack is on the restaurant) was a large hold.  We would fill it up and then put up sheets of plywood on deck and fill the entire center portion with fish.  Menhaden are the principal source of fish oil.  They are ground up and cooked to extract the oil.

Some additional random thoughts:   Elmo had a crew of 17 fishermen and 5 officers – there were three toilets – one in the officer’s quarters and two near the engine room.  One toilet had a white seat and the other a black seat.  You can guess the distinction in a boat working south of the Mason Dixon.

Also, Elmo was a bell boat with no engine room controls.  You have seen that setup on the older tugs but maneuvering a 150′ long vessel was another matter.  Steering was also a manual cable system.

Elmo was the last wooden menhaden boat built – 1954 – her outer hull was 6” thick planks, the ribs were 12” thick and the inner hull was also 6” thick planking.  Amazingly she was built on a beach in North Carolina.

Menhaden are still fished today off Virginia and the Carolinas.  The newer boats are steel, but I don’t think the design has changed all that much.  Back in the 60s a major operator of menhaden boats was the Zapata Corporation.”

Thanks much, Dave.

Tangentially related, below is a winter fishing boat in the sixth boro, and I still haven’t figured out what they’re catching or trying to.

Steve Turi, who always sends along interesting stuff, reminded me of an Op-Ed piece I read in the NY Times last month.  The short, pithy, punch-packing piece by Paul Greenberg, author of the upcoming Four Fish:  The Future of the Last Wild Food, raises an alarm about the possible disappearance of menhaden, which is called “the most important fish in the sea,” referring to a book by the same name by H. Bruce Franklin.

And why the most important?  Well, two reasons according to Greenberg are  1) as algae-eaters, they keep the waters clean and 2) as low-food chain fish, they serve as food for the fish we love to eat like tuna, stripers, and bluefish.

Franklin teaches at Rutgers in Newark NJ.  Here’s a review of The Most Important Fish in the Sea, which sounds like a good winter read.  More winter reads soon.

All fotos here by Will Van Dorp.

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