The Storm

Six young men set out on a dead-calm sea to seek their fortunes. Suddenly they were hit by the worst gale in a century, and there wasn’t even time to shout.

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  1. "They that go down to the sea in ships … see the deeds of the Lord. They reel and stagger like drunken men, they are at their wits' end." — Psalm 107

    Gloucester, Massachusetts, is a tough town of 28,000 people, squeezed between a rocky coast and a huge tract of scrub pine and boulders called Dogtown Common. Local widows used to live in Dogtown, along with the forgotten and the homeless, while the rest of the community spread out along the shore. Today, a third of all jobs in Gloucester are fishing related, and the waterfront bars—the Crow's Nest, the Mariners Pub, the Old Timer's Tavern—are dark little places that are unmistakably not for tourists.

    One street up from the coastline is Main Street, where the bars tend to have windows and even waitresses, and then there is a rise called Portugee Hill. Halfway up Portugee Hill is Our Lady of Good Voyage Church, a large stucco construction with two bell towers and a statue of the Virgin Mary, who is looking down with love and concern at the bundle in her arms. The bundle is a Gloucester fishing schooner.

    ***

    September 18, 1991, was a hot day in Gloucester, tourists shuffling down Main Street and sunbathers still crowding the wide expanses of Good Harbor Beach. Day boats bobbed offshore in the heat shimmer, and swells sneaked languorously up against Bass Rocks.

    At Gloucester Marine Railways, a haul-out place at the end of a short peninsula, Adam Randall stood contemplating a boat named the Andrea Gail. He had come all the way fr...

Originally published in Outside, October 1994