North Atlantic Ocean
Living in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, I had a view of the Atlantic Ocean every day. With such a vantage point the celestial show of the moon coming up over the horizon was always such a mesmerizing sight. During this time I was teaching math in Elizabeth City and I spent a great deal of time reading science, philosophy and religious books. I had already determined that when I had my thirtieth birthday I would enroll in graduate school and formalize my study of art.
When 1978 arrived I resigned my tenure as a math teacher and went to the docks in Wanchese, North Carolina, and signed on with a fishing boat headed north to the Georges Banks to fish for scallops. The crew on a scallop boat is usually eleven crewmen. The crew was divided into two “watches” made up of four fishermen and the Captain or First Mate. Each watch would work six hours on and six hours off (6-12, 12-6) for periods of up to two weeks. The other crewmember was our cook. Food was one of the few pleasures found working at sea. Our fishing boat was 125 feet in length and travel out into the Atlantic as far as 400 miles.
Time spent on the ocean was unlike any other experience in my life. I would view the stars and sky through the riggings of the ship and experience motion continuously for two weeks at a time. The ship became a “time machine,” taking the crew away from normal time on land and surrounding us with days that would merge into shifts of work and sleep. The work was backbreaking and each six hour watch would seem to never end. Finding time to sleep was next to impossible and the voyages seem to last for an eternity.
During one of the breaks from the trips out in the ocean I enrolled in school at East Carolina University. Later that fall I had to telephone the administration office at the School of Art from two hundred miles at sea to inform them that I would be late for class. They had not met me yet and they told me later that they had no idea what this fisherman would bring to the school of art. This was the start to a rotation of attending classes at the school of art and embarking on voyages at sea---- both always proving to be exciting.
During the summer of 1979 I was moved from the deck and promoted to First Mate. I would run the ship when the Captain was off watch. In the wheelhouse I would navigate and plot the course of the ship. I was also in charge of bringing the dredges back onboard the ship every 45 minutes. This was a most dangerous operation and during the scalloping season many crewmen from various fishing boats would be injured. In the wheelhouse I viewed everything through the eyes of an artist.
Venturing out to sea guaranteed no safe passage or return to port. Life is lived to its fullest and each day is a quest for survival in a dangerous environment. I became Captain my third year at sea and with it the added responsibility of finding the scallops and making sure the crew arrived home safely at the end of the trip. The islands of Nantucket and Marthia’s Vineyard were on our charts when we headed out of New Bedford, Massachusetts, on our way to the sea buoy and two weeks at sea. When we were crossing Buzzards Bay on the first leg of this trip I would often make the decision to spend one last night in port on the island of Nantucket. This was the best way to venture out to sea and the crewmen especially enjoyed the adventure.
Time spent at sea working the ships and seeing the stars gave me the source material for my art and filled me with a sense of wonder at nature, God and the universe.
Frank and Maria was the first fishing boat I captained in the North Atlantic Ocean