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Capt. Ben Pine


Capt. Ben Pine Dies After Long Illness
Funeral Services Thursday P. M. For Gloucester's Famous Racing Skipper

Capt. Ben Pine, of international fishermen's racing fame, beloved by thousands everywhere, passed away in his 70th year, yesterday morning at 7.50 o'clock at his home, 24 Wonson street, Rocky Neck.

He was a real Gloucesterman in every sense of the word.  Gloucester's interests were first and foremost in his every action throughout a life that was dedicated for good to his fellow-man.  His loss will be mourned wherever true sailor-men gather.

Ben Pine was born at Belloram, Nfld. on September 10, 1883, the son of the late Owen and Sarah (Cluett) Pine.  He came to Gloucester at the age of 10.  For years, he went fishing out of Gloucester in the dory haddocking business, and took his chances in winter fishing on the banks of the North Atlantic in all-sailing schooners along with his dory-mates of Gloucester. 

His sincere admiration for the Gloucester schooner under canvas was begun in these early days and remained with him throughout his day.  Along with other leading Gloucester business men, including J. Norman Abbott, Joseph Langsford and Charles A. Steele, he formed the Atlantic Supply Co, in 1922 at 33 Rogers street, opposite Porter street.  Here for many years, the firm outfitted fishing vessels, including mackerel seiners, dory haddockers, halibuters, swordfishermen, and in later years, the modern Diesel-powered draggers.  Capt. Ben himself owned into many of the fishermen of the past and present.

"Piney", as he was familiarly known to many of Gloucester's skippers and fishermen, was always ready to lend a helping hand to a young fisherman who wished to start on a career of commanding a fishing vessel.  There are several leading Gloucester skippers active today who got their first opportunity to take the wheel because Ben believed they should be given a chance to try their fortune. Ben's knowledge of fishing in its every phase was profound and he imparted it willingly to all.

His ability to properly dock a vessel, no matter what the conditions was marveled at by waterfront men everywhere.  His knowledge of fishing, of boats, and of men was of such a degree as to win the respect of leaders in the fishing industry.  His counsel in this regard was sought by such blue water sailors as Commander Donald H. MacMillan of Arctic fame, by Capt. Irving Johnson of the world-encircling voyager Yankee, and by many other Gloucester men.

Gloucester had already come to love and esteem this quiet-spoken Newfoundlander long before he came into national prominence.  It was the international fishermen's races which focused nation-wide attention on him.   These races had hit the headlines back in the Fall of 1920, when a hardy old Gloucester salt, the late Capt. Martin C. Welch, came home from a fishing trip, then sailed the sch. Esperanto to Halifax, N. S., there to accept a challenge from H. W. Dennis, publisher of the Halifax Herald, to meet the Canadian fishing sch. Delawanna, Capt. Tom Himmelmann, out of Lunenburg, N. S. for a trophy and a $4000 purse.

Mr. Dennis had in mind, promotion of international good-will.  Out of these races came a sincere exchange of good fellowship between the two Gloucesters, that of Massachusetts and that of Nova Scotia, for Lunenburg from which the racing craft came, soon was hailed as the "Gloucester of the Maritime Provinces."

Marty took the Delawanna into camp and in the following year, the celebrated Lunenburg salt banker Bluenose with the argumentative Capt. Angus Walters, now a dairy-man in Lunenburg, at the wheel, wrested the trophy in a tow-out-of-three series against another noted Gloucester schooner, the Elsie, again with Capt. Welch at the helm.

Capt. Ben had been actively interested in the reaching from the start.  He was himself a master in handling a vessel under sail.  He had no trouble whatever in mustering a crew of old sailor-men to shi side when in the Fall of 1922, he entered the Gloucester sch. Columbia in the international race against Capt. Angus and the Bluenose.

Ben has often spoken of the Columbia as " the finest piece of wood" ever to show its "highs" out of Gloucester.  He would argue for hours with anyone who thought otherwise, nor would he ever admit that the Dutchman Bluenose was its superior.   Ben and his men sailed the Columbia to Halifax, in the Fall of 1923 to get that trophy away from the Lunenburger.  Records show that Capt. Ben and the Columbia won the series but as happened often in this international racing, Capt. Angus failed to agree on several points, and sailed for home "in a huff."   Because of the dispute, Capt. Ben declined the trophy and left for Gloucester.

The Columbia dory haddocking, was lost with all hands off Sable Island in 1927.

The thought of that trophy remaining in Nova Scotia, was always a thorn in the side of the Gloucester waterfront.  Many including Capt. Ben Pine knew that the Bluenose could be beaten.  Among these was another racing enthusiast, Mrs. Gertrude L. Thebaud of New Jersey, a summer resident, who decided that another Gloucester fisherman should be built on Arthur Dana Story's stocks in Essex, to challenge the champion.  Thus the racing fishing sch. Gertrude L. Thebaud was born.  The cost was some $80,000.  Capt. Pine was delegated as its manager and co-owner.

The Thebaud from that snowy St. Patrick's day in 1930 that she slid down the cradle in Essex town, became one ofThe Gertrude L. Thebaud the best known Gloucester fishing craft of all time.  Its picture along with that of Capt. Ben hit the front pages at various times of newspapers all over the world.  She went fishing out of Gloucester that year and by Fall was raring to meet the Bluenose.  The races were held off Gloucester in October 1930, and the Thebaud with Capt. Pine in command was the winner.  But the trophy was not at stake.

Capt. Pine again challenged the Bluenose in the Fall of 1931, the races to be held off Halifax.  With a fair and brisk wind all the way, the Thebaud established a new record time for sailing vessels in that run to Nova Scotia, taking only 30 hours, in what to all aboard, was a memorable voyage.  However, honors off Halifax went to Capt. Walters, and the Bluenose and the trophy remained in the Maritimes.

Thousands upon thousands of inches of news and magazine copy were written about all these fishermen's races, mostly because both Capt. Pine and Capt. Walters were colorful mariners, both ready for a genial argument, both possessing the full color of the sea and of seafaring men.   Both knew sails in all its potentialities, knew hull design and how to get the most out of their craft under light or heavy wind conditions.  Ben with his kindly expletives could punctuate his remarks with a heatedness that drove home every point he wished to make.  Ben's nautical choice of expletives was like a blessing to all on the receiving end.

It was not until seven years later that the final series of races were held between the Thebaud and the Bluenose.   Capt. Angus brought her to Gloucester where she hauled out on Parkhurst's marine railways in October for an overhauling before the big event.

Again it was Bluenose vs. Thebaud, Angus vs. "Piney" and the latter two kept the newsboys a whirling with copy that flooded the telegraph wires.  The course was twice around which caused Angus to dub it the "merry-go-round" course and he wasn't going to have any part of it.  The Bluenose retained her championship.  To cap it all, some celebrated pranksters managed to "kidnap" the famed and beautiful trophy, which came close to causing an "international crisis" of a sort.  The trophy, however, was later restored and went back to Halifax.

Both the Thebaud and the Bluenose came to inglorious ends in Caribbean waters.   The Bluenose was wrecked on the Haitian coast in 1946, while the Thebaud came to grief on the breakwater at LaGuaira, Venezuela in 1948.

Capt. Pine sailed the Thebaud to the nation's capital in April 1933 with a delegation of Gloucester leaders aboard to plead the cause of the Gloucester fisheries to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.   The latter with Mrs. Roosevelt, came down to the pier to meet Capt. Pine and his delegation.  Later that year, Capt. Pine took the Thebaud to the World's Fair in Chicago as the Bay State;s official exhibition.  The Bluenose was there also.  When President Roosevelt sailed into Gloucester harbor in the sailing yacht Amberjack, in the early 30's, Capt. Pine was a guest aboard the craft and presented the nation 's chief executive with an oil painting of the Thebaud, which later graced the executive mansion.

The late Capt. Pine is survived by his widow, the former Ray Adams, by a son, Wilson C. Pine, mettalurgist with Universal Winding Co. of Cranston R. I.; a daughter, Alice, wife of Roy G. Sutherland of King street, Rockport; a brother Roger Pine of Reading, train dispatcher at North Station, Boston; Three grandchildren, and two nephews.



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