Maritime Explorer: Captain Sewall Maddocks
The 61st annual Windjammer Days will take place Sunday, June 25 through Saturday, July 1, 2023. This year the Friends of Windjammer Days is celebrating our rich population of Maritime Explorers. Those featured have traveled extensively on different bodies of waters either for work, pleasure or both.
Sewall’s love for the ocean first began when he was in grade school lobstering with his uncle Earl Brewer Sr. In 1977 he made his first trip on a trawler fishing with Richard McLellan on the Sea Bring. He later became captain at 19 on the 82-foot Irene’s Way, which was built for Richard at Goudy and Stevens in East Boothbay. In the early 80s, Sewall started to captain for F. J. O’Hara and Son’s out of Rockland, Maine He worked on
the 110-foot Alliance and later on the 119-foot Araho, both stern trawlers, while fishing ground fish in the Gulf of Maine and on the northern edge of George’s Bank. Sewall later fished outside the 200 mile limit from Newfoundland on the tail of the Grand Banks. These boats typically had a crew of 5-6 people and caught 30,000-100,000 pounds of fish per trip with the fish being layered in ice in the fish hold.
Fishing 950 miles from the dock in Rockland made for some of the worst winter storms ever experienced on the typical 12-14 day dock to dock trips. The crew was once caught in a storm while returning home on one of these trips while they were located in the deep water between the Tail of Grand Banks and Sable Island. The delay caused them to run out of fuel just south of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Luck would have it that the F/V Teresa Marie II from Portland, Maine was passing by heading to the Great Banks, and luckily it was a short tow to the fuel dock.
The next chapter brought 23-year-old Sewall to Alaska to be the captain of Golden Age Fisheries’ new 140-foot F/T (factory trawler) Rebecca Irene with a crew of 39. He transitioned to captaining the new 202-foot F/T Brown’s Point with a crew of 52 over the next year. He then moved on to Norway to captain the 275-foot F/T Michelle Irene with a crew of 85 and sailed its maiden voyage on Christmas Eve of 1988. The fishing grounds for these vessels covered a large area from the southeast Gulf of Alaska, north and south of the Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea up to the Russian boundary. The fish were processed by H&G (head and gut) then sorted by species and size before being frozen in 16-19 kilo blocks. The Michelle Irene’s factory was converted to process Alaska pollock into fillets and surimi in the summer of 1988.
One of the most notable aspects of fishing in Alaska was the weather. Sewall remembers being in one storm when he was located 20 miles north of Dutch Harbor that had airport recordings of 140 mph winds.
With the decline of fishing on the east coast, O’Hara decided to take the 165-foot F/T Constellation to the west coast in 1990. As the captain of the Constellation, Sewall traveled from Rockland, Maine to Seattle via the Panama Canal. Unfortunately while off the eastern end of Cuba, the port main engine failed with a hole in the block. The crew was forced to return back to Jacksonville, Floria to have the 1200 horsepower engine replaced. After the repair, they were able to resume the 28-day trip to Seattle. With a new processing factory and a crew of 39 they headed back to Alaska for a series of 7- to 14-day trips.
Sewall remained on this vessel until 1998 and then returned to the east coast. He subsequently purchased the 120-foot Endurance in 1999. The Endurance was a scalloper/trawler from New Bedford, Massachusetts. He fished scallops during the late spring through early fall and then trawled for ground fish during the winter months. A few years later Sewall served as captain on the Starlite where he and his crew fished for herring and mackerel.
In 2007 Sewall returned to O’Hara working in the office managing fish quotas and operations. Due to changing laws limiting vessel quotas, they were able to begin work on a new ship in 2010 which was the first trawler built in the USA in 25 years. The design began in Norway and the build of the new 196-foot Araho was completed in Panama City, Florida. Sewall worked in Florida on that project from 2013 to 2017. In January of 2017 O’Hara bought the Alaska Spirit. Over the next four years Sewall participated in the rebuild/replacement of most of the systems and steel reconstruction of the Alaska Spirit while working on the west coast.
Sewall is now retired and in his spare time he enjoys fishing in his 38-foot boat. He feels a lot of joy when some of the younger fisherman call him with questions about boats they are purchasing. He would also like to highlight the good luck to work with many of his crew members from this area: Bill Rogers Sr., George Blackman, Steve Arsenault Sr., Craig Giles, Shannon Gilbert, Scott Heino, Randy Durgan, Shawn DeRepentigny, John
Fossett, Bob Adams Jr., Greg Wright, Bradley Simmons, Dan Stevens, Dan Carroll, Russell Pinkham, Howard Friant, Jody Durgan, Fred Stover, Tom Davis, Brian Pierce, Jody Murray, Matt Doucette and Sandy Maddocks Luke.