The Marguerite

December 3, 2023

  In the fall of 1971, having completed my summer studies program at Oxford University, I managed to land a job working on a fishing trawler out of Galway, Ireland. More than 50 years later, Carol and I arrived in Galway, me to find some evidence of that trawler, and Carol to find proof that the boat ever existed.

  “You’re been complaining how cold it is so much, how do you expect me to believe you actually worked on a fishing boat here.”

Then the weather turned surly, and for the next two weeks, I threw up from 5:30 in the morning till 9 at night. Finally, I got my sea legs and ultimately got promoted to a ¼ share crewmember. 

  Our search began at the Galway City Museum, where an incredibly helpful and determined receptionist brought us up to date on the current local fishing industry.

She might have thought: a ghost of Galway  past

  “Only the big fishing boats dock here occasionally,” she explained. “The kind of boat you’re describing would have moved out to some of the smaller towns around here.”

  When I arrived in Galway back in 1971, the captain and owner of the Marguerite had to explain to his two crew members, Peter and Roger, that he “not only not remembered offering me a job, but from the looks of me would never have offered it.” (it was late in the pub that night we’d met and talked about working on his boat,)

  But there I was, the newest member of the crew. Not exactly though. My flat rate of 5 Irish pounds per week was expensed to the boat, in the same manner as the diesel fuel, food and general maintenance were all expensed. The actual crew drew shares of the value of our weekly catch of King scallops.  As the most junior member, though, I was assigned kitchen duties, which meant buying the weekly groceries or “stores,” and then cooking two hot meals per day. We trawled Tuesday through Friday from 5:30 am until about 9:00 pm. Then we’d hit The Cottage Bar in town for several pints and games of darts (after my first throw nearly speared a patron standing a fair distance from the dartboard, I was not to compete any further).

The Cottage Bar, where I played a near lethal game of darts

  For those first two halcyon weeks, Galway Bay was calm and the waters were as smooth as glass. I loved the life of the sea! Then the weather turned surly, and for the next two weeks, I threw up from 5:30 in the morning till 9 at night. Finally, I got my sea legs and ultimately got promoted to a ¼ share crewmember. The first week as a shareholder, we didn’t trawl the whole week, and I didn’t even earn my 5 pound note. My final week, though, I earned a whopping $75, and I took it, and headed for greener pastures I hoped I would find on the mainland.*

  The museum receptionist was able to show me a photo of the Cottage Bar, which had subsequently been converted to a boutique hotel, which had also since closed down. She put me in touch with Galway University’s special collection department, which may have some photos of the docks as they existed in 1971.

  As we walked to where the docks had once been and to the site of the once Cottage Bar, I recalled to Carol many of the experiences I had on the Marguerite. She seemed to listen with a keen amount of interest, and an even keener amount of doubt my stories were authentic.

Not far off from the dimensions I remember of the Marguerite

  “We just walked from the bar to the docks, and you complained how cold it’s been the whole time,” she said, wondering if this was all just some fish story.

  *These stories and more about my three years of vagabonding in Europe are contained in my memoir American Walkabout, available through this site or from Amazon Kindle books. Only $.99 (still a rip off)

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