haha, I ask because my grandfather built garveys and duck boats for local bayman, and worked the water his whole life as did his father and grandfather, and as I do now.
haha, I ask because my grandfather built garveys and duck boats for local bayman, and worked the water his whole life as did his father and grandfather, and as I do now.
Luke, Just messin with you. You Have to admit the west end had probably the thickest clams around, and mostly off limits. It was a great temptation for a lot of people. My un-named buddy was working next to Kennedy airport one winter night, when all of a sudden he thought the world was coming to an end. Deafening roar and blinding light overhead! It was the Concord taking off at full boogie. My buddy here in florida, John VanHouten grew up on the west end bay. He and his father and brothers all grew up clamming. crabbing, gill netting stripers, eeling etc. John worked for a time on Charlie Wertz' dragger. His dad eventually became a Nassau marine cop, but still considered the bay his main job. Capt. Jack is 75 or 76 now and and long since retired, spent last summer crabbing up in the west bay So when John and myself are stting in a duckblind we usually end up telling old great south bay stories. Rich
Rich, help me out here. Was your un-named buddy the same one who ended up in Rikers Island on a charge of taking shellfish from uncertified waters? Jamaica Bay, to be more specific, under cover of darkness.
thanks Rich, and my family knows Charlie and Freddy Wertz pretty good, My uncle lives across the canal from fred wertz. His familys been digging clams on long island for ever, some of you guys might know him his names Luke Ryder. Im actually 17yrs old and still working the water as is my family, I think im the only one of my generation around in the town of hempstead who is out there its a shame that no other guys my age are interested in it, for me its in my blood. but I only have my clam license, the DEC screwed me. when my grandfather passed away he never signed a form which allowed the transfer of his license to me, so i never got his crab license, bass tags, and food fish license. and currently the town of hempstead bay was closed up do to "testing the water" but if you ask me its a lot of political B.S so now im out of work as are many other diggers. i think that they are trying to kill whats left of our culture and traditions
Luke, glad to see some of the younger generation are carrying on the tradition. I scan the south shore waterfront on Google earth from time to time. There are a lot more working garveys from seaford west than east. I grew up around the seaford waterfront. My dad worked on a charterboat weekends from the early fifties to mid fifties, around that time we bought an old Verity skiff. My earliest baymen memories were of big old planked garveys with those big four cylinder world war two surplus outboards flying around. We spend many a night striper fishing under the Wantaugh and Meadowbrook causeways. We would see these garveys running around with coleman lanterns in boxes up on the bows. My dad told me they were jacking stripers fluke and anything else they saw. Never saw any stick dredges back in those days. Moved east to Bluepoint when I was sixteen, 1962, Heart of the great south bay clam boom.Rest is history up until 1980 when I moved to florida. Ask any of my old friends, You can never get that bay out of your system! Jim, yeah, thats the guy. A week in Rikers changed his whole perspective on life! Rich
Rich, I just came in from jacking last night haha. and my mother is actually part verity, they grew up on a 34ft verity skiff
Luke, when I was a young guy, the heavy hitters from down west were Charlie Wertz, Larry Seaman, Elwood and Jack Verity, Carl Kirschner, Big Joe Slavonic And of course George Combs. the western baymen were much more diversified than the eastern,[Patchogue to Babylon ] baymen, at least in my opinion. Toward the end of my years on the bay, I went to work at South Bay Boatworks. Although the clams were on the decline I think I actually did better working the bay part time. I budgeted my life so I lived on my boatyard paycheck, and the bay, Clams in the summer, weekends and afternoons, eels fall and early winter, and shiners[spearing] in the spring were my gravy money. Some weekends in the fall I would make a months salary in the boatyard, just dredging eels.One of my buddies went to work in the Ny Fire department, retired after 25 years and went bck on the water with a pension and medical insurance. The 25 years went by so fast we hardly missed him. Something to think about! Rich
my family is always telling me that its getting harder and harder to live off the bay, and I actually went to school with george combs grandson until he moved, and with elwoods granddaughter. its goood that there are still local cultural ties to the communities on long island
Luke, clamming was a tough way to make a living even when the digging was good, clam prices high and things were relatively cheap. Remember, in 1975 you could buy a truck for 5 thousand and a house for under 20.
I understand you cant live off the bay any longer and i dont plan on it at all but working the water part time is most definitely in my future. wether im digging clams or able to get a different commercial license ill be out there. did most of you guys have tonging boats or anyone rake from a garvey?
Luke I started out raking, after five or six years my lower back started giving me trouble. I looked around and didnt really see any old rakers, then again I saw tons of tongers, many of which were as old if not older than my grandfather. Went looking for a tong boat. I would watch these guys sitting in their cabins, sucking on a cup of coffee on their way out in the morning, big old toastie motor warming up the cabin, looked good to me. Tonging was a lot more civilized, the boat seemed a lot more comfortable and safe. Winters we had an alladin kerosene heater in the cabin, had a cook top on it, always had a tea kettle on the cooker. Kept the boat stocked with lipton cup a soup, instant coffee, and tea bags. Oh yeah a sleeve of styrofoam cups. Summers were great running around in a garvey with a rake, The security and comfort of the tong boat couldnt be beat in winter. Lots of times I would go raking in the summer out of my eel garvey for a change of pace. I have three garveys now down here in florida, I mostly use them for fishing, duck hunting and occasionally 'sport clamming'. Rich
You might not realize the difference to be felt in working facing the sun and working with on your back. The difference is HUGE, and no matter which way the wind blew, JD always had the sunny side.
Custom has it that if you work on someones boat it's your job to pull up the anchor while the owner drives up on it. JD had a lot of anchors. A couple of fisherman and at least three grappling hooks...and an eighty pound three foot section of railroad track used for a drag weight. The purpose of this was to get you on a patch and keep you there no matter what the waves and wind were doing. "Jim...that drag weight is keeping us from moving too much" so up it comes...followed by, five minutes later "Jim, we're sheering too much, drop the drag weight"...all f**kin' day.
About four oclock the sun went down and having spent most of the available calories, the real cold set in with maybe a three mile slog back from one of the less productive spots in Bellport Bay, either driving this motorized log or culling and bagging in the hatch. Once tied up, with the sun long gone, it was time to weave a fifty foot chain through every single tong head, basket and cull rack on board, followed by snapping a canvas cover over all.
Next up...what diggers wear on their hands in the cold and how many pairs do you need.
Last edited by Jim Ledger; 07-26-2012 at 08:45 AM.
Those must have been the days that the bay used to freeze up huh? Now thats some good duck hunting weather! Ive heard stories from relatives that you used to be able to walk out on the ice and tong through holes?
There were some of real cold winters in the late seventies, '77 through '79 were bitterly cold and maybe '76 too, which covers pretty much all of them. The bay froze solid enough to drive on. One winter was so bad that the Mississippi froze and barge traffic was held up for months. I was living on a houseboat at the time and it froze in solid, foot thick ice. The pilings got pulled up right away but it didn't matter until the following March when everything thawed out and you had to sort things out quick.
Towards spring the ice would come loose from the shore and get blown back and forth across the bay. You could dig, but you had to keep your eye on the ice in case it started to come towards you. I lost a nice fisherman anchor and two hundred feet of line one time by waiting too long to get out of the way. Eventually a strong wind would pile the ice on shore. Some of the drifts would be twenty feet high.
Rich, Mickey used to tell a story of getting blocked out of the river by ice and trying to walk in. do you know it?
Last edited by Jim Ledger; 07-26-2012 at 11:28 AM.
wow that must have been a sight!
Jim that was a harrowing experience. It was raining cats and dogs, with peasoup fog. Mickey was stuck in the ice and couldnt move. He and his partner at the time decided to put life jackets on, tie a rope between themseves and walk ashore. when they ran out of ice there was a thousand feet of open water between them and the beach. Tried to walk back, same between them and the boat. By now it was raining so hard the ice had big holes in it like the surface of the moon. They walked back to the shore side and yelled for help. Eventually someone heard them and callen the fire department. Lesson? never leave the boat unless it is sinking! Then again on the gsb if the boat sinks, in most places you could probably stand on the top of the cabin till help comes. Rich
Around here in the winter all you can do is mostly hack clams up in the mud at low tide. summer time wet suits out its time to tred. but not anymore with this closure on the bay here.
Tommy Dingman or "Dingy" as he was more commonly known was tonging by himself one winter day and slipped off his boat. Try as he may, he couldnt climb back on to his boat, so he held on for an hour or so till someone came by and saw, and rescued him. The thermos deal sounds like him! Dingy by the way bought Karl Froelich's Dads old tong boat. In short time the shaft log developed a squeal. Tom got down next to the spinning shaft to listen while someone else was runnung the boat. Well remember his frizzy, long, ponytail, hairdo? You guessed it! some of it wrapped around the spinning shaft, Tommy had a giant bald spot on te side of his head for the rest of the winter. Rich.
I remember Tom, and the ponytail story. His wife was a good tonger, outdug him on many days. There was a story about them getting thrown in jail one night for getting into some kind of an altercation in a movie theater, but it was so long since I heard the fibs repeated I'm kind of fuzzy on the details, but I know for sure that it was her threw the first punch.
His boat I know well. He sold it to Bob Saetta who pulled the little four-banger out and put in a Mercruiser V8. I made a set of mahogany rasied panel doors for the cabin along with a lot of other bits and peices. He pimped that boat up good, even coppered the bottom. Then one night him and Steve Naeder, who you probably remember as Donohues brother-in-law, were drinking in Bonners Ferry. Steve, at that time, worked in a boatyard in East Moriches. At some point during the evening these two get in the boat and drive it the fifteen miles to the boatyard. It was a wonder they didn't run aground, and it would have been better if they did. They got that boat in the slings and proceeded to drop it on the blocks, which of course punched four neat holes in the bottom. End of story, end of boat.
Here you go, Luke. Tonging through holes in the ice two miles off Blue Point in the winter of 1980...
Those are the same shells those old oyster boats put down a hundred years ago. There's nothing natural about the oyster shell beds, they were man-made. Rakers couldn't work very far into a shell bed before the shells fouled the rake teeth. You could tong through them but it was difficult because the shells caught in the teeth and every time you lifted the tongs the heads were absolutely full of shell and heavy. The clams would lie underneath the shell layer protected from a lot of predators and could be quite thick in spots.
Here's one to bring a tear to your eye, Rich. Donohues boat, F.F.O., after he sold it to Beano. This picture was taken in Staten Island in the early Eighties. Beano was a little more boat-proud than John as this picture proves. My memories don't include any paint on the cabin. The motor was painted back in the day, though, a kind of green-gray slop that hid the newness of the engine quite effectively, and an inner tube pulled down over the top completed the effect.
The name was written in paint across thew stern overhang. It wasn't actually Far F**kin' Out, it was just Far ****** Out, the F**kin' part was painted out but you could just make it out if you looked. Seems John was threatened soon after launch by an indignant father of two little girls.
It was different times...
those pictures are great, the old tonging boats are very cool! I know that most tonging boats were inboards, so did they have a keel on them? and how much water did the draw? I dont know much about tong boats, im a garvey and carolina skiff guy
There will be a relevant next week at the South Street Seaport Museum:
Little Necks and Cherry Stones: A Conversation about the Past, Present, and Future
of Clamming in New York
Wednesday, August 1st at 7pm
Oysters may get all the press these days, but the humble and versatile clam has been a staple of the New York diet since the 19th century. And while clam shacks and bars are making a roaring comeback in and around New York City, the livelihood of Long Island clammers is increasingly endangered.
Join clammer Alex Duschere, journalist Hugh Merwin, and folklorist Nancy Solomon for a discussion of clam culture, then and now, moderated by Robert LaValva of the New Amsterdam Market.
Tickets are $12. Reservations required.
Within the last 14 years (since I've been moored in here) Mt Sinai harbor has frozen more than 6" thick. I think I've seen a truck on it. I know an enterprising clammer that works the mooring field in winter, knowing no one works it in summer. When the harbor froze, he sawed a hole in the ice and dug near the launch ramp, knowing no one worked that either.
I liked the ice. The presence of ice was an added dimension to that combination of qualities that made many days unique...temperature, light, wind, atmospherics, the ice even changed the sound. We were fortunate in many ways to be out there and able to enjoy the bay under conditions seen by few other than those who work on the water.
The ice itself could exhibit many characteristics. Ranging anywhere from paper-thin to a foot thick, anchored to the shore or free floating sheets, glass-clear or covered with snow, rock-hard or the consistency of a Slurpee, it was always a thing of interest and beauty while at the same time being something that had to be endured and worked around.
As a related point of interest, the Winter sunsets were far more spectacular than the Summer. It might have to do with the low angle of the Sun, or the relative dryness of the air, maybe ice crystals in the atmosphere, but it's a fact.
Here's my friend Tom and a couple of boats rafted up at lunchtime probably 1979.
Last edited by Jim Ledger; 07-28-2012 at 12:23 PM.
So it never got 'rough' out there? All the pics and all the stories you old timers are sharing shows it either pretty calm or cold as Hell.
I never learned from a man who agreed with me.
I think it's the angle Jim. It's partly why I love winter sailing, the different color of the sunlight on the water.
It takes some effort to get out there in the cold but it can be worth it.
Richie's the genuine article when it comes to "old timers"...I'm still the new guy.
Rough is a relative term, especially on a forum sprinkled with deep-water sailors. It could get good and choppy on a West wind, as there was twenty miles of open water to the west. Working in a chop wasn't as productive as a mild wind, but you didn't get to pick and choose your days.
In a chop you tended to work near the pivot point of the boat because the closer you got to the bow or stern the greater the up and down motion. Remember, you're hanging onto tongs that are planted on the bottom so your legs have to compensate for the changing height. Another factor is the sheering of the boat. In order to work properly the tongs have to be vertical. A sheering boat wants to run over the tongs or run away from them, so you have to work quickly.
The wind was a determining factor in where you might choose to work, a less productive spot might give a better return if it was more sheltered.
Interesting thread. Ah, the good ole days!
Rugged individualism , seems no longer to be in vogue.
As far as bad weather and water, on the worst days you were concentrating on staying alive. Pictures were probably the last thing on your mind. Most winters I would work out af bayshore, as it didnt freeze as bad as Patchogue. One winter we found real thick but big clams over by the lighthouse, nice and shallow, 10 foot handles and small heads, relatively easy work when you are bundled up and trying to stay warm. We were catching 8 to 10 bags a day, maybe only a bushel and a half of necks, rest big stuff. This was Tommy Cox's territory. Tommy's boat was the dark green one out of the water at the suffolk Marine Museum, a page or so back in this thread, I believe it was the "Alma". Anyway it was in the mid twenties at sunup when we left the dock at Capt Bills resturant, figured it would warm up a bit during the morning. Actually just the opposite happened. The wind got stronger and stronger, the temperature dropped steadily all morning. The wind was blowing the water out of the bay and on some of the bigger waves my rudder was hitting the bottom. Not wanting to lose my rudder in these conditions we tied everything down, drove some 8 penny nails into my forward deck hatch and ran west off the flat into West channel. Big surprise! By now the tide was running back in and directly against the wind. Roughest I ever saw it in the bay. My windshield wiper was useless, my boat was ike a submarine, I had to peek out the side window between waves to see where we were going. When we got back to bayshore my boat looked like an ice sculpture. Had a hard time freeing up my lines to tie it up. We put a massive strain on my boats old bones that day and my bilge pump was runnung way more than it normally would. That evening after dinner I dressed up warm and took a ride down to check my boat. Police cars , fire trucks, helicopters all over the place. I asked a cop I knew what was going on? Told me three guys didnt make it in that night. Very sobering, bay froze up tight that night, stayed like that for quite a while, didnt find these poor guys for months. I realized later Tommy Cox wasnt there on his spot that day,[better judjement], and I should have run down wind to captree and either spent tne night or had someone pick me up. Wasnt long after this I came to the realization that our beloved mistress the Great South Bay could be an evil unforgiving woman whem she wanted to, and she wasnt going to produce the unending supply of clams she once did, I came ashore a year or so later, this was my 'Perfect Storm" Rich
Yeah, Paul. What Rich said. Plus, everybody didn't have a camera/cell phone on them at all times either then.So it never got 'rough' out there? All the pics and all the stories you old timers are sharing shows it either pretty calm or cold as Hell.
I can remember one time ( actually more than one, but this memory is vivid) trying to get back to the ramp in a garvey, gale of wind out of nowhere against the tide, and the boat was just going what seemed like vertical on every wave.That was going as slow as possible just to keep her straight. If I had a camera and the desire to shoot a pic, I wouldn't have been able to do so.
A'course when the bay freezes, the water's calm
This new ship here is fitted according to the reported increase of knowledge among mankind. Namely, she is cumbered end to end with bells and trumpets and clocks and wires. It has been told to me she can call voices out of the air or the waters to con the ship while her crew sleep. But sleep though lightly. It has not yet been told to me that the sea has ceased to be the sea.--Rudyard Kipling
That's a good story, Rich.
One winter night when the houseboat was docked on Blue Point, where the bay is about three miles wide, I thought I heard someone shouting. I went outside and sure enough, there was someone out on the ice. I shouted back for him to stay put while I called the police. They soon arrived, but not before he ran ashore. The cops were obviously relieved to see him okay and took him home.
What had happened was he had walked from Sayville, a few miles away, out across the bay to the beach on the other side. Leaving around noon it got dark when he was halfway back. What he saw when he was in the middle of the bay was the lights from shore...and here and there the lights reflecting on patches of open water. This guys imagination was probably working overtime the whole rest of the way, as well it might. He was lucky.
Last edited by Jim Ledger; 07-28-2012 at 08:42 PM.
More Ice Stories, Back in the late sixties when I was still pulling a rake, It was a tough winter early on. First chance I got I ran my boat to bayshore and got a nice dock space at my favorite town dock in front of Capt Bill's. Got there before the opening of Bayshore cove, made a decent living for a few weeks till the clams were caught up and the crowd all moved back to wherever they came from. Two of my buddies and myself docked together and worked together. We had some nice clams right off the beach on the east side of the bridge. Except for some occasional anchorfrost this was mostly nice soft white sand bottom, great place to work in a strong northwest wind. Well sometime in mid january it all froze up. This was about the time the Zoo started in babylon cove on the ice. Someone either sunk, or hauled out the off limits buoys and it turned into a giant free for all. As Long Island weather is, soon it changed. We had a brief warm spell, the ice softened up and soon the wind came back around to northwest. This pushed the ice to the south side of the bay and opened up a lot of water along the north side . We had a few real decent days as price was sky high. One mornng as I was driving down to my boat, the weather man said it was going to warm up into the high 30's and wind was going to switch to south. This told me the ice might break loose from the south side and travel back to where we were clamming. I decided to take a day off. My buddies Charlie and Steve laughed called me chicken and went out. Well the ice did just what I suspected. Trapped about 25 to 30 boats down west by the bridge. It was not that these boats couldnt break ice, its just that this was chunks of loose ice 4 feet thick no one could make any headway. I guess about late afternoon, the county saw what was happening, their boats couldnt do a thing in this stuff either, so they got a big steel dragger from White Cap to go out and tow them all in. The clam boats came in like a string of pearls, tied one after another behind this dragger, The dragger drew about 6 feet of water, his prop was well below this lumpy slush. All diggers got home safe. My buddies called me that night, while somewhat excited about the adventure. they admitted that it could have turned into a real tradgedy had it not been for that dragger. An old timer told me of shifting ice trapping a bunch of bay boats back in the fifties in almost the same area. Sunk a few and pushed a few right up on the beach down near brightwaters. Had this story in the back of my mind that morning. If the bay ever comes back I sort of feel sad that the next generation has to learn all this stuff by trial and error. We were lucky to have all these lessons passed down from our oldtimer friends and mentors. Rich
Rich, here's a picture of Diggy's boat after Bob Saetta fixed it up and before it was dropped from the slings in that little piece of drunken performance art...
For me, the clamming period of my life roughly coincided with the houseboat years. As I was building the houseboat on shore there was clamming activity going on all around. I met Mickey Ritchie when he came around to have a look at the houseboat, and that winter he took me out on the Traveller. That was when I met Rich, Lou, Donohue and all the rest and the clamboat building lessons began. The next winter I began building an inboard garvey tongboat.
This picture was probably taken in 1980 as the houseboatboat is being towed from Blue Point to Beaver Dam Creek. I moved around a lot in those days, beach in the Summer, mainland in the winter, spots from Bayport out to East Quogue.
Last edited by Jim Ledger; 07-29-2012 at 09:10 AM.
A few weeks after Dinggy bought that boat from Charlie Froelich, we had an extremely strong northwest blow, so strong it blew the wheel house[as tiny as it was] right off the deck house. tommy liked the new more modern one I built for my boat so much, that he had me build one for his boat. I think the one in the picture is that wheel house, that I built. Jim, if you look closely att the picture of the head of Patchogue River that you posted, I think you will see that the tong boat out on the end of Otis' dock is Charlie froelich's boat, the same one your buddies dropped on the blocks. Rich
Here's that picture again, Rich, and giving credit where it's due, you sent me this photo and I scanned and posted it. It's a wonderful shot and serves to illustrate how much has been lost. To look at this spot now you can't even see any water through the closely packed Sea-Rays and Silvertons and the parking lot is packed with the cars of the customers for the seafood eatery that replaced Bonners Ferry that replaced the building on the left.
One time I had the houseboat docked where the tong boat is just to the right of the phone pole. There was a nice white tong boat docked there then, probably 1974, never worked, never left the dock, pristine condition. Do you remember it? A white tong boat is unusual in itself, and it had a strip planked oiled Fir deck, round bilged, a little on the high side, sweet lines though, and down below it was very roomy, white with gray painted floorboards, sporting a little pot-belly stove..
Last edited by Jim Ledger; 07-29-2012 at 10:56 AM.
Once I yelled hey Lou what kind of bird is that over there? Lou yelled back" thats a catamaran" I said " a catamaran is a two hulled boat", Lou said " the birds the Chinese tie on strings and use to catch fish". I yelled back," you mean a cormorant" Lou yelled back "yeah-yeah same ting". Rich
This is the kind of ice that can get you. Wind or tide change, or worse both, can get this stuff moving. You always have to be on guard.
That's a good picture there, Rich, it's all coming back now. I used to love those kind of days. I can see your hammer and screwdriver but I'm still looking for the rusty vise grips. I know they're not too far away.
From the looks of the ice in that picture, it's either late winter or there's a good thaw going on. Either way if you could get out and work, you did. A frozen bay had a way of quickly depleting a diggers roll of twenties and every opportunity was taken to replenish the dwindling funds.
As a point of interest, there was a line of buoys across most of the coves on the mainland side. This was "The Line"...across which you could not dig...and the clams were said to be so thick that 'pushing the line", not to mention digging over the line at night proved an irresistible temptation to many...mostly rakers with their faster boats. There were some days that the ice opened up water on the north side and this forbidden area was the only place open, so you might see any number of boats grabbing what they could in broad daylight.
Nowadays the line is much further out and many of our old spots are off limits.
Last edited by Jim Ledger; 07-30-2012 at 02:24 PM.
Luke here is a baymen from up west that many feel was a baymen of legendary status. Your grandfather probably knew him, your father might have known his sons. This was George Combs Sr. George had three sons, George Jr. Jack and I cant remember the third ones name. These guys were all good diggers when I was young. Jack was My cousin Brian Scheffers legal guardian or somewhat of his stepfather. Long story why.they were all noted duck hunters and decoy carvers also. I am pretty sure this picture was taken in the late 60's by the merc motor on Georges garvey. George was born in 1911, do the math, he still looked pretty tough and able to keep up with any of the younger guys. Hope you guys enjoy this shot! Rich
Thank you all for this great thread. It really fires the imagination.
Thank you, Dave.
That's a good picture of George Coombs, Rich. By the way, thanks for the light, and would you object to me using it on my new build as a stern lamp? Rich just sent me the bow light, an ancient Perko clear 180 degree lamp, off the bayboat Traveller, Mickey Ritchies boat, the boat I first went out on. Traveller is long gone, and so is Mickey, but Richie and I will carry fond memories of both for the rest of our lives.
This is my boat, looking like it's ready for church. It had just been re-done here. The old tongue and groove decks replaced by fiberglass, new rub rails and toe rails, glassed the cabin, rebuilt the engine and painted it a spiffy Caterpillar yellow.
The samson post is for the anchor line, and there are three chocks on the bow in order to sheer the anchored boat left and right. The boat was set up for single-handed retrieval of the anchor. The anchor line coiled neatly into a wire bushel basket. If you stood on the side deck with the basket at your feet, you could drive the boat by steering through the window. The engine controls were right inside the window as well. It was quite easy to pull in a couple of hundred feet of line and when you were over the anchor the motion of the boat in the waves broke the anchor loose.
Working this boat on an oyster shell bed, two men would make a two foot pile of shell and clams from the front of the hatch to almost the bow, sort the clams out, push the shell over, four times a day. As in any sport where a score could be kept, it was an extremely competitive activity. You were always looking at the piles to see not only which was bigger, but which was thicker with clams. Secret piles behind the cabin were not unheard of. Taunting and gloating...no, we never did that.
Rich, that is a great picture of Combs, my grandfather and his father were good friends with the Combs family, our Bay houses are directly across from each other on scow creek in Baldwin. I believe that one of his sons lives in florida, But still comes up in the summer to work the bay. and yes they were noted duck hunters and still are they still have a few blinds behind the bay house. I have some old Combs decoys and verity birds in my collection
Passing of My Hero. Went to a funeral last tuesday. there were a pair of tong heads on the floor in front of the podium the minister and others spoke from. They were giving tribute to a man, among men Stanley Buys. Stan was from a long line of West Sayville oysterman/ clammers. His father and Im sure grandfather were oysterman. Their family was one named in the book published about the 'Dutchmen', as we knew them. Stans father who I fondly knew and whose recorded stories are residing among the historical archives in the museum in west Sayville, originally worked under sail. In fact there were a new set of sails in his garage for decades, as John Buys, after having them made, decided to have an engine installed in his sloop. Stans wife Delores whose family were also Oysterman from Holland, told me her family had a sloop that was 50 ft long. The whole family would work and live aboard the boat for days. They would do this when sometimes they traveled way east for oysters and would not return to West Sayville till the boat was full. I Knew Stan for almost fifty years, stan was a role model for me. I always admired the fact that he did everything with a great degree of class, hard work and respect for his family and others. I could go on for pages telling stories, but I think I have said enough. Post number 58 has a picture of three tong boats. The one in the middle was Stan and his boat 'Rebel" the name came from the fact that this was the first southern built[Reedville Va.] tong boat. She was built out of yellow pine and had no caulking in her seams. Stans brother Jack told me they soaked her good, then pumped her out and Rebel was completely water tight. I might mention that the boat on the left was owned and worked by Jerry Collins, one of the nicest guys you could know, and also a family name in the book, and a relative of Stan. The boat on the right is Capt. John Servel,on a later southern built tong boat. I think she was built by Price in Reedville. Stan was the last of the three, 82 years young and still fit and able. If the clams ever came back, Im sure Stan would have been back on them, if not for a tragic accident. If someone could repost the picture under this post I would be greatful. Sadly Rich.
Why was the bowsprit maintained after the sailing rigs were discarded? just for anchor handling??
I never learned from a man who agreed with me.
In addition, the bowsprit helped the boat "lay" at anchor by moving the fulcrum of the anchor line forward of the stem.
Any tongboat with a pointed bow looked wrong without a bowsprit, although any attempt to put a sprit on a garvey was doomed to failure.