Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan and The F/V Saint Patrick

I had a pit in my stomach during the 2013/14 Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan (RISMP) hearings/meetings at URI when I realized what was left of the RI Quahog industry was going to be abandoned to promote aquaculture and the privitizing of public resources.  The RI state waters quahog, and fishing industries, were going to be left to flounder and sink, while the RI aquaculture industry was going to be promoted in the RISMP. I vividly remember thinking in that moment, “OMG! This is the story of the F/V Saint Patrick.”t the gravity of there situation

The F/V Saint Patrick was a 152′ scalloper out of  Kodiak Alaska that was hit by a rouge wave in 1982. The wheelhouse windows were blown out by the rouge wave that was generated by a Bearing Sea storm that generated mountainous seas and 100 knot winds. There were 11 crew on the Saint Patrick including one woman, and one Rhode Islander.  All power was immediately lost as the rouge wave crashed through the windows and flooded the boat, and the vessel immediately began to flounder in the remote pitch black of this very stormy and frigid Bearing Sea. The captain told the crew that the boat was going down, and they needed to get into their survival suits and prepare to abandon ship. A supreme consciousness and awareness unfolded as they realized they were going to abandon ship into the icy towering winter waves of the Bearing Sea, with only survival suits for 9 people. The two crew members that went in with just winter clothes and a life jacket only survived 10-15 minutes.

Two of the eleven people on board the F/V Saint Patrick survived that fateful day. Bob Kidd, from Warwick, Rhode Island, was one of the survivors who was able to miraculously keep himself alive for over 24 hours in the towering 37 degree seas in just a survival suit. Bob eventually washed up on a remote deserted island where he was later rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and air lifted to safety. Bob suffered from severe frostbite and hypothermia when rescued from frozen beaches with 1000′ sheer cliffs more than a day and a half after the disaster. The real irony of the captain’s decision to abandon ship was-the F/V Saint Patrick never sank! Mariners grow up hearing, “Never give up the ship until it is absolutely necessary!” In the end, the crew should have stuck with the wreck, rather than plunging into the deadly sea.

51isYIhNnAL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Quahoggers have a long tradition of sharing remarkable stories while working next to each other on the bay. RI quahogger, Steve Emerson, of Warwick Cove, gave me the inspiration to further research the F/V Saint Patrick as he shared first hand knowledge of Bob Kidd’s survival story. You see, Steve’s stepfather was Bob Kidd. He grew up hearing the story of the Saint Patrick, and the fate of her crew. Jerry Frasier, publisher of National Fisherman, shared with me that the story of Bob Kids survival of the F/V Saint Patrick is legendary, and shadows any survival story he has heard. Jerry turned me on to Spike Walkers book, Working on the Edge, where he tells the story of the F/V Saint Patrick in part 8.

As I stood listening to the details of the Rhode Island SMP back in 2014, I could hear mariners before me chanting the basic rule, “Do not give up the ship until it’s absolutely necessary.” I knew the RISMP  was knowingly and wittingly giving up the RI quohogging ‘ship’, and giving those that wanted to still be on the water an orange survival suit otherwise known as-aquaculture. It was painfully apparent to me at the RISMP meetings that the focus needed to be on developing the RI Quahog resource, rather than further restricting free and common access to the quahog resource and markets. Promoting aquaculture serves only the few, and gives a false food security that destroys a way of life that has existed around the quahog in RI for centuries.


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