Many of Montauk’s current long time residents were drawn here in the 1970’s because of their love of the water. During those years, the new residents turned to carpentry and the service industry and in great part, commercial fishing for their livelihood. Many of these locals started families, and today run their own businesses and fishing boats. The Maguire’s are an example of a local End End fishing family. Meg and Kevin Maguire raised Brynn and Tyler while Kevin made his living at sea. Meg’s love of the ocean and unique perspective of their family life represents how many families have lived in this fishing community.
GM: How long have you been living in Montauk, and what brought you out here?
MM: I moved here in 1975. I grew up in Massapequa and always wanted to live out here. Ever since I was a kid, on the weekends, my father would throw us in the car and say, “Lets take a ride to Montauk, get clam chowder out at the point.” We would go out to the point and stop at the Ranch to see the Bison because there was Bison out there at that time. We would go get our clam chowder and run around on the rocks, my brother, sister and I. Then we would drive home. When I was little I would always say I want to live out here, I am going to live out here one day. So I came out in 1975 and got a job at a restaurant, Little Park Restaurant, which is now Zum Schiender. I was cooking there. Then I met Kevin.
GM: How did you meet Kevin?
MM: I met Kevin through his partner Richie Jones and his girlfriend at the time Kathy. Kevin was fishing on the Peconic Queen and I was working in the restaurant, so I was going to work at 5pm and he was going to work at 1-2am. It was kind of a tough relationship. While he was working on the Peconic Queen, Richie and Kevin, bought a little Bruno and Stillman that they converted into a gill-netter. I remember they would come home and get checks for nine or eleven dollars and we were living together at the time, so I was kind of supporting them, and I remember saying, “how hard could this be?” So Kevin got me on the boat, and we threw out the smallest gill net in the shallowest of water, and he said, “I am going to show you what we do when we are out here.” I started doing it (pulling in the gillnet) and within five minutes my side was hurting to the point I had tears in my eyes, but I wouldn’t stop. We had no fish, smallest net, shallowest water; he said, “This is what I do.” Anyways I learned my lesson then.
GM: Commercial fishing is a time consuming job, some people day fish others go out for two weeks at a time. What was it like raising a family while your husband was fishing?
MM: When Kevin first had the boat with Richie they would go out for five or six days at a time, come in pack out for a day then go back out again. So we were hanging out with other fisherman’s wives, Pat Weimar and I were very close. We were always hanging out and doing stuff together. Then when Kevin and Richie got their next boat they were able to set it up with two crews, so Richie would go out with a crew come in pack out, then Kevin would go out with a crew. When he was home it was a whole different schedule, he could go do stuff with the kids, take them to school. When he was gone we went on our whole different schedule, Dad is out at sea. We did that for a long time.
GM: While out at sea during that time period there was no cell phones, what was your means of communication with the boat?
MM: We never talked to him. I knew if something happened I could get in touch with him through the radio on someone else’s boat down at the docks.
GM: So the kids never got to talk to Kev while he was out at sea?
MM: No. When he came home it was, DADDY’S HOME!!! And he was always very present when he was home. You know what it worked for us! I knew what I was getting into when I married a fisherman, I knew right away. So it never bothered me. I think it was great for our relationship, he was gone then he is back, he is gone then he is back. You know? It is a different lifestyle.
GM: Was there ever a time when it was an iffy trip, the conditions were real bad and you were worried?
MM: Oh yeah! Wind just goes through some of these houses. You hear the wind blowing and shaking the house, and I knew he was out there. But he was pretty cautious; he had young guys working for him and didn’t want to risk their lives, his life, or the boat. But I remember he went out one night; it was after Christmas I think because his family was here, everyone was here. Three hours later he came back again. It was blowing and pretty nasty out there. He walks in, looks exhausted and sits down; we were watching a movie, I looked at him and he said he was ok. Meanwhile he had gone out the jetty, the boat ran aground, and I guess they had to get a Coast Guard Helicopter. It was a major rescue, there were waves coming over the bow of the boat. I didn’t know about it till someone called the house asking if Kevin was all right and if they got the boat off. He has been out there is some pretty rough weather, and I have definitely been pretty scared. You know the boat that is in The Perfect Storm is an exact replica of Kevin and Richie’s boat The Pontos, the same company built them.
GM: I heard the Pontos and the Andrea Gail were built side-by-side, right?
MM: Yes. Kevin had spent time up in Gloucester putting in the squid Jacuzzis to keep the squid alive, so they could sell it to Japan. So he was up there when the storm hit. He was hanging out with both crews, The Andrea Gail and The Hannah Boden before they left to go offshore. He can tell you that story. When the book came out Kevin read it, and when I picked it up he said, “You don’t want to read this book. So I put it down. Then when the movie came out he said to the kids, “You don’t want to see this movie.” Brynn and Tyler both saw the movie and both had nightmares after it. There were some accurate depictions in that movie of what it is like to be out at sea on a fishing vessel in extreme conditions.
GM: It seems like your whole family has this underlying connection to water. Kevin is a fisherman and an exceptional surfer, you have surfed your whole life, and I was told you were almost an Olympic swimmer.
GM: Brynn and Tyler are both incredible surfers, and Tyler in recent years has really taken too commercial fishing on his own. It has to be sort of a proud passing of a legacy.
MM: It is. We all have this connection to the water. It is originally what brought Kevin and I both out here independently; surfing, the beach, wanting to live somewhere surrounded by water, and for Kevin the fishing. It is what brought a lot of people out here at that time.
Interview/words/photos by Grant Monahan. Check out more of his work, here.