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History of the Adventure

The Early Years

The real beginning of the Adventure came in the spring of 1926. Captain Jeff Thomas decided to have a new vessel built, and several skippers and businessmen joined him in the idea. The origin of the name of this vessel, like many of her sisters is interesting . . . Captain Jeff was undecided on a name for his new craft. At the time his son, Gordon, had made quite a few pencil drawings of fishing vessels, all of which carried names created by him. One night his father requested to see these drawings, with the hope a name would be found.

Two were considered: Indian and Adventure. After some serious thought Jeff Thomas picked Adventure. He said, "I think Adventure is the best, because fishing is an adventure and I don’t think there was ever a vessel out of Gloucester with that name." As it turned out, what better name could she have carried!

Constructed of white oak and yellow pine at the John F. James and Son yard in Essex, Massachusetts, she was fashioned as a "knockabout," a design without a bowsprit for the safety of the crew. When she was launched on September 16, 1926, the Adventure had one of the tallest masts (110 feet) of the 500 vessels in the Gloucester fleet, spread about 6000 square feet of canvas and was equipped with a 120-horsepower diesel to kick her along in a calm . . . The evolution of the dory fishing schooner over the centuries culminated in a vessel unmatched in beauty of line and balance, ability and speed.

The Adventure carried 14 small fishing boats called dories. A dory is a 18 foot flat-bottomed boat with high flaring sides. Two men in each dory fished about three tubs of trawl-line with baited hooks that combined would pay out for nearly two miles . . .

Sometimes the dorymen rowed a couple of miles from the schooner to fish. They packed along a mast and boom wrapped in a small sail, a couple of barrels of fresh water, bailing scoops and foghorn and spare tholepins - the wooden pegs to hold the oars. And they took anchors and fish-forks and kerosene lanterns and a pole with a target flag. Still, with all the precautions, it was common for the schooner to spend hours searching in the fog, blowing the horn, and listening for the answering blast from a stray dory.


The Adventure left on her maiden voyage a month after she was launched, and returned home nine days later with 70,000 pounds of halibut . . . It is a matter of record that the Adventure caught more fish and made more money than any vessel of any type on the Atlantic coast. For more than twenty-five years, Adventure would return trip after trip with her hold filled to its 170,000 pound capacity. She was a "Highliner," the biggest moneymaker of all time, landing nearly $4 million worth of cod and halibut during her fishing career.

By 1933 a Jonah (jinx or bad luck) seemed to have come aboard. The Adventure struck a rock entering a Nova Scotia port in a blinding snowstorm and held fast for 36 hours, pounded by the sea, before help came to tow her off. But not before the crew had to jettison 40,000 pounds of fish. The following year the vessel had to be towed home 45 miles when, inexplicably, she lost her rudder.

The worst lay ahead. Barely a month later, Captain Jeff was 80 miles off Nova Scotia, his men out in their dories when a cold nor’wester whipped up. Ice began to form on the rails as the salt spray splashed aboard. Captain Jeff, alone on the ship with the cook, knocked off the ice on the halyards with a wooden mallet. Then he went aft to the wheel, put his hand on a spoke and fell to the deck, dead of a heart attack. The cook ran the schooner off before the wind and picked up the dories. The Adventure put into Halifax, her flag at half-mast. All of Gloucester mourned one of its most capable skippers.

Captain Leo Hynes was 33 years old when he was picked from the Gloucester fishing fleet to take over the Adventure after Captain Jeff Thomas died. Even at that young age, Captain Hynes was a seasoned fisherman of close to 20 years at sea, having signed on as a mere boy in his native Newfoundland.

Captain Hynes knew that an unpredictable disaster lay ever-present in fog and storm. On one morning he took the wheel shortly after dawn and peered through the pilothouse windows at an overwhelming sea with mountainous waves driven by 80-90 knot winds (110 mph). The Adventure held her own, her engine just maintaining headway as she rose and fell in the steep troughs. Someone shouted. Ahead a monstrous wave, towering above the others, roared down onto the vessel. Instinctively every man grabbed something to hang on to. The wave broke, crashing onto the deck, engulfed the men by the wheel and threw them about in a foaming cauldron.

Captain Hynes emerged from the deluge . . . 50 feet forward of the wheel. He looked aft, horrorstruck. The wheelhouse was gone. He ran back to the wheel, shouting orders as crewmen tumbled onto the deck. The wreckage of the pilothouse with two of its former occupants was being swept away on the sea. Captain Hynes struggled to turn the vessel around - a near impossible maneuver in such a storm. By the time they came within range of the wreckage, one man was gone. They threw a line to the other crewman; it missed. And then again. Too cold and perhaps injured, he was too weak to hold on. Drenched shipmates watched helplessly from the deck. And the almighty sea raged over all. The Adventure faced the solemn return to Boston, her flag once again at half-mast. The awful image haunted Captain Hynes. Decades later he said. "I still dream about it."

The End of a Career

By the early 1950's, new fishing methods and an aging crew foretold the final chapter of the Adventure’s life as the highliner of the Gloucester fleet. Beam trawling and dragging began to replace the more hazardous dory trawling.

The Adventure's fishing career came to a close in 1953. She was the only American dory fishing trawler left in the Atlantic. It marked the end of the era of great vessels and fearless men who came as boys from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Scandinavia, Portugal and New England to fish the rest of their lives on the northeast coast. It was an age rich in visual imagery, of challenge and tragedy, of the unassuming courage of lone men setting trawl from a small boat 200 miles at sea - and of the families who waited for their loved ones to return home.

In 1954 a partnership bought Adventure for $6,000, removed the engine and bulkheads, built staterooms in the fish hold and sailed her out of Rockland, Maine, in the windjammer schooner trade in 1954 under Captain Dayton Newton. For the next decade, the Adventure would carry people on summer cruises in the waters off the coast of Maine.

Captain Jim Sharp bought her in 1965, repaired her, and with a restored full schooner rig on deck returned her to the service from Camden in 1966. He sailed windjammer cruises out of Camden, Maine for the next 23 years where she became known as the "Queen of the Windjammers." In 1977 she played the We’re Here in the video version of "Captains Courageous." And she was the subject of the 1985 book "Adventure: Queen of the Windjammers," by J.E. Garland

New Opportunities

Early in 1988, Captain Sharp donated Adventure to the City of Gloucester. With this donation came a proviso that "she continue to be cared for, prominently displayed as a monument of the City of Gloucester and used for the education and pleasure of the public."

The Gloucester Adventure, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, was organized to restore and sail the Adventure and provide educational programs for the Cape Ann community in 1988. Staffed and crewed by volunteers, the organization is committed to:

During the next two years, a Board of Directors was put in place and staff hired to develop programs and raise the money needed to restore Adventure to her former glory.

Adventure began an education program for teachers and students from Gloucester, Rockport and Ipswich public schools in 1990. That May, Adventure was hauled onto the Gloucester Marine Railways and the bow rebuilt with new wood - the first step in restoring her to sail the sea again.

The 70-year-old Gloucester fishing schooner Adventure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994.

Before Adventure can regain her U.S. Guard certification, extensive restoration work must be completed. By joining Adventure's crew, you can help save this National Historic Landmark schooner. Become a volunteer and learn how to rig and sail a schooner, get involved in restoration efforts, meet new friends and participate in Adventure's special events and educational programs. Experience the rich satisfaction of saving an exciting piece of history.

Photos supplied by Adventure.

Updated by OBS on July 4, 1996; comments to