In Menemsha last Thursday the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust hosted its annual Meet the Fleet event. Along with music and contests, fishermen from New Bedford, Tashmoo, Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs gathered at the Menemsha bulkhead to give visitors an opportunity to see the boats and talk to the people who fish from them.

The morning of the event, lobsterman Dave Bolton unloaded his catch, adding that he wouldn’t be able to stick around for the day’s festivities.

“Tomorrow’s my day off,” he said, looking forward to the ride back to New Bedford. The Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust helps local fishermen buy expensive permits. It’s a different world than the one Mr. Bolton found when he got out of the Army in 1975.

Tradition is in the genes. — Albert O. Fischer

“I started out with a $400 boat and 15 traps,” he said.

Back then, if you could endure endless hard work in uncomfortable weather and were capable enough on the water, you could build a career as a fisherman on a boat you owned.

“My son is the captain of two scallop boats. They are all owned by a company in Denmark,” Mr Bolton said.

Since 1979 Mr. Bolton has been lobstering from Honi-Do, a 38-foot boat that wouldn’t have been an exceptional size then, but is tiny compared to the 80-foot floating factories that work 800 pots each.

“They’ll have three guys on deck,” he said. “The captain won’t even get out of his chair. He’ll run the winch from a button in the wheelhouse.”

“When I was a kid you could go down the dock in New Bedford looking for work,” Mr. Bolton continued. “All those guys owned their own boats.”

But while New Bedford has changed into a wholly corporate harbor, Menemsha has somehow managed to maintain a fleet of family-fished boats and large enough family-owned seafood markets to support fishermen like Mr. Bolton. The Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust has a mission to maintain this tradition by supporting family fishermen working out of harbors on the Island.

Docks at Menemsha were crowded last Thursday at popular Meet the Fleet gathering. — Albert O. Fischer

“Family fishermen are more connected to the resource,” said Shelley Edmundson, the director of MVFPT.

When Honi-Do pulled away from the dock that morning, Ms. Edmundson was digging through the weeds for trash and loading it into a dumpster. She talked while she worked.

“When a boat is owned by a corporation, it is not a direct connection, it’s just another job,” she said. “Local fishermen’s practices are more connected to the future of it.”

With economic support, the MVFPT hopes to convince more fishermen to keep fishing, a hard decision to make on an expensive Island where jobs for laborers are many and pay well. By any standards, fishing is hard — physically demanding and unpredictable. But for those individuals who master the skills to keep a boat going, as Dave Bolton says, “It’s the best work there is.”

On the night of the event there was a scallop shucking contest with a $1,000 prize at stake. The win was split between Menemsha fisherman Otto Osmers and Curt Robinson, a young man from New Bedford.

“We split because he had more weight. I won by time. He just got bigger scallops,” said Mr. Osmers, adding that he was more than satisfied with the $500 prize.

Crab races, anyone? — Albert O. Fischer

“I’ve put in a lot of time. I’ve been on a lot of good boats,” he continued, explaining how he became such a fast shucker. Mr. Osmers has his own boat now, but he has also worked on many of the boats around the Island.

I saw his Mom as I was leaving. Daisy Osmers was very proud.

“He’s a good worker, but even more important: he’s kind,” she said.

More Meet the Fleet Photos Here