Paul halloran angled his way from Maine to Maryland during nearly a quarter- century as a Gloucester fisherman. Along the way, he experienced a contentious dispute with a Russian trawler, endured close encounters with the military, and came perilously close to losing his life and his livelihood more than once.
Halloran’s son, Patrick (P. J.) Halloran, cut his teeth on these stories—growing up, he sometimes didn’t see his father for weeks, as he was out chasing the next haul.
While P. J., who owns and operates Cape Ann Foodie Tours (CAFT), took those stories for granted when he was young, one day, while watching his father hold an audience of friends and family rapt, he realized visitors and natives would likely enjoy hearing the harrowing and amusing seafaring tales as much as he did. Subsequently, the Ales and Tales tour—the latest addition to P. J.’s burgeoning Cape Ann food and cultural tourism business—was born. In addition to Ales and Tales, CAFT offers tasting tours in Rockport, Gloucester, and Newburyport.
“The businessman in him kicked in,” the senior Halloran says with a laugh, adding that he immediately volunteered his services for the price of a few beers.
The 90-minute-plus tour visits two local watering holes (currently Cape Ann Brewing Company and Topside Grill & Pub), and includes some tasty snacks and an overview of Gloucester’s fishing industry history. The elder Halloran’s stories span from when the seafaring town was settled in the 1600s and the harbor was “so thick with cod you could walk on it” through his own fishing days—a feast or famine experience.
“When you walked out the door and kissed your wife or girlfriend good-bye, you had no idea how much money you’d make,” Paul recalls. Fishing was in his blood, as it was for most of his generation and those before him who had grown up in Gloucester. Paul’s father was a cook on the Curlew and spent weeks at sea followed by three days in port.
Ever a dangerous business, the local fishing industry saw a single storm in the 1800s take more than 140 lives, leaving behind 300 to 400 widows and children. “Seriously, in a matter of a second, you could lose your life,” Paul recalls, adding that even with sophisticated weather-tracking technology and better boats, fishing remains a dangerous trade.
Paul is happy to answer questions, provide insight into the grub fishermen ate on long journeys (he baked cakes on trawlers), and describe the salty talk and even saltier aromas coming from the below-deck quarters on a long-haul trip. While his father was the obvious choice to launch the tours, P. J. plans to ask other captains to share their stories so the tours remain fresh.
Paul’s own experience includes a spellbinding story of a harrowing encounter on a bitter January day involving a vertical rogue wave in 10-degree weather and a small sailing dog named Dixie. No spoilers here—take the tour to find out what happened.
Ales and Tales tours are scheduled throughout the year or can be arranged privately. capeannfoodietours.com