Dive headfirst into the inner circle of the 1990 Gloucester seafood industry. Bay State Skye is an historical fiction with some mystery and intrigue built in, based on actual events hinging on interviews with fishermen, seafood processors, and restauranteurs.
From the treachery of the sea, to the deception at the docks, to the struggle to convince the state to help tackle the mounting mound of fish offal piling up at the defunct waste-reduction plant, Bay State Skye reveals the challenges faced by those who make their living by going down to the sea.
When lobster fishermen Jimmy and Murph Sweeney happen upon an abandoned fishing boat that had been illegally dragging within state limits, it ignites the tension that had been smoldering between lobstermen and fishermen for years. As theBay State Skye cargo is off-loaded, it sets off a series of adverse events for all who share the misfortune of coming into possession of its catch.
Bay State Skye is the fifth book by award-winning author, Janice S. C. Petrie. Her family has been involved in the Gloucester and Boston seafood trade for two generations. Petrie’s interest in the industry was piqued after spending several years working as assistant plant manager in her family’s Gloucester seafood processing business, which led to her inclination to tell this story.
Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize Assessment:
Plot: Inspired by true events, this well-researched intriguing novel exposes the occupational hazards embedded in the Gloucester, Mass., fish and seafood trade in 1990. Vivid, pungent, and layered in deceit, the story verges on a whistle-blowing, eye-opening look at a lucrative industry as opposed to a work of fiction.
Prose: Backed by countless interviews and the author’s firsthand knowledge and experience, the carefully-edited narrative reveals time and place through authentic descriptions and colloquialisms. The author’s tendency to hyper-focus on minute details creates an experience to be savored, rather than quickly devoured.
Originality: Illegal acts on the ocean, a popular theme in fiction, may encompass any profession, yet this memorable book stands apart—an intricately-planned historical immersion in Cape Ann that will make an indelible impression on a jaded connoisseur of adventure novels.
Character Development: Candid protagonists in this character-saturated novel take the story in many directions, with shady personalities at the helm. Their development spins doubt and suspense and triggers double-takes.
A Look at Gloucester Classics that are Included in “Bay State Skye”
The Greasy Pole Contest
This is a brief video of the greasy pole contest from 2017. It never gets old! Enjoy!
The Seine Boat Race
The Seine Boat Race is another time honored event that takes place every summer in Gloucester during St. Peter’s Fiesta. It was from this event that the dory race teams were selected to compete against the strong teams from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Both these events are featured in our new book, Bay State Skye, and are visible from the beach, as well as from the boulevard, with the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial overseeing the event.
Enjoy the video!
Lobster Fishing and Eating in the Rough at
Bearskin Neck in Rockport
Come along on a lobster boat to pull a few traps, just as Jimmy and Murph did every day in Bay State Skye. Then take a short drive to Rockport’s famous Bearskin Neck to watch lobsters prepared for eating in the rough at Roy Moore’s Lobster Company, which is very similar to the Loster Hut in our story.
The Cutting Line at a Local Seafood Processor
Watch a skilled fish cutter fillet a flounder at a local Gloucester seafood processing plant. This is a good look at a cutting line, as was described in Bay State Skye.
The International Dory Races
The dory races between Lunenburg, Canada and Gloucester, Massachusetts have evolved into not just one race, but several. Divisions not only include a men’s competition, but women and mixed couples compete as well. This is a far cry from the first race as it was described in Bay State Skye.
Crossing the Bar Again
– Written by Kent Bowker (11/30/2014), this poem beautifully characterizes the life and sentiment of a modern day lobsterman, as is depicted in the Bay State Skye. Thank you Roy Spittle for bringing this poem to my attention.
In the slosh and tumble of waves, around ledges,
at the favored lobster spots close to shore, the white working boat
maneuvers about rocks, gear shift growling,
runs down on pots, the men scooping them up,
hauling traps aboard, pulling the writhing bugs out, checking length
sometimes tossing most of them back in
thinking its time to shift the pots further offshore.
It seems the hold is never quite full,
when they turn the helm to home.
It’s not all work, for there is a time for awe and wonder in going
to and fro, in foggy uncertainty, or clear air
when the horizon is crisp and stark,
or when clouds boil, flowering in blue sky,
or when the black of a coming storm menace,
or in the calm of sunrise, waters flat as can be,
never the same from day to day,
but same never-the-less. You’re on your own out there,
with faith’s wafer and wine certainty and protection
warding off threat of wave and rock
in the heave and thrust of swells
uneven footing, a dangerous winch cable
screaming on its spool.
There is a muscle taut energy
in this small 35 foot lobster boat
heir to the fast Grand Bank fishing schooners,
proud large trawlers, the great hauls.
These rock crawling scavengers
are all that’s left to harvest now, bend the muscles to.
It’s traps now, was nets then, always the haul,
the heft of the prey on the deck
in the heave and rolling wave of the sea.
The big thing to think about
what many of us do not
is who and where we are in this world.
So few know, but those whose working rhythm
is embedded in it, do.
A Saint Joseph medallion dangles from the rear view mirror
of their pickup loaded with traps and pots
and its ‘screw you’ bumper stickers.
But when some ignorant ass**** on autopilot
with cutters on his floaty yacht’s prop
tears through a line of pots all the day’s money’s gone
What’s Saint Joseph to do then
you have to keep asking.
Oh, they’re not paying what they used to, 3 buck a pound,
not worth it sometimes when they’re 10 bucks afterward.
Everyday, passing by the Dog Bar, offloading the stuff,
tired, returning to the slip, tie up, disembark
and, bone hope weary, might take to drink again.
In the coherence of this life,
(the faith and ceremonies, a cardinal’s blessing
once a year doesn’t do much)
no matter how small it seems
faith punctuates the daily chores,
but it’s the rhythm of the lobsterman’s life
out and back again, bait and reap
that sustains as it does for all working men,
the doing of it.