Remembering Andrew Gove

By Sheila Dassatt

         How many have heard the old country song, “Who’s Gonna Take Their Place?”  Well, this certainly pertains to folks like Andrew Gove, better known as everyone’s “Uncle.” I have a special place for Andrew myself, as he shares his birthday with my son, Travis, also born on May 9th, different years!  I knew there was something special about that friendship.  Our families have always had a bit of a bond, between old friendships going way back and a “friendly rival” with the boat racing circuit.  Andy, with UNCLE’S UFO and my Dad, Corliss Holland, with the RED BARON had a blast racing their boats together.  The big thing at that time, was the fact that both men were up there in age, and having more fun than the rest of us!  They really did put us to shame when it came to showing good sportsmanship (most of the time)!  No really, they had fun with it and always put on a good show. Besides that, they were very good friends, going back to their youth.

        Going back in time, just a little bit, Andy was born on Eagle Island in 1930 and fished one form or another his entire life.  He helped to support his family and worked hard over the years, doing whatever it took to put food on the table.  He married his wife, Rose, right after she turned eighteen and just had their 73rd wedding anniversary, still very much in love with each other.  They also raised two daughters along the way.  This was pretty much the way life was on the islands, whether it was Eagle Island or Stonington.

        Most people remember Andy as a lifelong fisherman, but a lot of people don’t remember that he was an accomplished pilot for twenty years.  He flew as a spotter for herring, or called “spotting the silver.”  This was something that he really enjoyed doing, especially the day that he took my husband, Mike, up in his plane to show him how it was all done.  He was very generous that way and Mike never forgot that special ride.

        I remember the “little things” that Andy would do, also.  I worked at Hamilton Marine for quite a while.  Andy would show up from Stonington as a customer and a good friend of Wayne and Loraine’s.  He would have a box of crab claws with him, just to give to Wayne and Loraine and anyone that would like to take a few home to pick for a sandwich.  These are the things that I remember about the man.  He always had a little joke or two to go along with it!

        I can’t write about Andy without sharing the famous family story, if you all don’t mind.  When my parents had their 50th wedding anniversary, we asked Andy and Rose to come along and share this story for all to hear.  Andy got up to the podium and did just what we asked him to do, (bless his heart) and shared the story with everyone: It seems that many years ago, my parents went to Eagle Island to spend the weekend with Andy and Rose.  They were all quite a bit younger then, so it seems that they ran out of liquid embellishment.  Dad and a friend offered to row to Stonington for a “beer run.”  The fog came in and they ended up staying in Stonington that night.  When he came back the next morning, he went to look for all of them.  In the meantime, Mom saw the dinghy and hid the oars.  My mother was so angry with him, that she ran down the beach with a clam hoe in her raised hand.  Dad couldn’t find the oars, so he ended up paddling as fast as he could with his hands!  Andy thought that was so funny, that the story is classic history now.  Guess there’s something to it all, both couples had long lasting marriages!  These are just a few of the memories that I’d like to share about Andy and Rose.  We don’t want these memories lost forever.

        There are a lot of documentaries that Andy did concerning island life and his knowledge of the fishing industry.  If you should go on Google and simply put Andrew Gove in the search bar, you will find some very good interviews and videos that he has done over the years.  These are all going to be priceless now.

        On Sunday, July 12th, Stonington had a fleet of boats gather in tribute to Andy.  The procession was led by MISS KATIE, owned by Nick Wiberg.  MISS KATIE is the former UNCLE’S UFO.  MISS KATIE hosted Rose and her family so the procession could all go by, wave and show our respect.  Members of the Gove family went ashore to Two Bush Island to have a wreath laying ceremony, which was followed by a “nine horn salute.” We were proud to be part of this procession, which carried our family on SAVING GRACE.  We figure that Andy and Dad are lining them up in heaven now for the big race!

        Rest in Peace and Fair Winds.

Back in 1997 Maine Coastal News published an interview with Andy:

Profile: Andrew Gove-Lobster Fisherman

STONINGTON – Sixty years of fishing and fifty years of marriage. There are not many that could boast either, but Andrew Gove of Stonington can. He can also boast having one of the fastest lobster boats on the coast. He just took delivery of a Northern Bay 36 finished out for him by Peter Buxton of Stonington, named UNCLE’S UFO. In her first race at the Boothbay Harbor Lobster Boat Races she took two firsts and was narrowly beat by Holland’s RED BARON both doing in excess of 46 mph for the Fastest Lobster Boat title.

        Andy was born in Stonington, but when he was two weeks old he was taken out onto Eagle Island where his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents lived. Due to the Depression, and a lack of money, he was brought up by his grandparents. He lived on the island until they closed the school during the Second World War. He added, “I had to move off and I went to school over here at Deer Isle. I was over here through the seventh, eighth and freshman year. Then I came down here in my sophomore year, quit and got married. That was the end of high school.”

        His love has always been with the water, which was instilled in him by his father and grandfather. He had his first license at the age of seven, which he paid a dollar for. When he moved to Stonington to go to school he went fishing with his future father-in-law, Archie Hutchinson. Together they fished off Isle au Haut.

        After getting married in 1947 he fished out of Stonington and Spruce Head, before moving back to Eagle Island for two or three years. By this time, he had a daughter ready to go to school and he was forced to leave the island and come to Stonington for good.

        It was not just lobstering, but Andy also seined for Caldwell Brothers and Ralph Barter. He remembered back to the fishing weirs they had on Eagle Island that his grandfather operated. He also remembered the number of fish. He said, “Back in them days there was a lot of herring. They think they know what herring is today, they’ve got a lot to think about. Godfrey, you don’t see one now, but very, very seldom. But in them days you could almost walk on ‘em at times.”

        Andy would go seining in the summer and lobster in the fall, winter and spring. He even operated a plane which he used for spotting the fish.

        Like most lobster fishermen, and he began fishing out of a square stern rowboat which was built by his grandfather. His next boat was donated to him by a woman up on the island. She gave him a 14-foot centerboard sailboat. His grandfather removed the centerboard and put in a shaft-log, engine beds and a 5-hp Gray engine. This was his first powerboat. This boat was followed with a 22-footer and then he purchased Virgil Gross’ 36-footer, a former rum runner built by the Rich Brothers.

        After the 36-footer Andy said he “went back downhill” two a 32-footer built by Otis Shepard of Stonington. He then went to Beals Island to have Harold Gower build him a 38-footer in 1963. Most of the old boat builders were set in their way and Gower was no different. Andy explain, “He built a nice boat, but he had his ideas. I wanted him to widen the stern out on this 38-footer because he had been building 34s. He didn’t want to do it, Gory, I stayed there all day to convince him to widen that out 6 inches. Oh, he done it, but boy I didn’t think he was going to. He said, “A destroyers got a narrow stern,” and he said, “they’re a good boat. “Well,” I said “I can’t get traps enough in there,” and she was only 11 foot wide and now I got a boat two feet shorter that’s almost 13 feet wide.”

        The 38-footer that Gower built for Andy was his first diesel powered boat and thought the whole boat complete was only about $10,000.

        With fiberglass coming into being Andy Gove bought a 36-foot Stanley that was designed by Lyford Stanley of Mount Desert Island. He purchased the hull and Joel White at Brooklin Boat Yard in Brooklin finished it off for him. This boat was replaced with a Duffy he named the LOVE BOAT in 1984. He said he still thinks a lot of that boat.

        With a desire for one more boat he went around to several builders and finally settled on the Northern Bay 36, another Spencer Lincoln design. He purchased the hull and had Buxton finish it off for him. He said, “Peter is awful nice. Never worked with a better guy in my life on a boat.” As for the boat, Andy added, “She seems good, I think she’s dry for a fiberglass boat and she goes good, course that’s a big engine.”

        Why the name? “Well, all the boys call me uncle,” said Andy. “I started it. See her brother was an uncle to my kids and I always called him uncle. Well, it backfired and they started calling me uncle.”

        Then why U. F. O.? They modified the stem and changed the house and Andy said, “she’s really kind of unidentified. Well, the F could stand for floating or flying. If she don’t go good why we’ll call it floating.”

        After the races, it certainly went from floating to flying with no questions asked.

        Andy was married on 14 June, but he could not wait and the new boat went over the day before. His grandson, who was born on 13 June, christened the boat for him.

        UNCLE’S UFO has been hauled out to be finished and Gove is unsure whether she will be done for the Jonesport races. He said that if she is not done she will not be racing until Stonington on 12 July.

        After fishing for sixty years, Andy would like to see some changes. He thought the changes in technology, such as rope materials and wire traps have been a good change. However, he added, “I think the changes were good and if they only took advantage of it and hadn’t built up such large strings of gear we could have got a day’s pay a lot easier with less expense. It seems like the more they can keep out there fishing the more they want. It’s got to come to a stop.”

        Last year was a good year for the lobster fishermen in the Stonington area. Andy said, “I think it’s still going to be pretty good this year when they get shed. They’re just fishing them so hard and they’re catching up all the good ones in the fall when they fished so late. Up in here right close to home they always were done by October. A couple of years ago they were fishing there in December. They would have shed and crawled away and then in the spring they would have had some good spring fishing. They’ve got so many traps and so many more people that there’s nowhere to go. The whole bay is just covered with traps.”

        Andy would like to see full-time lobster fishermen with a 600-trap limit. He added, “When they went to a trap limit on Swan’s Island some complained. They’ve caught just as many lobsters with 475 traps as they did when they had more. The only problem they’re going to have is new ones moving in.”

        Meeting fishermen along the coast of Maine is a most pleasant experience especially when you meet people like Andy Gove. The history and stories that they have can keep one interested for hours and their sense of humor is second to none, just ask one of them a question!