Title: Interview with Sam J. Tringali (November 21, 1995)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006854/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Sam J. Tringali (November 21, 1995)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: November 21, 1995
Subject: Fisherfolk
University of North Florida
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006854
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'UNF Fisherfolk' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: UNFFC 4

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interview with Sam Tringali, ex-shrimper.
Interviewers: Chris Spencer and Annie Jenkins

(Chris): I'm Chris Spencer here with Sam Tringali. In St. Augustine on
November the twenty-first. And we're here to talk about you in the
fishing business. Let's start with how you got introduced into it.
(Mr. Tringali): I was born into it, my dad was in it. My dad came to this
country, an immigrant from Italy, some where in the late twenties. He
originally came to New York, worked a few years there, and then, he had,
well, his bother in law, my mother's brother, was involved in shrimping
here in Saint Augustine. I'm not sure what time frame it was, I think it
was in the early thirties, something like that. And he called my dad and
wanted my dad to come down and work with him.. .My dad fished with him,
and my uncle died at some point, and my dad took over that interest in the
boat. And my dad kept fishing and owning boats and stuff, and then he
built it to, at one time, three boats, that he owned. He had people
operating them for him at that point. I was born in nineteen forty-three,
and at that time my dad did have three boats.. And I was born into, you
know, that's what his occupation was, and as a youngster that's what I
wanted to be, a shrimper .Along with the rest of my family. I had two
older brothers that were also involved. We all felt the same way,
basically, back at that time. When I first went to school and graduated
from high school, here in Saint Augustine, there wasn't much other
opportunities available, unless you had a family business of some sort. .1
think that some where in the nineteen sixties I actually had the
opportunity to buy my own boat, and get involved in the shrimping
business myself about that time.
(Chris): So you were working under your father for...
(Mr. Tringali): I kind of worked with him for a little bit and then I didn't
really, well, his business at that time basically didn't support all three
brothers at one time. He couldn't really support all three of us. So I kind
of had odd jobs doing other things, and there would kind of be some minor
involvement in the shrimp business. Until, I think it was nineteen sixty-
five or so, nineteen sixty-four. I actually bought my own boat and that's
when I really got involved in it one hundred percent. And I started off
having a captain and crew run the boat, and I was just an owner, so to
speak. At the time I bought an older boat, a second hand older boat. The
boat wasn't making enough. I had been out shrimping but I really didn't
know enough about shrimping myself, and I didn't feel confident with me
just buying a boat and taking it over and running the Captain's job. So I


had an experienced crew running the boat for me. I thought it was better
that I went that route, for the time being. I kind of kept a job locally, but
I was also managing the boat at the same time. After a few years,
probably three years of doing that I realized that that probably wasn't the
best thing for me to do. I felt like I needed to get involved. My dad had
always been a shrimper and actually done shrimping and what have you. I
felt like it would be better for me to get involved in it too. There would
be times that I would be totally dependent on the crew and captain to
show up and go to work, and there would be times that they didn't show up
for some reason or another. And the boat was sitting there at the dock,
when, you know, there was catching shrimp, and there was nothing I could
do about it, for the most part. .1 didn't want to put my self in that
position, it was too much of an investment, and my lively hood was
depending on it. .1 had done it a lot when I was a kid, but not really with
the idea of doing this as a career, or occupation, or anything. But just to
really get involved in, you know, how you go out and operate the boat, and
the nets, and work the fishing grounds and the different places to go, and
the hole nine yards so to speak.
(Chris): So, did you take over, or were you just a crew member with
S (Mr. Tringali): Basically what I did, I had a crew man that was working
with me that had been a captain before, and he was willing to kind of step
back and be like an assistant captain. I had enough knowledge so that I
could take the boat out and do some things, between what he was willing
to do, which was a hard thing to do, it was kind of like, you know, he had
to sit on the side lines for a while, and he was willing to do that. And
what I didn't feel comfortable with, or I didn't know anything about, he
would help me with it. He wasn't an adversary to me. I think I worked out
real good with it for a few years. The problem I had, personally, is that I
had an old boat. And that was the only thing I was able to buy. I kind of
wanted to do this all on my own. My dad was willing at different points to
help me, but it was kind of like I wanted to do this on my own. So the only
thing I could really afford was to buy an old boat, and old boats just
present a lot of problems at different times. When the rotor gets bad and
the equipment and what have you. Wooden boats, traditionally, when
you're out there and you had a boat that was fifteen, twenty years old,
when you get in bad weather, they start having problems with leaking and
what have you. And you have problems with the engines, and anything
mechanical about it, basically. Anyway, there had been occasions where I
S had a lot of break downs, or what have you. And with new equipment you


don't have that as much. Anyway, I had a problem with making much more
than just a living, really. I was kind of wanting to start this and get
ahead, and get another boat at some point, and then another boat at some
point, and what have you. But, it just be where it seemed to me that I was
just going to be in a position where it would just be a living for me, or
what have you. and I would be gone most of the time. The first boat I had,
I ran it myself for several years .And, it might have been sixty-seven or
sixty-eight, but, .1 lost this boat in a storm. And I got out of the shrimp
business. .Basically, what happened is that, my brother, who was also in
the shrimp business, my brother Dominique who is still in the shrimp
business, he was fishing his boat and I was fishing my boat, .And we
were out there off of Saint Augustine, in November, sometime. And it was
starting to get real rough, with the Northwest wind. There was a fleet of
boats out, we weren't the only boats out, and we knew the wind was going
to get worse. But we were out early, and the whole fleet basically felt
the same way, that we could work about half the day for a few hours and
then we would come on in, before it really got real bad. My brother got his
net tangled in the wheel of the boat, which made it so that he couldn't go
anywhere. So he had called me on the radio, and asked me to go get him
and tow him in, because he didn't have any power. So I did, I went up .to
pick him up, and got a tow line to him. And by this time the seas started
to get a lot rougher and we should have been in. I was towing him back to
the inlet to bring him in, and we kept experiencing problems with the line
breaking and one thing and another. It took us quite a while, because it
was really getting real rough. And we did finally get them in the inlet,
inside the inlet here at Saint Augustine, and just before we got to where
we were going to be safe, the line snapped again. And the wind started
pushing him on the north jetties, on the little shoal area, where it was
shallow and everything there. And so I tried to circle around and go back
and get another line to him and get him off of there and everything. We
tried that a couple times, and, like I said, it just started getting real
rough, and real windy, and we were just experiencing a lot of difficulty.
And then finally I got hung up on the shoals too. We were both there .1
ended up losing my boat and ended up getting stuck fast on the shoals, and
started pounding with the heavy seas and everything, so it started
breaking up. He was able to kind of bounce along the shoals and went back
off shore, and another went around and picked him up and brought him back
in. But I was stuck fast, beached there, just off the north jetties a couple
hundred yards. The boat sat down and then it tilted over. I had one of the
out riggings. .one of them was still down, because I had just come in


from fishing, and the other one was up. The one that was down, the boat
rolled over on that side and was stuck in the mud, it kind of helped me
from turning over, which was a real blessing, and everything. We were
sitting there beached, and me and my crew member were sitting there
with no power and we couldn't get off the boat or anything. So finally, of
course people had called and they had contacted the Marine Patrol, and
they sent a small boat out there to get us. It wasn't very deep where we
were, and it was pretty bad .They came our and tried to get a line to us
so we could jump over. We had our life preservers on, but we couldn't
jump over and swim because it was too rough and too far and we couldn't
have made it. Anyway they ended up pulling us off of that boat and getting
us to safety. And my boat, the storm ended up staying around for about
another three or four days, and ended up breaking my boat up completely
and I lost that boat. I had insurance on it, and it covered it basically what
I had the best of anything and that was it.. .1 got out of it, and I decided
that maybe shrimping wasn't the best for me at that time. I started doing
some other odd jobs and what have you. After about six or eight months,
you know, shrimping was in my blood, so I just decided that I think I
wanted to give this another try. I think I learned some lessens here and I
could go ahead and do some more of this. So I bought another boat, which
happened to be my dad's boat. My dad was at the age then, he wanted to
retire, and get out of the business, and he was going to sell his boat. His
boat was old, but he had kept it up real well, and it was in pretty good
shape. So I bought my dad's b6at and got back into the shrimping business
again. And I did the same thing where I started running it myself.
periodically, we would travel around and stuff. But,.. .with the timing and
everything else and the equipment I had and the whole situation, I could
never really get where I wanted to get with it. Basically all I was doing
was making a living, that I could do right here, on land, with any other job.
I wouldn't be risking my life, I wouldn't be going away from home. I had a
wife and a kid then, at that time .And things were real tight. Having an
older boat limited you to where you could go fishing. You had to pretty
well stay around Saint Augustine, or this particular area, this coast, so to
speak. And certain times of the year there just wasn't anything here to
make it worth while, there was too much down time. So I decided to get
out of it, and I think that was some where around nineteen sixty-nine or
(Chris): How was it like when you were still with your father? How many
people went out, and for how long?
S (Mr. Tringali): My dad had three boats, when I was a kid, and basically he

had crews working for them. We were all still in school at that particular
time. He had three small boats, and this would probably be back in, like in
the early fifties to the late fifties, or something like that. At that time,
most of the fishing they did was right around Saint Augustine, the east
coast. The fished basically here, and north to, say, Fernandina, and from
here south to the cape, Cape Canaveral. Some time in the middle fifties,
they discovered shrimp down around Key West, what they call the dry
Tortugus(?) area and the Gulf of Mexico, and they went down there and
they would fish down there. For the most part, when they fished along the
coast here, they would go out, you know, at different times of the year,
they would go out every morning and come back every evening or
something like that. And sometimes if they went down to say, down off of
New Smyrna or up around Fernandina, they'd stay gone a week or so. And
then they would ice the shrimp and bring it back in and go back out again.
They were pretty limited. Boats were a lot smaller, like my boat was
sixty-nine feet long, I think the boats that my dad had probably ranged
from thirty-five to fifty-five feet. Which was still a pretty good sized
boat, but they were limited in their range, you know, in fuel capacity and
ice capacity, and what have you. And there was enough shrimp along here
at that particular time that that's all they needed to go. But as more
people got involved in the thing, they started depleting the resources and
what have you, and more boats became available, and you couldn't just
stay in this coast here. They started finding shrimp down in, like I said,
Key West, and they started venturing around in the Gulf, to Texas and
Louisiana, and the Mississippi coast, and then latter on they started
fishing off the coast of Mexico, even. They call it the Canapeche(?) area.
(Chris): Did you ever go with them?
(Mr. Tringali): I fished in Tortugus(?), with my boat, for a couple of trips.
But I never went on any longer trips. I think somewhere in the late fifties
to the middle to late sixties, they kept just finding new areas to go to, as
they kept expanding, expanding, and expanding. .They located a shrimp
grounds.. .off of the coast of Mexico in the Canapeche Bay area, in the gulf
of Mexico. Our boats used to work out of Fort Meyers when we fished on
that coast, and the run that they had to make from Fort Meyers to the
fishing grounds in Mexico was like seventy two hours. Three days and
Three nights, solid. By this time, my dad had changed. I mean, he didn't
have these three small boats anymore, he had two big boats. And they had
a lot more fuel capacity and ice capacity, bigger engines and what have
you. They were seventy footers, both of them. So, they would load these
boats up with ice and fuel, to the capacity, and they would go fish off the


coast of Mexico, run three days and three nights to get to the grounds.
When they first started over there, they were fishing like two to three
weeks at a time, and then they'd come back. They were only able to hold
the shrimp, with ice and preservatives, for that long. Well, as later came
along, a larger fleet became available, They had more boats going from the
United States. .They had developed a system kind of within themselves
that they would stay, the boats would go over there with the idea of
staying maybe two months, on a trip over there. And every ten days to two
weeks, there was always somebody going over, or somebody coming back.
If boats went out of Fort Meyers to go to Mexico, they probably wouldn't
leave the dock unless there was a minimum of five or six boats going, at
one time, so to speak. So there was almost always some going from Fort
Meyers, some going from Tampa, some going from Key West, some going
from here and there. There'd almost always be that going on within
different docks, and there wasn't anything dividing us, but kind of the way
it worked. So, they developed a kind of a system that you would go over
there and you would spend a couple of weeks over there and fish, but you
had shrimp that, you know, needed to be brought.back to the United States,
for sale. There were boats that were coming back, finishing there trips,
so you would put you shrimp on these boats and bring them back in. It was
an honest system, because you say, well, how could you trust this guy?
Well, at some point, he had to give the shrimp to you, so it kind of evened
out. You'd find some people that worked the system to perfection, and
you'd find some people that tried to take advantage of it a little bit, this
is in any case. It's kind of like honor among thieves, you had to, you know,
you could be put in that same situation. So every ten days to two weeks,
once the boats were coming back, the boats would call up and say 'Hey, I'm
going back in, I'm leaving tomorrow, does anybody have anything they want
me to take in?' And they'd do it. this boat would come in, and they might
have shrimp on there from ten different boats. So it worked out real well,
the shrimp were real fresh all of the time. And also, if a boat was running
low on groceries or something, or cigarettes, or they needed a little bit
more fuel or more ice, or something was wrung up in their net, the guy
would bring it back to them or something like that. They developed a
really good system with that, because it was such a distance that they had
to do something like that. And that went on for a number of years, until
those fishing grounds kind of got depleted. In the mean time, at the same
time while all of this was going on, Mexico, you see, didn't really have a
fishing fleet at that time. They were fishing off shore of Mexico, but I
think that the limit then was probably three miles off the Mexican coast..


.but the Mexican government didn't have a fleet like the United States had,
they just had little boats with people with little nets going out there, and
what have you. But they started learning the American way of doing
things, and then finally when they got there fleet built, then they'd buy old
boats from the United States occasionally. .They kind of expanded the
laws and ran the Americans off, and the fishing grounds got depleted at
the same time. Anyway, that fishing in Mexico probably lasted maybe ten
to fifteen years .So then they would start fishing mostly on the United
States coast, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Texas coast, during certain
times of the year, and then back to the Florida coast during certain times
of the year. The whole thing was seasonal. For the most part here on the
east coast of Florida, the best shrimping season is the white shrimping
season, and that would run normally from September to about December.
And that would pretty well be the end of it, that was just the way that it
worked. Sometimes after December and January and February, we would
go down to Cape Canaveral and we'd maybe get one or two good months
down there. After that that was pretty well it for this east coast of
Florida until sometimes in the middle of summer or so, we'd get another
run of shrimp, and then, that winter, September through December run
again. But then when they discovered the shrimp off of Key West, that
kind of fit into the time of year that was the void for what we had on this
coast, so we kind of went over there and we'd work over there for a few
months, and then we'd come back here and work the rest of the year. And
then when they found shrimp around like Louisiana and Texas and
Mississippi, we had the same thing. It just kind of kept spreading out
more and more. We spent two months here and two months there, three
months here, and what have you. Were it used to be, when I was a kid, my
dad had the three boats, and he basically stayed here all year round at this
particular coast, and he didn't have to go anywhere. And if you had a few
down months, you just tied the boats up and did repairs on them at that
time and did maintenance work.
(Chris): Do you ever go out with them, while you were in school?
(Mr. Tringali): Yes, I did a lot of times, like on weekends and what have
you. Most of the times it was just day trips when I went with them a lot.
(Chris): What djd you do when you were with them?
(Mr. Tringali): Well, I first started going out, and my mother was real, like
most mothers are about kids, she didn't want me going out at all. But I
had my dad and my brothers wanted me to go out, and I guess the first
time I went out was probably, six, seven, eight years old, something like
that. And we had all black guys running our crews, and they were all very


conscientious people, we were all kind of raised around with there kids
and what have you. But, when my mother would concede to letting me go,
my dad would put me on the one boat, and tell the captain 'Okay now, he's
your responsibility right here.' When I first started going out, they would
actually tie a rope around my waste, and kind of tie me to the back of the
pilot house, which is like around that area where I couldn't get to the rail
to fall over board or anything, the rope wasn't that long. I was kind of like
a dog on a leash, so to speak, because they were so scared of me, the boats
were a little small and they were afraid I would get in the way, and
something might happen, you know. Then of course after I went out a few
times, I got a little older, I started having a little more leeway, but
there'd be times when I'd have to stay in the wheel house, when they were
picking the nets up and bringing all the equipment in and stuff like that.
Then I could go back after they put the nets back over board, something
like that. But any times where it was a dangerous time, I had to kind of
get out of the way.
(Chris): So did you help with it?
(Mr. Tringali): Yes I'd help, but there were a lot of times when I was young
that I did more of getting seasick than anything else (laughs). But, when I
was really young, I never really had a problem with sea sickness, but I hit
a period, like when I got into my teenage years, it seemed like every time
I went out I would get seasick...1 don't know how that works, but anyway.
when I started fishing, myself, I never had any problem with it .Yeah, I
would help them when they brought the nets up an they had all the fish and
shrimp. And what you'd do is you sort all of the shrimp out of the fish,
and you head the shrimp, and everything else. And then you have some fish
that you keep, and at that time, mostly what we were catching, and saving
to sell, were whiting and flounder. Everything else was what we call
trash fish, like spots, and croakers, and silver eels, there's just a
mishmash of things that there was no market for. They were edible fish,
but there was just no market for them. We would just through them back
over board. I would do things like that, and help them. But, I was more of
a token, going along with them for the ride. It's quite an experience, with
doing that and learning it. But, I guess it would be just like any young kid
coming up, it's a very adventurous sounding thing. And it is. And when you
get older, you like to remember how things were always better, back
when, or something like that. I finished high school here, locally, in fact,
all of my brothers, we all did, but none of us had any aspirations about
going any farther, like going to college. We knew what we wanted to do.
We went to high school, and we graduated, only because our parents made

us do that. But we didn't feel felt like we needed that education, that's
how we were. We knew that we didn't need anything else, we were going
to be shrimpers, in some way. .Then, as logic hits you, and as reality
comes in, and then times changed considerably, the shrimping business
changed a lot, and we realized that, hey, we should have done some other
things here. I mean, it sounds very good, if you talk to people about it
now, just like I am with you, It's a very exciting, adventurous, and there's
time it seems so easy, that, you know, you just come in, and you got piles
of shrimp here, and you just get this money for it, and everything else, and
you're just like, boy, I want to get into that. And that's what a lot of
people would see, and they wanted to get into it. But they didn't see the
times when you went out there, and you didn't bring back enough to eat, or
you lost your boat, or almost lost your life, almost grounded, and
(Annie): Economically speaking, when you were living with your father,
were you high-grade, in society, or middle of the road?
(Mr. Tringali): I'd say that we were more middle of the road, but we were
never what I'd classify as poor. We never were high up there, my family
was very conservative, but I don't think we ever did without, I would say
(Annie): And then, when you had your own boats, it was just you're making
a living, basically, breaking even?
(Mr. Tringali): Basically, Yeah. I pretty well always had to have, because,
like I was saying earlier, that, we weren't able to fish consistently. The
seasons became shorter and shorter, and where you had to go to get them,
and everything else, and you just, you had a lot of down time. So, a lot of
times, when I was running the boat, or had guys running the boat for me,
we'd fish our season, September through December, and then maybe fool
around for a couple of months afterward, going down to the west coast.
But there would be periods of three or four months, and some where
probably around, maybe like March, or February, to May, that it just wasn't
worth it. The equipment that we had to work with, I guess is what I'm
saying, and, what was available, it just wasn't worth going out for. So,
we would tie the boats up. We would do maintenance work on the boats. A
lot of times I would go out and get a job. There was a couple of places
around here where I could go, and they knew that basically I was only
going to be a short term employee. But, yeah, I was just making a living,
really scratching, and everything. In fact, the last boat I had, that I
bought from my dad, I got out, because I just barely made payments on the
thing. And it got to be the point where I just couldn't do anything with it.

( 3.

And I decided that I can do this anywhere, that obviously I was not going
to make it in this field.
(Chris): Was there any superstitions with the crew?
(Mr. Tringali): Yeah, we had a lot of those little things. Like I said, we had
mostly black crews running our boats. Some of the ones I remember about
was they were superstitious, they wouldn't start a trip on Friday. When
we were fishing at home, here in St. Augustine, they would go in and out
every day, that didn't have a problem. But if they were going to take ice
and fuel and groceries and stay out for a week, they were superstitious
about starting their trip on Friday. They'd either want to start it on
Thursday, or on Saturday, but that didn't want to start it on Friday. Now,
how that came about, I'm not sure. But most of them used that for an
excuse. Later on in the years, I think, nobody could really explain why that
superstition had ever happened, but, I guess, people had gone out, and
every time they'd gone out on a Friday, they'd had bad luck in some
fashion, or another. It wasn't Friday the thirteenth, but it was Friday,
period. And so, I guess it had to evolve from that. Later on, I guess people
couldn't remember why they didn't start trips on Friday, and so, we could
kind of talk them into starting a trip, and nothing bad would happen, and
that kind of went down by the wayside...
(Chris): Were there any problems with bringing certain things on the ship,
or saying certain things while you were out there?
(Mr. Tringali): .. .We were Catholics, and we were very religious, and we
felt like, we'd have things like the blessed palms, or certain things on the
boat, but I don't think that there was any real superstitions that I can
(Chris): I'm sure that there are many stories that people would tell,
gentlemen on the crew would probably tell you many stories that they had
been through, things like that.
(Mr. Tringali): We had one guy that worked for us, one time, one black
gentlemen, that had, before he worked for us, at some point gone out and
decided he wanted to get his own boat, and run his own boat himself. He
had a small, and he'd go out by himself, that was kind of unheard of, but a
lot of people did that. If you had a small boat, it was easier to do, but it
wasn't recommended, because things could happen, and there wasn't
anybody to turn to. Well, a lot of the blacks, back then, couldn't swim, and
they would go out on these boats. Most of the Captains and crew that we
had couldn't swim. Which was a little surprising to me. I always felt
like, you know, if you're going out on something like that, well, not that if
you go up into the air, you can't fly, but, at least, if you got on a boat and

you had some problems, at least you could tread water, or you could swim
a little bit. I always found it amazing that they really had no fear of the
water. I guess that they never felt like they were going to end up getting
into the thing. Well, anyway, this one guy had a boat on his own, and he
was back on deck working one time, and he had his dog with him, that he
always kept. Just he and his dog would go out. Some how or other, he got
knocked over board, and he couldn't swim. He had his boots on and
everything, and he told me that he kicked his boots off, and he was just
fighting to keep holding up, keep floating, keep treading water, and what
have you. He said that he was able, he had put the nets back over, and he
had the cables for the nets were kind of hanging out in the water there.
And he was able to kind of tread water and get a hold of one of the cables,
to keep him afloat. He thought 'Nobody knows I'm out here except me and
my dog,' and his dog was out there looking over the rails, just crying, and
barking (laughs) .Finally he just worked his way, somehow, up this cable,
and got back on the boat, and everything. He caught the idea that he was
going to have to learn how to swim at some point, if he was going to do
any fishing by himself any more...
(Chris): Personally, were there any strange occurrences while you were on
the ship? Anything you've seen that was unexplainable? Anything you
caught that was strange?
(Mr. Tringali): Not really. I had some occasions, not really strange, or
anything I caught, or anything. I was fishing down in the Cape, one trip,
and we were tied up at the dock, down at the Cape. and it was very cold,
at this particular time. we didn't have any heat on our boats, or anything.
And we had gas stoves, gas ranges. It was very cold out, it was below
freezing. We would light the oven, and open the door of the oven, and that
would kind of heat the wheel house and everything. I never did care for
gas that much, but I did light it because it was so cold. So, I lit the oven,
and got in my bunk. And sometime during the night, it got real hot in
there. So got up, and went down, and turned it down a little bit, so it
would be just barely on. Well, I must have tuned it down too much, and
somehow, the flame went out, but the gas was still there. .1 was back in
my bunk, and I realized that it was getting cold in there. I got up, to see
what was wrong, and I realized that the flame was out, and I could smell
gas in the thing. So I got up, and opened the doors and windows, I knew it
was cold, but I had to get rid of this gas, the vapors, and everything. So I
left the windows and doors open for about an hour, and then I thought,
well, I couldn't smell this gas any more, so it must be settling down. So I
waited for another half hour, and then I decided that I was going to light

this back up again. I reached over to light the thing back up, and by this
time, it just came a big 'Whooof!', came right by me. There was still
enough gas, it knocked me back, it kind of went by me, like on the side, it
didn't hit me full face. It went by me and knocked me on my back. The
stove, of course, was in the galley, the next room was my room, and the
next room was the wheel house. It was kind of all connected, and it was
all kind of open through there. But anyway, that explosion went by and
tore the door off the hinges, about two rooms over, and blew the doors
open for the wheel house, and then cracked a couple of windows, and
everything. I just decided from then on that I was going to freeze. I was
going to bundle up and put my long Johns on, and what have you. .It's a
very dangerous occupation, there's a lot of cables, and blocks, and tackles,
and a lot of stuff overhead that can break and fall down, and there's a lot
of strain on things, and what have you...
(Chris): Do you miss it, when you think back?
(Mr. Tringali): Not really, a lot of times I miss, I guess, the first years
after I got out of it, I missed it more, from time to time. I down there to
the docks now, and I see that my brother's coming in, and he's had a good
day, I miss that part. But I don't miss the days that you didn't do anything,
you know. There would be times that I'd miss it, because, I mean, it was
still in my blood, and everything. It's an exciting thing, and there were
some good times. But,when I'm realistic about it, the good times were far
less than the bad times, as far as I was concerned. I'm not saying that for
everybody, but, as far as I've been concerned, I'm much happier, and have
been, for a number of years, this way. I've had several occasions, several
storms I got caught in, plus the time that I lost my boat, I came to losing
my life. And I haven't been put into that a lot since I've not been
shrimping. .If I'd have made a lot of money, then maybe. The potential
was there, but, I guess, I went about it wrong. Maybe by not letting my
dad help me to get something newer, or what have you, but, at the time I
just wanted to do things on my own.
(Chris): Have you ever gone back out?
(Mr. Tringali): I have, on rare occasions, just gone for the day with some
people. But I haven't been out in a long time, though, really. My brother
has said numerous times why don't I just come out with him for the day,
or something. But, I really don't even, well, Its like I've always got
something better to do, like I'd rather go play golf, or something. I don't
miss it enough, I probably should, but I haven't been in so long that it
doesn't make a difference to me one way or the other. Its a long day. They
usually start leaving at five o'clock in the morning, and they're out there


until six or seven o'clock. If I went out it would only be during the season,
because I knew that they were going to catch some shrimp, because the
rest of the time it was real boring. Its a very boring,.monotonous life,
really, when you're actually out there fishing. Basically, the way you
would go about it is that you would go out here, you either had predecided
where you were going to start fishing at, or you would pull.. .what we call
a tri-net. Which is a smaller version of the big nets that you had that
were fishing. You would pull this tri-net at different places, and that
would give you some indication of whether you should put the big nets
over, or what have you. At certain times of the year you pretty well knew
where the shrimp were going to be, so you could just go ahead and put the
big nets over. But, anyway, once you put the big nets over, depending on
what time of year it was, and how much extra trash fish you catch, you
may be dragging the nets for any where from an hour and a half to three or
four hours at a time, before you pick them up and have anything to do..
.And other than talking on the radio to some body else, and pulling your
tri-net once and a while, there's nothing to do. And your going at very
slow speed, I mean, you've seen shrimp boats off here. When they're
dragging the nets, they're probably going five or six miles an hour. So,
you're not getting any where, and there is nothing going on, and you're
sitting there dragging these two cables in the water, and that's it. Now,
when you pick the nets up, and you dump all the shrimp and everything,
then there's a lot of activity, for a little while. But then, you put the nets
back over, and you go through that same thing again. So, its very
monotonous, you know. .Its very tiring. Most of the times of the year we
would fish in the day time. But there would be certain times of the year
where that would fish at night. And we'd go out just before dark, then
we'd fish all night, and then we'd be done by daybreak. Well, if you haven't
ever worked at night before, its a real adjustment to get used to. When to
sleep and when not sleep and all of that kind of stuff .You would try to
get a nap in the afternoon, or try to go to sleep, so that you could be ready
to go that night. But at some point, it catches up with you, and with it
being monotonous, at one or two o'clock in the morning, you just had to
fight going to sleep. So, a lot of times, we had crew members, and we
would kind of take turns at the wheel. You would try to catch an hour nap,
while the other one was at the wheel, or something. Because you had to
have some body there all of the time. So, its hard.
(Chris): Would you say that the whole experience was worth it, though?
(Mr. Tringali): Oh yeah. Yeah it definitely is. It made me realize that I
didn't want to be in the shrimp business (laughs). No, I wouldn't give it up.


There's some things I would have done differently, but, if I'd have done
them right, I might still be in the shrimping business. I don't think I
handled it the right way, to be honest with you.
(Chris): Do you ever wish you were still doing it?
(Mr. Tringali): I think I'd like to approach it from a different manner, and
give it a better try .For instance, if I'd have gotten a new boat, then your
options are a lot more as far as where you can fish, when you can you fish,
and, if you're going to have some body run the boat for you, even the type
of crew you get. Let's face it, if you got a new boat, its like the best team
in football, if you get the best coach, so to speak. If you've got an old
boat, you're going to get what ever is available. So, there's a lot of things
I could have done differently. I think that, as it turns out, I wouldn't have
given the experience to anything else, but I'm glad I got out of it when I
did. .1 would have liked to have stayed in it, I mean, it was in my blood.
And I really would have liked to have been in it, and been retired out of it,
now, instead of doing this. I love what I'm doing now, but I would rather
have done that, yeah. I'd rather that have worked, is what I'm saying.
(Annie): You said you have a child?
(Mr. Tringali): Yes, a son.
(Annie): Has he grown up on the seas, at all?
(Mr. Tringali): No, my son now is thirty-two, and he really never knew.
See, me and his mom got a divorce from about the time that I got out of
the shrimping business. And he was about four or five years old.
(Annie): And that's when your memory kicks in, so he doesn't really
(Mr. Tringali): Right. Other than the fact that he hears stories like this, I
mean, he probably would enjoy this just as much as any body. When my dad
was living, he talked to my dad, and being around the boats and the docks
and stuff like that. But he didn't come up with it. He didn't have the same
experiences as a child as I did. And I think he, on the outside looking in, at
some point, just like any body when they see the shrimping business,
would say 'Boy, this really looks like a neat, adventurous type of thing,
this is exciting.' But then when you sit down and talk to some one, just
like I am with you now, telling you my experiences and things, its like,
"Well hey, I don't think that this is for me. I'm kind of glad that I didn't
get involved in that thing.' It sounds real good at certain times, but
there's always another side to the story. I think he did go out with my
brother a couple times, on occasion. He got a little bit of a taste of it, but
not really anything. A side glance is all .1 mean I think, well, I know it
is, its a dying industry, that's for sure. Its a combination of a lot of

things. A lot of people feel the way I do. .and they want to get into
something else. Or, because of regulation, or because of imports, or
because of a thousand things, its just not the industry that it was before.
(Annie): Does your brother have any children that are going to keep on the
(Mr. Tringali): No. As a matter of fact, my brother sold his boat. As a
matter of fact, today, he's getting out of it himself. He's older than I am.
He's got a son that's about the same age as my son, and I think he went out
a few times and got a little bit of a feel of the thing, but, he went to
college. I think his major is a Marine Biologist, and he works for the state
of Florida down in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area now. But I think he saw
enough of it to realize that it wasn't for him. Its the same thing. If
you're going to make a living there's a lot of other things you could be
doing. .Its just not there anymore, that I can see. I'm not saying that
some body can't do it, I'm just saying that for the most part, its not there.
(Annie): You said that you had another brother, did he get into it? Is he
(Mr. Tringali): He died. He got killed. He was between me and my oldest
brother. He worked for my dad at the time when the boats were working
out of Fort Meyers, going to Mexico. He was down there, in Fort Meyers,
because the boats would send in shrimp, they would come in, and he would
work for my dad more direct. The boats would need repairs, and he'd do a
little work, and what have you. Anyway, he was killed in an automobile
accident down there. He was nineteen years old, so it was a long time ago.
So, he never really did any fishing or anything, he was killed at a young
age. He didn't get involved in it as much as me or my brother Dominic. At
that particular time, my dad .he was probably in his early sixties, but,
when my brother got killed, my dad's attitude changed. I think my dad, up
to that point, had maybe ideas of growing, and maybe adding more boats,
and getting us all involved in the business. But at that particular, it
seemed like it kind of took it out of him. He was saying 'You know, I think
we need to get out of this.' Things started going a little bit bad in the
shrimping business about the same time. A lot of things seemed to
happen, and his attitude changed...
(Chris): Well, we appreciate you talking to us.
(Mr. Tringali): 'I wish I could have thought of some more. I'm sure I'll
think of a dozen stories or something afterward.
(Chris): That's okay. Thank you very much.
(Mr. Tringali): Sure.


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