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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Paula Horvath-Niemeyer, Brad Scavelli, Korynne Karlau, and Becky
Jefferies interviewing Captain Paul Tipton and Captain James Hewett
November 8, 1995
Paula: You're from Beaufort?
Capt. Tipton: Yeah, but I've been here ever since.
Paula: In shrimping the whole time?
Capt. Tipton: In shrimping the whole time.
Paula: Now, did you have your own boat?
Capt. Tipton:l had my own boat for a while, and I got rid of it in 1978,
and I went to work for Mr. Aaron Rawls right here in town. I ran his boat
for about 12 years, from 1980 to 1992, and then I quit, I said I give up,
I'm retiring, then James, a good friend of mine here, from Carolina, he
comes down here every summer and fishes here out of Fernandina, and he
came down here last year, and I wasn't doing anything, I was working over
at the net shop to kill the time of day
James Hewett: I hated it, I worked a little bit of it.
Paula(laughs): We caught you unaware!
Capt. Tipton: See, I've known James in fishing for, shoot, I don't know, 8
or 10 years, then when he came down here, year before last and needed
some help on the boat, I said OK, I'll help you, so I've been stuck with him
ever since ( laughs).
Paula: Yeah, we're actually going to see Aaron Rawls this afternoon.
Capt. Tioton: Yeah? I ran his boat for 12 years, The Pryor, and I left the
boat in '92, and then I got tired of doing nothing so I went to work at the
net shop, helping Billy build nets, and then when James come to town and
need a little extra help, I come on board with him. He got me hooked, I
James Hewett: We've all got in trouble, we sort of knocked on together.
Paula: It's in your blood, huh?
James: All three of us going to be 300 year old!
Paula: Now, you built this boat by hand?
James: Oh yeah, it's 19 years old.
Brad: Now, what exactly do you do in this fishing industry?
Capt. Tipton: Well, the only thing we do with the boat here is we
shrimp, this here is strictly shrimping. Commercial shrimpers.
James: Fernandina's where it all got started
Brad: Oh it is? How long ago?
James: I guess it was probably with Junior, he's the guy who owns this
Capt. Tipton: It started when the town started, I reckon.
James: I guess it was probably in the thirties.
Capt. Tipton: David was his son, Junior was his father.
James: And that's all he's ever done, is commercial.
S Paula: Now, is Fernandina mostly shrimping, or is it fishing too?
Capt. Tipton: They have a few privately-owned charter boats out of here
and that's all.This is commercial fishing town, really, or shrimping town.
James: They have a statue of a shrimper out on Center Street. Paul, you
remember what it says? Home of the commercial shrimper", or
something like that.
Paula: Why Fernandina Beach? Are there good shrimp?
James: Well, everything has to start somewhere.
Capt. Tipton: Well, this particular area right here is the most popular
shrimping area on this coast.
James: It has a good bowl, or inlets, you know.
Capt. Tipton: And the water depth is good.
James: It's particularly good for old people (laughs).
Paula: Now, why does shrimping get in your blood? It sounds like it does.
James: Well, I don't think it really gets in your blood. In the fifties, you
could make a little money, you know. Labor was cheap, and you could fit in
enough hours to compensate, you know, to make a living. We worked
normally about 16 hours a day in the summertime, so if you're getting a
dollar an hour in the fifties, you've made $16.
Paula: Which was not bad.
James: Well if you went on a dredge boat, they were paying $.75 to $1.04,
an eight hour day. You really didn't, you know, make any money, you know,
you survived. So you could stay home and shrimp and make a little more
by putting in more hours. And that's where it got started with me. Then,
you sort of get hooked. You put so much time, and of course I did a lot of
things. I built homes, or houses, boats, or whatever. Run heavy
equipment, or work on dredge boats, or most anything. So we could make a
little more cents when we put in a little more work, that's the reason I
did it. There's a lot of competition in fishing, see, and you can catch more
Capt. Tipton: Yeah, the competition has gotten so bad now that where
there used to be maybelO or 15 boats, now there's 150, and you're
covering the same grounds, well then you know what it's going to be for
the other guys
James: It gets divided up, and there's not much left.
Capt. Tipton: And you started out hauling single rigs, you know one boat
per one net, then they graduated on up to double rigs, now they've gone up
to four rigs, my gosh, it's made fishing twice as hard as it was back then.
James: The electronics they have today, nothing can't hide anymore. You
have a hangar or something, boaters can drag right round it, where it used
to be you'd have to stay away from it, you know. Stay away so you could
keep catching it. Today, you drag all around the thing. Any way, the
sloughs or anything, they wouldn't use to drag it. But today, that's gone.
You can take any body off the street, and show them. Say just follow that
line there, they drag it then they get it up.
Capt. TiDton: What he's trying to say, when we first got into the
business all you had was a CB radio, and you were lucky to get one of
those! Now the electronics they use on boats have been computer-aged,
and they do the fishing for you, really. They tell you where you can drag
and if you've got a hang out here that you don't want to get on, you punch
it in on the plotter and you can drag within ten feet of it. It makes it a lot
quicker, but like I said, there's stipulations, government,
environmentalists, the regulations they put on you now, it costs you more
to maintain what they require. You just don't make a profit anymore. A
lot of the people my age get out of the business, and a lot of people have
gotten out of the business.
James: In 1975, I hadn't gotten, I'd bought my license, but they hadn't
put the decal on, so I didn't have a decal so the conservation, and the
health department, the government, about four or five different agencies
was out there riding around, they came right up to me because I didn't
have a decal. They went all through the boat, on your name, serial number,
inspected the boat. When the guy, the conservation guy got off the boat,
he said, Mr. Hewett, I'll tell you one thing. You're in a darn business". He
really knew what he was talking about.
Paula: You see many younger people going into shrimping these days?
James: No, it's...
Capt. Tipton: No, it's mostly us has-beens (laughs).
James: Well, we're just surviving. We're not building any boats, the old
boats are gone, about like working the little woodview(?) trucks, they got
out of business last week.
Capt. Tipton: Well, I gave up in '92 and got dissatisfied with just laying
around, said well, I got to have something to do. Then I realized that
fishing was the only thing I could do, that's all they wanted me for.
Nobody wanted me anymore, after you turn 70, you know.
Paula: Tell me, how did you get into shrimping?
Capt. Tipton: Well, I came to Beaufort, South Carolina, and, of course
I'm from the mountains myself, born and raised in Asheville, North
Carolina. I'd never seen the ocean until I went in the service, and I came
to Beaufort, South Carolina, with an automobile dealership, I was selling
cars for Ford motor company, and I was offered a job in Beaufort, South
Carolina, and when I got there, I met a friend of mine who was in the
shrimping business. I'd go out with him when we was working at the Ford
place, on the weekend or on a day I'd have off, I'd go out on the boat with
him to see what it was all about, and then found out I could make more
money out shrimping, now this was back in the sixties, than I could at the
car dealership, just working on the weekends shrimping, so I said look,
this is the job for me. So I quit the Ford dealership and went shrimping.
And I've been here ever since.
Paula: Tell me what a day consists of when you're out on the boat, what
do you do?
James: What do we do?
Capt. Tipton: We ride around ( laughs)
James: We get a full day, we try to be out by daybreak or when the sun
comes up or with good daylight. Some of them work a lot earlier than we
do, but we do try to get out by daylight..
Capt.Tipton: We found out that this is a young man's business, really.
Paula: You can't get out by daylight anymore, huh?
James: Oh yeah, we get out.
Paula: And then how far do you get out? Are you usually...
James: About five miles. Shrimp generally are inshore, except, you
know, the reds and fish species offshore, but white shrimp and little
brown ones are inshore. We carry about four or five miles.
Capt. Tipton: This is their nursing area, all the inland waterways, the
sounds. That's where they're born and raised, and then they come out into
James: Well, that's not really the true facts about the water...
Capt. Tipton: That's what everybody's belief is, but nobody really
actually knows for sure.
James: A lot of time, working off shore, you catch a little shrimp in a
trial net, thinking it's a baby shrimp. I think a lot of them breed in rocks
offshore. Anyway, there are shrimp in the river, they're small shrimp, and
they do go in and out with the tide. I think they're probably born outside
Paula: Now, how do you find them? How do you know when to put your
Capt.Tipton: Well, you don't for sure, you just have to go take a chance,
unless, most of the people kind of work together, your friends are in the
business, you go out here, 8 or 10 people that you work with, well if
somebody's marking some shrimp, well you go over and put down with it.
We run a test net, a little small net, if you want to, I mean you can go
look, when you mark the shrimp in the trial net, well then you can go
ahead and put the big rigs overboard.
James: Shrimp have seasons, and when there's certain moons in the year
and the season changes, they're like everything else, they show up. Like in
the full moon in June, you can depend on it, there'll be shrimp there, and
you know in April, there's cold weather, there's nothing there, see.
They're migratory, they work up and down the beach, and that moon in that
month, they show up.
Paula: So, how long would it take to get a full catch? You put the net out,
and how long would you wait before you hauled it back in?
Capt. Tipton: Our limit to dragging is two hours, he's the captain (
laughs), most people drag for, say, three, but we make short drags. we put
down, and we run the little trial net the whole time while we're dragging,
other words we pull the little net up every 15 minutes while we got the
big nets down, and whatever you catch in the small nets determines really
how long you can actually drag the big nets, because if you're catching a
lot of garbage in the little net, you know you're really getting it in the big
nets. So then you take it up to make sure you can get what you caught
aboard. A lot of times we put over and get stuck with fish,trash fish,
jelly balls, it's hard to get the stuff on deck, sometimes you have to turn
it all loose, tip the nets and let it go, you can't lift it. The wench won't
pull it up.
Paula: So how long do you do that for then, how long do you drag for?All
Capt. Tipton: We make four drags a day, two hour drags, eight hour days,
then we come to the dock, but now the younger boys, they probably drag it
from daylight to dark, and then sometimes they wheel it around the clock.
It just depends how strong you are, and how willing you are to work.
Paula: And now how many people does that take? Both of you, anybody
Capt.Tipton: Three of us on here. Me and one other boy who works with
me on the back deck, and he's the captain. We don't get much work out of
Paula: You've got alot of respect for him, I can tell! Now what do you do
after you have everything on deck, you have the trash fish, you have the
Capt.Tipton: Then we set the nets back out, and we go through and cull
out what we want to keep and the rest of it goes back overboard to the
fish or the sharks or whoever wants to eat it.
Paula: You never keep any fish for yourself?
Capt.Tipton: Whatever we can sell
James: The turtle excluder excludes most everything, most all your large
or edible fish, and the turtles. You can go back and see, we just put a
screen in the turtle excluder, and nothing gets in there now except
Capt.Tipton: -We've got a real market on jelly balls, about the size of
softballs, you know, about this size? And we're running a three and four
inch screen in the turtle excluder, and those little ones like this will go
through that, and, my gosh, they're from top to bottom out there right now.
You can put the try net down out there right now and pull it for five
minutes and you can't hardly get it aboard, so we know darn good and well
we can't put the big rigs down.
Paula: What are jelly balls? Jelly fish, kind of?
James: They're in that family.
Capt. Tipton: It comes in a round ball with a little suction on the end
where they breathe and eat, and they float in the water and sometimes
they all settle to the bottom and then they come from the bottom to the
top. In rough weather I think they come all the way up, all the way, and
sometimes you can see a lot of them on the top, and there's not the first
one on the bottom, they're all floating.
James: They say turtles eat them, they got their notoriety!
Capt TrWton: The ocean's full of them right now, And it takes a little bad
weather to get rid of them, or something like that. They'll be here, they'll
pier up for a little while, then they disappear, but they were there
yesterday, we went out and trial-netted around for a while, didn't even
Paula: Now, do you make enough? Obviously you make enough to get by.
Capt. Tlpton: If you don't have alot to do.
Paula: There's a lot of expenses...
James It's not all bad. I'm the boss, and that's worth alot! (laughs) You
do what you want to do, you're not punching the clock.
Paula: One of the things we saw, I guess we had it from the Florida
folklife division, we had a, it was a film on shrimping, or I think it was
fishing. They were talking about superstitions, not saying certain words
on a boat, and not going out on Friday's...
Capt. Tbpton: Well, you can find that crowd anywhere, don't turn the hatch
cover upside down...
Paula: Why? What's going to happen?
Capt. Tapton: It's bad luck.
Paua: What about other ones? What are superstitions on here?
Brad: Not saying the "a" word on the boat...I don't know if I should say it.
Paula: Are there superstitions that shrimpers have?
Jarnes: Not with me.
Pate: One of the ones they said was don't say "alligator" on the boat.
You've never heard that one. huh?
Bd: Have you gotten any college education or higher education?
Capt. Tipton: Well, I never finished college myself, but I went for three
years, and then I got married and I decided I'd better go to work if I
wanted to support a family.
Paula: Where was it you went?
Capt Tiptory Highpoint College. Started out at the University of North
Carolina, first year, but then a lot of my friends who had gotten out of
service went, and this was back in the forties, and they'd gone to
Highpoint with a high school football coach, so I left and went up with
* James: He played football with Choo-Choo Chester, I don't know if you've ever
heard of him.
James: Charlie Chester, they called him Choo-Choo Charlie
Capt. Tipton: Well, that was back in the forties, that was before you were born.
Paula: At UNC?
Capt. Tipton: Yeah, well, after we got out of the service in '45, '46.
Paula: Now, where are you from? You have an accent.
James: North Carolina.
Capt. Tipton: So am I, but he's from the eastern North Carolina, and I'm from
the western, and they're a different brogue altogether.
Paula: So, you're from southeastern North Carolina?
James: Yeah, just a little bit above Myrtle Beach, 35 miles north of Myrtle
Paula: One of the other things we wanted to ask you about, there's some
wonderful storiesabout ghost ships, have you ever heard any or have you ever
seen one, or...No?
James: (laughs) no
Paula: How about big fish stories?
Paula: No big fish stories?
James: Occasionally we see a whale off shore.
Capt. Tipton: In fact, we saw one last week out here
Paula: Did you really?
Capt. Tipton: Just off the bow
James: The week before last, too.
Paula: Did you really? What kind are out there? Are they rights or...right
Capt. Tipton: We were within fifty feet of him, alongside the boat, we'd just
put overboard and I said 'God knows, James, we got a whale on the port bow
here. He just came up.
Paula: You both have been in Fernandina Beach for a while?Have there been
any changes in the time you've been here?
Capt. Tipton: Oh dear, honey, when I came here in 1972, Fernandina was
absolutely nothing. There was nothing here in 1972. We had the Palace
Saloon, and the Pantry Pride grocery store on Main Street, and that's all there
was. The post office and the courthouse, and that was it.
Paula: So it was really a fishing or shrimping community then.
Capt. Tipton: It was only a shrimping community and I guess the population
back in 1972 was less than 10,000 people. Less than 10,000 people here in
Paula: And the main industry was shrimping?
Capt. Tipton: And the two mills that we have here, ITT Rayonier and
Container Corporation of America, the two pulp mills they got here, paper mills,
that was the community. And shrimping.
Paula: When did it start to change?
Capt. Tipton: Oh, when Amelia Island took over
James: When Kings Bay became a submarine base.
Paula: When did Kings Bay come in? About ...
Capt. Tipton: Well, it started changing even before that. It started changing
really when Amelia Island Plantation came aboard. That was a corporation of
Hilton Head a development they had in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Amelia
Island was part of that group. They came in here and bought up all the property
and built the golf courses and etc all over the island, and the plantation, Amelia
Island Plantation, is actually, I guess, about controls this town now. But, shoot,
there wasn't any houses, nobody lived here, and all these subdivisions and
everything that's gone up in the last fifteen years, or the last twelve years.
Paula: Yeah, it seems like tourism is a big industry now
James: Well, that's alot because the nuclear sub base, Kings Bay, I think,did
more for it.
Capt. Tipton: Well, they've been up now, what, for about six years? No, not
James: Oh, no. Carter started it, you see. Him and Sam Nun first brought the
Capt. Tipton: Yeah, but they moved in here though about six or seven years
James: ...and they started building. Last fifteen years people really been
talking in here.
Paula: What does the fishing or the shrimping community think of all the
Capt. Tipton: Well we think it's horrible. Now I live in the county myself and it
doesn't affect me but the people that live in the city and own property in the city,
at that time, with all the other people moving into this town right now, the pricing
ran the people that were here for ages right out of business. The taxes had
gone up, in other words, people that owned a good amount of property here
and prime locations, now then, with all the development that's going on, their
taxes have gone up so high that they're having a hard time paying taxes on
their own property. And the same thing happened at Hilton Head up there a lot
of people were run out of house and home because they couldn't afford to pay
their taxes. The same things happening right here on Amelia Island.
Paula: Do you think that's happening across the country with fishing
communities, their kind of becoming popular tourist spots now and changing?
Capt. Tipton: Well absolutely. Especially in areas like this. You know, it
really caters to people that want to get on the water and move in and etc., but
you won't realize the number of homes that's been built here in the last ten
years. I mean a multitude of homes moved in here. And then Rich Carlton
come in and built a big thing on the beach and built a eighteen hole golf course
and now adding another nine. Then the plantation moved in here and built
three golf courses. And then all of the people that's retiring and etc. like that is
S looking for that kind of place to locate and Fernandina just happens to be one of
the most popular places on the coast I think.
Paula: Is the group of shrimpers, the people who do the shrimping, are they
still close, or not as much so?
Capt. Tipton: Well, it's a funny thing about shrimpers, nobody ever gets real
close. I've got about two good buddies, but that's about it.
James: I think they're still pretty close.
Capt. Tipton: Yeah, some of them are a little greedier than others.
Paula: Are there ever any times when you get together, or... You used tohave
the shrimp festival?
James: We still have
Paula: Did it used to be different than it is now?
Capt. Tipton: Oh, by all means!
Paula: What did it used to be like?
James: You'd have to ask someone who's been here longer than me.
Capt. Tipton: Well, it used to be that, I couldn't answer you except for 1972
forward, but before 1972, 1 understand it was just a strictly local, we didn't have
no people here, just the local people got together and had a little party, you
know. Now then, there's a hundred thousand people show up on Saturday to
the shrimp festival, and its gotten into more of a money-making deal than
anything else, people are putting up stands and selling things, like a big
outdoor flea market or something like that, its gotten to be a pain in the neck.
When all you're interested in is getting down to the boat and getting off to work,
and it takes you out of the way to get there, well it's gone commercial, that's all
Brad: I was going to say, I've heard it's turned into just another tourist-trap
Capt. Tipton: Oh, absolutely. They go and double price it, triple price it, hotel
prices go up, they double motel rooms and etc for anybody that wants to come
in and stay for the weekend, you pay a double price, you go to the cafes or
restaurants to eat, well then the price is doubled. You go to the bars to get a
drink, the drinks are doubled. The whole thing's just turned into a shabang.
Why people put up with it, I'll never understand. I certainly wouldn't go up there
and pay three dollars for a beer that I've been getting for a buck.
Paula: Is there anything that's taken the place of that, of the shrimp festival, for
Capt. Tipton: No
Paula: No? So they don't have any sort of get together any more?
James: Well, we take a boat out and on a Sunday we have the fishing
Capt. Tipton: Oh, we still participate in the festival.
James: We do the race and stuff... Completely taken away. We do pretty good
on a Sunday with the boats and stuff, you know, of course, Sunday is a
fisherman's day. Friday and Saturday is arts and crafts.
Paula: Now one of you guys was saying there's still a place in town where a lot
of the shrimpers gather?
Becky: This was where they told us.
Paula: Oh, Junior Cook's dock?
Becky: Yeah, that's what Charley Taylor told us.
James: Yeah, Captain Junior, you need to talk with him, too. His father got
killed and left all this to him.
Paula: Now, James, you built this boat, right?
James: Yeah, it's a lot of hard work
Capt. Tipton: He built three boats before he built this one.
James: I've built five boats altogether, this one's the biggest.
Paula: How big is this from stern...?
James: Sixty-six feet overall.
Paula: Is that about average?
James: That's a little under average, I'd say. Most of them are about seventy
feet, about seventy foot's about the average.
Paula: Can you show us around?
James: Oh sure, help yourself, anything you want to see.
Brad: I noticed on your hat, 'Net's provide Florida seafood', does this have to
do with Amendment 3?
Capt, Tipton: No, this was the, was put on the vote to do away with nets, this
was the net law that they just passed, or just voted on this past election. Now a
lot of people was against it and they started putting out T-shirts and hats and all
this stuff, but this did not pertain to the commercial, the outside fisherman, this
was more in line to get rid of the people who were dragging inside, the little
boats that dragged up and down beside the dock here, the river shrimpers, they
were trying to do away with them and especially the people that run gill nets in
the creeks, but this law did not affect the outside people only it eliminated us
from coming within one mile of the beach in the state of Florida, where we used
to be able to drag inside of a mile, now then we have to stay outside of a mile,
but I don't think people knew what they were voting for when they passed the
law, really, but we've been trying to get rid of the river shrimpers ever since I've
been fishing because all they're doing is hurting us, they're catching the little
shrimp, and what they don't use, well then they dump back overboard because
they have to be a legal count before they can keep them, and when they start
catching the little ones in the creek like this, and I mean at times they really put a
hurting on them. They catch and kill more than they can catch, but the law did
not get rid of them, it passed that they can pull a certain size net.
James: They can pull one thirty foot net, or two twenty-seven foot nets.
Capt. Tipton: It's illegal for us to drag in here, but he's got a license to drag.
They eliminated the sign that says you've got to pull a certain size net. well all
he did was do away with the larger net, and now then he can pull two. It helped
him instead of getting rid of him.
Paula: Did you have many gill netters around here?
Capt. Tipton: There was a few, more out of Mayport than here, I gillnetted for
a while myself until, well when I first came to Fernandina, you didn't even have
to have a license to gill net, then you had to buy a license, I think it cost twenty-
five or fifty bucks to buy a license, and then they made it so you had to have a
certain amount of net in the boat before you could do it, then it finally went up to
five hundred dollars for a gill net license until you couldn't catch no fish. That's
when I got out. You could only catch ten trout a day, fifty mullet a day, and they
wanted you to pay five hundred dollars for a license and pull a minimum of six
hundred foot of netting. I quit that. Kind of just like the shrimpers here now,
they're putting so many stipulations on what you can do and what you can't do
that everybody's getting disinterested in shrimping.
Paula: What's a striker?
Capt. Tipton: Well, that's the guy that runs the back deck
Paula: That's you, right?
Capt. Tipton: That's me! I got demoted. I went from Captain Tip to striker Tip.
Brad: I just wanted to hear how you felt about Amendment 3, the net ban...
Capt. Tipton: Well, I was for it, that's the reason I voted for that.
Paula: But were you for it because you thought that the river shrimpers would
be put out of business?
Capt. Tipton: Right
Paula: And they weren't.
James: Most of them, they say, not that I know, have pretty good jobs in the
week, and on their days off, they shrimp, in the rivers. They really don't need it,
if they needed it, an old grandpa clause gives them the right to shrimp in the
Capt. Tipton: The people that had a shrimp license for a good length of time
are the only ones that have it, I can't go buy a river shrimping license myself, if I
wanted to go into the shrimping business and fish in the creeks today, I could
not buy a license. As long as you've got one, then you're eligible to drag.
James: The politicians don't want to protect and take the few away, I don't
know how many there are, probably fifty or sixty or so licences floating around.
Paula: One of the things you mentioned before which I thought was interesting
was you said found shrimp, you know somebody went out in a group, and if one
person found shrimp, you went over to where they were and everybody put out
your nets, so there's not competition, or is there competition between the
Capt. Tipton: Well, like I say, we still have some greedy ones that'll tell you
after they unload where they're at.
Paula: But mostly not?
James: Except for the greedy ones
Paula: They'll keep what they're doing to themselves?
Capt. Tipton: Now, like I say, the equipment they've got on the boats nowa
days. Used to be you got a CB radio, and you could only talk a certain distance
on it. So if we were catching shrimp here, people in Brunswick, Savannah, or
Charleston, South Carolina, they didn't know anything about it. But now then,
you get a group of boats off this bar here right now and with the high power
radios and everything they've got on the boats today, you could open your
mouth on this bar like you had three or four box of shrimp a day, and the next
S day, people from Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston would be parked in your
Paula: So, you've got to keep kind of quiet if you jave a good catch?
Capt. Tipton: That's exactly right. Unless you want a lot of company because
they will come from everywhere!
Becky: Did either of you ever marry or have any children?
Capt. Tipton: Well, I'm on my second marriage. I was married to my first wife
for twenty-six years, and we have four lovely children. My youngest child is
thirty-three years old.
Becky: Do they show any interest in the shrimping industry?
Capt. Tipton: That was before the shrimping industry, well, at the beginning of
my shrimping industry. And I may have to admit that maybe my going into
shrimping was maybe because I got divorced in the first place. But I came to
Fernandina in 1972, and in 1975, I swore I'd never get remarried, but I got
married again, so the fifth day of next month, I'll be married another twenty
years. We don't have children, we had enough to start with, she had four and I
Paula:And none of them in the shrimping business?
Capt. Tipton: Well, my son shrimped with me for several years, and about
eight or nine years ago, he decided to go on his own, so he went to Hilton Head
and went to work with a golf course on a private island. I have three daughters,
one lives in Myrtle Beach, one in Beaufort, my second daughter just got married,
she lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
James: If you want to lose your wife, stay dirty and greasy all your life in the
S Paula: That's perfect for you! A lot of divorces in the shrimp business, huh?
Capt. Tipton: Uh, I think quite a few.
James: About a hundred percent!
Capt. Tipton: But, it's a rough life, especially as a young boy, if you're young
and got a family and you're trying to support the family, you've got to be away
from home a long time if you're going to make any money. You just can't go in
and out of this bar everyday, and expect to make a living. If they're catching
shrimp up the line, and you're not catching here, you better join the fleet up the
line and work. That's the way I see it. It's a young man's business nowadays
because you've got to go where the shrimp's at. Now James and I, we don't
have a lot to do. I'm retired, I draw in retirement, social security, I do this just
because I like it, and to have something to do and he's wealthy, James is, he
doesn't have to work (laughs) but he loves it so much! And he's got to keep the
boat doing something, you know, so he comes down here and aggravates me
every summer and fall! (laughs).
Paula: What happened to all your other boats? You built five, what happened
to the other four?
James: Well, let's see, one of them burned, and I built three or four for other
people. The first one I built burned, it was three, three and a half years old.]
Capt. Tipton: And they made so much money with the boats that he built, he
decided to build one for himself and go into the business, get out of the boat
building business, and go into the shrimping business.
James: I told him, I couldn't afford a boat so I'll build me one.
Becky: How long does it take to build a boat? How long did it take to build this
James: It takes three people five months, and it takes about six weeks to rig it
Brad: Is that working day in, day out?
Capt. Tipton: Yeah, that's no slack time, I can bet you that.
James: It takes about six months with three of us doing it.
Capt. Tipton: But, I'd have to say this, putting up for James, this is the nicest
shrimp boat there is on the east coast. Most of them you go onto, they're
greasy and dirty and filthy and this boat is kept like a home, that's the way it
should be kept.
Paula: Well, it is a home, really, isn't it?
James: I stay here for about ten days, then go I home, stay about a week.
Paula: Do you have a home in Fernandina?
James: No, in Carolina.
Capt. Tipton: This is his home away from home.
James: We stay in St. Augustine then we came up here.
Paula: That's another town that's changed. Can you show us around the
boat? We'll follow you around with the microphone.
Capt. Tipton: Well, we start in the kitchen area here. This is where you spend
about 90% of you time.
James: We got the kitchen, the bathroom.
S Tp This is the captain's bed, he has the double- size bed, and this bed is the
striker's, where the striker sleeps, then, of course, we have the bath and the
shower, just like you would have at home. It's a little more restricted area.
Then, upstairs, we're into the wheelhouse, this is where you manuever from.
This is where one of the boys sleeps. This all the equipment, the electronics,
and all that stuff. Like I said, this is where the boat is piloted from, right here you
steer the boat, this is the controls. This is where you operate the boat from.
Then we have VHF, plotter, lowlands, radar, depth recorders, anything you want
as far as electronics are concerned. And while we're working, this is where you
spend most of your time. The captain's up here running the boat, then when
you get through on the back deck, well then normally you just join him up here,
and we sit around and talk, shoot the breeze until it's time to pickup again.
Becky: Do you have alot of lagtime when you're out here usually? A lot of slack
time when you're not really doing anything?
Capt. Tipton: Oh, yeah, well, normally, like I said, we drag either for two hours
or two hours and a half, then we pick up, and when we dump the bags or catch
on the back deck, well then it normally takes us forty, forty-five minutes or so to
pick out what we want to keep, and thenwe have spare time for another hour,
hour and a half, and we just come sit around. It's not as hard as it appears to
be. It's really easy because your wench and your equipment does all the work,
all you do is operate the lines and stuff.
Paula:You've had to, over the past ten, fifteen years, you've really had to
become educated with all the new technology, then?
James: Well, I still don't have enough sense to understand it!
Capt. Tipton: But we manage! Yeah, everything has gotten very sophisticated
now, so to speak.
Becky: For the naming of the boat, how do you decide on a name?
James: A name? Well, this one's named after my daughter, my baby daughter.
Becky: Do most shrimpers name them after family members then?
James: I think so.
Becky:Is there a reason why they're all named after females?
James: Mostly all ships are named after females.
Becky: Is there any reason?
James: Well, I think it's appropriate!
Paula: Do you think of your boat, or do you call it a ship...
James: I call it a boat
Paula: Do you think of it as having a personality?Can boats have
James: I guess they do. I would say every boat's different and you could say
that was a personality, but there's never two boats that are identical, that work
Paula: What's this one like?
James: Ah, it's aggravating!
Capt. Tipton: At times! And then at times it's pretty good, when you've got
three or four boxes of shrimp on the board.
S( outside, on the deck)
James: This is the turtle excluder. See, they come in this way, and when they
come into here, see the holes, that comes up like that, whatever comes in here
Capt. Tipton: All the smaller stuff goes through the screen.
Paula: Now, did this cut down on your catch at all? Or have you always had
those on there?
James: Well, it depends on where you're dragging at. If the bottom's grassy, it
will hurt you. It the bottom's plain, it won't hurt you.
Capt. Tipton: Once we get outside and put everything out, we let the
outriggers down on each side, when you run the door to the twin blocks at the
end of the outriggers and then today, while we're working, the only thing that
comes back aboard is just this bag, everything else is just left out there. You
dump the bag, or whatever you've got caught in the bag, onto the deck here,
you retie them and throw them back overboard and start over again. So this is
the only thing that's ever brought aboard during the day, while you're working.
Korynne: Where do you dump the shrimp after you get it on board?
Capt. Tipton: A lot of stuff's stored in the bins down below. After we get them
up and get them headed and everything, then we have ice bins on each side
down here. See, on each side, there's bins, four bins, and then up front you can
put on thirty or forty blocks of ice, bars of ice, and we store the shrimp in there,
say, a week at a time. You can keep shrimp on ice for a week and they're
perfectly fine. This is where they're stored and kept during the week. Then you
come in and pull in to the dock, where you unload and you've got to shovel the
all thing out into the scales. Then, once you start a bin we have the holes here,
after that, you don't have to go down below, you just dump the shrimp through
the holes here in that bin, and then periodically, you go down and put ice on it.
Now one of our projects today was to put new bridles on the wench. This is
your workhorse, you see. This portion here does all the work. When you turn
this on, well then, that handles all the job. All you're doing is just working the
lines, and picking up stuff, and putting the lines around the head gear, and it
reels everything up, takes the doors(?) in and out, raises the outriggers, lowers
the outriggers, but then when the bridles get rusted and bad, you've got to
replace them every year. So, we're just putting on a new set of bridles, we've
got one set on, and now then we've got to turn the boat around to get that side
next to the dock where we can reel the bridles down to put them on. This is the
small net that we run, now this is a different wench that you can reel it in every