Title: Interview with Aaron Pryor Rawls
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006867/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Aaron Pryor Rawls
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
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: UF00006867
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 17

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Brad: So Abram...You're somehow involved in the fishing business.
What exactly do you do?
Aaron: Well, you want to get the name right Aaron. A-A-R-O-N.
Brad: Aaron, Oh, okay, Aaron, sorry. So, what exactly do you do in
the fishing business?
Aaron: Well, what I'm doing right now is boat repair mostly and I
also operate a shrimp boat as a captain.
Brad: Shrimp Boat? Yeah it seems a pretty big shrimping industry
down here, Fernandina.
Aaron: Yeah, Fernandina is pretty, pretty large in the shrimping
industry and according to the history is where shrimping is actually
Paula: Give us a little bit, before, before we went on the tape here
you were telling us when you came or when your family came to this
area. Tell us...
Aaron: Well, we moved here in 1947 and we were not directly
involved in the shrimping until the very late 1950's. I graduated out
of high school in 1957 and started shrimping then. I shrimped,
shrimped a small boat- 45 foot boat and all the boats were
single-rig at that time. They only pulled one net and I shrimped
probably until about 1959 and then got out of the shrimping business
for several years and it was just, probably about 1969 when I
started working here at the boatyard. Working on boats and doing
some shrimping.
Paula: Was the boatyard' started by your father?
Aaron: Yeah, my dad started the boatyard in, uh, about 1960 I think
when the boatyard started.
Paula: Mainly for repair or did he build?
Aaron: Well, there was boats built here. They, uh, our boat, The
Pryor, the keel was laid in 1957 when I started shrimping and that
one and another boat was built here and the railways was built
underneath the boats and launched and then we started talking boats
and boat repair, doing haul-outs.
Paula: And have you continued, it sounds like you have continued
doing doing haul-outs, and repair throughout.
Aaron: Well, the business has been in operation, consis...,
continuously since about 1960. That was when the first boat,
somewhere about then was when the first boat was launched and,
um, then several other boats was built here. One of the old Greek
boat builders got burnt out from down town and came here and
started building boats and I just, just when, it was somewhere about
the mid-60's and he was building boats here when he had a
heart-attack and died. He wasn't here at the place when he had the
heart attack. Built boats here until he died.
Paula: Now, are there other boat building and boat repair places then


and now?
Aaron: Yeah, there was, well then, the Tilly-lcus family had a big
boat building business in town. Jimmy DiOnis was brother-in-law to
the Tilly-lcus's. He did work for them, it was largely through the
Tilly-lcus family that he came here. He was actually a Greek from,
from the old country and came here to build boats. Um, three of his
sons are still here in town, none of them are in the boat building
business and there is several of the Tilly-lcus family that's still
Paula: So, are there any other boatyards now?
Aaron: There is one other boatyard that they haven't hauled any
boats this year. The Cooks, downtown have a, ah have a railway.
They've hauled a couple of boats this year, they've been busy
shrimping. They haven't messed with the railway much this year.
There's no other railways here. There's a couple haul-outs in
Sul-Deason. Some of them do lift shrimp boats out occasionally.
Paula: And your, your business has changed somewhat, did you use to
be more into the shrimping itself and have now stopped doing some
of that? Or uh...
Aaron: Well, um like I said when I was right out of high school I
shrimped for a couple of years, about two and a half years, and that
was pretty steady but since then I've not really been full time in the
shrimping business. I've been a hole lot more full time in the repair
business. The repair business here used to be a lot busier than it is.
We used to have 7 or 8, sometimes as many as 10 employees here.
But, um, the shrimping business has declined considerably the um,
the boats are thinned out considerably and the economy in the repair
business has in what we are doing has dropped somewhat and I got
tired of training people and they go off somewhere else and work, so
I pretty much do it myself now.
Paula: So, do you build at all now?
Aaron: No, no there's no boats being built here we do some pretty
major repairs on the boats occasionally. Repairing planks, or
replacing planks or sometimes the structure, rivers in the boat, tie
? timbers or ribs, very occasionally a horn timber or something like
Paula: It sounds like you do a lot of wooden, wooden repair, do you
also repair steel hull?
Aaron: Most of the repair we do is wood. The fiberglass and steel
don't need a lot of repair.
Paula: I would think on that fact probably it would cut down in your
business as well.
Aaron: The fiberglass hulls has but there really isn't, there really
isn't a tremendous amount of fiberglass hulls
Paula: A lot of steel around or not?
Aaron: Not well, there's probably more steel than there is
fiberglass. Even though its probably not real consistent in this area
there's probably more fiberglass boats here than there is steel hull


right in this area. Most of your really large shrimp boats are steel.
Paula: How did your father get into this industry, this was not
something he had background in right?
Aaron: Well, my dad's family was very water oriented. He himself
was a mechanic. He worked with ITT Ranier for quite a few years
and he was employed with Ranier at the time that we got into the
shrimping and the boat repair business and was the one, I guess you
might say was responsible for that because I started shrimping right
out of high school. And, dad bought this little ole, raggity old boat
that, that we learned how to shrimp with, and I guess being young
and not too and not too aggressive I got tired of shrimping and got
out of it.
Becky: What made you start shrimping in the first place if your
family wasn't in it?
Aaron: Actually, what what got me is I've always liked the water,
liked the sea, ect. We live right here on this little creek you know,
oh it's just, it's very convenient to be, you know, be on the water a
lot and in my junior year I went out on a shrimp boat one day and
really liked it and enjoyed it so that's when I decided I wanted to go
Brad: Just one day you decided?
Aaron: Well, I don't guess I decided until I was out of school but, um
for the lack of something better to do I went shrimping Well,
actually when I mentioned going shrimping, when dad got interest in
buying a boat which he probably had this dream for a while of you
know owning a shrimp boat and having shrimp boats. We bought this
45 foot boat for four thousand dollars and it was probably worth
four thousand dollars.
Paula: And that's where you probably first got into repairing boats.
Aaron: Well, it was a challenge keeping the boat afloat. The deck
leaked about as bad as the hull did, which really didn't leak all that
bad. Back in those days we didn't have as much of a worm problem
here in Fernandina. The marine bugs and ect. things to Ranier
primarily because of the acid they dumped in the, in the rivers,
they're cooking acid, process of the mill, there, we had very little
barnacle problems and no worms. They just took care of all the
marine bores and a few other things too it didn't seem to affect the
shrimping, the shrimping was better then than it is now. So, I mean,
it's not...
Paula: How -many people were shrimping back then when your dad got
into it?
Aaron: It would really be difficult for me to even give you an
estimate on that but there sure seemed to be a lot more boats
Paula: Then?
Aaron: Yeah, a lot more then. The last seven or eight years I guess
there have been very few boats being built and replacing boats. Most
of the people who lose a boat either goes and buys a boat that's
already in operation or they get out of the business.


Paula: What was it like those first few years getting in the
business? Could you make a living at it? Learning it all that like?
Aaron: Well, I guess we did all right. I was treated like I was still
in school and I didn't actually receive any money myself you know?
But we was able to build a boat and get the railway business in
operation, ect so I guess there must have been some money in it. I
know that a lot of the other people did real well in the late 70's.
There was a real big boom in the shrimping business. Lot of people
got fleet of boats at that time and then it just seemed to crest over
the hill and start declining again. In our business here, one of the
real problems I guess you say, if we have a real good year of catch,
the prices go down so its kind of like you know, you can only make so
much money. They're not gonna let you get wealthy because if you
catch a lot of shrimp the prices go down so you work harder for the
same amount of money. And I don't know if you want this
information or not but there's government regulations now is, it's
really choking the shrimping or the fishing industry down real bad
now. It's getting, it doesn't seem to be any ease any let up on it all.
It's just getting more and more complicated, more difficult to
comply with regulations.
Brad: The one that we're familiar with most is the Amendment 3.
Has there been anything else?
Aaron: You mean the net ban?
Brad & Paula: The net ban.
Aaron: Well the net ban in itself, as far as the shrimper is
concerned probably hasn't hurt the shrimping industry very much. It
has hurt it some. Now, I'm speaking from in North Florida area, in
South Florida and the Gilf Coast it's probably hurt them considerably
more than it has here because we are banned from one mile in here.
We can't go within one mile of the shore, the Gulf Coast they, it's
three miles.
Brad: Oh.
Aaron: That probably restricts them considerably more. I'm not
familiar with the Gulf Coast shrimping side, real good to give you
any information on it.
Paula: Now in your yard here, you usually, you mostly repair
Aaron: Mostly commercial.
Paula: Or do you do recreation?
Aaron: Not very many. Not very many.
Paula: So you're about the only person here that if a commercial
shrimper has a problem with his boat that they can come to?
Aaron: Well no, cause there is one in St. Mary's that, that hauls
commercial boats and St. Augustine is not very far away, is not too
far to take a boat and then there's places in Brunswick that also
hauls boats out. There's a one in Ft. George, Daily's, used to be
Daily's Marine, I think it's some other name now, Deaton or
something like that. If you can afford it Pablo Creek will lift out a

fiberglass hull, I don't think they're lifting wood hull boats anymore,
at least I heard they wasn't. Most of the places they work with
pleasure craft, they, prices are considerably higher and people don't
go there as much.
Korynne: What's the average price to lift one out?
Aaron: Well, really couldn't tell you because I don't, I don't shop
around and mine, I just charge for the railway regardless to the size
of the boat. I can only haul one boat at a time so I just charge the
same price regardless to what size boat it is. So, it's a bargain for
the big boats it's kind of high for the small boats.
Paula: Thinking back to when you got in the shrimping business just
after high school, what was it like to grow up after that time, or to
live after that time in a shrimping family with both you and your
Aaron: Well, I think there was a lot of freedom in shrimping then.
The only thing that really kept you from shrimping was the weather
and equipment. The regulations, we had actually very few if any
regulations at that time. You could shrimp most anywhere you
wanted to most anytime you wanted to. If there was shrimp there
you shrimped, if there wasn't shrimp you didn't.
Paula: Was it a hard life? Or is it a hard life?
Aaron: Well, I think it's a hard life, you're outside with the elements
all the time, if it's cold you're cold, if it raining you're wet, if it
wind's blowing hard you have to hang on or go home.
Paula: How about for the other members of the family. We just got
done talking to Captain Tipton, I think it was he who said that there
were 100% divorces in the shrimping business.
Aaron: Well, probably it toes make it kind of hard on family life but
I don't know that I could, I would say 100% divorces but some boats
go out for a week, thirty days, up to thirty days, some of them even
stay longer than that. Freezer boats and etc. that they have now
there are quite a few boats that go out and back in every day. Them
guys pretty much spend the night at home every night.
Paula: How did you use to operate yours?
Aaron: That's the way I operate mine.
Paula: And do you have any sons that are in the shrimping business?
Aaron: Nope, I have a son but he's not in the shrimping business, not
in the boat repair business, not in the boat business, not in the
marine business.
Brad: Did you have something to do with that?
Aaron: No, I allowed him to make his own decision and he chose
computers, graduated from Georgia Tech and he's a computer
software engineer, works for Linear Worldwide in Atlanta.
Paula: So, he had no desire to go in anything marine
Aaron: No, he was very capable, he could do any of the repair work
that I do but it was not what he wanted to do. I certainly supported
his decision and even though I didn't do it all by myself I helped him
through Georgia Tech and he did an awful lot of it himself but... I

have no regrets that he chose that field because that's what he
wanted to do.
Paula: Would like to have seen him go into shrimping? What if he
had said he wanted to?
Aaron: I would have supported him, I wouldn't have talked him out of
it. I just really believe that when kids grow up and make
responsible decisions, you know, let them make their decisions.
Paula: One of the other things we're interested in is finding a little
bit out about Fernandina Beach itself. How it was years ago.
Aaron: Well, that's kind of like the shrimping business itself quite a
few years ago. Well, it was a very small little town. Had three
basic ways of making a living in Fernandina. It was either you
worked for Container Corporation, or Ranier, or you shrimped. They
did have the Pogy boats at that time too. Pogy boats was very
seasonal, the Manhattan industry, where we always called the Pogy
boats, Pogy shrimping, Pogy fishing. Then some of the Pogy
fishermen would Pogy fish during the season and they would shrimp
during that season and when there was a lapse of the two seasons,
of the shrimping and Pogy fishing they did which ever one they
wanted to do or which ever one was available. Then small
community wasn't much in the tourist industry at that time and the
island was, very little of the island was developed at that time. You
knew just about everybody and those you didn't know knew who you
knew so you know, you couldn't get away with much. Everybody knew
your dad, knew where he worked.
Paula: Where there any, I know in some towns, you have almost a
competition among kids whose parents work in different industries.
Aaron: Well, we had these little things you know if your dad worked
at Container you had this little group that if your dad worked at
Ranier you had this little group but then it was, it was small enough
that you kind of had to be friend with all of them. You couldn't really
just exclusively stay with you own little group and everybody on the
island went to the same school it wasn't like you know that you
didn't your kids in your age group, you know, because they were all
right there in class.
Paula: How old were you when you came here?
Aaron: I was seven.
Paula: What was the, the public stereotype or conception of
shrimpers? I mean did the other people, were they regarded as the
loners or were they regarded as...
Aaron: I don't think there was any discrimination or anything that
made you a first rate or second rate citizen. There was, we had a
pretty good mix in most all of them where there's mill workers or
there's shrimpers, whatever they were, they had the good, the bad,
and the indifferent in all of the crews.
Paula: What did the town look like? Like if you could take us on a
verbal tour of the town.
Aaron: Well, that would take quite an imagination. One of the things

that stands out in my mind the most, when we came here to
Fernandina and the communication was unique. I don't know how
many they had on the police department but if they had an emergency
call for the police chief, there was a little red light bulb in front
there, right in the middle of Centre Street right across from the
intersection right there at Atlantic Avenue and Second Street there
by the Palace Saloon. And if the police chief was driving around
town and he seen the red light on he knew that he had to go back to
the station and see what kind of emergency they had. The funeral
parlor was the ambulance service as well. I don't, the fire
department was, seemed to me that they did have a fire chief but
most all of the firemen where volunteers.
Paula: Where there any big stores or what was the town like?
Aaron: Yeah, there was, well not any big stores like you might call
Wal-Mart, K-Mart, the big chains like that, it was hardware stores
where hardware stores, dry good stores were dry good stores,
grocery stores were grocery stores. It was mostly pretty country
type grocery stores until Winn-Dixie came to town and when
Winn-Dixie and then Pantry Pride built a store. They changed the
names of Pantry Pride from one thing to something else. And then
Winn-Dixie bought out the Pantry Pride or whatever it was, of
course that was seven or eight years ago.
Paula: When did this town start changing?
Aaron: That would be kind of hard to say because I think that it's
been changing all along. One of the biggest changes was when they
developed the south end of the island with Amelia Island Plantation.
And then we had what I consider three groups of people in town.
This don't have very much to do with the shrimping business. Three
groups of people in town: you had the developers, you had the
non-developers, and you had those that really didn't care. And we
still got that. We got a group of people that would like to blow the
bridge up, not let anybody else cross, and then we got other people
that'd like to close down the factories and make it a tourist resort
and then we probably got some people who really care.
Paula: How was the fishing community and shrimping community
itself back then? Was it a tight group of people?
Aaron: I think it was and still is. I think the shrimpers probably,
well they're very independent in one sense of the word but they're
not independent as far as friendliness. They most of your shrimpers
have a you know I'm gonna get mine, you get yours if you can but
they're not going to hurt you. They're not going to hurt you, they're
not going to get in your way, they're not going to take away from
you, they're not going to give you bad advise. They might not give
you any advise but they're not going to tell you anything that would
hurt you or give you any information that would be disrasterous to
your boat or equipment or making a living. There's little groups that
kind of work together a little better than others but most all of
them are very friendly if .. And it's happened on occasion to myself


and other people if your boat breaks down, they're pretty regular,
they'll come right to you and help you get your equipment on board,
bring your boat back to the dock for you, whatever. It's a well knit
community that way, a good commodity. One of them happens to
stumble into a good school of shrimp, he may not call everybody and
say well come help me catch these shrimp.
Paula: It used to be, we talked with several people, the Shrimp
Festival used to be really a shrimpers...
Aaron: Well, it started out that way. A matter-of -fact, when I
started working here at the boat yard it was about 1969, the couple
of weeks, or a week before the Shrimp Boat, we used to call it the
shrimp boat races. I hauled nine boats on two railways in one week.
Some of them, all we did was change the propeller on the boat
because the guys wanted the boat to go the fastest that they could
during these races and spent a lot of money. Jeopardized their
equipment a lot because they would get mechanics to come over and
tune the engines and turn the governors up so they could get another
couple RPM's out of it. It was a lot of fun. I never did get to see a
shrimp boat race, would you believe that?
Paula: Didn't you really?
Aaron: Never saw a shrimp boat race.
Paula: You never went to one?
Aaron: Never went to them. I worked so hard before the races, I
would just go home and take the weekend. I didn't want to see
* shrimp boat, I didn't want to be in Fernandina. I lived in Jacksonville
at that time and I wouldn't answer the phone.
Paula: Now its become something totally different?
Aaron: Totally different,' however, the last two, the last two years
they've had little short bursts of speed by the shrimp boats during
the blessing of the fleet after all the boats go through the blessing
of the fleet and its also when they judge the boats, see which ones
are the best decorated and I don't know how many categories they
got but its water otherwise but then they let the boats kind of pair
up and for probably less than one hundred yards they let them ride
open you know and they'll give them a big applause and announce
which one of them won and the one that won was usually the one who
pressed the throttle in first and got a little jump on the other guys
because it's a little too short a distance to really catch up with
another boat or outrun them.
Paula: But that's something the fishing community feels they've
Aaron: I don't know of any of the shrimpers that really regrets that
there's not shrimp boat races. I think they liked the idea for a good
time but you probably heard what really made it bad was some of the
promotional they did. They was real late on delivering what they
promised the shrimpers and it got to were the shrimpers felt that
they were being used, that because of the shrimp boat races, they
was bringing all these people into town and the local merchants and


ect were reaping all the benefits and the shrimpers out there having
fun, spending money and not getting rewarded as promised. And they
just after a couple of years, I was told that they paid last years
* prizes so that the people would race this year. And that happened
once or twice and they decided it wasn't worth...
( end side one)
Aaron: ...the Shrimp Boat Festival and now they've pretty much taken
the boat out of it and called it the Shrimp Festival.
Paula: So now you work mainly in the yard.
Aaron: Most of my work is boat repair. I don't work just here but
most of my work is on shrimp boats.
Paula: What do you think the future of the shrimping industry is
going to be?
Aaron: I believe that it will survive. I don't think that it will be as
many people in the business. But I think that's one of the things that
will make it survive. The shrimp itself, its a lot research and a lot
of things I don't understand about the shrimping or about the shrimp.
Reproducing and ect. We was told a few years ago that the decline in
the shrimp was because of the very cold winters that we had, but
then we had several very mild winters and they didn't seem to make
any difference. I don't really think its because of the shrimp is over
shrimped because that's to the best of my understanding that the
shrimp only live for about 18 months and if you was to, if you was to
really take care of them and with something like that how can you
over shrimp it? Of course, if you kill all of the sea than that could
maybe, eventually wipe it out and the old American system, the
profit, if you take the profit out of it, the people's going to quit, and
when they quit then it wtll come back, when it comes back they'll
jump in there and make a profit again and it'll probably decline again
but I think the shrimping business will continue.
Paula: Are there any things that are unique about the shrimping
community, I know one of the things that we talked about were
superstitions or sayings?
Aaron: People don't seem to be nearly as superstitious as it was
when I started shrimping.
Paula: What were some of the...
Aaron: Well, one of the very first things and I guess if there's
anything that still continues is turning the hatch cover upside down,
they get real upset. Some of them will get real upset if you turn the
hatch up, you have to pick it up and set it right side up when you set
it down. And the other one, another one that was I think it was
more with the Portugese they didn't like for you to call a porpoise a
porpoise on the boat. If you saw a porpoise in the water you was
supposed to call that a fisherman.
S Paula: What was the story behind that, do you know?
Aaron: I've no idea. But, I was told that. Nobody ever told me not to
call a porpoise or a dolphin or whatever. Run across two or three
people that said 'Boy you better not call that a porpoise on that


guys boat' and there's not a whole lot of things, that I remember of
being superstitious.
Paula: Any stories of wrecks or close calls or some kind of legends?
Aaron: No, very now and then you hear something about an
astronomical catch of shrimp
Paula: A what?
Aaron: An astronomical catch of shrimp, maybe thirty, or forty, or
fifty hundred pounds in one drag.
Paula: Do you believe it?
Aaron: Yeah, I believe it. I believe its a very rare situation but yeah
I believe it
Korynne: You said that all the fishermen are friendly and they don't
have ill will towards each other, but are there any stories about
pirating and pirates?
Aaron: I don't know of any situations of any pirating now we've got
as in any situation you've got a few thieves around that will break
into the boats and steal things. They will steal shrimp of a boat,
they'll steal electronics of boats and things like this. I don't think
it's one shrimper stealing from another shrimper, I think its just the
bad element that's everywhere. Today they consider the drug
involvement, people wanting drug money back years ago they stole
shrimp, but drugs wasn't quite as bad, maybe 'it was alcohol or they
just felt that they could do it and get away with it.
Paula: Any other unique things about shrimpers? Things they wear,
* things they carry?
Aaron: I don't know of anything that's symbolic of the shrimper
other than maybe you see them in boots a lot. They're, I guess
because they wear the b6ots of the boat so much that they just put
the feet in the boots and wear them.
Korynne: One thing we've noticed is we see a lot of them just white
boots. Is there any reason why white is such an outstanding color?
Aaron; No, when I started shrimping it was black boots and a matter
of fact if you wanted a really good pair of boots they were a maroon
color. And most of them were knee boots and the guys didn't like the
top of the boot rubbing against their leg so bad so they turned the
boots down, I guess that's why they came out with the shorter boots
but even now the shorter boots a lot of people turn them down
because they're chafing against their legs. But the white boots, I
guess I know that I like about them is they're cooler. If you're on the
boat during the summertime you don't have all that black absorbing
the heat making your boot real soggy weather it rains in them or not
because your feet sweat. But I guess Uniroyal or whoever made them
felt that they could make them white and everybody would like them.
But there's nothing symbolic or superstitious about it. They don't
wear a special hat, they don't wear a special shirt or whatever like
this that I know of. Paula: What was the one we kept hearing, in one
of the tapes that we listened to was you can't say alligator.
Aaron: Never heard that one


Becky: What about people not going out on Fridays?
Aaron: That's pretty common, not starting a trip on Friday.
Becky: Does that ever come back to you, not working on a boat? We
I were talking to Billy Burbank and he said some fishermen will tell
him not to start a net on Friday. I wonder if that came back on you.
Aaron: This Friday business I've had heard that related to more than
just the shrimping business. I don't think there's anything really
unique about that at all. I know one particular situation where the
guy left at eleven thirty or something like this at night on a
Thursday night just to keep from starting his trip on Friday. But,
whether it really makes any difference, it doesn't bother me, I've had
about as much good luck, bad luck either way.
Korynne: You named your boat the Pryor?
Aaron: Actually I didn't name the boat the Pryor, my dad named it
the Pryor.
Korynne: Do you know why?
Aaron: Yeah, my daddy's daddy's name was Pryor. First name Pryor
Rawls. It was his first name. The boat was named after him, which
was my dad's middle name and is also my middle name.
Paula: Now, most people name their boats after women.
Aaron: Yeah, strangely enough even though this boats got a male
name we still call it a gal, you know? I really get into trouble when
I start talking about this, the reason why it is is because it's
Paula: Actually, we were talking with Tip and we said does your
boat have a personality, the boat that he works on, and basically he
said that she was cantankerous.
Aaron: Yeah, I guess that was something that was started way, way,
way, way back you know calling boats female gender its just every
boat that I know of whether its named male or female or its named
after some object it still 'she handles good' or 'she won't do this' or
'she pulls poor', 'she rolls bad', 'she's a real stable boat' it's always
with the female gender.
Korynne: I know in the old times they used to christen the boats, do
they do anything like that with these, with shrimp boats.
Aaron: We've never here that I know of gone through any type o a
ceremony or busted a bottle of champagne on the bow of the boat,
whatever launched. There's, talking about superstitions, going back
just a bit, some people consider it a superstition to, or bad luck to
change the name of a boat. And a lot of times they will keep the
same name on the boat even though t been handed down two or three
times. Of course, the only thing that's bad luck about it that I can
see is it costs you a hundred dollars.
Paula: Now, how long will a wooden shrimper last?
Aaron: That is a loaded question right there because it really,
there's so many things that are involved in how long a wooden hull
will last, the original construction has a lot to do with it, how good
of material was it built with and how well it was cared for, what

type of weather it was fished in, fish a boat in real rough weather,
it's not going to last very long. If you don't shrimp the boat or fish
the boat in real rough weather it can add to the life. The, I guess
*there's little boat in town, pretty good shape that was built in
1937. So, that makes it a pretty old boat. It's a small boat by
today's standards, it's a fifty foot and our shrimp boat is, the keel
was laid in 1957 but it wasn't launched until '64, that makes it
about 36 years old.
Paula: What kind of wood is the best to make...
Aaron: Well, most of them are the wood hull boats, the keel is made
out of pine and most all of the, what we call the tie timbers, that
ties the ribs to the keel, floor timbers, they're also called, are made
out of pine. The ribs in your round hull are the steam bit ribs are
made out of oak and if its a hard shine boat they cut the ribs, they
cut them out of pine. Most of the planking is cypress.
Paula: And why all the different kinds of woods?
Aaron: Well, you have the structural strength in pine and oak and the
cypress is a softer wood, it swells much tighter joints when it gets
wet and its a little bit easier to bend and twist, get the curves and
ect that you need for the boat. The boats that was built by the big
boat manufacturers in St. Augustine that do some engine sales, they
use fir for the planking instead of cypress and I think it was largely
because of the availability to them of the fir over the cypress.
Paula: How long does it take to build a boat?
Aaron: I guess the big boat business down in St. Augustine was
talking about on the production line basis I think that it took about a
week for them to turn out a boat a week. Actually, to from ground up
to built a boat is anywhere from six weeks to six months depending
upon the available materials and how many you had on your crew and
how hard you worked at it.
Paula: Where there a lot of shrimpers that built their own boats?
Aaron: There was, I wouldn't say a lot, but there are a good number
of shrimpers that built their own boats. There's quite a few of them
that's had their boats built pretty much to their specifications.
Paula: How much would a boat cost today?
Aaron: I have no idea. Well, I guess that's not really right, I guess I
would have an idea. I would think that if you was to build
somewhere around a sixty-five or seventy foot boat today, wood hull
boat, and completely outfitted it it would cost you a hundred and
fifty thousand, dollars.
Paula: What are the advantages or disadvantages of a wood hull over
a steel or fiberglass?
Aaron: I don't think there's very many advantages towards wood, I
think most of your advantages would go to fiberglass and steel
S because of the longevity of it. Finding good material now to build a
wooden hull boat is pretty hard to do. If you build a boat with a one
piece keel you got to find a pretty good size tree to cut the keel out
of. A seventy foot boat would have about a sixty foot keel that's


after they dress it down would be about a ten by twelve. That takes
a pretty good size tree to cut that out of. Then your other materials
in the boatis you know big too. That's one of the things that I think
has shortened the life of the wooden hull boats is that they built the
big boats with the basically the same structural dimensions as they
did the smaller boats. A forty five foot boat would have a nine by
twelve keel, the oak two before ribs would be on fourteen inch
centers and then they went right on up to the fifty-five, sixty-five,
and the seventy-five with the nine by twelve keels, oak two before
ribs on fourteen inch centers. They'd have about four bulkheads on
the boat, forty-five foot boat the bulkheads were ten feet apart. You
could get a seventy foot boat and the bulkheads were twenty foot
apart. You don't have the real structural strength in the bigger boats
because of it. You'd have to have ten compartments in the boat.
Paula: A re there any wooden hull boats, any wooden shrimpers being
built still?
Aaron: I don't know of any but there probably is, I wouldn't know
that. Talk about age of boats, there was one, started out as a
sailboat, but there's a boat over in Pablo Creek, south of the, I think
it's just south of Turner Butler Blvd. Bridge down there. It's
probably about a hundred and twenty years old. wood hull boat.
Paula: Any other questions?
Brad: You about covered it all, basically.
Paula: I'd love to see your yard.
Aaron: Okay.
(Paula: Would you want to ask him, we have another sheet the
Florida Division of Folklife requires us to fill out.)
Aaron: When mullet migrate up into fresh water, will they bite a
hook. And they have, they use a very small hook. My uncle was in the,
two of them, gill netted on the same night I was with one of them
and the other one was using a smaller net, the one using the larger
mesh net actually caught more fish then the one with the small mesh
net and he had a better quality of fish too. So, I mean, it's very
apparent that wasn't a very good idea in my opinion. But you know
that's like trying to slow up the Suez Canal, it's done right?
This engine right here came out of a shrimpboat. The boat ran into a
barge and it knocked the bow out of his boat and it sank. Those large
boats ironically will actually float on their fuel tanks. Until they
capsize then they float on the fuel tanks upside down. Because of the
metal rigging they're top heavy once they get full of water they roll
Paula: Now do you work out here alone? It seems that you have
some other folks working for you.
Aaron: Well, actually they own the boat, they do their own work.
Paula: So, they just kind of rent your rails.
Aaron: Yeah, as a matter of fact that's the way I prefer it. I would
rather they id their own work. My little bit of advertisement says "
Full service, do it yourself" or Do it yourself with full service


capabilities". I can do the work but I would just rather that they did
it. This boat was built, the guys that owns it built the boat hisself,
obviously with help, built it over in Ocean Way off of Dunn Creek
Road, house builders carried it down and launched it for him out at
Cedar Point I think, but this is what is called a hard chine boat, it
comes down and goes under, it not a
Paula: Hard- chime?
Aaron: Hard chine. C-H-I-N-E. Well, it's a round bottom and the
round hull are steam are steam built. They boil the oak and they put
it in place
Paula: Oh, I see. so, these would be somewhat easier to build.
Aaron: Well, that's really debatable. It's also debatable if its the
best construction. You pick which ever one you like the best. It's
like which is the best roof, a flat roof or a...
Puala: Now what's this shrimper out here, this isn't yours out here?
This must be his boat over here.
Aaron: Filling in, is 90% of my problem when running the railway,
it's amazing how fast this stuff comes in and settles and you just
spend more time getting mud off the railways then anything else.
Paula: There's another one over here right next to it.
Aaron: Yeah, this one's mine.
Paula: Oh, this ones yours, I thought that one'over there was yours
Aaron: No, this is the Pryor here. This engine block, the water ate
through the cylinder wall into the cylinders. It was not designed to
be what they call a wet lighter.
Pull the nets in and open up the bags. The bags are tied like a raw
string and you untie it you know and everything just falls out it.
Then you pick out what you want and throw the rest of it away and
then what you got here is the ice bin area. Put the catch in the two
side pockets or either of the side pockets in the front or the back
that ice in, we're icing the catch down.
Paula: so, is this all under here is where the shrimp go?
Aaron: Yep.
Paula: And, this is for the ice or shrimp and ice?
Aaron: Both sides you put the ice in and then you put the shrimp
down with the ice. What's back back here is used pretty much for
storage. The things you don't use often, some you probably never
will use again.
Paula: Now, did you build this alone or you and your dad?
Aaron: Well,. actually I didn't do a whole lot of building on this boat.
I did work on it a little bit on it but not a whole lot. I've got a
fellow probably laying up in the bed there.
Paula: You got your clothes on?
Aaron: On a day like today?
Paula: You got to, not just clothes but a blanket.
Aaron: And this is kind of a small wheel house but its adequate.
Stove and a sink.
Paula: Boiled peanuts.

Aaron: Most of the groceries we just keep iced down rather then a
refrigerator. Maybe one day we can afford a refrigerator.
Paula: You have three people go out or two?
Aaron: Two.
Paula: Two people. And how big is the Pryor?
Aaron: It's fifty-five.
Paula: Fifty-five?
Aaron: Yes. It, you can't have three on a boat this size, it's kind of
not necessary but sometimes if you're making trips its convenient to
have three people and then you don't have to work quite as hard. the
government regulations is that if we have four people on the boat we
have to have a survival float and no matter if you have three people
or less you can operate up to twelve miles off shore without a
survival craft.
Paula: What's a survival craft? You mean like a raft or something?
Aaron: Yeah, like a raft, an inflatable raft or something like this, a
life float. Those things start at about fifteen hundred and they go up
to about four thousand, five thousand dollars and right now there is
some indication that they are going to require everyone to have life
crafts or survival floats on the boat. This goes back to that
government regulation stuff we were talking about. outside this
door, it should push right open, this is a n emergency radio beacon
that we're required to have now if we operate more than three miles
off shore, we have to have this unit right her. They started out at
about eighteen hundred dollars and they're down to about a thousand
dollars now. The, this little launching mechanism right here that if
the boat sinks it automatically launches this thing as soon as it gets
down to about three feet' That hydrostatic release, it has to be
replaced every two years and that's a hundred and twenty dollars to
replace that. The battery in here, that the expiration date on the
battery is next year or no it's two more years, ninety-seven, I don't
know what that costs, a couple of hundred dollars probably. These
little things that...
Paula: They add up.
Aaron: ...they go and go and go.
Paula: Now, do shrimpers ever go down.
Aaron: Oh yeah.
Paula: Do they?
Aaron: Oh yeah, they sure do. Sometimes they, its self inflicted and
other times its, almost say an act of God, but yep they sure do. The
ironic part about it is most of the situations that I know myself, the
things they're make us do really wouldn't have change anything, they
lost the boats anyway. So, it just makes you kind of wonder, why do
we have to do these things.
Paula: Is there much loss of life when they go down? Do they
usually get rescued?
Aaron: Most of the time they get rescued, I don't know, I honestly
don't know anyone who has lost their life on a shrimp boat. I know


there are but I don't know the, none of the people I know died from
shrimping. I know a guy that died last year but he died from a heart
attack, he was on the shrimp boat when he died but I mean he may
not have died from a heart attack if he was sitting at the house, you
know, and they may have been able to rescue him. Actually
somebody, about the first tragedy I know of somebody getting hurt
on a shrimp boat, guy got his thumb cut off, ax fell on him.

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