2018 Annual Guide: Chatham
Cape Cod Life / 2018 Annual / Art & Entertainment, Food & Dining, People & Businesses, Recreation & Activities
Writer: Cape Cod Life Publications / Photographer: Paige Biviano
Chatham • North Chatham • South Chatham • West Chatham
The Chatham Fish Pier is one of the best spots to experience some vibrant local color while observing fishermen unload their catch. Head out on one of the many boat tours offered to see some playful seals and the stunning, ever-changing shoreline firsthand. Take to the sky on an air tour to get an even more unique view of this gorgeous area.
You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate the Atwood House Museum, founded in 1923 by members of the Chatham Ladies’ Reading Club, but you probably will be by the time you leave. Expand your historical knowledge at the Marconi Maritime Center, an immersive celebration of the technological developments that took place on Cape Cod, and specifically Chatham, during the early 1900s.
Mom & Pops:
What’s a better “Mom and Pop” spot than a place called Mom and Pops? Mom and Pops Burgers on Main Street, owned by a couple with a storied history, is a delicious way to support local business. Stop in to find out how a West Coast girl met an East Coast boy and ended up starting a restaurant with him on Cape Cod.
In the summer, the Godfrey Windmill is open for tours on a regular schedule. This historic site recently underwent a restoration and is now fully functional, operating twice a year to grind corn as it originally did when it was built over 200 years ago.
A day in the life of: John Our, fisherman, Chatham native and member of Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance
By Haley Cote
Fishing is a fickle industry. The fishing industry in Chatham—a town built on maritime enterprise—is no exception. In his nearly 40 years of fishing in Chatham, John Our has experienced the highs and the lows that have come with life as a fisherman in the town. The lows have taken a toll on Our, but his drive to continue fishing remains. After all, fishing is in his blood.
Our, 56, has spent his entire life in Chatham, and he and his wife, Jean Marie, have raised their two children here. “I’ve always loved Chatham,” he says. “Chatham is a small town. People try to help each other in the town—I see a tremendous amount of that.” His father was a lobsterman, and by age 5, he began accompanying his dad on fishing trips. “My mother wasn’t big on it,” he recalls, “but she made sure it was a good weather day for him to take me. I always went with him in the summers—when he was lobstering I was baiting the pots. My mother said I had a pair of hip boots when I was 5 and I wore them to bed, so she knew right then and there I was going to be a fisherman.”
School was never high on Our’s priority list. During classes, he says he would stare out the window, watching the trees blow and wondering whether his father was out fishing. As a teenager, Our spent every day after school quahoging, making between $40 and $100 a day.
“I knew I wasn’t going to do anything other than fishing,” he says. “After I graduated high school, I was fishing the next day with my father. We were gillnetting at the time, doing extremely well.” Our eventually got his own boat—the Miss Fitz—and crew, catching cod in the spring and summer months and Bluefin tuna and pollock in the fall. He remembers the joy of steaming around the ocean at 14 knots, catching a lot of fish and making a good living.
“I was really good at catching pollock—I was the guy to beat,” Our says. He adds, “When we used to catch cod, you had to think like a fish to know where to be. It was very competitive, and I enjoyed that competitiveness. Things were really rocking and rolling down at the fish pier.”
Today, Our says he knows of only one fisherman in the entire fleet making a living catching groundfish. According to Our, groundfish, particularly cod, have nearly vanished within the last 10 years (he attributes the problem in large part to the seal population). As a result, Our now targets different fish populations, including dogfish and skate, for which there is greater supply than there is demand.
“Before, I was hunting, and now it’s just factory work—you go to the same place day in and day out,” he says. “I remember what fishing was, and I don’t consider what I do now really fishing fishing.”
Government regulations also create a challenging environment, Our says. In order to go out fishing, fishermen now must notify the government 48 hours prior to sailing, and the government may assign a fisheries observer on the trip. Additionally, fishermen must fill out an online report of their day’s work before arriving back at the dock.
Although fishing is no longer what it once was for Our, he still takes pride in being a fisherman in his hometown. “I followed in my father’s footsteps, and I made it,” he says. “It’s neat to come in and still see the observation deck at the fish pier full of people watching what you’re doing—I think there’s been as many as 5,000 people in one day. The community is very supportive of fishing. They know it needs to be here.”
Haley Cote is the assistant editor of Cape Cod Life Publications.