The dragger Jesse James had been a familiar sight in Provincetown Harbor in recent years, even though her hailing port was Point Judith, R.I. As of 2011, however, she truly made Provincetown her home as the Sentinel, under Capt. Jeffrey W. Richardson (b 1963) of Eastham, her new owner. With the help of his longtime crewman, Kevin Case, he converted the 76-foot-long, 24-foot-wide, 99-ton vessel into a sea clammer in early 2011, when a number of these pictures were taken. Captain Richardson is a third-generation fisherman and this was to be the boat’s third incarnation. She was built as the Sun-Dance in 1976 by S. & R. Boat Builders of Bayou La Batre, Ala., and currently has a Caterpillar D353 diesel engine, with horsepower in the 400 to 500 range.
When Joshua Spearman bought her, he renamed her after his wife, Jesse, and his brother — not after the outlaw, although a villainous looking character was painted on her bow. In any case, Captain Richardson told me he wanted a less provocative name and chose Sentinel because it seemed to follow naturally from Guardian, the name of his previous sea clammer. He said the cost and complexity of dragging permits were too onerous, which is why he has converted the boat into a clammer. He also has a quahog license. In April 2011, he said his clamming grounds included an area generally within three miles of shore around Cape Cod, off Nantucket and along the Rhode Island coast. Although he lives 20 miles up Cape, Captain Richardson said the Sentinel belonged nowhere else but Provincetown. “The boat’s so big, she needs a deep-water harbor,” he said, while replacing windows in the pilot house one Sunday afternoon. “This is it: home, sweet home.”