If only one Provincetown fisherman were to remain standing after the seemingly endless evisceration of the fleet, a lot of smart money at MacMillan Pier would probably be wagered on Christopher “Chris” King (b 1961), pictured at left, whose family has been in the business for four generations — and has paid the highest price for it. King owns a stake in just about every aspect of catching, distributing and marketing. He and his brother Willis (b 1974) fish on their own account aboard the 60½-foot Donna Marie, built in 1969 and rehabilitated in 2009 with a 400-horsepower Caterpillar 3408 marine engine. Through Cape Tip Seafoods, they truck fish from about 30 other Provincetown, Truro and Wellfleet boats to restaurants along the Cape and to regional distributors in Boston. And they operate their own retail outlet, the Cape Tip Seafood Market, in Truro. In a 2011 dockside interview, King told me that he employed about 25 people.
When he decided to get into the business in 1991, he said, “Everyone thought I was nuts.” There are good reasons for him to have been drawn to and repelled by the fishery. The family tradition goes back to George King, a schooner captain, and continued through his son, George King Jr., a driver for Seafood Packers who was renowned for being able to get a truckload of fresh fish to the Fulton Market in New York and return to Provincetown not once but twice within 24 hours.
George Jr.’s son was William “Billy” King (1931-1976), who began fishing on the Cap’n Bill when he got out of the service and, in 1960, married Patricia Marie Lynch (±1936-1968), with whom he had two sons, Chris and Timothy (b 1965). She died of a genetic heart disease when Chris was in the second grade. But her name lived on with Billy King’s own boat: the Patricia Marie. Billy married Doris Leonard in 1970 and they had a boy, Willis. The family lived at 3 Point Street. (“Phone number 302,” Chris King recalled.)
Though Chris was a sophomore at Provincetown High School in October 1976, he would commonly accompany his father on fishing trips. In fact, he was planning to go out on the Patricia Marie toward the end of the month, but his father demurred, thinking about Chris’s obligation to the football team. “I’d really like to see you go to practice on Monday and Tuesday,” he told his son, “because you’ve got a big game on Saturday.”
The Patricia Marie did not return from that trip to Pollock Rip. Laden with scallops, she went down in 10-foot seas with King and six other mean aboard, all from Provincetown, devastating the town and leaving Chris and his younger brothers orphaned.
King graduated from P.H.S. in 1979, attended Northeastern University for a year, then transferred to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Also licensed as a merchant marine, he said, “I decided to pack my bags, and bought a one-way ticket to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to put myself in the most remote, extreme situation I could.” He didn’t return to Provincetown until 1991. Chris met and married Donna Marie Joseph, whose father, Alfred Joseph, had been the first mate aboard the renowned Silver Mink, as well as a partner of Ralph Andrews in the Cap’n Bill. Donna and Chris had a boy, Jared, in 1992.
This was a year after King himself returned to the fishery, aboard a 65-foot wooden boat built in 1967 for Frank Mararchi in Scituate and called the Black Duck. King renamed it the Second Effort. In 1999, he entered the distribution business. In 2002, he opened the market. And in 2007, he sold the Second Effort and then, in early 2008, bought the Donna Marie. He described her annual routine to me: scalloping from May to Labor Day, going out for whiting and squid from Labor Day until mid-November and then, until after the new year, catching cod and yellowtail.
As King and I spoke, Jared was helping prepare the Donna Marie for the 64th Blessing of the Fleet. Chris pointed to the lines of pennants on the forestays and translated them for me. “Second Effort,” said one.
“Patricia Marie,” said the other.