Party Boats

Chapter 15 -- Part 6

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Although Hampton men took parties of tourists for boat rides and fishing trips in the mid-nineteenth century, the industry really began with the introduction of motorboats, which could maintain a regular schedule. One of Hampton's first party boat operators was Armas Guyon. In August 1911, the Union reported: "Capt. Amos [Armas] Guyon with his large power boat Mable G. took 22 vacationists to the fishing grounds. They caught cod, pollock, and other fish and 'their return was made at a sensible hour.'" By 1926, Fred Lorenz, who had a store and fish market, employed eight lobstermen and ten fishermen. He also ran two motor party boats and a fleet of rental dories.

Another early operator was Claude Gilmore, who began in 1924 with a 29-foot double-ender named the Gertrude Grace. He ran the business with his wife Helen until his death in 1941. Joined by her father, Nelson (Roy) Smith, Helen formed the Smith and Gilmore fishing party business. They purchased the old Hampton River Yacht Club buildings and pier in 1949 and after Roy retired in 1952, Helen continued. She and her brother, Nelson, built the Hampton River Marina in 1959. Helen retired in 1978 and the business is now operated by her children, Raymond Gilmore and Shirley recalls that during the 1930s as many as 12 different party boat operators worked from the State Pier. In June 1943, they were prevented from taking out parties by the Coast Guard, probably for safety reasons, she believes, as there were reports of German submarines offshore. Helen bought 16 skiffs from men who gave up the business in the harbor, and she ran a rental business until the war ended. She had as many as four large boats but eventually built three identical boats, two of which are still used by the company.

Hampton's other large party boat operator was Alfred "Tacky" Gauron, Jr. His father was a fisherman and both of his brothers, Edmund and Armand, were lobstermen. His father-in-law was Josiah Felch, who used to handline from a dory off the main beach. When Felch came in from fishing, his horse and wagon would be waiting on the sand dunes. Felch would ice down his catch and the following day he drove around selling fish. With this background, it was logical for Al Gauron to become a fisherman. He bought his first party boat, a 36-footer, fully equipped, for $400 about 1935. Then a half-day trip cost $1.50 and the catch, using handlines, was haddock, cod, and hake. Gauron's business is now operated by his sons, Rocky, Randy, and Ronnie. They have three 70-foot boats and a 90-footer, the latter powered by three turbo-diesel engines that drive the craft to a speed of 30 mph, enabling the half-million-dollar vessel to travel 20 to 40 miles offshore in search of cod.

Among the other old-time party boat operators from Hampton were Oscar Eastman who began in 1929 and moved to the Seabrook side of the river in 1943, Bill Dow, John Dow, Bernard Felch, Fellows and Hoyt, Arthur L. Greene, the Dunbracks, and Fred Thompson.

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