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City's Newest Treasure Celebrates Its Fishing Heritage

The 'Blue Eagle' was the first fishing boat after the passage of the National Recovery Act in 1934.

The Blue Eagle arrived in Martinez just a few weeks ago, but already the Monterey Clipper looks right at home, and it should. The waterfront it now calls home played host to hundreds of these fishing boats over the course of Martinez history until commercial fishing was banned by the state in the 1950s.

The vessel, donated to the city by the San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Historic Fishing Boat Association, was the first boat constructed by Frank Seeno Boat Builders of Pittsburg after the passage of the National Recovery Act (NRA). The symbol for the act was the blue eagle, from which the boat took its name. The then-ubiquitous blue eagle symbol is prominent on the boat, along with the motto "We're Doing Our Part."

The Blue Eagle found its way to Martinez through native son Dan Pellegrini, whose family fished local waters for many years.

According to Pellegrini, the waterfront tribute to the city's fishing heritage was missing a boat since the Pescatore, on display for nearly 30 years, finally rotted and was taken down. That boat, which has the same hull shape as the Blue Eagle, and was the vessel type most used by Martinez fishermen, takes its name from the Italian word for "fisherman."

Pellegrini was on the lookout for a boat to take its place, and a friend in Pittsburg told him about a boat that might be available in San Francisco. Pellegrini contacted Robert Durkin, who agreed to donate the Blue Eagle to Martinez.

Durkin was "looking for someone who loved boats as much as he did," said the city's public works director Dave Scola, whose father also was a fisherman in Martinez. He found a boat-loving place in Martinez.

"The Monterey fishing boat was a classic of its time," Scola said. "I remember coming down here as a kid, helping my dad. I have pictures of those boats with the decks filled with salmon."

The NRA was a program developed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to try and restore the country's shattered economy by, among other things, imposing a minimum wage, eliminating child labor and stabilizing prices.

The boat fished the waters of the Sacramento River and Carquinez Strait before making its way to San Francisco, where it became part of the fishing fleet there for many years. Durkin said the Blue Eagle became part of the Yukon Gang, a group of Italian fishermen who routinely fished waters from Eureka to Monterey without radios or modern navigational equipment.

The boat wound up at the Coronado Yacht Club in San Diego from the late 1960s until 2003, where it found service as a buoy tender and a tugboat for the rich and famous. It was donated to the San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Historic Fishing Boat Association, of which Durkin is a member, in 2008.

No decision has yet been made about where the boat will be displayed, Scola said.

For now, it seems right at home docked near the marina, a real-life vessel sharing space with the ghosts of many other ships just like it.

Scott Williams July 12, 2011 at 12:49 AM
Great to have another Monterey back in the harbour. I loved hearing the old "one lunger engines" start up in the old days when I had a boat down there. They are a wonderful part of our town's heritage, and the real old timers can tell lots of stories of when Alhambra Creek was lined with them. Thanks Dan. You and your family are a big part of that story.
Jeannine Gendar July 12, 2011 at 03:07 AM
What a beauty, and the NRA eagle is great too.
Kristin Henderson July 12, 2011 at 06:15 AM
I was found an article about how the Sicilian Felucca boat was replaced with the Montereys (improved technology and motor engines). Will have to dig it out, and it may even be at the CoCo Historical Society (if memory serves) if one looks under "I" for Italian in the Martinez file boxes. Either way, the Shoreline "team" of 2 ladies that were supposed to be nominating that neighborhood certainly has this article. Also at CoCo is a fabulous set of leatherbound fish weight receipts done at Pellegrinis, as well as some great photos of like interest. Of note, our Sicilian built Scola--like Joe Dimaggio--was born in a small wooden structure on the Shoreline marshes. Scola may be one of the last people to have been so.
Anne Mobley July 12, 2011 at 07:06 AM
Please don't let this go into disrepair like the Joltin' Joe.
Anne Mobley July 12, 2011 at 07:10 AM
Thank you Danny P. and Dave Scola. E fantastico! Grazie!
Chris Kapsalis July 12, 2011 at 12:51 PM
I would love to go back in time and see the old Martinez.
diana July 12, 2011 at 06:32 PM
What a wonderful addition to the Martinez waterfront!!! It is a beginning, hopefully to kickstarting the badly needed renovation of the marina. Who is this "Anonymous" person anyway, and why does this person want the city to "go fly a kite"? In fairness to the rest of the posters who are not afraid to give their real names ad face the music (myself, Linda M, Mike A, Anne, M, etc) I find it very offensive to see that Patch allows anonymous posts. I would think that a small town cyber paper would insist on real names when filling out profiles. I wonder if Anonymous has something to hide? I certainly do not! It is only fair to use one's own name so others can avoid being entrapped in having a conversation with someone they don't wish to converse with. Please, for the sake of this wonderful little place where concerned citizens of Martinez can state their opinions, change the policy to require real names when posting. Thank you, diana swick fonthilllady@gmail.com Thank you.
Linda Meza July 12, 2011 at 07:44 PM
Hey Diana thanks for the shout-out but it isn't just this space that allows for nom de plumes and avatars in lieu of real names and pics. If you take a peek at Lafayette's Patch comment stream you'll see a Diva somebody or other as well as many other folks choosing to participate without wishing to be recognized in the local supermarket. Call me a masochist.
Paul L Wilson July 12, 2011 at 08:45 PM
Thanks anonymous for the additional historical information you have added to this story. The depth and detail of this information shows a command of historical fact that most are ignorant of. Sadly to say some need a full name including first, last and middle initial to be able to judge fact from fiction and not on the merit and content of the statement.
Kristin Henderson July 12, 2011 at 09:42 PM
But most importantly, the NRA is an amazing part of our history and overall the New Deal a reminder of what can be done during the harshest economic downturns. How fantastic that boat is so preserved with such a noble symbol. How many of us wished the New Deal had been recycled this Great Recession. I will promptly email this article to various people interested in such things. Thanks Jim for the great article, and of course Pellegrini for finding it a home.

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