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Saturday | September 28, 2019

10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Big Boats, Little Boats
A free celebration of commercial fishing culture in New Bedford, MA, the #1 Fishing Port in the Country

presented as part of William Street Bow to Stern

Through exhibits, demonstrations, walking tours, dockside vessel tours, author readings, and performances, the event  showcases industry skills, fisheries science, and sustainable seafood.  A display of model fishing boats  complements the Center’s fall exhibit F/V Innovation chronicling the history of vessels and gear and honoring the contributions of local industry innovators.

Activities take place in and around the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center (38 Bethel Street) and on Steamship Pier (walking and vessel tours) and City Pier 3 (harbor tours) from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. A free shuttle will run in a loop between the Center and the waterfront.

A free concert of maritime music will take place at the Seamen’s Bethel, (15 Johnny Cake Hill) from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. featuring the New Bedford Sea Chantey Chorus, the Ana Vinagre Ensemble, and the Johnson Girls.

For a full list of events, see the Big Boats, Little Boats schedule.

Concurrent with these activities: the Upper William Street Festival presents performances, exhibits, artist booths, food and more from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on upper William Street and 8th Street DATMA presents Silver Current, a public art installation in Custom House Square. A free shuttle with stops on Elm Street, Union Street, William Street will connect these activities.

Presented with support from our generous sponsors

Presented in partnership with

Local authors will present readings throughout the day at the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center

Paul Doucette was born and raised in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, the youngest son of Captain Louis Doucette, Jr., a New Bedford fisherman whose career spanned fifty years. His grandfather,Captain Louis Doucette, Sr., was one of the earliest proponents of the movement from dory fishing to trawling, a change which catapulted New Bedford to fishing prominence.  Paul’s book Neptune’s Nor’easter, tells the story of a severe storm which struck the Western North Atlantic, on November 14, 1962. Within 48 hours, the storm caused the sinking of six ships and resulted in the deaths of thirty-six seamen.  Paul’s father survived the experience which is chronicled in the book.

Rachel Rowley Spaulding holds a business degree from Boston University and has worked primarily in the financial field. A native of Cape Cod, Rachel now lives close to New Bedford, the historic fishing port she has come to love. In Search of Ellen Marie is the true story of a painting-inspired passionate pursuit to locate a fishing vessel.   It’s really about life – a boat’s life, yes, but also about lives of people and their power to affect others.

Head to Pier 3 and Steamship Pier to take walking tours, harbor tours, and dockside vessel tours

12. Vessel Tour

Dockside Vessel Tours

A number of boats will be available for dockside vessel tours. These tours are a unique opportunity to learn about different types of working vessels, talk with crew, see how the gear operates, and get a sense of shipboard life. 

Captain Roy Branco will be available to give dockside tours of the boat F/V Elizabeth & Nicki, a scalloper, from 12-4pm on Steamship Pier.  This is a unique chance to come aboard a fishing vessel!

Bill and Ruth Blount, owners and operators of F/V Ruthie B., will be at City Pier 3 from 11:00am- 1:30pm to talk about their boat and their experiences with the working waterfront.

Walking Tours

Learn more about history, community, and the fishing industry by taking a guided walking tour! Our tour guides will share personal anecdotes about their experiences with the working waterfront. Tours depart from the Wharfinger Building at Pier 3 at 11:30am, 1:00pm, and 2:30pm. Register in advance for these free tours here.

Dock Walk

Harbor Tours

Whaling City Expeditions will offer one-hour harbor tours at 10:30am, 12:00pm, 1:30pm, and 3:00pm. These tours offer a detailed narrative on the working waterfront and the various fishing vessels utilizing the port including draggers, scallops, tuna and clam boats. Get an up-close view of the fishing fleet, the Hurricane Barrier, Palmer’s Island Lighthouse, Fort Phoenix, and Crow Island — a great chance to connect with New Bedford’s port and heritage! 

Tours leave from the dock north of the Wharfinger Building on Pier 3.

Whaling City Expeditions is offering specially priced tickets during Big Boats, Little Boats. Tickets are $10 for guests over 10 years old, $5 for guests under 10 years old.

Buy your ticket ahead of time (up to an hour before hand) on their website using the following promo codes

  • $5-Infant to under 10 yrs: UNDER10
  • $10-10 yrs and over: BBLB2019

Limited tickets will be available at the boat for the same special prices on a first-come, first-served basis with proof of attending Big Boats, Little Boats. Stop by the Fishing Heritage Center to get a sticker or stamp to prove your attendance and get discounted tickets!

Seamen’s Bethel Tours

Dedicated in 1832 by the New Bedford Port Society, the non-denominational Seamen’s Bethel continues to serve the community of New Bedford providing a historical venue and a memorial to those lost at sea. At 12:30pm, Judy Roderiques will offer a tour of the Bethel including the saltbox which once housed a school for seamen and the sanctuary which houses the cenotaphs, a replica of the bow shaped pulpit from Moby Dick, and a pew where author Herman Melville once sat. Additionally, the Bethel is open for self-guided tours from 10:00am to 1:30pm.

Seaman's Bethel Tour

Check out seafood cooking demonstrations and industry skill demonstrations on Bethel Street

Cooking Demos

Eating with the Ecosystem presents cooking demonstrations on their Food Boat, a mobile kitchen. The organization promotes a place-based approach to sustaining New England’s wild seafood, through flourishing food webs, healthy habitats, and short, adaptive seafood supply chains. Learn about sustainable seafood and taste-test recipes created by local chefs.

Eating with Ecosystem Schedule:

  • 10:00am -1:00pm- Chef Chris Cronin from Union Flats Restaurant, New Bedford will be cooking corn and seafood chowder featuring squid, hake, and mackerel
    1:00pm- 4:00pm- Jim Mercer from Black Whale Restaurant is cooking skate in a brown butter caper lemon sauce with herb’d fregula


UMass Dartmouth was recently awarded a grant from the Kendall Foundation Food Vision Prize. The prizes fund educational opportunities for students to learn about the importance of using local, sustainable food as well as kelp farming, and increase the use of local offerings. Chefs from Chartwells dining services at UMass Dartmouth will demonstrate cooking with local, sustainable seafood.

Net Mending

Net mending is a skill few fishermen possess – those who do are highly valued. The ability to mend a net can save a trip if nets become torn or damaged. Tor Bendiksen, shop manager and the chief net designer in the family business, Reidar’s Trawl-Scallop Gear and Marine Supply, will demonstrate net mending and explain how nets are custom made/designed for each vessel.

Big Boats Little Boats

Scallop Gear Making

Nearly 50 million pounds of scallops land on New Bedford’s docks every year. These scallops are harvested using scallop dredges. A scallop vessel pulls two scallop dredges, one on each side, along the ocean floor. The sweep chain sweeps the scallops into the ring bag. The bags are made from individual steel rings with are held together with metal links all squeezed by hand using a link squeezer which operates like a giant pair of pliers. Learn more about scallop gear and how it is made with Mathieu Lemieux of Blue Fleet Welding.

Wire Splicing

Splicing is the process of joining one piece of rope or wire to another or to itself. Today’s fishing boats have a variety of wire cables to tow dredges and nets and hoist heavy gear using a winch.  Learn about wire splicing from Mike Smith of North Eastern Trawl. Mike has worked on the waterfront for nearly four decades and has years of experience splicing wire. His uncle Walter Bruce invented the hydraulic winch truck, similar to the one Mike will have on site. 

wire splicing

Rope Splicing

Splicing is the process of joining one piece of rope or wire to another or to itself. Unlike knots, splices are permanent and highly efficient in both size and strength. Learn all about rope splicing with demonstrations from Barbara Merry! Unlike large companies, which rely on heavy machinery, Barbara works almost entirely with simple hand tools, employing many of the same skills that have been used since the days of the Tall Ships. Collectively, these skills are known as marlinspike seamanship after the marlinspike, a pointed, cylindrical tool used to separate strands of rope for splicing as well as for prying and hauling smaller line tight.

Fishery Science

Learn more about SMAST here.

Listen to live music throughout the day at the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center and an evening concert at the Seamen’s Bethel

Formed in 1997, The Johnson Girls are the leading all-woman maritime song group in the world. Sea chanteys and songs, as the first real “world music”, captured their imagination. Just as sailors who were heavily influenced by the songs they heard while traveling the world over, each of the Johnson Girls brings a special style to the ensemble. Their extensive repertoire of both traditional and contemporary material includes sea chanteys and work songs of other traditions, African-American,Canadian, Caribbean, Irish,French, Italian as well as songs from the inland waterways and fisheries. Widely acclaimed for their powerhouse performances of rousing work songs, sensitive renderings of haunting ballads and laments, and hair-raising harmonies, The Johnson Girls dazzle audiences wherever they perform.

Ana Vinagre is one of the area’s best known, and most respected Fadistas. Born in Portugal, she immigrated to New Bedford as a young woman with her husband Jose. Both had been members of folkloric dance and music ensembles and they have continued to perform at area Portuguese restaurants, community events, and in festivals and concerts around the nation. They take great pride in their culture and enjoy teaching American audiences about the tradition of Fado music, a genre that developed in the port city of Lisbon and was performed at waterfront clubs and bars frequented by sailors and seamen.

For the past 25 years Jon Campbell has been writing and performing music based on the wide range of experience available to those people living in coastal regions, the tourists, the cuisine, the fisheries, cranky Yankees and an assortment of humorous and poignant characters. Jon has been a recognized Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Folk Artist since 1982, and he has been involved in a large number of recording projects both as performer and producer. He is presently retired from a 25 year career in the motion picture industry, and yes, he did work on The Perfect Storm, in addition to many more major releases.

“Old Zeb,” “Song for Gale,” “Song for The Bowdoin,” “John,” “Get Her Into Shore,” “Selling The Isabel”–just a few examples of the extensive song bag of some of the best contemporary ballads from New England and along its shores you will find in modern folk music today. Larry Kaplan songs have been performed and recorded by many respected artists and audiences around the world–poignant stories in song, written in the truest folk tradition, honest, highly singable… always memorable.

New Bedford Sea Chantey Chorus–Hosted and organized by the Schooner Ernestina, this 43-member chorus was created in 2001, and is made up of some of the Ernestina’s most vocal volunteers. The repertoire includes a variety of chanteys and songs that reflect the rich maritime heritage of New Bedford and the region. Sea Chanteys were traditionally sung as work songs on board sailing ships both as a way to pass the time and as a means of helping establish a rhythm for various types of work aboard the ship. As a sampler of musical traditions connected to New Bedford Harbor and the New England seafarer, their performances feature the chanteys of the Yankee sailor, along with the ballads and ditties of global mariners and coastwise fisher folk in North America, the Cape Verde Islands, and the British Isles.

Tom Goux- For over four decades, Tom Goux has been collecting and performing chanteys, ballads, and ditties of the New England seafarer.  A resident of Cape Cod, he has made a specialty of the songs and poetry of the Yankee mariner, bringing to life the salty sentiments of deep-water mariners, intrepid whalermen and coastal fisherfolk.  Accompanied by concertina, guitar, Hawaiian guitar and ukulele, his selections span three centuries of music and verse commemorating the American maritime epoch.

In addition to his solo performances, he is leader of the Rum Soaked Crooks, well known to festival audiences throughout the region, and is the founding director of the 35-voice New Bedford Harbor Sea Chantey Chorus, now in its 17th season.

Charlotte Enoksen’s father emigrated from Norway’s Loften Islands and pursued the work of generations before him, owning two fishing vessels, F/V Porpoise and F/V Louise.  Once married to a fisherman, Enoksen’s poetry often reflects the lives of those left on shore.  Her work is both creative and cathartic, a “song without accompaniment.” Currently a social worker, Charlotte has also worked in journalism, advertising, public relations and fundraising.

Joanne Doherty– Born and raised on the Southcoast with the working waterfront in her blood, Joanne spent her childhood climbing on her father’s scallop boats and painting them for summer jobs. For the last fifteen years she’s been performing throughout New England spinning her magic on a wide variety of songs selected from an eclectic catalogue of folk, blues and old standards combining her deft & delicate stylings on guitar and ukulele with a rich smooth voice.

Short films about the working waterfront, screening on a loop at the National Park Theater (33 William Street)


Pearl of the Atlantic – New Bedford Seafood Council, 1962

A 1960s era film promoting scallops with footage of New Bedford Scallop Festival, cooking demonstrations, industry shots, and underwater scenes.


Finest Kind – Fishing Heritage Center, 2016

This original documentary was produced by the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center.  Written and directed by Kevin Kertscher of Big Ocean Media, the film interweaves interviews, historic and contemporary footage, and photographs to provide a sense of the rich history and culture of the New Bedford/Fairhaven fishing industry. The expression “Finest Kind” was commonly used in New England fishing communities to mean “the best.”


City that Lit the World – New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

Long before we siphoned oil from the earth, before electricity pulse through our lives; oil from the great nomadic whale illuminated the homes and streets of America with a light smokeless and clear. Whale spermaceti was so pure that it lubricated machines of the new industrial age with precision only once dreamt of. And baleen – or whale bone – firm and pliable, gave shape to the latest fashion of the Victorian age. To deliver these products to  the world, an entire industry arose. One that amassed enormous wealth, caused tens of thousands of men to leave home o risk heir lives in far-flung seas, created one of the wealthiest cities in 19th-century America, and left a lasting legacy in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Discover their stories.

Artist vendors and nonprofit organizations will have booths on Bethel Street


Schedules organized by venue

Bethel Street Schedule

10:00AM- 4:00PM– Ongoing demonstrations and activities including displays of model boats, cooking demonstrations, industry skills demonstrations, kids activities, industry nonprofits, and art vendors


New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center (38 Bethel St.) Schedule

11:00AM- 11:45 AM- Rachel Spaulding, author reading

12:00PM- 12:45PM– Bow to Stern: Songs, Stories, and Poems about Fishing featuring Jon Campbell, Joanne Doherty, Tom Goux, Charlotte Enoksen, and Larry Kaplan

1:00PM- 1:45PM– Paul Doucette, author reading

2:00PM- 2:45PM– Larry Kaplan, musical performance

3:00PM- 3:45PM– Jon Campbell, musical performance


Seamen’s Bethel (15 Johnny Cake Hill) Schedule

10:00AM- 1:30PM- self-guided tours of the Bethel

12:30PM- 1:30PM– guided tour by Judy Roderiques

4:00PM- 6:00PM– Concert by the New Bedford Sea Chantey Chorus, Ana Vinagre Ensemble, and the Johnson Girls


Pier 3 Schedule

10:30AM- 11:20AM– Harbor tour from Whaling City Expeditions

11:30AM- 12:30PM– Guided walking tour; pre-register for the tour here

12:00PM- 12:50PM– Harbor tour from Whaling City Expeditions

12:00PM- 4:00PM– Dockside vessel tours

1:00PM- 2:00PM– Guided walking tour; pre-register for the tour here

1:30PM- 2:20PM– Harbor tour from Whaling City Expeditions

2:30PM- 3:30PM– Guided walking tour; pre-register for the tour here

3:00PM- 3:50PM– Harbor tour from Whaling City Expeditions


Steamship Pier Schedule

12:00PM- 4:00PM– Dockside vessel tours


National Park Theater, 33 William Street

10:00AM- 4:00PM– Dock-u-mentary films about the working water front

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