Two weeks after the Matinicus shooting, three lobster boats were sunk at their moorings in Owls Head harbor near Rockland, Maine, in an apparently unrelated dispute that authorities still were trying to unravel.
Two 35-footers — Git-R-Down, owned by Donald McMahan Jr., and First Light, owned by Keith Simmons — were found sunk at their moorings early Aug. 5 as lobstermen arrived at sun-up to begin their workdays.
A third boat, the 42-foot Miss Andrea, owned by Richard McMahan, Donald McMahan’s uncle, was partially sunk. The water intake hoses to the engines had been cut.
“That’s the quickest way to watch a boat go down,” says Maj. John Fetterman of the Maine Marine Patrol. “It’s like turning on a fire hose.”
Like the shooting on Matinicus, the sinkings likely were the result of a lobstering dispute, either over territory or maybe just bad blood between lobstermen. “These disputes manifest themselves in many different ways,” says Fetterman. “It’s not always about territorial waters. It can be a deeply rooted feud between two families. Some of these last a lifetime — between families. I’m not convinced they even remember what they’re feuding over sometimes.”
They just don’t like one another.
Fetterman says the “pushing and shoving” over lobstering grounds happens every year off Maine, especially at the beginning of summer before the lobstering is going full bore and the fishermen have had the chance to land some good catches. Everyone’s trying to jockey for good bottom and a good season ahead.
“It’s survival of the fittest,” says Fetterman. “But right now these are two incidents that have escalated to a level of violence and criminal conduct that I haven’t seen before,” he says.
Fetterman says the Knox County sheriff, Maine State Police, Maine Marine Patrol and Coast Guard all are investigating the Owls Head sinkings.
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This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue.