News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 13, 2019
Local fisherman reaches the end of the line
Andy Gove retires after eight decades

Uncle’s UFO changes hands

Retired fisherman Andy Gove, left, is congratulated for 82 years of work by Nick Wiberg during a retirement party on June 9. Wiberg purchased Gove’s boat Uncle’s UFO.

Photo by Nat Barrows Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Monique Labbe

At the age of 7, Andy Gove climbed aboard a small row boat with his grandfather off of Eagle Island. He spent the next several hours hauling up lobster traps and learning how to navigate the tides. That one day shaped the way Gove would spend the next 82 years, as a fisherman off the coast of Deer Isle.

Gove, now 89, has reached the end of his line in the fishing industry, and officially retired this year. It was not because of his age numerically, he said, but of the age of the bones and muscles in his arms.

“I don’t want to quit now, but I have a crack in one shoulder and the other is half out of joint,” said Gove while looking out onto Stonington Harbor from the window of his home. “The doctor said he doesn’t know how I can lift my arms.”

Gove has given his life to the fishing industry in Stonington, and has seen the introduction of everything from underwater radar to digital navigation systems. He has rolled with the change, though he said he is grateful to have had the trainings of the generations before him.

“We used to go by the ripples in the water to figure out where to go,” said Gove. “That can get tricky in the fog, but it always holds true. These new things work well, but it’s good to trust your instincts.”

Gove learned those instincts as a young boy, one of six children in his family growing up on Eagle Island. When the school closed in the 1940s, Gove began commuting to Deer Isle for school, boarding on the island during the week.

“My grandparents raised me up, and when I was going to school I’d often spend the week in Deer Isle. If it was a nice day though I’d try to get back to spend a night with them and help out,” he said.

The ocean and fishing became his first loves, until the day he met his wife Rose. The couple began a courtship that lasted two years before tying the knot and starting a family. They bought a house in downtown Stonington about four years later, and have lived in that house ever since.

“What more could you want?” Gove said with a gesture to the view of Stonington Harbor outside their window. “It’s perfect.”

That “perfect view” allows Gove a continued glimpse of the fishing boats coming and going every day. Though his boat, Uncle’s UFO, is in the hands of Nick Wiberg now, he can still keep an eye on it from his window.

“I can tell you just by looking who is coming in, who is going out, who’s had a good day,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to sit here and look out.”

Gove and his wife can also look out on the homes they were each born in, located less than a half mile up the road.

“I told him once that if I would’ve known he was there [when he was born] I would’ve crawled over to meet him,” said Rose, who is only 11 months older than her husband.

The last few months have been an adjustment for Gove, who hauled his traps for the final time last fall. Though he is not rejoining his fellow fishermen, there is still much to celebrate in 2019. His wife turned 90 on June 9, and the couple will celebrate 72 years of marriage this year. Though his retirement may have felt sudden, the time no longer spent on a boat will allow him to dive into a project he has been asked to tackle for decades.

“I’ve been asked several times to write a book,” said Gove. “Now, I’ve always hated writing, but now that I’m not out there, what else am I going to do? I decided I’ll take on a couple pages at a time, see how that goes.”