January 9, 2014
NEW BEDFORD — The year was 1966, four years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Cold War tensions between the world's superpowers — the Soviet Union and the United States — remained high.
Against a backdrop of political gamesmanship, the Venture I found itself in troubled waters.
The New Bedford fishing boat was floundering in the middle of the ocean, disabled by a wall of water that crashed into the vessel and caved in the pilothouse.
The Venture I's crew, which included Donald Clattenburg of New Bedford, feared for its safety.
And then an unlikely savior came to the rescue. The Zelenoborsk, a Russian fish processing boat, arrived to offer the Americans a helping hand.
"We were all brothers at sea," the 88-year-old Clattenburg said, recalling what happened 48 years ago today.
Dennis Giammalvo, who knows Clattenburg from his daily visits to Giammalvo's Purchase Street market, said his tale is a wonderful story about fishermen putting politics aside to help each other.
"It's a story in itself," Giammalvo said — and Clattenburg remembered how it unfolded.
The Venture I, a 68-foot, wooden dragger, was fishing in rough waters on the southwest side of Georges Bank about 100 miles south of Nantucket, he said.
He was at the helm in a terrible storm and fighting to control the boat in 80 mph winds. "We were going right into the pocket of it. I've never seen anything like it," he said.
Clattenburg was already battle tested. A fisherman for 21 years, he had served in World War II with the U.S. Navy for parts of three years, including serving in the Battle of Okinawa in mid-June 1945.
He had been at sea during other dangerous storms, but this was the worst, he said.