When fishermen’s advocate George Barisich, a 2002 NF Highliner, lost his beloved shrimp boat Peruga to a fire in 2020, he knew it would be a matter of time before he was back out on the water earning a living, although the quest for a vessel that would meet both his needs and deflated budget proved a challenge.

“Did I want to take a chunk of my life savings and buy a new boat, or find something that I could fix up myself?”

The answer came in the form of a 50-foot, 37-year-old double-rigger that had for six years been tied up in Dulac, La.

“I looked the boat over and knew I could do her right,” Barisich said.

Bringing the boat from its Dulac berth to his home port of Yscloskey, La. — a 20-hour trek in the best of conditions — was out of the question. So Barisich stayed with friends who lived not far from the vessel’s dock and began what would be five months of tedious labor.

“Everything rubber, everything that wasn’t stainless was rotten,” said Barisich, who changed out the vessel’s hydraulic piping, then painted, patched, and glassed where needed, and did everything necessary to bring her to life. “I can’t say it was a labor of love, but it certainly was labor of necessity.”

That determination has been characteristic of Barisich’s career, as founder of the United Commercial Fishermen’s Association and a president of the then-fledgling Louisiana Shrimp Association in the early 2000s.

Five months later, the work was done, and Barisich was ready for Louisiana’s August shrimp season. Returning from his final shrimping trip of the 2021 spring season, he stated that the boat — which he named Tomalo — is everything he hoped it might be and more. Tomalo is Croatian, the Barisich family’s ancestral tongue, which roughly translates to “take it easy.”

“It’s not what I had, but it’s what I got, and what I’m going to do with it,” Barisich said. “I’ve had her in 7-foot seas, and she took them better than I did.”

“The ride is not smooth with this flat bottom,” Barisich said. “You can feel every slap of every wave.”

He doesn’t mind, and is grateful the vessel presented itself, and that he was able to do the work required.

“I guess I resurrected the boat, and the boat resurrected me,” Barisich said. “And now we are both doing what we were designed to do.”

Boat Specifications

HOME PORT: Yscloskey, La. OWNER: George Barisich BUILT: 1984 FISHERIES: Louisiana and Mississippi shrimp, white and brown HULL MATERIAL: Steel LENGTH: 50 feet BEAM: 18 feet DRAFT: 5 feet PROPULSION: 350-hp Cummins GEAR: Twin Disc 4.5:1 PROPELLER: 50 x 40 bronze blade SHAFT: 3-inch stainless GENERATOR: Kubota 23 kW SPEED: 7 mph FUEL CAPACITY: 2,000 gallons FRESHWATER CAPACITY: 700 gallons SHRIMP HOLD CAPACITY: 15,000 pounds CREW: 3 ELECTRONICS: Furuno radar, Humminbird color sounder, Garmin GPS, Lowrance plotter, Icom VHF and Yaesu radios

John DeSantis is the senior staff writer at The Times, a newspaper in Houma, La. and regularly contributes to National Fisherman.

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