By Capt. Corky Decker
Billy McIntyre was a living legend among New England bluefin tuna harpooners. We grew up together in the 1970s and early ’80s; we were the Perkins Cove Rats of Ogunquit, Maine, the wild ones, the generation that fished hard and stayed up late. We lived and breathed bluefin tuna, and Billy was the best of us. He fished with his dad, Sonny, and for years the two of them caught more than the rest of us combined.
Billy was lost late last Thursday or early Friday morning about a mile off the cove. He had gone overboard to rescue a young woman,
one of a handful of folks out for a late-night cruise aboard Billy’s 42-footer, the Clover. She apparently had jumped overboard for a midnight swim and was caught in the full-moon tide. He saved her but was unable to save himself.
I think it was 1980 that Billy and his dad harpooned more than 60 fish on the V-8 Oldsmobile-powered Streaker, an old wooden lobster boat that Sonny had glassed over, and whose speed lived up to its name. Around this time the harpoon fleet was moving to racy fiberglass hulls built Down East by Glen Holland, the Young Brothers and others. The McIntires took the fleet to school.
When I learned that Billy was missing and how it happened, it did not surprise me. Even at 51 Billy was a free spirit. It was who he was, and nothing could change that. I spent pretty much a sleepless night, remembering so many incredible times of my youth with Billy. One week we were drinking endless rum and cokes on Bailey Island, Maine, the next, walking though the dark streets of P-town looking for women to take us home and let us shower (we lived like nomads as harpooners, and showers were always our best pick-up line).
I called several of the 1970 Cove Rats, from Bryan, now an airline pilot, who I last saw more 30 years ago, to Matt, from whom I bought my harpoon boat from last summer. We all had something to share, to remember.
Billy Mac, we will all miss you, the world is a little less today without your smile and laughter. May you rest in peace, and I’ll look for you on the wings of the albatross. You, my friend, will never be forgotten…