The Racing Schooners

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The glory days of commercial fishing on Swan's Island were the 1870s and 1880s. By this time fishing with hook and line had given way to fishing with nets, called seining, and the most profitable fishing was for mackerel. Finding mackerel was a chancy business; it took knowledge and luck. But in the spring the first schooners to find mackerel, get a good catch and bring it to market made a handsome profit. Consequently, mackerel schooners were built for speed. They carried a lot of canvas, and cost a lot of money. The seining equipment was expensive, too. The race to market was an exciting contest, and Swan's Island schooner captains were the champions.