Even though Paul Tucker was sitting in a small office, his eyes weren’t seeing the pale walls and low light house plants. They were further away, watching thin bands of white ocean froth as they twisted in Escher-like patterns across the marine blue water.
Still in his early 50s, Tucker is among a growing number of fishermen and boat captains who have lost their jobs both to the economy and to the current demands placed on maritime employees.
“I was with the Department of Natural Resources for 16 years,” said Tucker, a long time resident of Sullivan’s Island. “Then I picked up another job for a while and when I came back, they said I wouldn’t be able to perform my job anymore.”
For someone with such a wealth of oceanic and maritime knowledge, Tucker was blown away. After almost two decades with the Department of Natural Resources, Tucker can read an ocean surface as easily as a children’s bedtime story. He can run fishing boats, tug boats, dive boats and yachts and has several years of commanding both small and large crews under his belt. He has spent thousands of days on the water, to the point where his steps still sway to a nonexistent swell as he walks on land. But he can’t do maintenance.
“It’s a problem that could be solved if I just had an engineer or a first mate that could handle the basic maintenance,” said Tucker. “As it is, people are looking for just one person who can do everything.”
But most of the time, a boat owner will not find someone who both knows the ocean intimately and can still handle the bending, crawling and climbing needed to sail a boat from point A to point B.
“I’ve fished from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas and I’ve even built boats,” said Tucker, “but I can’t find a job that doesn’t require work that I simply can’t do anymore.”
While he’s looking for work, Tucker takes time every once in a while to follow one of the passions that brought him to South Carolina: playing electric bass.
“I played with Sea Level for a while, then with Chuck Lovell of the Rolling Stones and most recently with the Jumper Cables, a local band that used to play at Bert’s Bar on Sullivan’s and the Windjammer on the Isle of Palms,” said Tucker. “I enjoy it, but my real love is on the water. I have year’s of fishing knowledge and I’m more than capable; I just can’t do the physical work to keep a boat running on my own.”
If you’re interested in talking with Paul Tucker, either about captaining a boat or as a hire for fishing/diving expeditions, you can reach him at 345-3098 or email email@example.com.