WINTER HARBOR, Maine — Local lobsterman Phil Torrey shook his head slightly Thursday as he recalled how his boat rammed into another the day before off Schoodic Point.
Torrey, 37, said he had seen Frank Jordan’s lobster boat in the distance a few minutes before, but did not realize his boat and Jordan’s were bearing down upon each other until he felt the sudden, violent impact of the collision.
Jordan, 71, died in the accident.
“I didn’t see him. He didn’t see me,” Torrey said, standing on the local municipal pier. “It happened so quick.”
Torrey said he and his sternman, Dave Leighton, had been out hauling traps on Wednesday but were headed home for the day around 1:30 p.m. when the collision occurred. He said they were traveling at about 20 knots with their bow riding high and that he had just sat down to eat a sandwich when his boat, Master Simon, rammed into the starboard side of the Linda Diane.
Torrey said earlier reports that the two boats had been near each other a few minutes before the accident were not true. Torrey fishes offshore, while Jordan set his traps closer to land. He said Jordan appeared to be heading toward a cove where he often set gear when the two boats collided off the west side of Pond Island.
The impact instantly broke the Linda Diane into pieces, he said. The housing structure of the boat tipped away from the point of impact into the water as the separated bow and stern sections capsized into the wake. Jordan’s sternman managed to leap from the sinking stern of Linda Diane to the Master Simon, but Jordan fell into the sea.
Torrey said they were able to pull Jordan quickly from the water onto the Master Simon, but Jordan was unresponsive. They immediately headed for the pier in Winter Harbor, but emergency medical responders who met them there could do nothing. Jordan was pronounced dead at the dock.
“It’s a hard thing,” Torrey said. “You think ‘why wasn’t I standing up [so I could see over the bow]?’ It’s the same thing I’ve done for 20 years. It’s a tragic, tragic, tragic thing.”
As Torrey spoke, scratches could be seen on the bow of his boat, which was tied up at the end of the dock. A few pieces of Jordan’s boat that had been recovered by other fishermen sat piled in the back of a pickup truck parked on the pier.
Paul Conner, search and rescue specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard, said Thursday the collision remains under investigation by the agency, which has received assistance from Maine Marine Patrol. He said the Coast Guard has received reports about “a little” fuel leaking from the Linda Diane, which sank in about 85 feet of water, but that no decision had been made yet about whether to recover the larger sections of the submerged boat.
“That’s still being determined,” Conner said.
He said he was not sure how long it might take to get blood tests back on the people who were on the boats when they collided. Such tests are standard procedure in any fatal accident, he said.
Torrey said that since the collision, he’s received calls from other fishermen along the coast, many of whom have told him they had similar experiences. Some have had near misses and others actually had collisions with less serious consequences, he said.
Such accidents never happen on foggy days, when fishermen are glued to their radars and depth finders to make sure they don’t run aground, according to Torrey. It’s on clear days when they feel comfortable in their travel routines that they can get distracted and fail to notice other boats moving into their paths, he said.
“I guess it’s more common than you think,” he said.
Spencer Joyce of Swan’s Island, a lobsterman who had known Jordan for many years, came to Winter Harbor Thursday to talk to Torrey and others about what had happened. He said many people knew and liked Jordan.
“Frankie was a good man,” Joyce said. “It’ll be a loss for Winter Harbor.”
Torrey said that some people might assume the collision was the result of a conflict between him and Jordan, but nothing could be further from the truth. Jordan was well-liked in the community, he said, and a few years earlier, when Jordan had some health problems, Torrey and some other younger fishermen hauled his gear for him to get it out of the water.
The Jordan and Torrey families had even been intermarried not too long ago, according to Torrey.
“This is a person I’ve been around since I was old enough to talk,” he said.
Frank Jordan’s son, Glen Jordan, 45, of Gouldsboro, echoed Torrey’s comments, saying the families have long been friendly with one another.
After chatting privately with Torrey on the pier Thursday, Jordan said his father loved fishing and loved to complain about it, too. He said he had a feeling his father might pass away while working on his boat.
“He was fierce [about fishing],” Glen Jordan said of his father. “He loved catching lobsters.”
Frank Jordan was active in the Rock Church of Maine, which meets Sundays at the former grammar school just up the hill from the pier. Glen Jordan said his father wouldn’t harbor any ill will over the collision, his son said.
“He would say ‘This is all God’s work,’” Glen Jordan said. “He would not want Phil to feel bad about it.”
Linda Jordan, Frank Jordan’s wife, declined Thursday to be interviewed about her husband.
Bruce Cummings, pastor of Jordan’s church, met Thursday with Jordan’s family at the widow’s home. Contacted later by cell phone, Cummings said much of Frank Jordan’s life was rough but that the fisherman found God later in his life.
“Faith played a big role in his life. It was huge,” the pastor said. “He had such a love for people.”
Jordan, who sometimes played the piano at church services, was known to visit older local residents who could not frequently get out of their homes, Cummings said. One occasion not too long ago, when Jordan organized a group of people to put a new roof on a neighbor’s outbuilding, was but one example of the way Jordan tried to help others in need, he said.
“With Frank, he just had the right heart,” Cummings said. “‘Like’ doesn’t begin to describe it. He was loved. It won’t be the same.”