The Portland-based fishing vessel Emmy Rose steams out of Gloucester Harbor around 6 p.m. in September. The 82-foor boat sank off Provincetown, Massachusetts on Monday. Credit: Courtesy of Robert Serbagi

PORTLAND, Maine — The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search on Tuesday evening for four Maine fishermen whose boat went down 20 miles off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts, early Monday. 

Over the past 38 hours, the Coast Guard said it searched approximately 2,600 square miles for signs of the Portland-based 82-foot groundfishing vessel Emmy Rose and its crew. 

“The decision to suspend a search is never an easy one,” said Capt. Wesley Hester, Search and Rescue mission coordination, Coast Guard’s First District.  “We extend our condolences to the friends and loved ones of these fishermen during this trying time.”

The National Weather Service warned of a potential tornado on Cape Cod earlier Monday, and the U.S. Coast Guard called back a Jayhawk helicopter dispatched to the location shortly after 1 a.m. Monday when the Emmy Rose sent an automated distress call.

The call was never received.

The vessel was due into Gloucester, Massachusetts, at 6 a.m. after fishing for haddock, hake and pollock.

With an empty life raft and no distress call, lobster and halibut fisherman Gerry Cushman of Port Clyde thinks whatever happened must have happened fast.

“They probably capsized but we may never know,” Cushman said. “But if the crew didn’t have time to get into their survival suits or raft — without a doubt, it happened quickly.”

Cushman is credited with saving the lives of two lobstermen in 2016 when their boat caught fire about 4 miles off the coast of Port Clyde. He said whenever fishing accidents happen, they reverberate through the whole fishing community.

“It makes you feel sick to your stomach,” he said. “It happens more than you wish. It’s especially bad for the families.”

Maine’s groundfishing fleet is broken up into two cooperative sectors. One is operated by the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and the other by the Sustainable Harvest Sector. The Emmy Rose belonged to the latter.

“They weren’t in our sector,” said Ben Martens, the association’s executive director. “But everyone in the fishing community is holding out hope for the families.”

Two other Maine commercial fishermen died at sea earlier this year. On Jan. 23, the Hayley Ann sank about 50 miles off Portland.

Captain Joe Nickerson, 60, of Arundel and crew member Chris Pinkham, 44, of Boothbay Harbor were pulled from the water by another fishing boat but did not survive.

Nickerson was chair of the board for the fisherman’s association.

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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.