Kenneth Roland Macara of Provincetown and Delray Beach, Fla. died at home on Aug. 16, 2023 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 91.
The grandson of Joseph Macara, who emigrated from Portugal to Provincetown in 1899 and captained four draggers, including one named Victory, and the son of fisherman Manuel Macara and his wife, Inez, Kenneth was born on Dec. 9, 1931 in Provincetown and grew up here.
When he was nine, he said in a 2021 interview for the Provincetown Portuguese Festival, he “forced” his father to “let me go fishing.” That desire to go to sea dominated his life.
After graduating in 1949 from Provincetown High School, where Kenneth’s stated ambition was “to be a millionaire” and where he was voted “Best Dressed Boy,” he went on to Boston University. But after only a year and a half, he had had his fill of college life. He longed for the sea; it was calling him, he said in the 2021 interview. So, he joined the Navy.
Ken trained as an electrical technician and was assigned to an elite antisubmarine squadron in the years following World War II. He spent time in Casablanca, a port city in Morocco, the port of Algiers in Mediterranean North Africa, and on the coast of Scotland. Even though the war was over, Kenneth witnessed men lost at sea in rough weather during night training sessions on board ship.
After four years in the Navy, Kenneth came home to carry on the family business of fishing. He was known as a “highliner,” a fisherman whose boats produced high yields of fish and thus high profits. As his grandfather and father had done, he captained draggers, taking over Victory II from his father.
Ken was a skilled fisherman and a devoted father of three sons, and he was also involved in the ecology and politics of the fishing industry. He was a member of a task force that set policy for the federal government’s 200-mile national waters limit, and he worked with state fisheries on the problem of diminishing fish stocks.
He would invite federal and state officials to go out on fishing trips with him so that they could experience firsthand what local fishermen had to deal with that had a bearing on the economic future of the industry.
After years of fishing, Kenneth built a new boat, the Ruthie L, named after his wife, and passed Victory II on to his son Kenneth II. In his 2021 interview, Kenneth described the fate of the latter.
On May 1, 1984, Ken was fishing on the Ruthie L about five miles from his son on the Victory II. As he usually did, he called his son on his radio to say he was heading in and to check on the day’s catch, and was distressed when there was no reply. The Victory II was missing.
The official report stated that the boat’s nets had become entangled in a chain attached to an abandoned concrete mooring on the sea floor. It appeared that the crew was hauling in their nets and had pulled up the chain to within 10 feet of the boat, the report said. According to Kenneth, what happened next is unknown. Perhaps the boat rolled on its side and sank. In the immediate aftermath, neither the boat nor the fishermen could be found.
Victory II was later found in 30 feet of water off Billingsgate Shoal when a Wellfleet fishing vessel snagged its nets on the submerged 60-foot boat. Kenneth II’s body was found caught in the net of a dragger in 1985. The other two fishermen, Ben Fernandez and John J.D. Dorff, have never been found.
After that unfathomable loss, Kenneth carried on fishing on the Ruthie L until his retirement 10 years later. His wife, Ruth, died in 2005. Kenneth remarried, and he and his wife, Francesca E. Macara, settled in Delray Beach, Fla.
Ken is survived by his brother, Manuel Macara of North Truro; his sister, Inez Johns of Indianapolis, Ind.; and sons Gene Macara of Columbia, S.C. and Joel Macara of Provincetown and daughter-in-law Darlene Macara of Chatham. He is also survived by several grandchildren, stepchildren, and godchildren.
He was predeceased by his son Kenneth Macara II and his first wife, Ruth L. Macara.
Funeral services were held in Delray Beach. Burial will be at St Peter the Apostle Cemetery in Provincetown. At his request, burial services will be private.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to support cancer research.