Not just any port in storm for boat


The movie didn't have a happy ending, but the boat that portrayed the ill-fated Andrea Gail in "The Perfect Storm" will get one.

Lady Grace, a commercial fishing boat from Ocean City, has been sold to Legal Sea Foods of Boston for $145,100.

"I read the book. I saw the movie. We used to purchase a lot of fish off the Andrea Gail," says Roger Berkowitz, chief executive of the restaurant chain.

Berkowitz bought the boat Friday from Warner Bros. Pictures through the on-line auction house eBay.

The 72-foot, 93-ton vessel is on an extended movie promotional tour in Europe, but when she returns to this country next month, her new home port will be Gloucester, Mass., where the Andrea Gail had been docked.

Lady Grace was a natural to portray Andrea Gail. The two were sister ships, built side-by-side in a Panama City, Fla., shipyard in 1978.

After she was purchased from LaPlata businessman Mike McCook in March 1999, Warner Bros. had her repainted to look like Andrea Gail. Actor George Clooney was taught how to sail her by the real skipper of Lady Grace, Capt. Stanley "Sonny" Layton, of Ocean City.

"The movie has been such a morale booster for Gloucester, really putting it back on the map," he says.

"When I heard it was going to be auctioned off, I knew [the boat] probably was going to be taken out of New England."

Instead, he says, the Lady Grace will be "a living memorial" to commercial fishermen lost at sea, and a reminder to visitors how difficult and dangerous the industry is.

Berkowitz hopes to hold fund raisers to help the families of the Andrea Gail's crew and other fishing families in Gloucester. He also wants to sail the boat up and down the East Coast to raise money for other fishing industry charities.

"Since 'Captains Courageous,' there hasn't been anything to focus on the fishing business," he says, referring to the 1937 movie starring Spencer Tracy that was shot in Gloucester. "The Lady Grace can be a catalyst to bring attention to the fishing industry and its people."

Gloucester Mayor Bruce Tobey says local feelings about Lady Grace have changed over the last year, and now the return of the boat is welcome news.

"When she first arrived, it was like seeing a ghost. Obviously there was a concern that the movie would be respectful of the community, the families and the loss," he says. "The movie was all that. It was a compassionate treatment."

Tobey says he has talked with Berkowitz about making Lady Grace a part of a proposed Maritime Heritage Center along the working waterfront.

"Lady Grace would help show a broad segment of America the real factual reasons that commercial fishing is the most dangerous job in America," Tobey explains. He says consumers might have more sympathy for fishermen when they see the high price of fish.

The sale of the boat to Legal Sea Foods has delighted McCook, the former owner, who helped Layton sail the boat to California for filming and teach Clooney seamanship.

"I'm glad to see she'll be put to good use," McCook says. "I was afraid she would end up in an amusement park. That would have been sad."

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