When The Moonies Came To Town

Adam Bolonsky writes-

I remember when the Unification Church (the Moonies) arrived Gloucester in the late 70’s and started bluefin fishing. It was a complex time, and thinking about it recently, I came across these reminiscences from Colleen Christian, a Moonie who moved to Gloucester to fish on one of the two dozen or so Gloucester bluefin boats the Moonies brought to the waterfont. Moonie crews fished with handlines for bluefin. Some crews were made up of only women. Anyhow, I got a kick out of the anecdote below, especially the part where a moonie from the Bronx teaches a Gloucester bluefin moonie crew how to respond to Moonies suck!

Colleen writes:

My first assignment in Gloucester was on a bluefin boat that went to the Northwest Corner, this huge bank, a rise in the ocean floor, where the water is about a hundred feet deep, ideal for bluefin tuna fishing. Soon after we we got there, there was a strike on one of the boats in there. When you hook a bluefin, first thing you do is, the first mate releases the anchor – attached to a big orange buoy ball – so that when you land your fish you can retrieve your anchor. In our fleet, it was permissible for any of our boats to come over and take the anchor of a Moonie boat that had just hooked up, the reasoning being, if one boat caught a tuna in that spot, another boat would, too.

So that’s what we did. Soon after we moved to the other boat’s mooring ball, I heard the snap of one of the clips holding our handlines. Our captain barked out orders to release the anchor and to pull in all the our other lines. 

It was pandemonium and utter confusion, and so another boat in our fleet motored over to help. This big German guy jumped on board with us to us. He and I pulled in the extra lines and our captain took the fighting line to the bow. After a half hour, I took the fighting line, and that’s how it went, back and forth, for over two hours. , and it went on, like that, for two hours, his turn, my turn. 

The fish we landed weighed 550 lbs. When we got it within a few feet of our boat, I gaffed it, and we inserted one line through its gills, another around its tail, and we tied it off alongside low enough in the water to keep cool for the trip home.

The big thing to do in was moon us. People in Gloucester knew us and knew our cars, and they would drive by us and pull their pants down and show us their butts. They’d yell, 

“Moonies suck! Moonies suck!”

But there was a brother in our church who was kind of a bad dude before he joined the church. He was from the Bronx, and he knew how to answer Moonies suck. He said,

“When they yell Moonies suck, you yell, Your mother sucks! Your sister sucks!

So we did. They yelled Moonies suck at us. And we yelled back, Your mother sucks!! And they yelled, My mother sucks?! You suck! and from there it would escalate.

woman moonie bluefin

Photo: Nancy Breyfogel, Susan Fox, Jane Rees and Lois Ramunnihad stand with a Moonie bluefin they landed in Gloucester in the early 1980’s. “Like anyone else,” Lois said, “I wanted to try it because it sounded exciting. It was something new.”

3 thoughts on “When The Moonies Came To Town

  1. You brought incredible flashbacks of interesting memories with the Moonies!- It was sometime in the very early 80s and the Moonies had a foothold in Gloucester in their own fleet of 28 foot custom Makos, plus buying Giants from other fishermen- but could not break into the tight-knit Montauk community. I was Giant tuna fishing back then on my 21’ Mako. I rigged up some crazy gin pole that would be too hard to explain, except when I got the fish into the boat-the boat would almost sink and I’d have to continually go forward, or the transom would start going underwater-crazy days! it was the days of the Greg Beecher Pauley Stern competition, both great fisherman.I also remember incredibly breathtaking boat called the JOSEPH PANCOAST,-and he used to tow out a beautiful Alaskan aluminum skiff behind his boat-he would first catch a Giant on the big boat, and then he would get in the little boat and catch another one, having separate tuna permits for each boat. He was the boat which was the catalyst of changing the law that a tuna permit vessel had to get to the grounds under its own power.
    Back then it was legal to sell the Giants to a vessel called a “buy boat”-a boat that stayed among the fleet and took fish right from the fisherman after being caught-the buy boat we use was called The Bozo-and you would hear his name being called on the VHF “The Bozo! The Bozo!”-But your other choice was to go into port and sell it through a broker at Montauk Marine basin, Gossman’s and a few other buyers.
    But then the Moonies came into town. I was a young kid and not well known-and the regular buyers always complained about my fish-you know how it goes, lack of fat content, plus a new fictitious disease every week! I had one particular Giant I could not sell and was only offered $1 a pound–I had met a guy in town who was the Moonie representative-an incredibly nice guy name Richard-he was just paired up with his wife by Reverend Moon-and Richard’s wife was also delightful. He was Korean, she was a Caucasian American. Richard told me to come by his packing house, I believe where it is now where Inlet Marine is- with my fish-and he would beat any price that I was offered by anyone else. At the time the prices were a ridiculous low $3 a pound or so. Richard saw my fish and immediately offered me $5. Now I was going from $1 up to $5 a pound-but I was being pressured by many not to sell to the “terrible Moonies.” Quite honestly I didn’t care if Richard was a Moonie, or from the planet Xanadu! And he was a nice guy. I told Richard I would keep the information private with all the money he was giving me for my fish-and Richie said “On the contrary, I want you to tell EVERYBODY what I gave you and I want to buy every fish coming into Montauk.”
    Sure enough I did spread the word, and Richard’s business immediately flourished much to the dismay of the other Montauk buyers. I ended up enjoying Richard’s company so much, I invited him and his wife to spend some time with my family after the fishing season at my home in Wantagh. BIG MISTAKE!-He and his wife almost never came out of their bedroom in my home-and they made an incredible amount of noise during their “amorous hours”-and they ended up not wanting to go home back to their Moonie compound, but wanted to stay with us. Richard finally had to get back and everything worked out, Richard was an absolutely great guy, and I am not one to complain about his very strong libido-he must have had a lot of backed-up amorous frustrations that his lovely wife was the benefactor of.
    I often wonder where Richard is today-if anyone knows or remembers him, please let me know. The game of the tuna buyers is still going on- maybe we can use another Moonie group right now so we don’t have to hear about the weak Yen, rainbow in the meat, and all of these other mostly made up diseases which ends up paying the fisherman pittance compared to the actual cost which is charged for a single slice of sushi- times the number of pieces in a pound of tuna -the math of how much that tuna really sells for a pound is mind-boggling compared to what the fisherman gets! But let’s save that for another post.


  2. Thanks for adding some comments, Mike. I remember the Moonies at City Hall in 1977 or 1978 – Leo Alper, then mayor, telling several in attendance they’d have strap marks across their asses before he’d issue them either a parade permit and some sort of real estate variance. And then their spokesman at Sawyer Free trying to assure students the church wasn’t going to convert local kids. And Moonies at Good Harbor Beach looking lost and unsure of themselves but for sure enjoying the water….


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