September 8, 2013

A Maine fisherman's life lived large ends in a sea of questions

A friend who was with him on his last night talks about Billy McIntire's ill-fated swim, and the 'toughest decision of my life.'

By Matt Byrne
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Bouquets of flowers rest on the bow of the lobster boat Clover in memory of Billy McIntire in Perkins Cove recently. McIntire and his friend Tim Levesque, along with three women, took the boat out late on the night of Aug. 22. “None of this should have happened,” said Levesque, adding, “I’m the one who had to say ‘bye’ to him and let him go.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Fisherman Billy McIntire, shown at work in 2008, is presumed drowned after diving off his lobster boat late in the evening of Aug. 22, investigators say. His body has yet to be recovered.

Contributed photo

Additional Photos Below


McIntire's fast-and-loose lifestyle came at the expense of financial security. Decker said that McIntire was still making payments on his commercial boat, the 42-foot Clover, and had to borrow money from his father to pay for fuel.

In a good season, some tuna fishermen earn enough to reinvest in their boat and gear, save for the winter, and sock away a few extra dollars.

For McIntire, who, before last year, had never owned his own boat, a season's profit of $50,000 or $60,000 could vanish in a few short months, Decker said.

"He spent it as fast as he made it," Decker said.

Friends said McIntire, from early adulthood, had a taste for indulgences: good food, good drink, some marijuana -- occasionally something harder -- and women. "He had two interests at that age. It was women, and it was tuna fish," Decker said. "We were alcoholics and drug addicts, but that's when we were back in our 20s. I stayed away from the cocaine. Other guys didn't. But we all drank ungodly amounts of alcohol."

But when the fun had to stop, Billy Mac had no qualms about hard work -- his physical vitality was the key to his carefree lifestyle. By all accounts, McIntire not only lived hard, he enjoyed working hard.

Although the 2012 tuna season was not easy, McIntire landed at least one monster that year: A blurry photo shows McIntire, wearing a hat, hooded sweatshirt and orange waders, holding one arm up against the hanging fish, the top of its tail towering above him.


Tim Levesque, 36, crossed paths professionally with McIntire this spring, when McIntire was hired by the same contractor Levesque worked for as a carpenter.

Although they had met only briefly before, Levesque already knew much about McIntire -- his reputation preceded him.

Levesque, tan and muscular with a scraggly beard and a gravel-trap voice, had thrown himself into his work after a difficult divorce 18 months ago. The crew he worked with became his refuge, where he could crack jokes and sing along to the radio with his buddies.

"We're a great crew," Levesque said. "We all get along so well. It's tough to find. We all are shoulder to shoulder."

At the center of the camaraderie was Billy Mac, who took a liking to Levesque. McIntire began spending time after work with Levesque, who was in full-blown social atrophy.

They grew closer, one of McIntire's newest relationships blossoming into a strong bond, Levesque said. McIntire was planning to take Levesque fishing.

"We talked about everything," Levesque said. "Always about fishing, always about life. (He) just took that father-figure role."

So when McIntire and Levesque finished work on Aug. 22, a particularly productive day, Levesque said, McIntire suggested they go for a few drinks.

Out on the town, they befriended three women, two of them who spoke little English and seemed to be from Eastern European countries.

The third woman, Stephanie, also spoke with an accent but communicated easily. Statuesque and tattooed, she seemed ready to have a good time that night, Levesque said.

Darkness fell, and the group headed for a second bar in downtown Ogunquit. Stephanie drove, with Levesque sitting with the other two women in the backseat, flirting and trying to talk through the language barrier.

Since his divorce, Levesque said his social life had all but shut down, but McIntire was helping him come out of his shell. Spending an evening in the company of a few women was a welcome change of pace, he said.

After a round of martinis at the second bar, the group moved to a nearby nightclub, ordered beers and hit the dance floor.

(Continued on page 4)

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Additional Photos

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Perkins Cove lobsterman Rick Knight, captain of the Michelle D, waits to unload his catch at the wharf late last month. Billy McIntire “was a hell of a nice guy,” Knight said of Perkins Cove’s unofficial “mayor,” who was lost at sea and presumed drowned on Aug. 22. McIntire was “always very popular and nice to be around,” Knight said.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Michelle Melanson and Tracy Charpentier, close friends of lost fisherman Billy McIntire, sit on the porch of their Ogunquit home late last month. According to Melanson, the empty chair in the foreground is where McIntire used to sit during his frequent visits.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer


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