YARMOUTH — At age 8 Tom Gentilini had his own lawn mowing business. Today he’s a deck hand on a fishing trawler.

Gentilini will graduate from Yarmouth High School on June 9, and unlike many of his classmates, he’ll head straight to work instead of attending college or going into the military.

He comes by his independent streak honestly. His older brother is an arborist who operates his own landscaping business and Gentilini’s father is a diesel mechanic.

After graduation Gentilini will work full time for the Down the Bay Lobster company, on Portland Pier in Portland.

In addition to fishing for herring, Gentilini will also be lobstering and harvesting scallops, all in federal waters.

He began working for Down the Bay Lobster last summer after completing a three-day job shadow with the company during his junior year. Gentilini has always loved the ocean and said he never thought twice about the 14-hour work days involved.

Last summer he often ran the company’s “smack boat,” which had him traveling around Casco Bay all day both delivering and negotiating for lobster bait. The boat that Gentilini operated was a 51-foot former U.S. Navy vessel.

He would get up well before dawn every morning, and said there’s nothing like watching the mist lift off the water and seeing the fish jump, and then seeing porpoises and seals cavorting in the waves.

“I love being out on the water. The sights and smells. You can’t have a bad day on the water,” Gentilini said. “I just feel so free when I’m out on the water. (The ocean) is just an amazing, amazing thing. It’s so beautiful.”

Although he hopes to make good money as a fisherman, Gentilini is also very cognizant of the need to protect the environment, which is a reason he doesn’t resent the new limits being placed on herring catches or other fisheries.

His favorite high school course, by far, was the marine biology class Gentilini took this year. “I learned a lot about how marine life can be impacted by the fishing industry,” he said, from oil leaks to bilge pumps and noise pollution.

“I’m definitely interested in conservation,” Gentilini said. “I’m worried about over fishing and saving the resource, so I definitely understand the need for quotas.”

Gentilini’s dream is to one day own a fishing boat and then retire early so he can tinker around with engines as much as he likes.

What he most enjoys about working on engines, he said, is “the feeling of satisfaction when you get it running again.”

Gentilini has a five-year plan, which includes eventually attending community college and earning a degree. “But,” he said, “I want to earn my own way. I don’t want to be scrounging for money or take on student debt.”

While Gentilini works with his hands, he’s also getting exposed to cutting-edge technology on the trawler, where almost every function is computerized and the crew relies on the tech to keep them safe and help them find their catch.

“My job is to make sure that everything is running smoothly,” Gentilini said.

He was first introduced to the joys of working on the water when he was in middle school and a neighbor asked Gentilini if he’d like to be a sternman on a lobster boat during the summer.

While his main passion is for fishing and working on the water, Gentilini has also spent the past three years of high school helping out the School Department’s maintenance team.

He job shadowed with the team as a sophomore and got so interested in what they did each day that he gave up all of his study halls and most of his lunches in order to do odd jobs around the schools.

His favorite job is working with the heavy machinery, but Gentilini said he’a also learned some key fine motor skills, such as fixing or changing a lock.

Gentilini’s best friend is John Behr, one of the men on the maintenance crew. Gentilini said Behr has taught him a lot about working hard, but also having fun while you’re doing it.

Gentilini called the maintenance crew a “great group of guys,” who’ve given him a “great, great experience.”

Gentilini came to Yarmouth High School as a sophomore and said when he first arrived he was always being sent to the principal’s office and getting into trouble.

But once he connected with the maintenance team, he was learning so much that he quit being a troublemaker. Now, he said, teachers ask him to fix their cars.

Gentilini was also on the varsity football team and said he loved being part of a group all working toward the same goal.

What he also liked about football was the chance to “get physical without getting into trouble.”

“I have so many dreams,” Gentilini said about his future, and said he couldn’t have gotten where he is without all the support and encouragement he received from teachers and administrators at Yarmouth High School.

“This was the best move,” he said. “It’s been a great experience.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Tom Gentilini is graduating from Yarmouth High School on June 9. He’s planning a career as a fisherman and said there’s nothing like working on the water.

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