The U.S. flag near Cape Porpoise pier is at half-mast in memory of Arnold ‘Joe’ Nickerson, who fished from Cape Porpoise, and of his crew member Chris Pinkham, of Boothbay Harbor. Both men perished on Thursday, Jan. 23 when Nickerson’s boat, the Hayley Ann, sank 45 nautical miles off Portland. Tammy Wells Photo

CAPE PORPOISE — The flag stands at half-mast near the pier in this community where Arnold “Joe” Nickerson IV homeported his fishing vessel, the Hayley Ann.

Nickerson 60, of Arundel and his fellow fisherman, Christopher Pinkham, 44, of Boothbay Harbor, perished Thursday afternoon, Jan. 23,  when the Hayley Ann sank 45 nautical miles out to sea off Portland.

Nickerson had fished since he was a boy and spent his life on the water.

Fisherman Arnold ‘Joe’ Nickerson IV in August 2017. Photo by Amy Paradysz

His death and that of Pinkham, his crew member, have hit the fishing community and the wider community hard.

“I knew him well, it’s a tragedy,” said Ed Hutchins, a fellow fisherman and a member of the Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen. “(Joe) was a good guy, and he did a lot for the fisherman’s organizations.”

As well as his involvement in statewide fishing-related associations, Nickerson was active closer to home, as a member of the Cape Porpoise Pier Committee, said Hutchins, who was the Board of Selectman’s liaison to the committee.

Nickerson was a lobster fisherman, a scalloper and a ground fisherman.

He was chairman of the board of directors of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and had previously served as the organization’s longtime vice chairman.

“It is hard to state the depth of the profound sadness that we have all felt at the news that Joe Nickerson and his crew Chris Pinkham perished at sea while out fishing,” said Ben Martens, executive director of the MCFA. “Maine has lost a great man, father, husband, and grandfather, and I have personally lost a dear friend. Joe’s dedication to the fishing communities of Maine throughout his extensive fishing career, and his knowledge and expertise on the water, made him an invaluable leader for our organization. Our thoughts and prayers are with loved ones both men leave behind.”

U.S. Coast Guard rescue crews responded to an emergency beacon 45 nautical miles south east of Portland at mid-afternoon on Thursday, Jan. 23. A Coast Guard airplane, two helicopters and a cutter from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, responded. Coast Guard accounts show the plane arrived and spotted the sinking vessel and an empty life raft. Then, a Coast Guard helicopter arrived and dropped a rescue swimmer, who confirmed the raft was empty and there were two unresponsive people in the water, according to the Coast Guard accounts.

Nickerson’s friend, Randy Cushman, who had been fishing nearby on the Ella Christine, arrived and recovered their bodies, according to a Friday, Jan. 24 Portland Press Herald story by Edward D. Murphy.

Petty Officer Third Class Ryan Noel of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boston  public affairs office on Monday said the investigation into what transpired continues.

According to his obituary, Nickerson went lobstering with his father out of Cape Porpoise in his early years before running fishing vessels out of Portland and Dutch Harbor, Alaska. He later bought the Hayley Ann, which he named for his wife Sharon Ann and his daughter Hayley.

“Our deepest condolences to the families of the Captain and crew of the F/V Hayley Ann who were lost at sea last night,” wrote the Maine Lobstermen’s Association on Friday, Jan. 24. “Fair wind and following seas … you are all in our thoughts and prayers.”

Maine Commissioner of Marine Resources Patrick Keliher issued a statement:

“I’ve known Joe for years, and he has been an incredibly valuable contributor for two terms on the Department of Marine Resources Advisory Council, especially with regard to the groundfish and elver fisheries with which he was most directly involved,” said DMP Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “I chose him to serve on the council because of his perspective as an experienced, successful fisherman and his calm and constructive approach to problem solving. He was committed to the proper management of Maine’s marine resources and was willing to give his time to help his fellow fishermen. I always valued his insights and ideas. He was a first-rate fisherman, and an excellent representative for Maine’s fishing community. We’re all deeply saddened by the loss of both Chris and Joe and our heartfelt condolences go out to their friends and families.”

In Cape Porpoise, Hutchins, whose family has been fishing lobster for five generations, further reflected on the community’s loss.

“It’s raw,” he said. “It’s the senselessness of it that upsets me. And people far smarter than I have tried to make sense of it for millennia.”

A Celebration of Life Service for Nickerson will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday Feb. 1 at the American Legion Hall, 102 Main St., Kennebunkport.

Go Fund Me pages have been set up in memory of both men.

For Pinkham, the page is at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-for-the-family-of-chris-pinkham

For Nickerson, the page is at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/assistance-for-family-of-fallen-maine-captain

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