A painting leads Wareham author 'In Search of Ellen Marie'

Rachel Rowley Spaulding to speak on July 25 at Wareham Free Library
By Matthew Bernat | Jul 09, 2017
West Wareham's Rachel Rowley Spaulding will speak and sign copies of her book "In Search of Ellen Marie" at 5:30 p.m. on July 25 in the Wareham Free Library.

In West Wareham native Rachel Rowley Spaulding’s debut book, she chronicles the curious path she took after buying a painting of the “Ellen Marie,” a commercial fishing boat built in the early 1960s.

The journey brought Rowley Spaulding from the gritty docks of New Bedford’s port to quieter harbors in Maine. As someone with no previous ties to the commercial fishing industry, the author’s newfound obsession surprised friends, family and herself.

She tells the story in “In Search of Ellen Marie,” published by Archway Publishing. On July 25 at 5:30 p.m., she’ll speak at an event in the Wareham Free Library and sign copies.

The tale starts in 2007 when she noticed a print of “The Pilot House” by Arthur Moniz in a New Bedford gallery, depicting the boat’s wheelhouse shrouded in fog.

She found something about the mix of colors and subject matter intriguing.

“It didn’t make any sense. I didn’t have any connection to fishing boats,” she said. “But for weeks, any time I headed to New Bedford that painting would call to me.”

Rowley Spaulding had an opportunity to not just buy a print, but the original painting itself. After that, she felt a connection to the boat and decided to find it, her search grounding the book’s narrative with some detours into the world of commercial fishing.

The search brought her to the Harvey Gamage Shipyard in South Bristol, Maine and put her in touch with various fishermen and boat builders, all in her quest to find the "Ellen Marie."

“One of the most exciting things to me is I was injected into a piece of marine history that was moving into oblivion right before my eyes,” Rowley Spaulding said.

She has worked most of her life in the financial field and has a business degree from Boston University. To tell the story better, Rowley Spaulding enrolled in writing classes at UMass Dartmouth.

She met one of the ship’s captains, Arnold “Woodie” Bowers, who shared with her some poignant experiences and explained the fishing process. Other stops along the way included a trip to Boston’s North End Fisherman’s Feast and an excursion aboard another boat, “Challenge.”

All these experiences are written about in the part history, part mystery memoir, which will be available for purchase at the book signing. Copies can also be bought online at Amazon.com (search for “In Search of Ellen Marie”) or through the author's website, www.rachelrowleyspaulding.com.

And after two years, did Rowley Spaulding ever find the "Ellen Marie"? Readers will have to find out for themselves.

“That’s a question I don’t like to answer,” she said. “It would spoil the end for anyone who wants to read the book.”

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