GLOUCESTER — They gathered to pray for their lost fishermen. In the windy darkness at the edge of the ocean, they lit and relit flickering candles. Behind them, lights from distant boats shone on the water.
About 80 people attended a vigil on Sunday night at the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial to honor Wally Gray Jr., 26, and Wayne Young, 50, who steered their scallop boat out of Gloucester Harbor last Saturday for one final voyage before the holiday. They never came back.
They are presumed lost at sea.
Jolena Rogers, Gray’s cousin, said she is having trouble accepting that he is gone.
“Sometimes, I sit and I think, maybe he’s out there, maybe he is,” said “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Gray and Young, both of Deer Isle, Maine, disappeared after setting out to sea from Gloucester for a day trip Dec. 15 on Gray’s scallop boat, the Foxy Lady II. The Coast Guard suspended its search for the two men Wednesday, and an empty survival capsule from the Foxy Lady II turned up in Saugus River early last week.
The Coast Guard said Gray’s girlfriend called last Monday morning to report that the two fishermen had not returned from their trip. The last known location of the 45-foot fishing boat was around 15 miles north of Provincetown. Adam Stanton, a Coast Guard spokesman, said the service is investigating to determine the cause of the fishermen’s disappearance.
Angela Sanfilippo, president of The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, said she does not believe Gray and Young are alive, but she hopes their bodies will be found.
“When the bodies are recovered, you do put a closure to things,” she said.
The Rev. Rona Tyndall, an organizer of the vigil, said the candlelit ceremony was intended to support the men’s families and to help people find peace.
“Everyone is going about their Christmas preparations and it’s a busy time of year, but these families have lost the most precious things — sons, fathers,” she said.
Friends and relatives held each other as they recalled Gray, who they said had saved money from the time he was just 11 years old to buy his boat, and Young, a devoted family man.
“He has been out on a boat since he was a little kid,” Peter Frontiero, said of his cousin, Gray. “All he cared about was being out at sea.”
Gray liked to “walk the greasy pole” — a Gloucester tradition in which people compete to snatch a flag from the end of a greased pole in the harbor during St. Peter’s Fiesta in June.
He had a 3-year old son, who was named after him. The only thing he loved more than being out on the water, relatives said, was being home with his little boy.
Friends said Young’s family was not in attendance, but in the tight-knit fishing community, many at the vigil knew him.
“He loved his family,” said Brian Billings, who lives in Gloucester but has also lived on Deer Isle.
Billings brought Gray’s and Young’s favorite cups of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts — French-vanilla extra-extra for Gray and a large regular for Young — and left them at the memorial in front of a wreath marked “Foxy Lady II.”
A similar vigil took place last Monday on Deer Isle, where dozens of people gathered on a pier in Stonington to remember the fishermen, said the Rev. Stephen York, pastor of the Stonington United Methodist Church.
“The island itself is in lamentation at the moment,” York said Sunday.
Gray and Young were well-regarded in the community, he said, and fishing is essential to the area. In that sense, York said, Deer Isle shares a bond with Gloucester.
“There’s a sense of connection among fishermen and fishing families,” York said. “So it’s not defined simply by geography, but it’s by a common vision and a common vocation.”
In Gloucester Sunday night, that sentiment was felt by those who braved the biting wind to remember brothers lost at sea.
“Family is everything when you’re a fisherman,” Billings said.Evan Allen can be reached at email@example.com. Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.