The Hard Merchandise

Video highlights from Wicked Tuna

Hard Merchandise is the embodiment of blue-collar fisherman’s Gloucester (in north eastern US) from its 27-year-old hull to its hard-charging captain who looks more like a Harley Davidson rider than an old salt.

Hard Merchandise is the embodiment of blue-collar fisherman’s Gloucester (in north eastern US)  from its 27-year-old hull to its hard-charging captain who looks more like a Harley Davidson rider than an old salt.  Captain Dave Marciano is joined by his nephew and first mate, Jay Muenzner, to whom he imparts his knowledge with every success and let down.  It’s all tough love for Jay while he learns the skill and passion that Marciano uses to level the playing field against his more modern competitors.


Dave Marciano, Captain

The son of an insurance man from nearby Beverly, Massachusetts, Marciano started fishing at age 11, and never considered another trade.  “I just took to the water,” he says.  “I got my first jobs on charter boats in Gloucester as a teenager.  After high school, I got into it full time.”  Marciano worked for a decade as a crewman in Key West, Florida and Gloucester before an employer spotted his obvious talents and “threw him the keys” to captain a boat.  “I ran that boat, the Captain Vince II, for three seasons, and we did real well,” he explains.  “I saved enough money from my captain’s share that I could buy my own boat.”  In Gloucester, where the waterfront has a memorial to the thousands of Gloucester fishermen who have died at sea over the last three centuries, Marciano also holds the distinction of having survived a 2003 shipwreck.  “We were pushing the limit and the weather was a little crappy,” Marciano recalls.  They were 29 kilometres offshore and struggling to get back with hundreds of kilograms of fish when a plank in the hull gave way.  “We sank in 33 minutes,” Marciano recalls, as matter-of-factly as a landlubber might recall a fender bender in a parking lot.  “It wasn’t as dangerous of a situation as it sounds, though.  We’d had all that Coast Guard training and we had the pumps and other equipment, and there was another fishing boat a mile away.  We wanted to save the boat, but we knew that as long as we didn’t do anything stupid, we weren’t going to die.”  His peers, who heard him on the radio during the ordeal, told him they were surprised by his utter aplomb in the midst of such a mishap — “I heard comments like, ‘I woulda been freaking out, but you were as calm as an [expletive] air traffic controller,’” he laughs.  “But that’s why you do the training.”

Jason Muenzner, First Mate

“I started tuna fishing right out of high school, at age 18.  I haven’t been in the game long, but I can’t imagine doing anything else,” explains Muenzner.  “I definitely want to become a captain someday.  Dave is encouraging me to go out and get my captain’s license, and to run charters.”  Muenzner says that bluefin fishing is not so much a job as a craft, an amalgam of complex, difficult-to-learn skills, knowledge and physical endurance that takes years to master.  “You have to start as an apprentice and work your way up,” he says.  “And it really helps to have a teacher like Dave, who’s been around for over 30 years catching bluefin now.  I can go out and compete with some of the best, because he’s dumped all his knowledge on me.”

For Muenzner, the most challenging part of bluefin fishing is not the required endurance and the intensity of the physical labour, or even the danger.  Instead, it’s the challenge of suddenly being able to morph from a normal, calm and relaxed demeanour into a mental state of steely resolve and unrelenting concentration.  “The experience of catching bluefin — everything about it is hard.  You wake up early, you stay up long days.  You might go three, four days without a bite, and then you have one, and you’ve got to go to work, jump into action.  You’re feeling relaxed and lazy, and then that rod moves, and it’s game time.  Those first couple of minutes, they’re the toughest.”  In the off-season and when he’s not on the water, he works as a mechanic to make ends meet.

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address