Carl Darenberg, Sr. (1925-2009) Collection
Sportfishing in Montauk entered its golden age during the mid-20th century. Fish were plentiful and found relatively close to shore, and the sport was unregulated. Fishing was mostly done “by the seat of your pants,” using little more than a compass, lead line, and piece of paper, Carl Darenberg, Sr., recalled in an oral history interview recorded by the Montauk Library. Mr. Darenberg was at the helm when Montauk’s sportfishing industry began to take off.
In the 1930s the Darenbergs had moved from Freeport to Montauk, which made it possible for Carl, still a boy, to witness the Hurricane of 1938 at Fort Pond Bay and to work as a mate on open party boats at the famous Union News Dock. Fort Pond Bay was also where his father, Carl Darenberg, Sr., originally docked the Fortenate, a yacht he and three partners bought to try out in Montauk as a charter boat. According to an obituary in the East Hampton Star, the purchase left them with only $10, which they proceeded to spend on lunch, thus the name “for-ten-ate.”
The younger Carl Darenberg took over the Fortenate (sometimes spelled Foretenate) after serving in the Pacific Theater in World War II. Running charters out of the Montauk Yacht Club in Montauk Harbor, he earned a reputation for landing gamefish like giant tuna, swordfish, and marlin.
At times, Mr. Darenberg also worked as a dock builder. In that capacity he was tasked with moving the U.S. Coast Guard station to its present spot in Montauk Harbor. The building had already been moved from nearby Napeague to the beach on Fort Pond Bay, where getting it offshore posed great challenges. The most perplexing problem, though, was how to outsmart a stiff wind that caught the three-story building as they were towing it toward the inlet. The building threatened to overtake the tow boat, so the movers had a cup of coffee and reassessed. They decided to open all the doors and windows – and “My God, the building slowed down,” Mr. Darenberg said.
In 1955, he opened what today is called the Montauk Marine Basin, a marina and tackle shop subsequently operated by his son, Carl Darenberg, Jr., and grandchildren. His wife, the former Vivian Tuma, helped run the business until her death in 2001. The Marine Basin hosted Montauk’s first shark fishing tournament in the late 1960s, according to the Star's obituary of Mr. Darenberg.
“It was exciting -- it was a lot of fun,” he said of more than one adventure in various interviews for the Montauk Library and Montauk Historical Society. “There was a tremendous sporting aspect,” he said of the early days of the charter business, when improvisation and adventure were recurring themes. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve lost a lot of the sporting aspect in the industry.”
Scope of Collection
This collection includes photographs of sportfishermen’s catch (from bass and bluefish to wahoo and tuna), officers confiscating fish as fishery regulations took effect and a protest of those regulations in the 1980s, boats and boat shows, “Blessings of the Fleet” dating back to the 1950s, family photos and photos of the Montauk Marine Basin, aerials, landscapes by sea and land, the groundbreaking for Montauk’s new firehouse, the 1974 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and tournaments, trophies, and parties.