by Sue Giustino
“When I received the letter from Joe Gaviola it brought tears to my eyes. What an Honor!” Recalled Captain Paul Forsberg as he spoke with me about the 2019 Lighting of the Lighthouse celebration. He will be throwing the switch which illuminates the grand tower for the holiday season. I had the pleasure of speaking with Captain Paul about this honor, from his home in Florida, and he could not have been more humble and gracious.
Moving here with his family as a young boy in 1951, before all of the technology like on the boats today, he told me that all they had was a compass to work off of. Paul reminisced about all of the years coming in from fishing trips, looking forward to seeing the light welcome them home, or hearing the fog horn to lead their way into the harbor. He also remembered many instances on return trips when he would make everyone be quiet so they could listen for the horn. The Montauk Lighthouse was truly the fisherman’s guide.
Recently Joe Gaviola- the MTK Lighthouse keeper- gave Captain Paul a tour of the Lighthouse. He was very impressed and also couldn’t believe that after all the years of fishing around it, or passing by it on his boat, that he had never been inside or even known there is a museum.
Before moving to Montauk in 1951, Paul’s father Carl started the Viking Fleet in Freeport in 1936. Like his sons, Paul grew up in the engine room while also attending Montauk Schools. Having his own boat to fish on, as well as his dads’, Paul has been a fisherman all his life. First with his dad and eventually taking over the business and growing it to what it is today, then with his sons, and now his grandsons.
Turning 80 on November 3rd, Paul is ‘retired’ from the Viking Fleet, however, he did tell me he’s only a phone call away if they ever need him. His pride shone through the phone as he spoke about the success of the Viking Fleet being attributed to the “Good People” who have worked there for so long. He mentioned a few including Orla, Captain Dave, and of course his two sons, Steve and Paul Jr., as well as their sons Steven Jr. and Carl. He’s a proud dad and grandfather who feels like quite a lucky guy; feeling at ease knowing that the business is in good hands.
Although he said he’s enjoying his ‘Golden Years’, I’m not sure if his definition of retirement would match the general populations’. Living in Florida, he has a small marina where they have half and full day fishing trips. He’s also in the process of building a small restaurant at the marina, similar to the one on the Viking dock here in Montauk. “It’s not physical work, but it keeps me occupied,” he commented. In addition, he continues to go on 4-7 day commercial fishing trips on the sail boat he built some 30 years ago. He used to fish up and down the coast, now staying a bit more local doing a few trips a month if he’s up to it. For me, these last thoughts pretty much sum him up. “I’ve been a fisherman all my life. To me this is Retirement and Enjoyment. I’m no couch potato.”
The Lighting the Montauk Lighthouse will take place on Saturday November 30th. The holiday festivities begin at around 4pm. Sunday December 1st enjoy ‘Christmas at the Light’- 11am – 3pm free for children and adults $5.
If you’re interested in viewing the lighting by boat, the Viking Starship is sailing at 4pm/ BYOB and food. It’s $25 for adults and free for kids 12 and under- all proceeds go to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse is currently under major renovations and the Historical Society is fundraising for these repairs as well as the cost of the lighting. If you would like to donate, go to their website www.montauklighthouse.com for more information.