The Faces of Plymouth

By Moira McCarthy Stanford
Photography by Jack Foley

Rich with historic landmarks, seafood restaurants and boating opportunities, Plymouth’s bustling waterfront is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Many townspeople live and work in the area, from the local lobstermen who can be spotted unloading the day’s catch to the tour boat operators who take visitors on scenic harbor cruises. We profiled five fascinating individuals you’re likely to bump into when you’re spending time down by the docks.

Jay Kimball

Longtime Wood’s Seafood owner Jay Kimball operates a thriving fish market and top-rated waterfront dining spot with close relationships to the local fishing community.

“The people down here are really hard workers,” says Kimball, who buys lobsters right off the boat. “They are down to earth and easy to work with. They care about one another and look out for one another. And I’m a part of that fabric.”

Kimball is proud of the restaurant’s reputation for good food and good prices. He doesn’t just talk the talk either. On any given day, as the line for fresh seafood or cooked meals winds out the door, Kimball will have his sleeves rolled up and will be working hard behind the counter. He’s employed a bevy of locals over the years, including his three daughters: Ashley, Courtney and Brooke.

Kimball has plans for a future building addition and renovation and says that once that is complete he may glance toward a retirement around 2020, when his children could take over the business. But that close connection to the waterfront community—“I’ll always be part of that,” he says. “It’s something you hold onto forever.”

Carol Carson

Carol “Krill” Carson stands at just 4’11”, but her presence on the Plymouth waterfront is huge. For over 35 years, the marine biologist and Bridgewater State University professor has worked as a naturalist aboard whale watching vessels, most recently with Plymouth Whale Watch.

“When we see the whales, it’s like introducing people to family,” says Carson. “I’ve been doing this since the ‘80s. I’ve known some of [the whales] since they were calves.” Carson chose to settle in Plymouth with her family because of the town’s charm. “It’s quaint and homey; not overbuilt,” says Carson. “And, of course, you have the Mayflower II and the fact that quite often it’s [visitors’] first introduction to the ocean. I love being part of that discovery.”

Carson is also the founder and president of the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection and conservation of marine wildlife. She has studied whales, sea turtles, ocean sunfish and other types of marine wildlife, but her goal aboard the whale watching boats is to educate. “It’s important that people understand that we must protect what we have, and not just the whales,” she says. “If the ocean’s health fails, it’s going to impact everything. I hope that I inspire people to take action.”

Chad Hunter

One might say that being Plymouth’s harbormaster was in Chad Hunter’s blood. The son and grandson of fishermen, his earliest memories all take place on the ocean.

“I can remember being 5 or 6 years old and going along with my dad (who captained whale watch boats on the side), and thinking, ‘this is great,’” says Hunter.

Hunter’s work often takes him out on the water—whether for the purpose of enforcing boating laws or responding to boating emergencies—and even when he’s at his office on the State Pier, his window has a water view. “The scenery changes daily,” he says. “We get the benefit of working in a place people all over the world are attracted to: a beautiful harbor and ocean.”

Hunter loves his work and enjoys getting to know all the local boat owners and educating the newbies on boating safety as well. Hunter has seen Plymouth Harbor and the outlying waters in all sorts of weather, but if you ask him what his favorite time and place is his answer is simple. “As the sun starts to set and the day is winding down, if I can look out and know that all is well—that’s a good day for me.”

Tom O’Reilly

A boathand since he was 13, O’Reilly loved being out on the ocean and knew in his heart that he belonged there. He is now one of the town’s most dedicated and well known lobstermen.

“I just wanted to be on the water. It’s as simple as that,” says O’Reilly, who embraces the fishing lifestyle despite its challenges. “They say we are the last hunters, but I think we are the last farmers,” he says. “We really are farming the waters out there.”

O’Reilly’s days on the waterfront never get dull. “Every morning that I go out, watching the sunrise is incredible.” He also loves the autonomy of lobstering. “What you do is yours on the water. No one bothers you, you know?”

On the waterfront, O’Reilly is known as someone always ready and willing to help out. But he laughs off any suggestion that such a thing sets him apart. In fact, he says, it’s more the norm.

“If someone is stuck, your job is to help them and get them back safe, period. It’s just the nature of the community: help everyone and keep us all safe. More people should be like that, right?”

Paul and Jean Quintal

Plymouth Cruises owner Paul Quintal can squint into the sunlight and point to the spot where it all began: the kitchen of what was once a restaurant called Mayflower Seafood. It was there that, as a teenager, Quintal first met his wife, Jean. The couple have enjoyed more than three decades of marriage, two daughters and three grandchildren and ownership of a successful water excursion business.

Known for their popular pirate cruises, lobster cruises, wine dinners and more, the Quintals’ goal has been to create cruises unlike any others. Instead of simply showing guests where lobsters are caught, they teach passengers how to lobster. And instead of heading out on the sea for a simple birthday cruise, kids can enjoy a pirate cruise complete with treasure hunt and water cannons.

Today, Paul bears the brunt of the work on the cruises (he cleans the heads each morning as a reminder to his staff that he’s right there with them), but he attributes much of their success to Jean’s work behind the scenes and support of his dream.

The Quintals love the waterfront community and the beauty of their “storefront.” “Cruising by Bug Light is always special,” says Jean. “No matter how many times you pass by, you just want to stop and take a picture. It looks different every day.”

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