Recommended For You

Richard Nielsen Jr. was a blustery fisherman whose voice was so deep and loud that it earned him the nickname "Boom Boom"
Richard Nielsen Jr. was a blustery fisherman whose voice was so deep and loud that it earned him the nickname "Boom Boom"

Man Overboard

At six foot one, 365 pounds, Richard Nielsen Jr. was a man-giant with huge arms that hung from broad thick shoulders. On his left biceps was an enormous tattoo of a fisherman above a line from the Book of Psalms: "They that go down to the sea in ships." Though his legs were large and round, he was still as nimble as a man half his size. Below Richard's oversized eyeglasses was his kempt beard, which stretched from the top of his ears and encircled a mouth full of straight, white, luminescent teeth.

Like the New England lobstermen with whom he was raised, the 47-year-old seaman was superstitious. Never could his wife, Teri, tell him to be careful when he cast off because that would jinx his fishing trips. If he were going to get hurt, Richard believed, it would be on the day someone told him to be cautious. "I just had to give him a look," Teri says, "the look the wife of a fisherman gives. It was always in my eyes -- be careful -- but I'd never say it."

Teri gave Richard that look during the first hours of May 12. He had awakened in his Davie home just after 2 a.m., as he always did, to have the Lady Mary, a 51-foot boat he, his father, and his brother had built from a yacht hull in 1988, coasting toward the Atlantic Ocean by 3 a.m.

Richard trapped golden crabs that lived thousands of feet below the surface. To catch them, he and his crew would drop to the ocean floor dozens of baited 18-by-48-by-30-inch traps strung together and weighed down by hundreds of pounds of steel. Seven to ten days later, using a depth finder and a radio navigational system, Richard would locate the traps and drop a series of large steel chains known as a grapple into the water. He'd tie it off when he believed it was just three feet off the ocean floor, then pass the Lady Mary over the traps again and again until he felt one of the hooks snare one of the traps. Finally, he'd hoist them to the surface with a hydraulic lift. It was an art form.

Other golden crabbers used satellite positioning systems to locate and reel in their traps, but Richard could somehow communicate with the line. "It never stopped amazing me how he would grapple and somehow catch those traps 1,000 feet below," Teri says. "He knew it the second he'd caught them. He could feel the change in tension on the line. It was so slight, no one else could feel it but Richard."

At 12:30 p.m. on that warm May day, Richard and first mate Kevin Novak dropped the grapple into the water about 12 miles off Government Cut, near Miami Beach. Jose Luna, the third hand, was below deck cleaning the cabin. The steel chains sank quickly. Hundreds of feet of line followed and passed below the vessel's gunnel as the one-ton grapple sank to the bottom of the sea.

Richard waited near the bow, ready to tie off the rope on the hydraulic lift. He had placed his knife on the console near a small metal fan above the boat's steering wheel. Novak stood with his back to Richard.

Then disaster. The line jumped off the block. Richard grabbed the rope and allowed it to flow between his thumb and index finger. When the situation seemed back under control, it happened. Novak heard something, sensed something. He turned to see Richard's hand caught in the line. The man-giant was being dragged overboard. Terrified, Novak unsheathed his knife and lunged. If the mate could cut the rope, he could save the captain.

But Richard's huge bulk flew over the edge. One thousand pounds of steel rushing toward the Atlantic Ocean's sandy bottom yanked his 365-pound frame into the water as if it were that of a small child. "I tried to get in front of him," remembers the 44-year-old Novak, tears welling in his eyes as his cigarette ashes fall to the floor of his trailer in Fort Lauderdale.

Teri Nielsen, a 45-year-old with thick, curly brown hair and a warm gracious personality, sits at the dining room table in her family's three-bedroom house near Pine Island Road in Davie. Two crucifixes hang from gold chains around her neck. In the family room, facing a brown couch, is a console television. On top of it are VCR tapes of Richard and his crew fishing. At the bottom of the stack is a movie: The Perfect Storm. "People would ask me, 'What's Richard's blood type?' and I'd answer, 'South Atlantic saltwater,'" Teri says. "He was born a fisherman. He was good to the sea, and the sea was good to him."

Then she recalls a story about Richard. It was October 1984. Storms churning in the South Atlantic had kicked up seas so furious that South Florida fishermen were forced to moor their boats. For three weeks, Richard Nielsen Jr. lingered. He needed the sea. The fish traps he had planted in its bowels were his livelihood. But Richard also had a personal connection with the water. "If Richard was on dry land for too long," Teri remembers, "you couldn't stand him because he couldn't stand himself."

Anxious for the storm to pass, Richard took Teri and his eldest daughter, Jessica, to the sandy coastline of Dania Beach. It was a cold evening. Teri and Jessica, bundled in jackets, hunched together on the sand to shield themselves from the chilly winds. Richard sidled up to the surf and allowed the water to encircle his feet. His wife and daughter watched curiously. Then he took off his clothes and walked into the ocean. The water reached his knees, then his waist, and then his chest until finally only Richard's head could be seen bobbing between the waves. "Is he coming back?" Jessica asked her mother.

That's when Richard dipped below the waterline, below the waves that came rushing toward shore. "Of course he's coming back," Teri answered.

"I have to admit now that honestly I didn't know at that moment whether he was coming back," she says.

But a moment later, Richard's head reappeared in the moonlit waters. He returned to the shore and dressed himself, never explaining to Teri and Jessica why he had been compelled to swim. But both mother and daughter noticed a difference. Richard's shoulders relaxed. His impatient scowl had become a serene grin. He was happy. "The sea rejuvenated him," Teri explains.

Richard was the fourth generation in a line of fishermen. His great-grandfather worked the waters of Scandinavia. His grandfather was a merchant marine in Denmark until he immigrated to Massachusetts and became a lobsterman. Richard's father, Richard Nielsen Sr., or Dick, as friends called him, followed in the family's wake and became a fisherman known for his ingenuity. He once figured out a way to install a kitchen refrigerator on a dock in Beverly, Massachusetts. The other fishermen, always baffled by Dick's ideas and inventions, gave him the nickname "Crazy Nielsen."

Dick never liked cold winters. In 1968, while in South Florida on vacation with his wife, Mary, he had a revelation. "Anyone who would live in Massachusetts is crazy," he proclaimed. The next year, he moved Mary and their four children, including 14-year-old Richard Jr., to Dania. Dick towed the Miss Nancy, a 30-foot schooner named after his eldest daughter, from New England to South Florida and set about using her to fish for spiny lobster. His two sons, Richard Jr. and David, were mates. Richard Jr. became known around the marinas as a blustery fellow, a talkative giant who, as one Fort Lauderdale fisherman described him, "looked like a son of a bitch but was soft as a teddy bear." When the Miss Nancy coasted gently toward the marina, its coolers full of the day's catch, the other fishermen would hear young Richard's voice. It was deep and loud. They called him "Boom Boom," and Richard Jr. hated the nickname.

For more than three decades, the Nielsens were fixtures on the docks and in the seafood markets of south Broward. After supplies of spiny lobster began to run low, Dick Nielsen began using large cages to ensnare hundreds of fish at a time. These fish traps were incredibly effective but also destructive to fish stocks and reef systems.

In fact, they were too effective. Designed for adult grouper and snapper, the devices also caught many other types of fish. Opponents argued that the large cages were harming sensitive ecosystems when they scraped against coral reefs on their way to the surface.

In 1980, the Florida Legislature banned the traps in state waters. Undaunted, fishermen like the Nielsens began working in federal waters, which are three miles out and beyond. The traps remained legal there. "We never set traps on reefs or overfished," says Howard Rau, a commercial fisherman and long-time friend of the Nielsens. "It was politics. People had the notion that traps were bad. The sport fishermen thought we were taking the fish away."

Until the early '90s, fish trapping remained the method of choice for many of Florida's commercial fishermen. Then the federal government put an end to the practice. In 1991, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC), which governs commercial fishing in federal waters from North Carolina to Florida, banned use of the devices.

Hard times hit the Nielsens and many other families that depended on fish trapping. "My father had two options: sell his house or sell his boat," David says, pausing. "He sold his house."

But the family didn't give up. Crazy Nielsen would fall back upon his ingenuity to save the business.

Howard Rau was the first local to set eyes on the underwater oddity that would become a savior for a few fish trappers. In 1984, while pulling up a trap submerged off the coast of Fort Lauderdale at about 700 feet, Rau caught a large cream-colored crab with red eyes. In all his years of fishing, he'd never seen anything like it. When he returned to the docks, he showed the creature to Dick Nielsen. "What the hell is this thing?" Rau asked.

"Got me," Dick replied. "Let's take it to Miami."

They brought it to the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, where scientists identified it as Chaceon fenneri, or golden crab. Accidental catches of what appeared to be the golden crab were first documented in the Southeastern United States around the turn of the century. In 1985 and 1986, while performing deep-sea exploratory fishing, researchers from the University of Florida discovered the habitats of golden crab in the Gulf of Mexico and off Georgia and South Carolina. Later exploration found the crab near the east coast of Florida as well. UF researchers identified the creature as a unique species similar to the crystal crab, a large, pale, deep-sea crustacean found off the coastlines of Australia and sold in Asian markets.

The golden crab lives much deeper than other crustaceans, sometimes nearly half a mile below the surface, where there's little light and extremely high pressure. Because of these great depths, scientists know little about the crab's growth cycle, though they have determined that it reaches maturity at about age 9 and can live to the mid-30s. Its eating habits are unknown, but scientists speculate the crabs are resourceful scavengers that feed on sunken fish carcasses.

The creature's mating habits are an even greater mystery. "These are slow-growing, long-lived crustaceans with relatively low reproductive output," says William J. Lindberg, a biologist at UF's Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. "Their ability to replenish the population isn't what we're used to thinking about." Unlike blue crabs, which live at depths of no more than 120 feet and can have several broods in a year, the mature female golden crab is believed to reproduce only once annually during a seasonal mating migration from September to November.

Male golden crabs, which are believed to outnumber females 15-to-1, generally live at greater depths and are much larger than females. While females are more often found at 900 to 1,800 feet, males inhabit depths of 2,400 to 2,700 feet. Scientists studying the golden crab have theorized that males migrate up the continental slope to mate.

As coastal areas around the world have been overwhelmed in recent years, fishermen have had to find deeper, more remote fishing grounds -- indeed, even new kinds of fish -- to provide the large steady catches that not so long ago were available closer to shore. According to a recent study funded by Pew Charitable Trusts and published in the journal Nature, the numbers of large predatory fish have been cut by 90 percent in just the past 50 years due to large-scale commercial fishing and the use of trawls, which scour the ocean floor. Additionally, sonar and satellite positioning systems have made it easier to exploit formerly untapped grounds, the study concluded.

Dick Nielsen understood the situation as well as anyone in the region. After the federal government banned fish traps 12 years ago, he and his family decided to try to turn South Florida's golden crab into a profitable, sustainable business. "They took a chance," Rau remembers, "and it worked."

Because the crabs had never been fished commercially, SAFMC had never established regulations or even approved golden crabs as a commercial catch. "We were fishing illegally," admits Rau, who started golden crabbing in the early '90s with Richard Jr.'s encouragement.

Bitter about the trap ban, Dick Nielsen didn't care that it was illegal. But Richard, who showed political skills that belied his salty demeanor, knew that working with the council was the only way to guarantee the family's livelihood. "Richard was the one who convinced his father to come back to the council and put together a management plan," says Greg Waugh, SAFMC's deputy executive director. "There were, and still are, a lot of hard feelings about the fish-trap ban."

Because little data was available on the golden crab, SAFMC established strict regulations. Representing the handful of men who worked golden crab at the time, Richard Jr. helped write those rules. On a 1991 University of Florida television program about ways to protect marine life, Richard explained that strict regulations allowed fishermen and government officials alike an opportunity to prevent golden crabs from being exploited. "If we let this crab go the way of other fisheries," Richard said, "then we're going to have to sell this boat."

The regulations went into effect October 28, 1996. Licensed golden crabbers were prohibited from trawling and catching females. They were also told to use special devices of a type that Dick Nielsen had adapted from the banned fish traps. The wooden devices have an escape hole through which only females and immature crabs can leave. Their main door is tied shut with a degradable wire commonly used by construction companies to bind rebar. If a trap is lost, the door eventually opens and frees the crabs, preventing underwater coffins known as "ghost traps."

Turning the creatures into a successful, regulated fish stock wasn't easy on the Nielsens. "There were a lot of macaroni-and-cheese dinners around that time," Teri admits. But by the mid-'90s, Dick Nielsen and sons Richard and David had successfully built a new commercial fishing business from, literally, the ocean floor up.

It's nearing 4 p.m. on June 18, and Mike Abrams is pissed. For months now, the strip mall on State Road 7 that includes his Captain Mike's Fresh Fish & Seafood has been a construction zone. Workers are remodeling the front of the building. Because his large sign has been taken down, drivers rushing past at 50 miles per hour are having trouble locating the store. To top it off, the construction workers cut his phone line today. "They're killing me," he says, sitting in a small office behind the store's front coolers.

On the door of Abrams' office, a sign reads: "If assholes could fly, this place would be an airport." Inside, sitting in front of a desk with neatly stacked papers and notes, he talks on a cell phone to one of his suppliers. Abrams, a charismatic bald man with expressive eyebrows, leans back in his chair and complains. He didn't receive an invoice for his last shipment. "We've had nothing but trouble," he explains to the person on the phone. "Did you hear about Richard Nielsen, our golden crabber? Six weeks ago, he got tangled in the line and went overboard."

On the wall behind Abrams are autographed pictures of Miami Dolphins stars of seasons past. Amid those snapshots is one of a young Captain Mike with a knife in one hand, a bowling pin in the other, and a fish on the chopping block. Above him, in the picture, hangs a Star of David. "I worked at a kosher deli in Toronto," he remembers, "and all they gave me to work with was a dull knife and a bowling pin. I had them take that picture because I knew no one in the States would believe me."

On the other wall, next to the door, hangs a recently framed picture. A blue watermark background shows the Gloucester Fisherman, which was tattooed on Richard's left biceps. The text in front reads: "In Loving Memory of Richard Nielson." Abrams shakes his head, half-embarrassed. "You know," he says, "I didn't realize it until later. It's spelled wrong. Richie spelled it with an e, not an o. But, yeah, They that go down to the sea in ships. That was Richie."

Abrams has worked with the Nielsens since Dick started bringing him fish caught by crewmen on the Miss Nancy three decades ago. At the time, Abrams was a partner in Four Captains Seafood. In 1985, he wanted to go his own way, but he needed help. "I went up to Dick, and I asked him," Abrams says. "I said, 'Dick, if I go it alone, will you bring your fish to me?'"

"Mike," Dick told him, "I fish for you, not Four Captains."

The risk paid off. Four Captains closed. Abrams now has two locations. And, as he proudly notes, he introduced Richard to Teri, who once worked at the store.

Following the 1991 fish-trap ban, the Nielsens brought Abrams a catch of golden crabs. He agreed to sell them. At first, he could barely give them away. They were odd-looking, and unlike other crabs, goldens didn't turn red when cooked. What's more, a thin skin beneath the shell made it difficult to separate the meat after cooking. To eat golden crab legs, you have to cut along the side, splay the leg open, then dig the meat out with a fork. It's messy work.

But, as Abrams soon showed his customers, golden crabs were worth the labor. With high-quality, sweet-tasting meat comparable to the California Dungeness crab and prices comparable to lower-quality blue crab, the golden soon became one of Abrams' best sellers. "Once people try this," Richard told scientists at a Florida Sea Grant panel in 1991, "they call the fish market every day. We can't even catch enough crabs to keep one retail market steadily in crabs. I brought in 500 pounds of crabs on Wednesday, and they are probably gone this afternoon."

In addition to Captain Mike's, the Nielsens were selling the creatures to Keys Fishery, a seafood processor in Marathon, and Fort Lauderdale's Rustic Inn, where garlic golden crab soon became, and still is, the most popular item on the menu. A niche was carved out for the tasty deep-sea crustacean as an intensely local seafood dish. "This is where it is," Rau says. "It's right here. It's right where you live."

By 1999, according to David Nielsen, the family had turned golden crabbing into an enterprise generating $1 million in revenue per year. Times were good. But by the fall of that year, the Nielsens would be embroiled in a bitter lawsuit that would pit brother against brother as the family patriarch lay on his deathbed.

The Nielsen family fabric began to unravel after Mary Nielsen died of cancer in 1992. Family members describe Mary as a gentle but tough woman who made the fisherman's life her own. Her greatest quality was patience -- the ability to afford her husband enough time to let his crazy ideas blossom.

Two incidents occurring in quick procession, however, strained the family in the years following Mary's death. The first was in May 1999, when Dick married Chryl Martin, a woman 21 years his junior. The couple had met through a mutual friend. It was Chryl's fifth marriage and Dick's second. Though family members decline comment on the marriage, close friends say Richard was surprised his father could marry a woman so much younger.

The second rift came in the fall of 1999 between brothers Richard and David. Like Richard, David grew up on the Miss Nancy. With a skinny body less than half the size of Richard's, the 41-year-old took after his father. Although older brother Richard served as first mate to Dick Nielsen, David was an equally skilled fisherman who quickly learned to catch golden crabs. Family members say the problems between the brothers resulted from a misunderstanding.

Richard, however, didn't deem it a misunderstanding at the time, friends say. He considered what David did something altogether different: a betrayal.

On September 18, 1999, David sued his father, claiming more than $15,000 in damages. He claimed he had suffered a back injury that April "due to lack of proper equipment" on the Lady Mary. He filed his suit under the Jones Act, a maritime law that provides injured seamen recourse for negligence by an employer or coworker.

In court papers, Dick and Richard denied that the injury had occurred, though they acknowledged that David had been hurt in May, when he stepped on a moving rope and fell, striking his head and "causing a small contusion that did not require any medical assistance." David's lawsuit did not refer to a head injury.

The lawsuit dragged on for months. Both sides hired lawyers. The bitterness grew. That Dick Nielsen's health was failing likely accentuated the strain between the brothers. In early 2000, a doctor diagnosed Dick with lung cancer. He never smoked, so the physician speculated that the cancer resulted from having worked with excessive amounts of fiberglass while building three boats in his lifetime. Richard, who was protective of his father, believed David was trying to take advantage of the old man. David declines to discuss the matter; he scheduled, then canceled, two meetings with New Times after a brief telephone interview.)

In July 2000, Dick was hospitalized. Richard continued crabbing, but the business' future was uncertain. Believing that his father didn't have much time, the son asked for something he'd never before requested. He wanted to own the Lady Mary, the boat he helped build from a yacht hull in 1988. But by then, it was too late.

The vessel, Dick told his son, would go to Chryl, the woman he'd married just over a year before. The will was written. On July 22, 2000, as David's lawsuit lingered, Dick died at age 71. If Richard harbored anger about the Lady Mary, it didn't show. He was devastated.

Just before his father's death, Richard won National Fisherman magazine's Highliner, one of the most prestigious prizes a commercial fisherman can receive. The magazine gives three awards per year to career fishermen who "dedicate themselves to preserving the tapestry of the fishing life." Although winning the award wasn't enough to lift his spirits following Dick's passing, Richard was proud that his father was alive long enough to hear the news. "Imagine that, my son winning that award," Dick had said.

Resolution to David's lawsuit wouldn't come until almost two years later. On March 26, 2002, a judge dismissed the suit after David failed to appear for a hearing. Paul Ansel, the attorney who represented David in the lawsuit, says the youngest Nielsen son believed that Dick had insurance for injuries sustained on the Lady Mary. David wasn't after his father's money; he wanted a settlement from the insurer, Ansel contends. However, Dick didn't have such a policy, according to Ansel. It's unclear whether David allowed the lawsuit to be dismissed because he learned that the boat was uninsured.

The blood, friends say, still runs bitter.

Richard's wife, Teri, declined comment on David's lawsuit or Chryl's inheritance, though her face saddens when family turmoil is mentioned. "Dick married a much younger woman, let's put it that way," she says. But she harbors no ill will toward David, whom she describes as "a brother to me."

The sea was calm and the sky clear on May 12. It wasn't the type of a day fishermen expect something to happen. Richard Nielsen Jr., Kevin Novak, and Jose Luna were aboard the Lady Mary, golden crabbing as they had done so many times before. Below the 51-foot boat, the world's fastest ocean current raged. The most difficult part of fishing for golden crabs off the east coast of Florida is negotiating the Gulf Stream. "It's like a river that runs below the surface," explains Luna, the 29-year-old second mate. Some days, the current is so strong that it pushes the one-ton grapple back dozens of feet from the boat and away from the traps. The crew must add more and more weight to keep the line down. May 12, 2003, was one of those days.

But Richard had fished on the Gulf Stream since he was 14 years old. Like the husband of an irritable wife, he had learned to deal with her. It was the unexpected, a tiny loop in the line as it passed through his hand, that surprised Richard.

"Man," family friend Rau says, "as many times as he pulled that line up and put it in the block." He takes a long drag from a Camel cigarette and exhales slowly. "I just hope we don't get complacent," Rau continues. "I never wore a knife. I'm wearing one now."

Had Richard held onto his knife rather than placed it on the console, he might have been able to save himself. But no one knows how fast or deep he was pulled under. Once Richard was in the water, Novak knew that the rope he needed to cut only seconds before had become Richard's lifeline.

"Oh, shit!" Novak yelled. "Jose, get up here."

Seeing Richard in the water, Luna pulled out his knife and jumped overboard. He grabbed the line and tugged himself underwater, pulling and pulling down on the line in an effort to catch up to his captain.

But Luna couldn't make it. Richard was sinking too fast. After descending about 30 feet, a panicked Luna surfaced and pulled himself back onto the boat. Novak picked up the rope and tied it off on the block. Luna hit the hydraulic lift and pulled up the more than 1,000 feet of line and grapple as quickly as he could. He knew the force would break Richard's hand, but at least it might save him. The line fed up and into the boat. Finally, after three minutes that seemed like three hours, the grapple surfaced. Richard was nowhere to be seen. Novak called the Coast Guard.

The Gulf Stream was rushing south. Novak put the engine into gear and traveled with the current. Richard had gone underwater about 15 minutes before. Luna was up in front, scanning the surface. "Then I saw him a couple hundred yards away, floating in the water," Novak says. "We thought there was still a chance for him."

Luna jumped into the water and swam to Richard. In his arms, he cradled Richard's large body, which was made nearly weightless by the saltwater. "Wake up, big man," he said while tapping Richard's cheek gently with an open palm. "Wake up." But Richard lay motionless.

Novak and Luna tried to lift Richard's body onto the boat, but it was too heavy. Luna, impatient, crawled back onboard, cut the grapple from the line, and then jumped back into the water with the line in hand. He tied it around Richard's waist and signaled to Novak. The hydraulic lift hoisted Richard's 365 pounds back onto the Lady Mary just as it had hoisted heavy loads of golden crabs so many times before.

Minutes later, Novak and Luna could hear the fluttering and feel the draft of a helicopter. A sailboat came alongside, and its captain jumped aboard to help. Novak, Luna, and the captain lifted Richard's body into a basket lowered by the helicopter. Once the unconscious fisherman was inside the Coast Guard chopper, it flew west toward Jackson Memorial Hospital. But it was too late. Richard had drowned somewhere between freeing himself from the line and struggling against the current he knew so well. Richard Nielsen Jr. was pronounced dead at 1 p.m.

"He was my friend, my best friend, and he's dead," Novak says. "I was in the Navy. I saw a lot of people die. Once, I saw a guy charred to death from the exhaust of a jet engine. I smelled him first; he was one story below me. I looked down, and his body was still in flames. That didn't bother me because I didn't know the guy. Richard's death, that's the only one that bothered me."

On May 23, 11 days after Richard drowned, more than 250 people crammed into Dania United Methodist Church to pay the captain, a devout Christian, their respects. The next day, 30 people consisting of family members and close friends boarded the Lady Mary and the Joyce Lynn II, which belongs to Rau. Teri and her three daughters -- 25-year-old Jessica, 24-year-old Amber, and 22-year-old Sherry -- traveled aboard the Lady Mary with Richard's ashes. The two boats, one from Milt's Marina on Griffin Road and the other from Sea Legs on Dania Beach, met at the spot near where the Intracoastal Waterway opens out into the Atlantic Ocean. Then they traveled east.

The sea was rough; a few people became sick. There was talk of turning around, doing it on another, calmer day. But most knew that's not how Richard would have wanted it.

They kept on. Out in the ocean, as the waves jostled the Lady Mary and the Joyce Lynn II, Teri scattered Richard's ashes on the water and gave him back, finally and wholly, to the sea. Then it rained, a steady downpour that lasted only minutes. It was as if the sky had cried for Richard.

Since Richard's accident, the Lady Mary hasn't brought in any new catches. Howard Rau and his crew tried, as a favor to the family, to gather the traps that had been left in the Atlantic. They couldn't. And it's unlikely that David Nielsen will continue the search. The younger Nielsen may never set foot on the Lady Mary again because of family disagreements.

Teri Nielsen wants to concentrate on returning the boat to South Florida waters. But as time passes, the outlook seems bleaker. Although the family is considering a candidate for Richard's spot, he's an older seaman with little experience in deep-sea fishing. "It's going to be a matter of finding someone who has some knowledge of a deep-sea fishery," Teri says. "That is our intention -- to fish her. That's what Richard would have wanted."

Part of the difficulty, Rau says, is the area. Although the docks of Broward County once teemed with commercial fishermen, escalating dock fees and waterfront condos caused most of them to leave years ago. Richard Nielsen Jr. was one of Broward's last. "This is a dying man's job," Rau explains. "There're very few of us left in Fort Lauderdale."


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >