Capt. Francis T. Hammer, a veteran fishing captain who guided sportfishermen out of Montauk Harbor for years and gave clients the benefit of his vast experience in the waters of Equador, Panama, Florida, and Canada’s Atlantic provinces, died at Southampton Hospital on Aug. 29, four years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Frank Hammer was 74.
“He was an icon of the heyday, not only of swordfish, but giant bluefin tuna fishing when it started in the early ’60s,” said Capt. Joe McBride of the My Mate charter boat. Mr. Hammer often skippered the My Mate when Captain McBride was off on fishery management business for the Montauk Boatmen and Captains Association. He also helped Captain McBride run the Captain’s Cove Marina for 12 years.
He was born in the Bronx on Feb. 6, 1937, a son of the late Francis Hammer and the former Miriam Coleman, who survives. He attended St. Benedict’s Elementary School and Cardinal Hayes High School. His father was a New York City fireman who owned property at Gerard Park in Springs and assembled a prefab Army barracks building there for his family’s living quarters. Every summer was spent there when Frank was a boy.
Captain Hammer’s wife, the former Jane Fisher, said her husband began learning the fishing ropes as a mate aboard Capt. Bob Tuma’s charter boat, Dawn. “We were married when he was 24, and he had already fished with Bob Tuma in his late teens,” Mrs. Hammer said.
He earned a captain’s license by the time he joined the Army, just months before he was married in January 1961. The Army had him for two years. When he returned to Montauk he found work at Carl Darenberg’s Montauk Marine Basin.
Soon after, he began running private boats in search of big-game fish, including broadbill swordfish and giant bluefin tuna. “He’s mentioned in a number of sportfishing books, and was a tournament winner,” Captain McBride said.
He brought records along the way. “In 1977, he caught seven giant bluefin tuna on one trip,” his wife recalled. “He fished the waters of Equador, Panama, and Florida, and spent a memorable month aboard the Anna Lee off Newfoundland with K.C. Li.” Captain Hammer spent a number of years fishing with Mr. Li.
“He was always a gentleman. One of the most gentle individuals I ever met. He helped everyone, rich, poor, and in between. He helped many of the Montauk captains running boats, but also as a mechanic,” Captain McBride said.
An excellent mechanic, he liked to say, “I can fix anything, except a sewing machine and a computer.”
Mrs. Hammer said her husband was happiest when cooking up a feast for his family. He loved feeding his kids, grandkids, and all their friends. “His turkey and dressing every Thanksgiving became his crowning achievement.”
In addition to his wife and mother, Captain Hammer is survived by four children, Margaret Santich of Montauk, Gabrielle Brady of Port St. Lucie, Fla., Frances Hammer of Sag Harbor, and Edward Hammer of Jonesville, Fla. He leaves seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
His ashes will be scattered on the waters off Montauk Point. Memorial contributions have been suggested for East End Hospice, 481 Westhampton-Riverhead Road, Westhampton Beach 11978