The Grand Marshal of this year’s Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Capt. Paul Forsberg, was born in Freeport, NY, though technically he was not a “captain” until he first earned his license in 1957—at the age of 18. His father Capt. Carl Forsberg started the family business, the Viking Fleet, in 1936 in Freeport.
In 1951, the family moved to Montauk with one boat, which Paul eventually took over. He has designed and built many boats, including his personal vessel the Viking Freedom, an unusual hybrid made for sailing and commercial fishing.
Forsberg holds a current 100-Ton Master Captain’s License and regularly lends a hand running every one of the boats. In fact, when Dan’s called him for this interview he was “workin’ on a boat.” Forsberg has shared his memoirs in a book titled Gone Fishin’ with the Viking Fleet, which was published in 2013.
The current fleet in Montauk is made up of five vessels, Viking Superstar, Viking Starship, Viking Star, Viking Stariper, and the newest addition the Viking FiveStar. The Viking Fleet fishes year-round, and also operates seasonal ferries to Block Island, RI, New London, CT and Martha’s Vineyard, MA. It also runs vessels out of Tarpon Springs, FL on a year-round basis and seasonally from New Bedford, MA.
Forsberg spends his time between his hometown of Montauk and Tarpon Springs, FL where he lives with his partner of almost 20 years Patricia Smithlin. He enjoys fishing with friends both recreationally and commercially and is a longtime advocate for fishermen’s rights.
How does it feel to be named the grand marshal of this year’s parade?
Ha, ha, ha, that’s the question everybody is asking. I’m looking forward to it. There isn’t a day goes by I don’t think about it. I’m extremely honored that I was chosen. I’m totally spellbound with it to tell you the truth. Very honored. I never thought I would be asked. I don’t know of a higher honor in Montauk.
Have you participated in the parade before?
Years ago, around 1982, with a float, we did a big shark and a little boat. The parade has grown some since then—I understand we get 40,000 people—I remember when it started with just a few people marching down the street. Quite amazing, Montauk doesn’t have a traffic light. [The parade is] a wonderful thing for Montauk and a great affair.
Will you have family members in the parade as well?
We’re gonna have a float, my grandchildren are gonna be in it, possibly some great-grandchildren will be coming up from Florida. A boat on a trailer. The whole Viking Fleet gang gets along like family and they’re looking forward to it and excited about it—their kids will be in it too.
What will you be wearing on the big day?
They got me all set for a tuxedo. I had to send them the measurements. High top hat, green scarf and the cane.
How long have you lived in Montauk?
My parents moved us here in 1951. In the 7th grade I went to school at the Montauk School. Both the 7th and 8th classes were in one room. There were eight kids in the 7th grade—seven boys and one girl and nine kids in the 8th grade—two girls. The principal Ken Ross taught both grades, answered the phone and smoked a pipe. He was a strong teacher, the best teacher I ever had.
What would you say is the best thing about living in Montauk?
I think it’s a wonderful place to raise a family. The school is small and not overcrowded; you can get a good education. Montauk has open spaces and Montaukers are wonderful people. I belong to the fire department; you build a lot of friendships over the years. Anybody needs a hand; plenty of people are ready to step up to the plate.
On Friday, March 18, the Montauk Friends of Erin will host the annual Grand Marshal Luncheon at noon. Captain Paul Forsberg will have the honor of being introduced, roasted and presented with his parade sash. Tickets are $50 in advance and $55 at the door. Call 631-668-3381 for reservations.
The Friends of Erin host their Annual Cocktail Party on Saturday, March 19 at 4 p.m. This party will have Irish food, an open bar and live music by Booga Sugar. The cocktail party culminates with the Amityville Highland Pipe Band marching in with Grand Marshal Forsberg at 6 p.m. For pricing and more, call 631-668-1578.
The Montauk Friends of Erin’s weekend of celebration comes to a close on Sunday, March 20 with the 54th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Head to Main Street for the beloved tradition! For more info visit montaukfriendsoferin.com.