The scales had been open for all of six minutes Saturday afternoon at the Bluefin Blowout when the first boat, F/V Frigate out of Rockport, backed in from the Annisquam River to engage in the timeless sacrament of the lifting of the fish.
With the sun-splashed Caper Ann's Marine Resort docks ringed by a massive crowd, a cable was strapped around the tail of the 307-pound bluefin tuna, which glistened in the sharp midday light as it rose off the stern of Capt. Fred Schrafft's 36-foot boat. Then the large pelagic was hoisted up over the dock for another page out of the fishing routine -- photos with the conquered fish.
With the photographers snapping away and Gloucester's Scottie Mac – the official voice of the Bluefin Blowout – providing the narrative, groups stepped forward to stand beside the dripping tuna. It was a little like Red Sox pregame on the field at Fenway Park, only without the organ music. And with a huge fish hanging from a crane.
In one posing, Warren Waugh stood a little off to the side of the frame, the bill of his ball cap shading his face. Even so, Waugh's smile stood out, genuine and almost beatific.
It is, perhaps, overstating the matter to say that there would be no Bluefin Blowout without Waugh, who has become the driving force and the spiritual center of the fishing tournament for which his Peabody-based Lyon-Waugh Auto Group serves as chief sponsor.
Organizers Drew Hale and Rob Bouley, who originally hatched the idea in 2011, are a determined pair and probably would have still found a way.
But there is no hyperbole in stating this: there is no way without Waugh that the tournament, which in its eight years has risen in stature among the region's tuna-fishing cognoscenti and emerged as a jewel in Gloucester's crown of summer attractions, would have evolved into the spectacle on display Saturday.
He is by far the largest financial backer of the tournament, not only with cash but with an array of auto-related prizes made possible by his thriving auto group.
Waugh, along with Lyon-Waugh marketing guru Cidalia Schwartz, have corralled a litany of other sponsors by convincing them of the escalating marketing value of attachment with the Bluefin Blowout's growing popularity.
He also has provided a moral compass.
It is hardly coincidence that the signature beneficiary of the tournament's charitable benevolence is the Alzheimer's Association.
It is an advocacy dear to the heart of Waugh, who lost his wife Liz last June to early-onset dementia. In that year alone, Waugh and the tournament raised more than $155,000 for the Alzheimer's Association.
"Once the tournament got going, it became very apparent that Drew's and Rob's strengths were organizing the captains and laying out the rules, Waugh said. "One of my abilities is to market and to bring in other sponsorships. Cidalia really helped us bring it to another level. We got sponsors to realize there was more value here and they had to pay more. And now it's not just that they want to pay more. They definitely want to be here and be part of this. It's become one of the biggest events on the North Shore in the summer."
And for that, Waugh received the mightiest perk of all, standing with each fish that hit the dock. No wonder he looked so happy.
"I just invested in it as an advertiser," Waugh said of the Christmas dinner in 2011 when Hale pitched him the idea of resuscitating the fishing tournament that had gone moribund. "I didn't know what to expect. But I could see that it could probably become a little bigger and a little better."
Waugh, who lives in Gloucester, saw the tournament as an organic, modern fit to the city's fishing legacy and as a means for generating money for charity.
"Fishing is so deeply rooted in this economy and this city, so why not take that passion and let these incredible captains have some fun and make a little money?" Waugh said. "They competed for fairly short money in the first three years."
The winning boat among the 68 in this year's tournament – F/V Reel Easy out of Newburyport, which landed the winning 560-pound bluefin on Friday – split almost $63,000 in cash and prizes.
The tournament also has expanded its scope, tweaking the schedule to include Saturday's Family Fun Day that drew legions of parents and kids to the marina and scheduling additional Alzheimer's fundraisers – such as the Bluefin Bash this year that drew some truly deep pockets.
Tickets were $500 each and tables of 10 went for $5,000. It was sold out. Homemade tomato sauce by Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and Tonno restaurateur Anthony Caturano – whose boat Tonno landed a 260-pound tuna on Saturday – fetched a tidy $7,000 for the Alzheimer's Association.
That's how deep.
"Over the last two get-togethers I had this week, I asked one simple question to the audience," Waugh said. "Did they know anyone – spouse, grandma, grandpa, colleague, friend – who has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia or Alzheimer's Disease? And 95 percent of the audience raised their hands in both incidents."
Waugh was asked if ever envisioned the Bluefin Blowout becoming so popular an event and such a prolific fundraising engine.
"No," he said without hesitation. "I knew it had the capability. I didn't think we had the capability. I really didn't know whether we could pull this off. It's really put together over the course of about six months, with the intensity building up in the last six weeks leading up to it. The person that does this is Cidalia Schwartz. I just write a check here and there and cover the costs until the proceeds come in."
Every penny raised, he said, goes directly to Alzheimer's Association. No salaries taken, no profits realized.
"It's 100 percent invested in the Alzheimer's Association," he said. "And that's good."
Is it ever.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.