Gerrard Fiorentino, inventor, entrepreneur and the namesake of Fiorentino Para-Anchor, died Jan. 5 of heart failure after a stroke late last year. He was 89.
Fiorentino, who had a long career in many facets of the marine industry, inadvertently invented the modern para-anchor at age 23 while captaining his 65-foot tuna boat, Onward, off the coast of Mexico.
In the 66 years that followed, he designed commercial fishing machinery and his para-anchor became a mainstream safety device that received numerous patents and recognized by NASA, according to his obituary.
Fiorentino was raised in the fishing community of San Pedro, Calif., and started working as a commercial fisherman at the age of 14 aboard the St. Augustine. He joined the Navy by the age of 20 during World War II and fought in seven major campaigns in the South Pacific.
Fiorentino bought his first tuna boat, Onward, after he returned from the Navy. Because Onward was lean and, as Fiorentino described, “cranky,” he sold it in 1948 to buy the 87-foot tuna seiner Santo Antonino, which sparked pioneering changes and developments in the para-anchor.
“I know the boating community knows him best as the guy who invented the para-anchor, but to us fishermen he was much more,” godson John Pennisi said in the obituary. “Gerrard had a lot of faith in God, and he believed faith and good equipment was the key to keeping his fellow fisherman alive.”
In 1958, Fiorentino opened his own retail store in San Pedro. “I filled it full of things I liked … old nautical stuff, tons of equipment for boats, anything I thought someone might be interested in. My main business was designing commercial fishing equipment; the para-anchors were just a small part of it at the time. But sometimes I’d miss the ocean so much I’d go out fishing again,” Fiorentino said in a 2012 interview, according to his obituary.
His designs and inventions also had major effects in the commercial fishing industry.
“Fiorentino has helped fishermen fish more efficiently through the development of new designs and the modification of already existing designs of purse blocks, seine winches and anchor winches,” Fisherman's News said in a 2003 editorial.
The effect of the wider top increased net capacity, reduced equipment jams and made it easier to free porpoises that were accidentally captured.
“The power block Gerrard introduced in the ’70s has saved the lives of God knows how many dolphins,” commercial engineer and retired San Diego fisherman Santana Romero said. “He was a man that comes along once in man’s lifetime — if you’re lucky enough to meet such a guy.”
In 1995, Fiorentino worked in an advisory capacity with private investors to establish the company that was named after him. He wanted to produce a manufactured para-anchor that was capable of meeting the needs of various types and sizes of boats.
The company moved into full-scale research, development and manufacturing, eventually producing Fiorentino’s Para-Ring technology and Constant Rode Tension theory, which changed the way boaters manage heavy weather emergencies.