Thursday, July 21, 2016

Gloucester & Friends

"They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships 1623-1923". The iconic Fisherman's Memorial of Gloucester with engraved plates listing the names of all the fishermen lost to the sea during this period. In 1879 alone, 249 fishermen and 29 vessels were lost during a terrible storm. A bit further down the harbor walk is the lesser known Fishermen's Wives Memorial, "The wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of Gloucester fishermen honor the wives and families of fishermen and t mariners everywhere for their faith, diligence, and fortitude." Both are a testament to the difficult and often tragic lives of the men and women of Gloucester, the oldest fishing port in the nation.

Gloucester still has the look of a working fishing port, albeit with fishing in decline. Many of the harbors we have visited remade themselves one way or the other when their boom industry, such as whaling in Nantucket, faded. Each 'pivot' is a unique story. Gloucester's story is still very much in progress. Word was that, like many working harbors, Gloucester was not a great place for transient pleasure craft. Most folks would prefer the outer harbor with the hospitality of the Eastern Point Yacht Club, rather than moor in the more industrial inner harbor, as we did. We're happy to report that this is changing. The new harbor master was friendly and helpful. They have a nice dinghy dock and launch service now. We had a couple of good, though not great, reasonably priced meals ashore. Clearly they are trying, but it does take time.

We would have missed an entirely different side of Gloucester if it weren't for a chance meeting at wine tasting. My uncle Jon Eric, lives down the road in Boston and suggested we might continue his hunt for the best lobster roll with a visit to Rockport and the Roy Moore Lobster Co. Picked us up (it had been some time since we've been in a car!) he did and we 'did' Rockport, including Motif Number One and Roy's. Jon Eric really has a thing going for lobster rolls: knows all the best places up and down the coast. Somewhat in passing, he mentioned that he met a sailor from Gloucester the previous evening and perhaps we might be able to visit his place in Gloucester and engage in a bit o' boat talk.

In the course of these events we had the pleasure of meeting Pat (last name elided to protect the generous) at his place on the granite ocean front just outside the Dog Bone breakwater of Gloucester harbor. He and his Norwegian wife have been living here long before it became more popular to Winter over. I could see spending seasons here in contemplation while gazing at the ocean's changing moods.

After some brief socializing, Pat took us for a quick tour around the Gloucester we had not seen, complete with a narrative on the struggles between the traditional Portuguese and Italian fishermen and the more recent upper class influx and artists to bring Gloucester into its new era: a story of conflict and cooperation. Pat also talked about his family's sailing history and gave us a tour of the swanky Eastern Point Yacht Club. The highlight for Cath was Good Harbor Beach, "It's sooooo cool!". All-and-all, Pat gave us a view, and a positive one at that, of Gloucester that we would have totally missed otherwise. Thanks Pat!

Just to top it off, a boat came in next to us asking if we were in Provincetown a few days ago. They took notice of Alizée while we were in the harbor there. We engaged in a little harbor gam. Being a friendly conversation, the tone of our voices was on 2. Being a conversation across some distance in a harbor, the volume of our voices was on 11. That's how it works. At any rate, Katie and Tim know the area and had oodles of advice for the next leg of our trip up through southern Maine and Casco Bay. Tim even sent us a data-plan-killing email with all the details! So many folks have been so helpful. That's a wonderful thing about the cruising life: folks helping folks. Always saying goodbye to them is a sad side of cruising...

From Gloucester we rounded Cape Ann and sailed in a fitful wind for the Isles of Shoals, where we lie at the moment. We sailed by more humpbacks! Note to self, don't try to fly the spinnaker while weaving through a field of lobster pots. I wrapped it on the headstay when I zigged for a pot when I needed to zag for the chute. Rats.

We're betting on incremental conditioning to the water temperature. Our friend Barry promised it would be balmy and said to jump right in. Seemed a little suspicious, but I went for a no-fear cannonball off the deck anyway. Yikes! A temperature check said 66°F. I checked the water temp at Bar Harbor in northern Maine: 61°F. Only 5 degrees to go. We can do this.

The harbor here is unique in that the New Hampshire/Maine state line splits down the harbor. We're not positive that we are on the Maine side, but we called it good enough and had a celebratory dinner with the Whispering Angel Rosé we've been saving for the occasion.

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