Sail GHS Enlivens the Harbor
by Hilary Frye, with Patti Page
photos by Hilary Frye
…the sky, a besmudged cauldron, leaking sudden shafts of sunlight; the water, tossing quicksilver. Like crisp white cat’s ears, the sails pop up, and the near-empty harbor dances to life.
This was the scene on Gloucester Harbor on October 30, the last day of sailing for 2014. Sail GHS will be back on the water in the middle of March.
In 2008, Patti Page introduced scholastic sailing to our city. With a harbor as beautiful as ours, she envisioned a high school sailing team as a shining asset for this historic port.
With three donated C420 sailboats, and the quiet authority and guidance of Dr. Damon Cummings, she began to build a racing team.
Page engaged Guy Fiero, a canny, creative instructor, with many years of experience, as the coach. Scouring the environs of Cape Ann, she banded together a crew of intrepid high school -aged sailors who took their place as the new sailing team, Sail GHS, in the Mass Bay League racing organization.
The competitive season for scholastic sailing is early spring, when conditions are cold, stormy and unpredictable. Sailing is arduous at best. Page spent many an afternoon with icy winds, stinging rains, and waves breaking over the bow of her 13 foot whaler, tending her skittering flock.
By diligent fund-raising, chasing grants and soliciting donations, she equipped her team with life vests, dry suits, chase boats, insurance, league fees, and a coach, with no cost to its young members.
The Dusky foundation, ever- generous with its community enrichment efforts, endorsed the conspicuous success of the program by donating, (in conjunction with Brown’s Yacht Yard,) six brand new C420s and a fully equipped chase boat.
In 2012, Page motivated the city to appropriate funds to replace its derelict floats at the head of the harbor with a new state-of-the-art system. The Sail GHS racing fleet now shares the floats with the Cape Ann YMCA summer program.
With persistent nurture, Patti Page’s one-time wish was emerging as a winged reality.
Page considers Sail GHS to be the foot in the door that keeps the gate from being slammed shut on public access to our harbor. She believes that the harbor is a resource to be enjoyed by all.
Many coastal cities and towns around the country are vigorously embracing Community Boating Centers as prosperous enterprises that invigorate their waterfronts. Patti is an active proponent for just such a center, here in Gloucester.
In light of what she has accomplished with discarded or donated gear, imagine what she could make happen given actual support from the city. Give her a chance, and she just might find a way for the city to enhance the existing harbormaster’s building as a public shore-side facility. Ward Councilors would like to hear your thoughts about programs such as Sail GHS.
Sail GHS is a competitive high school sailing program which is open to the youth of Cape Ann and beyond. Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org Look for Sail GHS on facebook.