The Wealth of a Gloucesterman’s Soul by Thomas Welch

Eastern Rig

The Eastern Rig dragger “Annie,” a Gilardi family boat.

The Wealth of a Gloucesterman’s Soul

From the Maritime Provinces down to Cape May

and every Port in between

His eyes have been blessed, and he’s grateful today

For all the great wonders he’s seen

But it’s the experiences lived, again and again

ingrained in him year after year

The fish, the boats, the places, the men

are the memories his heart holds most dear

He’s seen sunrise and sunsets with no land in sight

Dolphins by the thousands at morning’s first light

Blue sharks feeding frenzy, Humpback whales as they breach

Graceful gannets a-diving, harbor seals on the beach

The delight at first sight of ol’ Thacher’s Light

The crew are beginning to pace

That sight means they’re sleeping home tonight

In their women’s, instead of Winters, embrace!

The deckhand sings, the Cook blows his nose

The bell-buoy rings and the foghorn blows

The cry of a blackback gull

These nautical sounds every Gloucesterman knows

Sure as storm waves will pound on the hull

The growl of the winch, the squeal of the block

The splash of the waterfall under the dock

as the wash-hose melts fish-ice above.

Knee deep haddock on deck,

a fat “shack money” check,

Special moments the fishermen love

The loud, constant rattle of Jitterbug forks

Bouncing over a broken wet floor

The yells from the Hold to the Hatch to the Wharf

keep the fish flowing quickly ashore

Muscles hardened by pulling, a thousand times each:

The oars of a dory, a dory up on the beach

Stern line aft, Spring line forward

Bow line taut, stern in, shore’ward

The Hatch cover off, Boots and Oilskins on

Penboards up and a boom hook down

Fighting sleep, he’s pulled the night watch from midnight ‘til dawn

Storms got bad then he’s pulled into town

A wire basket of whiting, the guts outta Cod

To spread wire on the reel? A heavy steel rod

A net full of fish up and over the rail

A rough wooden box of Large Dabs off the scale

A pallet off the stack, a good Captain’s leg

The Rum jug off a bar and the tap of a keg

Good men gather together

Whenever there’s weather

Northeast Gales keep boats tied to the pier

Fried Grey Sole down Mitch’s

Cold beer by the pitchers

Good friends, laughter, music and cheer

The waterfront abounds with these smells, sights and sounds

Rich memories more precious than gold

Building great strength of character which can only be found

In the wealth of a Gloucesterman’s Soul!

~ Thomas Welch

On Gloucester Harbor, by Thomas Welch


On Gloucester Harbor

The Dory seems to nod with glee

as I stride down the dock with my oars

She, like me, knows she soon will be free

of the lines that bind to the shores

Captain Gus shouts a sharp morning greeting

from the “Captain Dominic’s” deck

In the cool, green shade under Fisherman’s Wharf

a Snow Egret cranes her neck

My awareness expands with every stroke of the oar

out of Harbor Cove I row

to be at Sea, away from the shore,

is a joy only Mariners know

The feel, taste and smell of the crisp salt air

The Wind has the Ocean seething

Me and the boat and the Sea all share

The waves rise and fall, Nature’s breathing

The whole harbor now has come alive

A breathtaking, un-scripted show

Chortling Eiders gather close, the Cormorants dive

Chasing Minnows and Mackerel below

Peter’s sons by the thousands, the finest kind,

have called this Harbor port home

All possessing the genuine character you’ll find

in a Homer painting or an Olson poem.

Set my course for the shore, another day ends

In my wake sunset’s captured in foam

Though I’m blessed on land with fine family and friends

My heart knows this Harbor’s my home.


Spearing Flounder. circa.1890 George Wainwright Harvey (1855-1930


Lobstering by Dory

The Day After Christmas
By Tom Welch
On the day after Christmas, before the Sun rises, while most of us haven’t even woken up and begun our day of nursing yesterday’s overindulgences  or heading to the Mall to exchange things we don’t need for other things we don’t need, Tom Jarvis is down at Santapaolo’s wharf in East Gloucester. He’s a true Gloucesterman, so the routine of checking his dory and gear for hauling lobster traps is more like breathing than a difficult thought process.


He lets go of the lines, rows out of Smith’s Cove and arrives at the Gloucester Maritime dock with the first rays of morning sunlight. His first order of business is to take care of his favorite girl, the only one he’s ever been able to commit to. She’s the “Resolute”, a Burnham-built Friendship Sloop with such beautiful lines you can’t gaze upon her without a double-take or a lasting, long look. The Burnham family courted Tom to buy the “Resolute” for years, knowing he’d take good care of her, they finally let him have her for a song- the cost of the new engine they put in, as Tom says, “I bought an engine with a beautiful boat around it!” He starts the engine to charge her battery and pump what little water might be in the bilge, lingering long enough for a few sips of coffee, his hand on her boom, listening to her purr.



Now it’s back in the dory, rowing out past Harbor Cove and the Fort, the back of his neck tells him the forecast for Southwest wind was accurate and dictates that he’ll row toward Stage Fort Park, using the lee of the Magnolia shore to get to his first traps set over by Norman’s Woe, the infamous rocks causing the “Wreck of the Hesperus”.
Most of the Inshore Lobstermen are putting their traps ashore for winter because the lobster have migrated to safer, deeper water and winter storms can cost thousands of dollars in damage to a lobsterman’s gear. One passing close by, starboard to starboard, with a deckload of traps, steaming in, shouts “Jarvis!” and Tom acknowledges the greeting with a respectful raising of the chin. The hands, arms, back and legs are too busy sweeping the oars and driving the dory the 3 miles windward to the first traps. This simple greeting holds countless fathoms of mutual respect, each knowing they share the many secrets that only come with Sea time.


Once on his gear he quickly secures the first buoy to the dory, using it as a mooring line to hold the boat in place just long enough for him to don his boots and oilskins.  As he hauls his traps he is totally present, senses heightened by the pitch of the Sea, the squeal of the gurney and the cold salt spray spinning off of it. The Southwest wind freshens. The waves grow larger with white caps and deep troughs between. Now Mother Nature requires total awareness or she’ll take a toll. Tom embraces what she has taught him, raising his sails, she takes him ENE to Black Bess, the rocks off Joe Garland’s house on Eastern Point, where he hauls another couple of strings.

Again the sails are raised, this time the port rail to the wind as he steers NW to his gear south of Ten Pound Island. A Harbor Seal recognizes the dory and swims nearby, hoping another tasty herring will make its way into the water instead of the bait bag. And so it goes. Hauling. Setting. Trimming. Steering. Rowing. Every motion a lesson in efficiency taught by years of experience. When all is said and done he is back at his truck before noon.
The haul for the day?
Six keepers.
 Six Lobsters, that’s it???
There are those that would say, “What a fool! All that work in the freezing cold for six lobsters? It’s not worth it!”
It’s not about the lobsters for Tom Jarvis, Hell, these’ll most likely end up either in his Mom’s kitchen or in a pot on the woodstove of Gino Mondello’s “Dory Shop”, feeding his fellow Gloucestermen on a Saturday afternoon.
It’s about the connections…. with the Waves, the Seal, the Lobsterman, the Sun and the Wind. 
It’s what he does.
It’s who he is.
A true Gloucesterman.
Before most people even get out of bed the day after Christmas.