The Waterfront Today

Patti Page

Boats in Harbor, Gloucester. 1911                Hayley Lever (1876-1958)

Rowing season is underway in Gloucester harbor.  Gig rowers from Maritime Gloucester have been in the water for several weeks.  The dories tied at St. Peter’s Commercial Marina are seen moving around the harbor with more women rowing this season than I have noticed in the past.  The Gloucester High School sailing team started their season in March.  They are well underway to their third consecutive winning season.

As small boats maneuver around the harbor, they negotiate the coming and going of fishing boats.  Gloucester lobstermen are busy shuffling lobster traps from land to sea for the harvesting season.

More than two million pounds of lobsters were landed in the port of Gloucester in 2017.  Gloucester leads the State in lobster landings each year.

In April, approximately eight Maine scallop boats visited Gloucester to harvest scallops.  These vessels, referred to as transients because their home port is Maine, contribute to the economic viability of our working waterfront.  Each boat lands 400 pounds of shucked scallop meat per day.  In Harbor Cove, both Ocean Crest and Fishermen’s Wharf offload day-boat-dry scallops.  This is high quality, locally harvested and landed seafood. With a boat price of $8 per pound of meat, their landing value is appreciable.  In addition to the value of their catch, these boats contribute to the local economy in other ways.  Dockage fees paid for otherwise empty wharves, temporary housing for crew and supplies for fishing trips.  Some boats tie up at The Gloucester House and several others dock in Smith Cove.

All these activities, fishing, rowing, and sailing are important historic cultural activities.  It is who we are.  It is our identity.  All these activities require access to the water.

Is there adequate public access to the water in Gloucester harbor?

Let’s look at the City’s inventory of publicly accessible waterfront locations in the harbor.

County Landing is the only point of public water access to the harbor.  It is located at the beginning of the Boulevard, abutting the Tavern.  This landing was once used for launching boats from trailers and amphibious vehicle tours.  It is now in such disrepair it is difficult and dangerous to launch kayaks or paddle craft there.

The City has entered into a 30-year lease agreement with National Grid for 19 Harbor Loop which houses the Harbormaster.  The City is seeking $2.5 million to invest in the building to develop a public boating facility.  That seems to be ample funding to develop a dual purpose boating facility.  A boating center which serves the community with amenities for use by residents and seasonal visiting yachters.

For those interested in participating in a discussion on Community Boating and expanding public waterfront access, there will be a public discussion held in the Friend Room at the Sawyer Free Library on Tuesday, May 29th at 6:00 pm.  Come meet Guy Fiero, Executive Director of Cape Ann Community Boating to learn more.  For more information email CapeAnnCB@gmail.com.

 

Patti Page, of Gloucester, is retired from a career in federal fisheries regulatory compliance work and a past member of the City’s Waterways Board.  She is a founder and former director of Sail GHS, the sailing program for students across Cape Ann, and is dedicated to a broad range of working waterfront advocacy issues.

 

 

SPRING

By Eric Schoonover

Gloucester Harbor, 1894.                  Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

 

When they put up the signs NO PUBLIC TOILETS

I’ll know. And when the daffodils bloom in

front of the bank on Rogers and the gulls

fight and flutter over the chimneys, I’ll know.

When the sailing team yanks their amazing 420s through

the wretched gusts in the harbor; and when the

night thermometer reads 38 and it’s rain and rain,

then I’ll know its spring in Gloucester . . . maybe.

 

 

Eric Schoonover is a writer who does enjoy Gloucester’s spring. Eric is also a  boatbuilder and watercolorist, who lives in Gloucester in a small 1735 Cape Ann cottage with his wife, also a writer. He is the author of the award-winning The Gloucester Suite and Other Poems and a novel, Flowers of the Sea. His latest book, Telling Tales, has just been published.

 

 

How Did Gloucester’s Founding Shape Its Future?

Blyman Bridge. 1923
Edward Hopper (1882–1967)

by Mary Ellen Lepionka

As a municipality, Gloucester historically was regarded as poor compared to other seaside towns in Massachusetts. I wondered why and found answers in our early history. Massachusetts Bay Colony policies destroyed the productivity of the first comers to Cape Ann, and the newcomers who followed them were farmers who could not turn a profit on Cape Ann’s soils. Gloster Plantation was underfunded from the start. Its harbor never received enough investment to achieve its potential as an international port of trade. Later, the wars of the 18th and 19th centuries benefitted other towns but left Cape Ann depopulated and depressed. Historical circumstances shaped Cape Ann’s prospects, just as early childhood experiences can shape us in ways we may come to understand but find hard to change.

John Endecott (1588-1655)

In 1628 the New England Company, which became the Massachusetts Bay Company, sent John Endecott to govern the Old Planters at Salem Village (relocated members of Rev. John White’s failed Dorchester Company plantation on Gloucester Harbor) and to oversee Cape Ann. The next year the Company obtained a royal charter to start a colony and sent a fleet to Salem with 350 settlers, the so-called Higginson Fleet, named for the minister who wrote an account if it. Then in 1630, they sent John Winthrop with a much larger fleet to govern the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Masquenominet (Masconomet, Pawtucket sagamore) and his entourage canoed out to Winthrop’s vessel as it lay at anchor (in Beverly Cove or Mackerel Cove) and went aboard to welcome him. Winthrop gave trinkets to the Indians, relieved Endecott, and moved the capital from Salem to Dorchester. The Massachusetts Bay Colony then established a General Court.

The General Court promptly declared null and void all deeds of land bought directly from the Indians without the Court’s permission! Anyone living on such lands were squatters! They were to be evicted and the land redistributed to newcomers! This ruling (missing from what we are taught about the history of Massachusetts) had a devastating effect on all first comers. William Jeffreys, for example, lost his holdings at Jeffrey’s Creek and Jeffrey’s Neck and his lucrative fishing grounds on Jeffrey’s Ledge at Ipswich.

John Winthrop (1588-1649)

Independents and ex-Plymouth fisherfolk in Cape Ann’s nooks and crannies—Kettle Cove, Lobster Cove, Pigeon Cove—quickly added themselves to the rolls of the plantation or became part of the new town by gifting their land to it on condition of getting it back through redistribution or being allowed to live and make a living on it! In a long letter called The Planter’s Plea, John White begged the General Court to let the Old Planters in Salem-Beverly keep at least the land on which their houses stood, which was granted. First comers at Jeffrey’s Creek also were permitted some acreage for a town (renamed Manchester-by-the-Sea).

The four ships John Winthrop brought to New England, 1630
William F. Halsall (1841-1919)

The scale of this disaster makes one wonder if the plight of first comers—some of whose descendants still live here—is the deep-time source of local distrust of state government, prevalent in Gloucester and other coastal Massachusetts towns down to the present day. The earliest settlers and entrepreneurs had been disenfranchised, displaced, and potentially pauperized overnight. If they lacked ownership of their land, they lacked the chief means of upward mobility—other than participation in the slave trade by supplying corn, barley, and fish to the Bermuda and Caribbean slave plantations.

The fur trade was no longer a source of income. After a hundred years of dealing with Abenaki middlemen in the French fur trade, the Native people of Essex County were no longer interested and in any case, had already hunted beaver to near extinction. And the domestic shipbuilding and maritime industries had barely begun. The sketchy Cape Ann economy, interrupted, was soon thoroughly regulated and taxed, although to encourage maritime industries, the General Court excused fishermen from military training, duties on salt, and tithes on their catches.

The General Court redistributed the land first comers had borrowed, bought, or taken from the Indians to fleets of newcomers during the Great Migration, in which an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people emigrated to New England between 1630 and 1642.

Newcomers to Newbury, Rowley, and Ipswich included prosperous North Country weavers and woolen manufacturers and gentlemen farmers. They flourished on the rich alluvial soils of their broad floodplains and built country estates. Beverly and Beverly Farms likewise had large expanses of prime agricultural land.

First comers to Cape Ann (Gloucester, Rockport, Essex) had been fishermen from the West Country—Devon, Dorset, Hampshire—but most newcomers were illiterate and even less well-off farmers from Gloucester, Warwick, and Worcester. On Cape Ann, they were homesteading on marginal land unconducive to large-scale agriculture and easily damaged by over-grazing. Over time, first cattle and “rother beasts”, then sheep and pigs, and finally goats were all the land would support. Harvesting pole pines for the Royal Navy and salt marsh hay for animal fodder became the leading export industries.

Plantation proprietors petitioned the General Court for clear legal title to their lands, becoming towns with selectmen or aldermen. They were required to pay (or repay) the Indians to obtain quitclaim deeds. Gloster Plantation, established in 1638, and then the Town, incorporated in 1642, complied by renting land from Masquenominet! This is a little-known, possibly hidden, fact that you will not find in local archives. Gloucester rented to buy, paying the Indians over time. Over the next 50 years, they paid in kind—bushel baskets of Indian corn—in lieu of cash. The last recorded installment was paid in 1682. Gloucester paid its taxes and military dues the same way—in Indian corn, barley, and peas, with frequent requests for quota reductions and abatements.

In 1700/1701 Samuel English and Masquenomenit’s other grandchildren sued Gloucester in General Court—another little-known/hidden fact—and they won their case. The General Court ordered Gloucester to pay the balance owed in cash—£7 for the 10,000 acres, including Essex.

The newcomers to Cape Ann were farming among the rocks in sandy, acid soils, and after centuries of inshore overfishing, fishermen were having to sail five miles out to Stellwagen or Jeffrey’s Ledge (or 60 miles out to George’s Bank in the Gulf of Maine, and later even farther) to find market fish in any quantity. More important, the start of the English Civil War in 1641 put an abrupt end both to mass migration and to aristocrats’ investment schemes for making Gloucester Harbor into a prosperous international port.

In 1642 the General Court had invited a wealthy merchant prince in the tobacco trade, Maurice Thompson, to oversee Gloucester Harbor and to create and regulate shipping through a canal between Ipswich Bay and Massachusetts Bay. Such a canal—the Cut— would make shipping between Canada and Virginia both shorter and safer by avoiding the Cape, which was already littered with shipwrecks. The port also would serve as a distribution center for transatlantic trade. Thompson had a great flow of capital to invest from wealthy landowners in England, such as Richard Rich, the Earl of Warwick, who had a special interest in developing coastal New England.

The relationship between the Indian Village, Gloster Plantation, and the planned port at Duncan’s Point.

Governor Endecott had houses, docks, and warehouses built for Thompson at Duncan’s Point, where Harbor Loop is today, but the merchant prince did not accept the offer. He sent agents to check it out but never came. Greater riches were to be made in the Caribbean and South America. In 1643, in an effort to develop Gloucester on its own, the selectmen employed a Puritan from Plymouth, Richard Blynman, to make the Cut and serve as the town’s minister. Per usual, they paid in kind in lieu of a salary, offering some land and a free hand to profit from running a ferry or toll bridge across the Annisquam.

Things didn’t go well between the strict new pastor and the people of Gloucester. In 1650 he and his party, including the first town clerk, left for Connecticut Colony. The Cut was abandoned and soon filled in. It was dredged from time to time, but opportunities to salvage the dream were passed up again and again. By the time the Cut was reopened—in 1823 and again in 1907—it was too narrow and shallow to serve the international shipping industry, and steamships had less need of both the shortcut and the safety.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Cape Ann men were out to sea or at war most of the time. Population declined. Provisioning fishing vessels became Gloucester’s main industry. Vessels were prey during the Anglo-Wabanaki and French and Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812. It’s said the British replenished their ships’ stores by raiding sheep pastures in Dogtown. Other coastal towns capitalized on home front industries that could provide war materiel—soldier’s uniforms, canvas for sails and tents, gun parts. Gloucester, in contrast, provided service as privateers, troop transports, and merchant marines. Later, men left for the California gold rush even as the granite industry was starting. But exploitation of immigrant labor meant that the quarries enriched their owners and corporate chiefs more than the towns. Men who did not fish left Cape Ann for jobs. The fishing industry became hugely successful, but dependence on fishing had given Gloucester a risky, undiversified economy—a kind of monoculture gradually leavened by summer resorts, artists, retirees, tourists, and (we can only hope) new industries.

History is a great teacher. As individuals and as municipalities, historical circumstances shape our prospects, but they do not necessarily determine them. We make ourselves, and we are not poor. That things are hard to change doesn’t mean they can’t.

 

Mary Ellen Lepionka lives in East Gloucester and is studying the history of Cape Ann from the Ice Age to around 1700 A.D. for a book on the subject. She is a retired publisher, author, editor, textbook developer, and college instructor with degrees in anthropology. She studied at Boston University and the University of British Columbia and has performed archaeology in Ipswich, MA, Botswana, Africa, and at Pole Hill in Gloucester, MA. Mary Ellen is a trustee of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society and serves on the Gloucester Historical Commission.

Principles

By Holly Clay

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It’s Labor Day in Gloucester Harbor. Eve Robinson sits composed and dignified in Principles’ cockpit.  Though Eve is legally blind, she appears to gaze out over the glistening water, to engage me with her eyes. At peace on Principles, the 48-foot schooner owned by her partner Derek Durling, she nonetheless senses the splendor of the decorated schooners, the high energy the visiting vessels bestow.

Eve hails from Tunstall, near Kirkby Lonsdale in Lancashire, the North of England.

“It’s the kind of place you do not criticize anyone because you know they belong to someone else,” she says.

Her remark could equally apply to Gloucester. It reflects a principled approach to life. No wonder she feels at home on a mooring in the “Inner Harbor.”

Though it was only recently, in 2016, Eve and Derek first encountered Gloucester, they are solidly hooked. “We were racing last year; that’s when we discovered Gloucester. It’s a special place; the people are special. They have time to talk and be nice,” says Eve.

Derek says they returned this year, ostensibly, for the Gloucester Schooner Festival on Labor Day weekend. Principles was already at its mooring in June, so it’s clear other attractions worked their magic on Eve and Derek. Friendships have a lot to do with it, like those with Inner Harbor folks, sailors mostly, like Fred Shrigley, Beth Leahy, Rob Bent, Mark Sheldon, and Bradley Royds.

Bradley Royds trimming sails

Royds piloted Principles north from the Bahamas at the start of Summer, with then skipper Justin. The meaning in the associations doesn’t escape Derek.

Quite simply, “we made friends here. We like Gloucester. There’s a nice mix and it’s not touristy.”  He says he and Eve are more than comfortable just being on the boat. They feel part of the community.

Derek first saw the schooner Principles in 1995/96 at a Newport, RI rally.

“I thought she was the most beautiful vessel I’d ever seen,” he remembers. Her name comes from the first owner. A corporate leader, he left his company when the board made an unconscionable decision.

“He said he resigned, because ‘It was the principle of the thing,’” Derek continues, adding that he narrowly missed a chance to buy Principles in 2006. Nevertheless, in due course, his turn came. He’s owned Principles for three years now.

She “definitely has” kept him and Eve young, Derek says.

When young, Derek married an American woman. Ironically, he didn’t reside over here until after her death several years ago. He lived mostly in the U.K., minus a brief Royal Air Force posting here or there. Derek’s first opportunity to own a sailboat and learn the sailing arts came while he was stationed in Scotland. The North Sea was his teacher.

Meanwhile, Eve, also married with one son, Malcolm, made a pleasant life for herself in England. In fact, she made a career out of her passion for kitchen arts, beginning as a cooking demonstrator in Manchester, England auditoriums. It wasn’t long before the headmistress of a nearby independent school approached her to teach home economics.

The Clergy Daughters’ School in Casterton, Cumbria, where she taught, “was a special place, because the Bronte sisters attended services and classes there,” explains Eve. “I had no experience with teaching,” she continues, but she always heeds the principle, “answer when opportunity knocks.”

“I stayed there for many years…I loved it.  I had an affinity for it. And better yet, it supported my cars.” Eve loves classic cars.

The same principle, combined with more than a little spunk, propelled Eve into a sailing life in 2013, even though, by then, she’d lost her eyesight.

“What would I have done sitting in a big house all by myself? Life needs to be more than that. You lose heart if you don’t get out and do something, anything. It would have been just existing. I’m not decrying it,” she adds.  But she knew, she was made for something more exciting.

Deric and Eve set out from Glasson Dock, Lancashire on a cold day in December 2013. Companions in the years after their spouses’ deaths, they share a love of music and each has an indomitable spirit, just what they needed to face a ferocious Atlantic in winter. As became their custom, they had a skipper named Euwin, on board.

“The idea was to go round the coast ‘til butter melts,’ then have a go at the Atlantic.  When we got to Hollyhead, Wales, trouble with the engine generator stalled us. Don’t ever go to Hollyhead! We finally did get over to Cork.”

In Cork, more challenges, topped with dollops of good fortune, awaited. As Eve tells the story, “Euwin approached us, declaring ‘by the way, I’ve engaged a nurse.’ Hannah the nurse arrived with a suitcase, a big one, an electric blanket, and a teddy bear,” not the usual comportment for a sailing lass. Clearly, she had been invited aboard for a variety of reasons, not least of which was Euwin “fancied her.” Eve smiles. But wouldn’t you know, before the ship had left Cork, Eve broke her wrist, another disappointment causing another delay. Nevertheless, Hannah brought joy to the situation. “She was well-organized. The medicine kit was complete. And she gave me the Teddy Bear,“ Eve says. “And so, we dawdled…” until Eve was fit for travel. They headed first to Belize, which didn’t suit them, and ultimately to Treasure Key in the Bahamas where they bought a house.

Eve doesn’t shy away from talking about her lost eyesight.

“Back in 2007, I was driving along when I almost drove right into the back of a tractor-trailer,” she explains. “It was my sight, you see. Something was affecting it.  We drove to Liverpool. It turns out I’d had a hemorrhage. The surgeon said, ‘we can operate to clear the damage,’ but not without grave risk.”

He then suggested a less risky surgery that would restore a vague sense of dark and light. Eve opted for the latter operation. It was successful. Light and shadow provide guidance. She’s holding out hope for stem cell replacement, once it’s invented for vision. She giggles: “At my age, I don’t have a lot of time to wait.”

“All my life I’ve been age-conscious,” Eve continues, speaking of another heartfelt principle. Put another way, she doesn’t talk or think about age, “consciously.” “When asked my age, I always say, ‘What’s it got to do with anything.’ I’ll be 90 in September. One time I was driving in England. Someone passed me recklessly, took off the side of the car. The driver apologized and took the blame; we exchanged information. I left the scene, thinking ‘well enough.’ But my husband Eddie, retired by this point, was adamant I must report the damage to the police.”

Off Eve went to the police station where she sidled up to the Sergeant. They were well-known to one another, yet he had to pose the usual questions.

“He asked, ‘what’s the damage?’ And, ‘what’s your name?’ He knew my name perfectly well. Then, he asked my age. ‘Guess,’ I shot back. ‘30,’ he said. ‘That’ll do,’ I said.” It was the principle of the thing.

Eve comes by her principled nature honestly. Her mother, half Lebanese and half French, arrived in England a child bride. A marriage to a man 20 years her senior had been arranged. She spoke no English.

“I think my grandparents thought, ‘we’re giving her a new life.’ It was bad in Syria and Beirut.”

The union was unhappy. Her mother made the best of it, eventually accomplishing much in her own right. WWII trapped Eve’s father in West Africa, primarily in Lagos, Nigeria, running the southern hemisphere portion of his shipping business. There was no one to run the U.K. business, so Eve’s Mother took over.

“She had to do it all. Unusual for a woman of that generation and one who’d been as privileged as she.”

His return after the war was difficult.

“My mother had gained much independence and sovereignty,” reflects Eve, who learned by example to cultivate the same for herself.

The joys of experiencing a new way of life – being in America, or spending time in Gloucester – endure.  Eve and Derek tested their feelings on the matter this last June, returning to England for her granddaughter’s wedding. It was their first visit since they embarked in 2013.

“It was funny going back. I was dreading it, but the visit turned out to be just lovely,” Eve says. “But, I wouldn’t consider going back for good. We really don’t like the weather. This,” she says sweeping her arm before her, as if to embrace the whole of the Inner Harbor, “is living.”

And then the wisp of a lady, with more than her share of pluck asks, “Do you know, I got to go up in a glider, in Franconia, this summer?”

About the 2017 Race

Principles placed first in her class of mid-size schooners and second overall, behind the world-class contender Columbia, who dwarfs Principles, in size only. Eve’s and Derek’s Gloucester friends comprised the bulk of the enthusiastic crew, who brought her victoriously through the race.

Parting After the Race

 

Holly Clay is settled in Gloucester after many years of living overseas and in Washington, D.C. Holly is a member of the Gloucester Historical Commission and the Annisquam Historical Society.  With a background in education and writing, her professional energies are currently devoted to studying and teaching yoga and meditation.

BOATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE COMMUNITY PRESENT AND FUTURE

Gloucester Harbor.                                                                 Aldro Thompson Hibbard (1886-1972)

 

The City’s initiative to develop a boating facility is under study.  The consultant will be making a public presentation at the October 3rd Waterways Board meeting.  This is part of the planning process where people can provide input to the consultant before plans move forward.
 
It is necessary to support the Harbormaster with an upgraded and modernized office.  
There is a need to provide adequate shore side accommodations for visiting boaters.  
This is the opportunity for resident boating needs to be supported.
 
There are dories to row year round at St. Peter Square.  More than 100 Gig rowers participate at Maritime Gloucester.  SailGHS high school sailing team and summer sailing programs serve many children each year.  There is a fair amount of boating access but there are gaps of access for young children, families and older folks.  These established boating programs demonstrate that there is room to serve more residents in accessing the water.
 
Community boating clubs offer opportunities for family-friendly rowing and sailing.  These centers are great community assets. They provide lessons, boats, equipment, restrooms/showers and other shoreside amenities in support of waterfront activities.  Boating season begins as early as April and can comfortably continue well into October.
 
For examples of these centers in neighboring ports, look at New Bedford’s site communityboating.org.  The Portland Maine area offers several clubs.  See sailmaine.org.  Sailsalem.org is Salem’s Community Boating club.  Community Boating on the Charles River in Boston is the oldest center in the country. 
 
Promoting economic development with community development rooted in community values serves to shape the character of a downtown center which residents can be connected to, not disenfranchised from. 
To participate in this process you can attend the public meeting on Tuesday, Oct 3rd at 6:00 pm in City Hall.