A Not So Perfect Storm

Monday, August 25, 2014
As promised, I wanted to tell you a little something about the center of the story, Perfect Storm.  Most of you have probably either read the book by Sebastian Junger, or seen the movie which was filmed in Gloucester.  You've perhaps eaten fish sticks made from fish caught and processed in Gloucester at Gorton's Seafood Company.  So come along while I take you on a little journey and history lesson about this seafaring town.

"The boundaries of Gloucester originally included  the town of Rockport in an area dubbed "Sandy Bay". That village separated formally on February 27, 1840. In 1873, Gloucester was reincorporated as a city. It was one of the first English settlements in what would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and predates both Salem in 1626 and Boston in 1630. Life in this first settlement was harsh and it was short-lived. Around 1626 the place was abandoned, and the people removed themselves to Naumkeag (what is now called Salem MA.  Gloucester lies between Ipswich Bay to the north and Massachusetts Bay to the south. The city is bordered on the east by Rockport, and on the west by Ipswich, Essex and Manchester-by-the-Sea to the west. The town was an important shipbuilding center, and the first schooner was reputedly built there in 1713. Seafaring and fishing have been, and still are, very dangerous undertakings. In its over 350-year history, Gloucester has lost over 10,000 men to the Atlantic Ocean. The names of each of the known lost are painted on a huge mural in the main staircase at City Hall, and also on a new memorial cenotaph on Stacy Boulevard. The list has continued to lengthen despite increased safety requirements."(Wikipedia)

Ok, so enough history.  If you visit Gloucester the first thing you'll note is an abundance of fishing vessels.  It's obvious to even the untrained observer that Gloucester is the home of a very large fishing industry.  It is also the home of several deep sea fishing tour companies and whale watching excursions.  We went whale watching on our first visit to Gloucester when the kids were small and let me tell you, if you're lucky enough to hit a good "whale" day, it's a thrill seeing these massive creatures spouting alongside your ship.

Shipyard Kitty

Another of my favorite stops in Gloucester is Hammond Castle, subject of an earlier blog, along with Beauport, The Sleeper-McCann Estate featured in my previous blog.  Gloucester is filled with art, eateries of all sorts, not just seafood joints.  Although where can you get fresher seafood?
Great place to eat, right on the water!

The thing that you can't help but take away when you visit Gloucester is the reminder of how many lives have been lost at sea there.  As you drive or walk along the "Boulevard" you will see the Fishermen's Memorial, also known as the "The Man At the Wheel".  This sculpture was commissioned as part of  Gloucester’s 300th anniversary in 1923.  Although the base was placed there in 1923, the statue was not unveiled until 1925. "It is an 8-foot-tall bronze statue of a fisherman dressed in oilskins standing braced at the wheel on the sloping deck of his ship. The monument has a square base of sea green granite. It is positioned so that the fisherman is looking out over Gloucester Harbor. The fisherman in the sculpture was modeled after Capt. Clayton Morrissey, a prominent Gloucester fisherman, once the captain of the Effie E. Morrisey. The stone was purposely sculpted with a rough finish to make the fisherman look rugged. Craske posed the fisherman to look as if he was facing a windstorm and was headed toward dangerous rocks. His eyes are fixed on the water and sails, while every muscle is strained to hold the wheel with a firm grip. (Wikipedia)

 "The statue is a tribute to the 10,000 Gloucester fishermen who have lost their lives at sea over the centuries and a reminder that fishing is our country’s most dangerous occupation. The statue is the work of sculptor Leonard Craske (1877-1951) and is based on a 1901 painting by Gloucester artist A.W. Buhler. The image of the man at the wheel was adopted in 1904 as the logo for Gloucester’s Gorton Fisheries, and the national distribution of their products combined with the popularity of the statue have made “The Man at the Wheel” a well-recognized icon of the courage and fortitude of Gloucester fishermen. Inside the base of the statue is a time capsule containing 47 items representing Gloucester history and culture in 1923, and inscribed on the statue is a verse from the 107th Psalm: “They that go down to the sea in ships.” The Gloucester Fishermen’s Memorial was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995". (Taken from http://myweb.northshore.edu)

"The decades long dream of Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association founder Lena Novello and president Angela Sanfilippo became a reality in August 2001, when the Fishermen's Wives Memorial was unveiled and dedicated.  The idea for a memorial to the wives of Gloucester fishermen has been around since the 1930's.  Leonard Craske's model, displayed at the Cape Ann Museum, shows a woman clutching a bundled child, her gesture reminiscent of a ship's figurehead. Craske's proposed inscription was, "They also serve who only stand and wait." The Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association was not interested in either characterization of the role of women in the fishing industry.  Seeing themselves as doing everything but sitting around waiting, the Wives determined to commemorate their contributions, both in the past and in the future they work so hard to secure.  In 1996, sculptor Morgan Faulds Pike, the winner of the GFWA's international design competition, signed a contract to build her vision of The Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Memorial - a woman holding a small child in her left arm with her right hand on the shoulder of a standing child. Morgan Faulds Pike's bronze sculpture stands 12 feet high on its base, a boulder of natural granite.  It took two years to complete.  The inscription around the base of the sculpture reads: "The wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of Gloucester fishermen honor the wives and families of fishermen and mariners everywhere for their faith, diligence, and fortitude." (http://myweb.northshore.edu)

Wingaersheek Beach
The Maritime Museum is really fun and you'll want to spend some time there just watching the fishing boats come and go. There's a lot to see in Gloucester.  Next time you're on Massachusetts northern coast, check it out.  And if you haven't already, check out my Rockport blog http://gwfirecracker.blogspot.com/2014/05/picturesque-rockport-ma.html   as well as Hammond Castle http://gwfirecracker.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-little-castle-by-sea.html
Cape Ann

Twin Lighthouses from Cape Ann

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