The Merchant Mariner monument
I was genuinely sorry to be leaving this morning. We had only been in Maine for 12 hours plus some drive time. In no real measure had we given the state its due. I would have loved to head north and take in Augusta, the capital. Then, east to Stephen King’s stomping ground of Bangor. An eastward jog to Acadia National Park, and then we would see some of the coast to take in some lighthouses. But, sacrifices had to be made, and most of Maine got the ax. Sorry, Maine. I hope I am able to make it back someday.
We jumped on I-95, under overcast and slightly wet conditions.
We had had pretty good weather to this point, and I was very thankful that today’s weather came today, instead of yesterday when we had so many outdoor activities. It wasn’t long before we passed the exit for Kennebunkport, the retreat for the Bush family. Another casualty, as I would have liked to see what the allure was. Chances are that allure included summer sunshine, so it was just as well.
The Fishermen's Wives' Memorial
We soon crossed in to New Hampshire, where we paid a toll, presumedly not for the privilege of entering The Granite State. Out itinerary today is full. We are making our first stop at Gloucester, MA. Then after spending an hour or so there, we continue down the coast to Salem, MA. After most of the day in Salem, we drive past Boston and end the day with a lantern tour of Plymouth, MA.
Another full day.
The inscription tells the story
The weather dried out as we headed south, but the sun was not making much of an appearance. As we approached Gloucester, I reviewed our itinerary for the city. We planned to head to the Welcome Center at Stage Fort Park, look around there for a few minutes and then walk up the beach to our primary destination, the Man at the Wheel statue.
The Man at the Wheel statue was made most famous by the movie Perfect Storm. It depicts a man, in rain gear holding a ship’s wheel, while studying the sea and leaning hard against the wheel for balance.
He looks to be confronting a heavy storm. Gorton’s, the fish company, uses something similar for their logo. “Trust the Gorton fishermen” Anyway I admired the courage and rugged individualism of these fishermen, and thought seeing the tribute (the statue is part of the Fishermen’s Memorial) would be interesting. That was really our only plan, and then we would head to Salem, and hunt for witches.
The Man at the Wheel. The statue was dedicated in 1923
We arrived at Stage Fort Park, and parked. It was free, one of the reason’s I chose this location and headed for the welcome center. We were met by a nice lady who had just come out and was locking the door. The Welcome Center was closed for the season. Not very welcoming, but at least the day was becoming more so.
The sea still looked a bit dark and choppy, but there was blue sky towards the west. The lady gave us some brochures and pointed us in the right general direction, and we were off.
The pedestal of The Man at the Wheel. The quote is from the Bible
I was aware that in addition to the Fishermen’s Memorial, there was a Fishermen’s Wives Memorial. The city fathers had decided that these two memorials should be close to each other, making for both symmetry and easy locating. We headed north and came across a large ship’s anchor, resting in the center of a flower bed. There was some sort of plaque. As you don’t see this kind of thing every day we detoured slightly and made our way over. It turned out to be a tribute to the Merchant Mariners from WW II. I later found out that a merchant mariner is the correct way to call a seaman who served on ships involved in commerce during peacetime, but serves as an auxiliary naval force during war. They are commonly, but incorrectly called Merchant Marines.
I learned stuff like this every time I travel. It’s one of the things I enjoy the most.
The crew of the Andrea Gail, made famous in the book and movie call "Perfect Storm"
After a couple of pictures we continued up the coast and soon came upon the Fishermen’s Wives’ Memorial. This statue is of a woman with two children, gazing out towards the sea, waiting for a ship to appear. She holds a toddler, while a boy of about five stands at her side, holding on to her dress. She looks a bit pensive, while her oldest child has an anxious look on his face. I read that even though the idea for this memorial dates back decades, the people governing its creation could not decide on an appropriate statue. They did not want one that suggests a fishermen’s wife’s chief job was to mourn or wait for her companion’s return. It sounds like this association might have been a bit to PC, but we are in Massachusetts after all. Margo and I both got a few pictures, and then we moved on.
The Gloucester Fishermen's Memorial. The second plaque starts listing the names of the lost fishermen.
We still had a bit of walk until we reached the Fishermen’s Memorial, and we first had to cross the Blynman Canal, also knows as “The Cut”. A sign nearby says that the canal was dug in 1643, by the guy it was name for. It united “ (Annisquam) river and bay (Gloucester Harbor). I wondered how wide and deep the canal was in 1643. Because right now, it looked pretty impressive to have been dug by hand. That would be a lot of shovel’s full of dirt.
We walked across the drawbridge that spanned the canal, and finally made our way to our ultimate destination.
The Man at the Wheel statue was just as I remembered. I asked Margo if the statue looked familiar. She said she thought it looked like what was on the Morton Salt box. I couldn’t place that reference, and I later looked it up, and there is a girl with an umbrella walking in rain poring salt. “When it rains, it pours”. But, I must confess when she mentioned Morton Salt, I thought she was right. This wasn’t the pop culture reference I was looking for. I was looking for her to tell me about Perfect Storm, but she had not seen the movie, so that wasn’t going to happen.
The story of Blynman Canal
The statue is surrounded on three sides by a series of large plaques that first tell the story of Gloucester fishing, and then goes on to list every Gloucesterman lost at sea while operating in that dangerous trade, from 1623 to the present time. The lists are broken down by year. The plaques were put up in 2000, 75 years after the Man at the Wheel statue was erected.
A ceremony is held in August of each year to commemorate the new names added to the memorial. The list is long, as you might expect 3 3/4 centuries worth of weather and mishap would create. I was interested in the names of the crew from the movie, and I found them listed under 1991. In the movie The Perfect Storm a crew of six, aboard the Andrea Gail goes fishing for swordfish. They later encounter a fierce storm, called "the perfect storm", because a confluence of weather events occurred to create this once a century monster. The storm generates massive (maybe 100 ft) waves, the ship is destroyed, and the crew’s bodies never found. Not a very happy film, but it was a good story. Seeing a memorial always makes me feel closer to the men and history. I like to wander cemeteries for this same reason.
The Blynman Bridge goes up
We take plenty of pictures and then back track to reach our car. When we reach the Blynman Canal, we happily have to wait for the drawbridge to go up and down.
It was here that we got our next history lesson. Perhaps “civics lesson” would be more accurate. The two boats that went zipping through the canal were obviously police boats. The logo on the side identified them as “Massachusetts Environmental Police”. I wasn’t sure what to think about this. In Colorado we have our critters under control and have no need for policemen to arrest and jail trespassing rabbits or unruly hawks. But, I guess with an ocean on your right flank, there is plenty of opportunity for mischief among the two legged critters. Like I said, we are in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Enviornmental Police.