Family and Friends: Gloucester and Marblehead
Who can dispute that family and friends make life better? Our two most recent stops proved that once again.
Frank’s late wife, Grace, lived in Gloucester in her early childhood. Her mother and father were from Gloucester. Both of them were one of thirteen children. You read that right, thirteen. I thought coming from a family of six was a lot! Many members of both families remain in Gloucester. Her father’s family was comprised of many commercial fishermen, and there was a point when a portion of the family determined that the commercial fishing business would be more profitable in Cape May, NJ. A contingent of them moved there, thus relocating Grace to NJ which later led to her meeting Frank . . . and the rest, as they say, is history. When Frank and Grace got married, he was 23 years old and they were married 28 years. When you are immersed into a family from ages 23 – 51, that doesn’t just go away because your spouse leaves this earth. Her family was his family. I’ve come to understand that from getting to know Grace’s parents, siblings, nieces and nephews in the Cape May area. But the trip to Gloucester was, I think, overwhelming to Frank as to how much this part of the family still embraces him. They say blood is thicker than water, but there’s something about having the water in common that ties this family together. Go one step beyond that, they welcomed me like family, too. We ate, we laughed, we visited, we ate. But please don’t ask me to repeat everyone’s names! Although if I tell you that I met Phil, Grace, Angela and Anthony, that would be correct for about 75% of the group!
Frank has, because of the family, spent a lot of time in Gloucester in the past, but it has been years. He had prepared me for what the city would be like. He wanted me to have low expectations of the city as being “pretty industrial” and “not much to see there.” We had two big surprises when we got there First, what Frank had remembered from the heyday of Gloucester were the commercial fishing vessels tied up five deep at the fishing docks. We pulled into the harbor and saw but a handful of the fleet left. The height of the industry is long since past. He was nearly speechless as he looked around . . . very sad to see. But our second surprise was that the town had not died with the business. It was thriving with restaurants and pubs and stores and younger people and life! It is a city in the midst of remodeling itself. Gloucester was a GREAT place to visit in and of itself.
We anchored in the harbor the first night and then treated ourselves to a slip in the marina the next two nights because we really needed a hose to clean the boat properly and it was an easier place for people to stop by. We enjoyed the stream of visitors that we had at the dock! Our expectation of the visit was that we would visit with a few family members at some point and move along. What ensued was a flood of warmth and welcome and invitations for the next several days! Aunts and uncles and cousins were all around! By the end of our visit we had been treated to an amazing breakfast at the Morning Glory Restaurant, invited to a bridal shower, were given a car to use for the weekend, invited to dinner at two different homes where we were able to take our laundry with us, and were then sent home with leftover sauce, meatballs and sausage to store in the freezer along with some other tasty treats. Joe and Joyce: we loved both of your sauces equally! (Hey, we’re no dummies!) But seriously, we can’t say thank you enough for the warmth and generosity from everyone. We were SO mad at ourselves for not taking pictures at our second dinner . . . I think we were having too much fun to remember to pull the camera out. We left Gloucester with a clean boat, full fuel tanks, a full freezer and full hearts.
We left Gloucester and went “around the corner” to Marblehead, Mass. I have a colleague/friend who I’ve worked with off and on over the last 15 years. And I have now worked with his daughter, Annie, over the last two years and have unofficially adopted her as my niece. I had only briefly met Kevin’s wife, Dee, once about fourteen years ago. He and his wife are sailors (J boat racers!) and live right off of the harbor. Early on when I told Kevin our cruising plans, he said, “Stop by Marblehead on your way through!” I wasn’t sure how serious the offer was at first, but as we got underway, our talks of a stopover in Marblehead became more concrete. I figured Frank and I would be tourists around Marblehead and would hope to meet up with Kevin and Dee, as their time allowed, for a dinner or two. We were totally bowled over with the hospitality we got for our three days in town! After we settled on to the guest mooring they had arranged for us, they came out on their Zodiac to greet us bearing an amazing lunch and two bottles of wine plus gifts for the boat galley! What an awesome welcome! Then we jumped in their boat and got a tour of the harbor. They dropped us back off to relax and settle in for a while before we met up with the whole family for an amazing dinner in town. Annie was able to be in town to join us and we met their son, Chris. I get why Annie talks about her brother in such glowing terms now! And I quickly felt as if I had known Dee for years and that palling around together was an everyday thing. (Again, someone explain why I didn’t take any pictures!)
The next day we met for badminton. Yes, badminton. We’re not talking your average back yard barbecue version of badminton. We’re talking the serious kind you play at a club like racquetball. They are members (and Kevin is president) of the “Gut and Feathers” club – and we had the two courts to ourselves. First they gave us a brief clinic on the game and taught us the essential shots we needed to know. Then we practiced, guys on one court and ladies on the other. Then it was time for the real competition to start! Mixed doubles, baby! And by the way, for those of you who know about the Quigley household table tennis exploits and think we’re competitive, we look like total pansies compared to these two! It was a blast! And it was tremendous exercise. And our arms hurt so bad the next day!! And I can’t remember who won. (I know, Kevin – we were up and should have had them. Next time, I swear!) We went back to the boat for a while in the afternoon, tried to recover and then took the dinghy to their beautiful house for dinner. Chris schooled Frank in the finer points of cribbage which we have been vowing to learn (we have a beautiful set on the boat that my family gave us for Christmas), and I got a chance to sit down and serenade Dee on her piano for a few minutes while she finished up in the kitchen. I miss my piano badly. We carefully dinghied back in very dark waters to collapse, full and happy, on the boat.
Next day’s activity: a visit to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. Frank stayed behind to do a couple of boat repairs that had been nagging at him. I’ll just say macerator and generator and leave it at that. Dee and Kevin and I enjoyed the Faberge exhibit as well as a great collection of nautical art. What a beautiful facility. If you’re ever in Salem, I highly recommend it! We all met back at the Yacht Club for lunch – LOBSTER ROLLS! Hey, every time I eat lobster I figure we’ve not dodged all of those pots this summer for nothing! Our last event for the day was going to be the Wednesday night sailboat races. Frank was going to help crew and I was going to go along as “rail meat” (ballast, if you will, since I have no experience racing). Unfortunately, the race was called for the first time in memory due to . . . our old friend . . . fog. It had been a beautiful day, and then this very odd mid-afternoon fog came and settled right over the harbor.
Instead, we met up for one last beverage together in town to say our goodbyes. They walked in bearing MORE gifts – reminders of our visit to Marblehead. I used my new coffee mug today! Hugs/handshakes all around and talk of doing this “same time next year” and our ambassadors of Marblehead were off. We felt completely spoiled by the time we left and were so appreciative of the old friendships enhanced and the new friendships made. Once again, we were overwhelmed with the warmth and hospitality we received. After being out and about mostly on our own for the past few months, stops like these are especially cool.
Like I said at the start of this post: family and friends make life better.