Minus a lower leg and a wheelchair user since a spinal trauma, Ed Boynton is not disabled, dismayed or discouraged.
The welder and former commercial fisherman with a caustic wit and indomitable spirit has been busy this week at Rose’s shipyard painting his two masted schooner Sugar Babe so the vessel will look the part of a respectable entrant to Gloucester’s Schooner Festival at the end of the month.
Sailor Boynton acquired his Babe in 2006 and sailed her in that year’s festival, but in April 2007, he suffered a catastrophic injury to his spine. He fell backwards about five feet one day, and when he hit, his spine took the brunt of the impact, compressing thorasic vertebrae 8, 9, 10, in the middle of the back.
Compression of the vertebrae prevent the nerves beginning there to function. No longer sending out electric charges to move the muscles in the legs, feet and toes, the injury denies Boynton of the use of his lower body.
Bottom line: Boynton, who lives by himself near downtown, lost the ability to walk, hence the wheelchair. The injury was diagnosed as incomplete, leaving some thread of hope of regeneration, but if that was going to happen, it would have within the first year or so, and it didn’t.
Boynton has accepted the outcome and gathered himself to deal with the hand he was dealt in the middle of the game.
The injury did not prevent Boynton from becoming an active member of the resistance to the law enforcement excesses emanating from Gloucester’s Northeast Office of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.
He challenged and won a dispute over one of the many unnecessary and unwarranted fines like those documented by a Department of Commerce inspector general; when NMFS learned that Boynton’s commercial fishing days were over, the agency dropped its demands.
The injury also did not become a bar to his love of sailing and the freedom of the sea, though the Sugar Babe was out of the water in 2007 in the immediate aftermath of his fall and loss of mobility.
In 2010, the result of another accident, he had his left leg amputated above the knee. He readily acknowledges that the amputation had less effect functionally on him due his paralysis — but, he quickly adds, “I’d rather be whole than not.”
Fate introduced Boynton to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, where he is now involved in the work of the Greater Boston Chapter of Spinal Cord Injuries hospital mentoring program that matches veterans of spinal cord injuries with the newly handicapped.
“We worth with patients on not to be discouraged,” said Boynton, who could be a model for the achievement.
Born and raised in North Andover into the family of a commercial lobsterman, he attended Springfield College, graduating in 1970, began fishing with his father and eventually was able to buy his first saiboat, the Cecil B.
He fished, sailed and welded in Gloucester until the fall and the compressed vertebrae and the wheelchair. Now, he just sails.
He said he will enter Sugar Babe, a gaff-rigged, two-masted schooner — a smaller version of the Thomas E. Lannon, he explains — in the Schooner Festival regatta. He said his scheduled is to have the Babe ready for action within a week or so.
There’s not a hint of discouragement in his voice when he says, “We’ll be sailing in Schooner Fest again this year.”
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-238-700, x3464, or at email@example.com.