GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

May 13, 2013

Fishtown Local: Springtime in the harbor

Fishtown Local
Gordon Baird

---- — This is the best time of the year of some.

Until last week’s brief spate of rain, the weather has been intergalactically fantastic.

Down in the harbor, the light is as unique as what it’s lighting — by day, aquatint sunshine, softer than autumn but just as clairvoyant, placing the colors of the coves into their postcard compositions, turns to perfect peach light evenings and stock still Disney sunsets.

Time stands frozen as the evening inches inevitably forward, not a ripple to be detected in the cove, not a person, dog or car dares move and spoil this perfection. The sun is summarily submerged by the earth’s inflexible schedule, to be finally followed by Gloucester’s skyline silhouetted before an oil painting, end-of-day setting sun. Gloucester looks as old as time in silhouette, stacked up on its nine hills as it is.

Rocky Neck is piled high in the air on its outcroppings, the red sun merged and magnified into an image of paint factory, windows and horizon. There isn’t a shred of wind on the harbor and every image is reflected back into double pleasure.

Has there ever been more spectacular weather? This early May can be the most remarkable combination of sights, sounds and smells as the season warms and the trees explode.

All around the city, green is popping out amidst the shocking yellow forscythia while the oak forests cast their red haze of buds against that luminescent blue sky — in a week, they’ll be fully leafed out, too. Shade trees have bloomed slightly early with their white hairdos all frizzled up like a prom queen with a perm as birds sing away their triumphant merriment.

No time to waste, there’s bird work to do. Everywhere, nests are thriving, nurturing and feeding away with the little bird tots. Red birds, green birds, winging by on the way to work, work, work.

This time of year, the days are as long as anyone could want. It is almost like autumn where the trees are all different shades of new leaves. But that special “baby” green of new leaves against the matching new blue of May accentuates the best part of May weather:

It’s all ours! There are no crowds, hordes of cars and nosy, noisy neighbors to rein in or rain on our parade. It’s Gloucester for Gloucester. The harbor is never as special as it is now, empty, free and ravishingly beautiful.

To truly enjoy the harbor this time of year, try taking a ride around on the harbor shuttle. It’s like a little taxi service but you can use it as a tour bus, with stops and pickups at Harbor Loop, St. Peter’s Landing, The Studio in Rocky neck, Cripple Cove and at Cruiseport.

You can stay on and ride around for an hour’s round trip. It connects the two cultural districts, too, so you can combine your culture with your sight seeing. When you do, you will find an incredible bustle of self-propelled boaters out and about with you. Rowers come out in droves this time of year in boats of all sizes.

Classic fishermen’s dories lead the pack, but shells, rowboats and 6 person gigs out for a practice criss and cross throughout the waterways. There are big-muscled guys preparing for Canadian competition, but tons of women have also joined the rowers rolls — some toning, some tuning for their own competition; and some rowers are just old guys out for a seance with nature.

Sailors are coming out of hibernation too. Fortunately, not too many speedboats are in yet which gives the harbor more of that old fashioned look. In the afternoon, the GHS sailing team graces the inner harbor on their way to a rigorous practice in the outer harbor.

Lead by Hillary Frye, Guy Fiero, Patti Page and Damon Cummings, they are having their best year ever in Mass. Bay League competition, at present sitting in first place in their league’s Division 2 North. They have been supported generously by The Dunsky Fund and Brown’s Boatyard to buy an all-new fleet of 420s and bring better competition to Gloucester from top teams around the state. Manchester is one of the top teams in all of New England, if not the top team, in their own elite independent divisional circuit.

In mid June (the 9th to the 13th), Gloucester will be hosting a national SailBot competition of Robotics sailboats mostly involving college teams off Pavillion beach.

Gloucester is one of the few high school teams invited to compete. It is a grueling series of five impossible events for the teams to solve.

We can’t wait, but in the meantime, get out and enjoy our treasured harbor in this stunning weather.

Gordon Baird is a local actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine, and producer of the community access TV show “Gloucester Chicken Shack.”