George Hackford moved to Gloucester six years ago. Since arriving, he has followed a steady campaign of altruism.
Hackford was the first angel in the city's groundbreaking program to fight opioid addiction and personally helped shepherd 26 addicts toward sobriety and the chance for a better life.
The 62-year-old British native, now retired from a career in financial services, volunteered as a financial advisor for inmates at the Middleton Jail detox units — the second time he has volunteered within a penal system. The first was in Singapore, where he lived with his wife Chantal, now a third-grade teacher at Veterans Memorial Elementary School, before they moved to Gloucester.
Now, Hackford is starting a new commercial diving business, Underwater Harbor Services LLC, and kicking it off with another measure of goodwill toward fishermen fighting to stay afloat in the midst of the pandemic.
"Once we're up and running, at least during the pandemic, I will provide free diving services to any vessel that's part of the commercial seafood supply chain," Hackford said. "Fish or shellfish harvesters."
It's a limited-time offer, of course and only for commercial harvesters. To do otherwise would turn his for-profit business into a non-profit in a hurry. But the offer is sure to make an impression as he tries to establish himself along the Gloucester waterfront as a resource the commercial fleet.
"The harvesters play such an essential role and this has been such a difficult time for them," he said.
Hackford conceded his timing for starting Underwater Harbor Services could be better.
It's not simple to fire up a new business in the middle of a pandemic-induced economic shutdown. But he counters that with a belief that there is a market opportunity for his services among commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.
And he may have a point.
The contraction of the city's commercial fishing industry also has reduced the number of commercial divers available to to perform common underwater repairs, such as clearing fouled propellers, cleaning hulls, retrieving moorings, underwater photography or assessing damage.
Today, only a tiny handful of divers, such as Jimmy Wonson, remain working along the harbor amid a concern that the amount of work can outpace their availability. And that could translate into more downtime when problems arise.
Hackford said he is an accredited dive master and has been diving for 32 years. But this is his first foray into commercial diving.
"I'm a very passionate, very safe diver," he said. "This will be new. It's always a little trickier diving solo. But I'm looking forward to it."
He has created a website — www.underwaterharborservices.com — and has spread the word of his new enterprise informally, passing out his business cards at chandlers, Rose Marine and to fishermen and recreational boaters who tie up at the Everett R. Jodrey State Fish Pier.
He's also discussed his plans with Harbormaster T.J. Ciarametaro.
"T.J. has been very supportive," Hackford said.
He's even tacked up his cards at Pratty's and the Crow's Nest, which have been known to host a fisherman or two.
For now, anyone wishing to contact him can reach him at 978-675-1282.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT