Sunday, October 4, 2015

Massachusetts: Rockport and Gloucester

     Welcome to the Cape Ann region of Massachusetts.  We have left the Gulf of Maine and are now entering the Massachusetts Bay area.

     In 1623 this area became the site of England's fourth attempt to establish a colony in the New World.  Today Cape Ann is home to four towns -  Rockport, Manchester by the Sea, Gloucester and Essex.  Today we are taking a look around Rockport and Gloucester.

     Rockport, a tourism town with a year-round population of about 7,000, sits at the tip of the cape.  Geographically this lies about 40 miles southeast of Portsmouth NH and 40 miles north-east of Boston Mass.

     The mouth of the harbor has been mostly closed off with a man made breakwater.

     A nearby lighthouse on a stretch called Bearskin Neck marks the easternmost tip of the cape.

     The intensity of waves that hit the shore has picked up substantially from the areas to the north that are more protected.  But between the breakwater and the natural landscape this is a well sheltered harbor.

     In early colonial days this area was known to have the best fishing in New England.  A large supply of tall pine trees were found useful for ship building, and much of the timber that built Boston came from this cape as well.  But for the most part this area remained uninhabited for more than a century after other parts of the cape were settled.  

     I am told this lobster shack is the most photographed object in the area.

     In 1856 over 200 of the town's womenfolk decided they had had enough of booze.  So they went on a rampage and destroyed everything they could find that contained alcohol.  The town remained mostly dry until 2005 when it passed an ordinance allowing restaurants to serve alcohol, but liquor stores remain illegal.

     Surrounded on three sides by water, today the town's primary business is tourism.  

     There are numerous shops of all types.

     Along one side of the downtown area is another smaller protected area for boats.

     As we move south the houses along the ocean are becoming increasingly opulent.  

     As we move around the southeast edge of the cape you can see the twin lighthouses on Thatcher Island about a mile offshore. 

     These lighthouses were first built in the 1780's and heightened to their current size in the 1860's.

     Of interest as we move out of Rockport is the James Babson museum.

     Built in 1658, this is the oldest structure on Cape Ann.  It was originally constructed as a shop to build wooden barrels which were used to ship fish to England and the West Indies.  It wasn't open when I stopped by, but it is supposed to be full of early colonial tools, furniture and household items.

     We turn to the west and soon hit the border of Gloucester, which claims to be America's oldest seaport.

     There are both an outer harbor and an inner harbor.  Here we see the mouth of the outer harbor in the distance.

      Complementing the natural geography is a manmade breakwater over a half mile in length called the Dog Bar Breakwater.  Where it meets the land is Eastern Point Lighthouse, built in 1832.

    During the nine years it took to build this structure over 40 ships crashed onto it.  Upon completion a light was built to mark the other end.

     Looking back from the outer harbor you can see Gloucester perched on its hill.

     For those of you who are uninformed, all of the "R's" in the English language are dropped at the Massachusetts border.  The annunciation of the town then becomes Glaa-stuh.  

     What is called the Annisquam River cuts through the town, this being the body of water that qualifies half of the cape for island-hood.  To me it appears more a tidal marsh area than a "river."    

     By the late 1800's the fishing industry was long established here, and a large percentage of the fishermen were Portuguese immigrants. They built a unique church here - Our Lady of Good Voyage.

     The statue atop the church is the biblical Mary cradling a sailing vessel.  

      There is a smaller replica inside the church that is carried in the parade at the beginning of each fishing season.

      Gloucester recently made national news with its unique approach to drug use.  Chief Leonard Campanello is trying to make some headway with the opiate problem here, and is employing some approaches that are "new" to United States law enforcement.

Photo from website

     In June of this year, Leonard and a local resident founded a non-profit organization named Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative or PAARI for short.  The organization is designed to help steer addicts to various treatment and recovery options without fear of charges being levied against them.  So far over 150 addicts have been placed in various treatment programs.     


     Back in Portland, Maine we took a hard look at the plague of opiate use that is wreaking havoc across this part of the country. Those two articles give a much more in depth look at this issue and you can access them by clicking Here and Here.   

     To quickly summarize the articles, we learned from numerous sources that are directly involved in the "heroin" issue that it really isn't about heroin - it is about pharmaceutical opiates.  No one starts on heroin, but once addicted to the pills heroin is the only cheap alternative.  We learned that heroin only represents 20% of the overall deaths from opiate addiction in this country.

      Well, Leonard called out the pharmaceutical companies.  He posted a request for the citizens of Gloucester to contact the CEO's of the top five drug companies to ask them what they are doing about the opioid epidemic.  He provided contact information for each of them in the post.

     Within 48 hours representatives of Pfizer contacted him and offered to set up a meeting.  As of this writing there are no further details, but hopefully they don't find a way to bury this initiative.  

   I usually avoid political types, but this is one time I wanted to talk to a politician.   A local election is going on and there has been a lot of attention from the national news media, so I wasn't successful.  As much as anything I just want them to know that I laud their efforts at finding a viable solution to this problem.  
    And that brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd," spotted outside a Gloucester drug store.

     And today's parting shot, courtesy of a t-shirt shop in Rockport.

If you can contribute a few dollars to this effort, please Click Here.  You can email me at

Make it a great day  !!

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