Rockport Harbormaster
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Harbormaster & Waterfront Committee Reports

Annual Reports for year ending December 31, 2004.

The start of 2004 brought the continued planning of Mass Criminal Justice training for all North Shore Harbormasters. This program is overseen by Harbormasters Rosemary Lesch and Scott Story and runs for 12- 16 weeks during the winter season. The classes are held at the Salem Police Department with a curriculum of law enforcement, officer survival, and laws pertaining to harbormasters and on the water training.

In the month for February the Harbor Department in conjunction with the Ambulance Department sponsored an Ice Rescue Program for all emergency services in town. The majority of the day was spent at Steele Derrick in and out of a large hole cut in the ice to practice ice rescue techniques. The training was conducted by Ocean Rescue Systems, South Portland, Maine. Over 40 Rockport rescue personnel participated in the day long training.

The boating season got underway with a distress call on April 1. The call came from a vessel in distress off Thacher's Island. The Alert 2 was quickly launched and underway to the subject vessel which was then towed to Granite Pier with two persons on board.

The Harbor Department along with the Sandy Bay Yacht Club contracted with Great Eastern Crane Service to put in over 100 floats which we then tow to the different harbors and secured for the season. The floats are in the water from the first of May to the middle of October when the process is reversed and all are taken out of the water and stored at Granite Pier.

On Sunday May 16 we trailered our 24' patrol boat Alert 2 up to the DPW yard to participate in our annual Emergency Service Day. The day was a huge success with over 700 persons of all ages dropping by to see the new police station and all the equipment used by the emergency services and the DPW facility.

On May 29 we responded to a call for a party boat in distress a mile south of Thacher's Island. Upon our arrival we found the 65' party boat Lady Tracy Ann with 32 people on board taking on water. The sea conditions were rough which made it difficult to secure the vessel. We got on board to discover a 4' hole in the bow area. At that time we put tow pumps on board to start dewatering the vessel and headed into Rockport. With the assistance of Gloucester Coast Guard the vessel was secured in Rockport Harbor with the 32 passengers off loaded and brought back to Seabrook aboard another party boat.

In June we participated with the Rockport Ambulance Department in Shore Line Rescue Training on Back Beach. The sea conditions were choppy which made for interesting rescue training for the Harbor, Ambulance and Fire Departments.

In mid June we received an emergency call from a 38' Novi fishing boat "It'll Do" who was in distress between Halibut Point and Lanes Cove. Upon our arrival we found the vessel on a reef and rolling gunnel to gunnel. One person had already been taken off the boat by a passing boater. We got pumps on board and the vessel off the reef and towed into Rockport. The vessel was secured at Bradley Wharf and the hull inspected and repaired.

The summer proceeded with heavy boating traffic and visiting boats of all sizes to the harbor. The two largest vessels were the 119' "Impetuous" from Meredith, Florida and the 115' "Symphony" from the British Virgin Islands. Each vessel enjoyed a night in Rockport at the end of T -Wharf (on different nights)!

A bomb was reported in the waters off Back Beach which required many agencies to investigate. Along with the Rockport Harbor Department the local police contacted the Mass State Police and their Bomb Squad who scanned the area to find what resembled a bomb. The item was brought to the surface and declared not to be a dangerous item.

On August 2 we received a call from a boater passing by Thacher's Island reporting an over turned 20' vessel with no people around the boat. As we were responding to the scene it was reported to us that there were three people on Thacher's Island. Upon our arrival to the island we spotted three people climbing across the rocks toward the boat ramp. These three people 2 male adults and a 6 year old boy had been swamped by the large waves about 1/2 mile south of Thacher's. They then swam to the island. We took the three boaters off the island and a Good Samaritan boater assisted in the retrieval of their vessel.

The season continued with routine traffic, many visitors and routine shellfish patrols on boats and beaches.

The DPW continues the keep up with the maintenance of the ladders, wharfs and floats.

Mid September brought the annual north east storms that taxed the Harbor Department during its duration with numerous vessels breaking free and moorings needing to be secured. Several days were spent securing vessels and floats for the remainder of the boating season.

On November 12 at 5 p.m. we responded at the USCG request to a vessel aground "somewhere" in the vicinity of the entrance to the Annisquam River and Halibut Point. With 6'-8' seas and snowy conditions we responded to find a 33' sailing vessel "Karpouz" hard aground on a sand bar in the mouth of the Annisquam with 2 people and a cat on board. As time went by it was determined by the USCG that the rescue boats from Rockport and Gloucester Coast Guard Station would not be able to get the people safely off their boat. USCG Sector Boston dispatched a helicopter from Cape Cod which arrived within the hour to airlift the persons and the cat to safety.

Early in December Santa Claus was brought into Rockport Harbor on a local fishing vessel owned by Jay Vanderpool and escorted by the Rockport Patrol boat and a 25' vessel from USCG Gloucester Station.

The year ended with a northeaster which sank a 38' fishing vessel in Pigeon Cove Harbor and did substantial damage to other vessels in Pigeon Cove.

This report outlines some of the situations the Rockport Harbor Department had encountered during the season. The routine daily activities include overseeing Rockport's four harbors, public safety, maintaining the Mooring Waiting list, responding to people in distress, shellfish activities, court cases, boat maintenance, "Pump Out" service to locals and visiting boats, EMT certifications, conducting harbormaster training, attending seminars on Homeland Security/related topics and overall public relations for the Town of Rockport.

Thanks goes out to all the local and State agencies that help the Harbor Department run so smoothly.

Harbor Office hours: Thursday nights 7-8:30pm Harbor Office T -Wharf

Assisted the public 110
May Day Calls 8
Search & Rescue 40
Divers in Distress 3
Medical Emergencies 4
Investigated Flare Sightings 8
Investigated Oil Spills 3
Assisted Seal/Shark/Whale 8
Shellfish Violations 17
Bomb Scare 1

Rockport Harbormasters
Rosemary Lesch and Scott Story
Assistant Harbormasters Ron Petoff & Story Reed


January 22, 2004 - Review and vote to accept letter drafted by chair to W. Donovan reflecting a unanimous vote at December 2003 meeting regarding eligibility for fish shack. Letter was accepted and the chair will bring it before town counsel for review. Reviewed annual report drafted by chair and voted to accept it as presented.

February 12, 2004 - Old Business: Letter to Mike Anderson about fish shack. New Business: Review Petition to the 2004 annual town meeting to amend the Town of Rockport Code of By laws to add boat livery rules and regulations.

February 13, 2004 - sent letter to BOS. At the February 12 meeting of the Harbor Advisory Committee, the committee discussed subject petition and voted to agree with its contents. The committee feels that if this petition passes at the April Town Meeting that the waters in and around Rockport will be safer for both livery clients and Rockport boaters because of this petition.

The chair presented a draft letter to the Building Study Committee (BSC) outlining the possible uses for the building at White Wharf the committee voted at the December 2003 meeting. The committee voted to accept the letter as written and the chair sent it to the BSC.


April 15th meeting - Old Business: Call fishermen on waiting list for two stalls in Motif # 1 and shack (E) on Bradley Wharf prior to meeting as to interest in obtaining leases. Action: Called those on top of list, two turned down stall #1 in Motif, Bryan Church accepted, however an inspection of the Motif by the committee revealed the fire lane was blocked with gear. New Business: Redo application list for town fish shacks, land for non-town owned fish shacks, and gear storage areas. Action: Chair made a draft of the application list to include all of the harbors storage areas and town owned stalls. Interview those interested in available Bradley Wharf stalls and storage areas.

Letter to BOS sent April 16, 2004 as a result of Motif #1 inspection by committee. Highlights: Recommendation to allow two new leases selected and approved by committee. Mark Gray stall #3 and Keith Desmond Fish shack E on July 25 1974 map. Result of inspection revealed stall #1 contained items of ex-tenant B. Lee and fire lane was cluttered with tenants gear. Recommendation that town agency responsible for management of Motif #1 determine whose gear is blocking the fire lane and have it removed as well as B. Lee's gear from stall # 1.

May 13, 2004 - Discussed: Mr. W. Donovan acquired commercial fishing license. Recommend he be permitted to apply for lease. Motif #1 conditions with B. Lee. Chair agreed to reconfigure the February 1979 version of "Layout of Storage Area, MOTIF #1" subsequent to information provided by Mr. Bill Lee.

May 17, 2004 - Letter to BOS - Recommendation to permit Mr. W. Donovan to lease his fish Shack.

The HAC is recommending that Mr. Donovan be granted the right to lease 1/2 of the Fish Shack designated "A" on "Plan of Land Rockport, Bradley Wharf' dated June 25 1974. Mr. Bill Lee addressed the committee regarding the fishing gear of his in stall #1 and Fire lane of the Motif. He gave a reasonable explanation of why the gear was not moved and in addition, said he would remove the gear ASAP. Mr. Lee also enlightened those present at the meeting with a brief history of the present configuration of the stalls in Motif #l. The HAC chair volunteered to check the sizes of the stall as they are now, mark up the map and present it to the BOS to be sent to the DPW to be redrawn or marked up and dated.

June 10, 2004 - Old Business: Motif # 1 interior condition. New Business: Reappointment of committee members. The following committee members are due for reappointment: Michael Polisson, Michael Clay, and Michael Tupper. Alternate members due for reappointment: Benton Story and William LaMachia. Michael Tupper has elected not to re-up. He just does not have the time. Anthony Pizzimenti was suggested by M. Tupper to replace him as the commercial fisherman member representing Granite Pier Harbor. Mr. Pizzimenti was approached by M. Tupper and indicated an interest in filling the position; however, the chair has not been able to talk to him at this time. Chair sent letter to BOS requesting Mr. Pizzimenti replace Mr. Tupper as representative of commercial fisherman for Granite Pier Harbor.


August 4, 2004 - Action item sent to Committee by BOS: Read and review letter sent to BOS from Mr. G. Carter "Mooring Question".

August 12, 2004 - Old Business: New member Tony Pizzimenti. New Business: Address complaints of Granite Pier boat users about skiff float conditions. Harbor Department will make up plastic covered violation tickets to Harbor Rules and Regulations. These to be affixed to violators skiffs. Go over proposed new waiting list for Town leased land. Address G. Carter letter to BOS. Discussed with Harbor Department, Mr. Carter's request violates present rules and regulations. Send letter to BOS stating HAC agrees with letter to BOS dated 8/5/2004 from Harbor Department. Letter to BOS. In conclusion, this subject is closed. The R&R have been carefully explained to Mr. Carter by the Harbor Department and if he does not agree then that is unfortunate and the mater, in our opinion is closed.

September 9, 2004 - Old Business: Complaints of Granite Pier boat users about skiff float conditions. No action taken by the Harbor Department. New Business: Welcome new member, Anthony Pizzimenti, appointed August 30 2004 for the term until June 30, 2007. Address any harbor problems with Harbor Department. Address questions by Bill LaMachia regarding Summer Moorings.

October 14, 2004 - Discuss the ongoing problem of new or replacement moorings being installed by a contractor and interfering with adjacent moorings/mooring gear after installation. Suggest that reference addendum have "The presence of a member of the Harbor Department when mooring is set." Be added to addendum. Further discussion of abuse of "the 30 day rule" to the point of a recommendation by the committee. New Business: Review, discuss, and vote on the new cost per square foot method for the stalls in Motif # 1. See excel attachment Bradley Wharf Motif #1 Stalls. The result was $3.25 per square foot. Chair will discuss this with town administrator.


December 9, 2004 - New Business: Discuss the ongoing problem of new or replacement moorings being installed by a contractor. Further discussion of abuse of "the 30 day rule" to the point of a recommendation by the committee. This was discussed at length, the result to change the wording in the Rules and Regulations to "active use of the vessel for 30 days". Discuss request from town to up the rate voted on of $3.25 per square foot be increases to $3.90 per square foot. The voted to accept the increase to $3.90 per square foot to keep the revenue to the town the same as before. Mike Polisson and Mike Clay will define what is fair trap storage practice. Mike Clay told the committee that the present rule of a trap height of 6 was the safest and we should continue to hold to it. Mr. Clay stated that he and M. Polisson would look into the square footage of all of the trap storage areas on town land. This is to ensure that the cost per square foot will be the same in all harbors. This action is a result of the BOS making the Harbor Advisory Committee responsible for the uniformity of all town owned gear storage areas and town owned stalls. This is also part of the Harbor Advisory Committee's accountability to ensure that all applicants for town gear storage areas, stalls and land leases for fisherman owned shacks are qualified as working licensed commercial fishermen.

C. Nichols, Chairman
Harbor Advisory Committee


The Thacher Island Town Committee consists of 11 members approved by the Board of Selectmen and charged with the oversight, maintenance and upkeep of the Island.

In 2004 there were a number of accomplishments. Under the leadership of Billy Lee and the use of his boat, The Ocean Reporter, and the help of volunteers of the Thacher Island Cable Company, the cable was re-spliced and electric power was reestablished to the Island in July. The renovation of the exterior of the principal keeper's house was finished by Joe Napolitano of NapCo Construction and interior demolition was begun. Under the expert carpentry of Peter Berkholtz and Dick Morris, with assistance by Paul St Germain, a generator shed was built and the generator moved to the base of the South Tower to provide alternative electrical back-up. By the help of Roger Perkins and Kevin Beaulieu, a propane gas system was installed for the hot water heaters and the stoves on the Island. Dick Douglas and Ted Tarr continued to do maintenance and weekly updates on the trails.

The Thacher Island Town Committee works in conjunction with the Thacher Island Association which is the fund raising arm of the Island. Under the diligent efforts of Paul St Germain, over $180,000 in grants were received in 2004, and $160,000 from the Community Preservation Committee which will be used for the interior renovation of the principal keeper's house. Additional grants were received for the development of solar power on the Island.

This past summer there were three sets of keepers on the Island - John and Darlene Fulton in July, Andy and Kathy Hines in September and Alan Tomasca and Ann Hernandez in October. While these keepers were out there, the Island was open and received over 1000 visitors. Special events included Artists' Day, an overnight by the Girl Scouts and a fishing expedition by the Boy Scouts.

In anticipation of 2005, when there will be many contractors out working to refurbish the principal keeper's house, the apartments on the Island will not be available for rental. As always, we are looking for volunteers who have an interest in the Island and any talents which may be useful in further enhancing the Island's maintenance and upkeep.

Sydney M. Wedmore, MD


Information taken from History of Gloucester by John J. Babson, Town on Sandy Bay by Marshall W. S. Swan and Cape Ann Cape America by Herbert A. Kenny.

Sandy Bay was the Fifth Parish of Gloucester until 1840 when it became the Town of Rockport.

The War of 1812 created serious hardships on Sandy Bay and Pigeon Cove. At Sandy Bay a company of about 60 men called the Sea Fencibles were enlisted with initial barracks at the entrance of Bearskin Neck. In 1814 plans to build a fort out on the point were made. With donations (called subscriptions) from the townspeople around $60 was raised to erect a horseshoe shaped fort out on the point equipped with two cannons and nine guards who were housed in an adjacent watch house and were to be paid $8 a month. To the British cruising off the coast, it looked more formidable than it was as they planned to attack Sandy Bay.

A little historical background: In June 1812 the Congress of the United States declared war against Great Britain. The majority of the people on Cape Ann deemed this action unwise and unjust because they supported themselves and their families depending upon free use of the sea. The war affected the prosperity of the town. Fisheries were interrupted, commerce nearly destroyed and many citizens were made captives at sea and confined to English prisons.

During 1814 the enemy had several large ships cruising along our coast. Many Cape Ann families moved their valuable belongings to neighboring villages, as that summer was one of constant alarms.

On June 6, 1814 an English frigate sailed into Ipswich Bay and sent two barges into Squam Harbor to take or destroy vessels there. One was burned, one sunk and two laden with fish were carried off. A ship loaded with flour was chased onto the rocks at Eastern Point but the British were driven away by the Gloucester militia firing their guns at them before they could board the vessel.

In August an enemy cruiser, "Commodore Broke", came into Sandy Bay intending to take one or more vessels lying at anchor. She sent a shot into the village to scare the people. Our militia assembled on Bearskin Neck and fired back with their small cannon and small arms. Although a cannon ball entered under the transom, passed under the deck and came out of the bow of the ship above water, the ship escaped while being fired upon from the Neck as well as fired upon with muskets as it passed along the coast of Pigeon Cove.

On September 8 the British frigate, "Nymph", captured one of the Sandy Bay fishing vessels and forced her captain, David Elwell, to act as pilot for two barges full of men being sent in to get possession of the fort on Bearskin Neck. About midnight, in a dense fog, the barges were rowed with muffled oars toward the Neck, one entered "Long Cove" (Rockport's main harbor now), landed her men, marched to the fort, took the sentinel by surprise, made prisoners of 14 soldiers, stopped up the vents of the cannons with metal bars and threw them over the wall. The men taken as prisoners were taken back to the Nymph on the barge.

The other barge went into the Old Harbor (now called White Wharf) and soon encountered people of the village who had been roused by an alarm given by a sentinel on the Neck near the houses. It was now daybreak and a clear morning. Muskets were fired at this barge while receiving cannon and grape shot but there were no injuries.

To silence the alarm bell now ringing, several shots were fired by the British at the belfry of the meetinghouse (now the First Congregational Church). One cannon ball struck one of the posts of the steeple. A replica of the cannon ball is in the steeple now and the real one is inside the church. The cannon from the barge is on the church lawn.

That cannon shot was disastrous for the enemy because it loosened a plank in the barge, which soon began to fill with water and sank near the pier in Old Harbor.

The commanding officer jumped ashore, ran across the Neck with a few men, seized a boat and made their escape back to the Nymph. The other twelve or more men were made prisoners by the Sea Fencibles.

In the end, an exchange of prisoners was proposed and carried out. The British captain promised to allow the Cape Ann people to use the fishing grounds for the rest of the fall without being bothered by the British frigates and he kept his word.

Selectman Joanne N. Wile


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