There have been some great posts (and gorgeous photos) about the USCG Cutter Grand Isle, its years of service, and the fact that it was decommissioned earlier this week.
This may sound silly, but here in Rockport, at our tiny little home, it was sad news.
My boys have loved that vessel since they could both say, “boat.” The several months that the Grand Isle left us back in 2011 for an overhaul in Baltimore were loooong months for Thatcher and Finn. Such a quirky thing, but they missed her presence in the harbor greatly.
Grown-ups do coffee runs…. Thatcher and Finn have asked me to do boat runs for as long as I can remember. I’ve written about this before, so forgive me if you read it, but for YEARS now, no matter the season, we have been doing the tour. “The tour?” You may ask. Well, it goes like this…. some time in the parking lot of Cape Ann Marina to see the shrink wrapped boats, or a drive by the docks to see those in the water, down the boulevard, past the Fishermen’s Wives Statue, a quick sit at the Man at the Wheel to watch whatever traffic may be going in or out of the harbor, through the fort, past St. Peter’s Square, check on some of the fishing fleet, look for the Privateer, check on the Lannon, down Washington Street to Harbor Loop, count the Coast Guard inflatables and grey 47-footers, see who is docked behind Captain Carlos, down to Cape Ann Whale Watch to see the Hurricane, and then on to the their Disney….The State Fish Pier. Each and every time…upon driving past Pratty’s, the boys would declare, “I think the Grand Isle is in!” or “I think the Grand Isle is out!” “What do you think, Mom?” They’d make me drive crazy slow to let the anticipation build until the nose of our Jeep would peak past the Environmental Police building to catch a glimpse…or not…of the mighty Grand Isle. It took a couple of years for them to realize that if they would just look up (at high tide anyway) they could see her yellow tower rising from the harbor…hence giving her away.
Thatcher, in particular, has been somewhat obsessed with the Coast Guard as a whole for years. I’ll never forget the day he was standing forever peering at the boats through the fence at Solomon Jacobs Park until a new hero, Petty Officer Bowen, came over and invited him into the fenced in area for a tour. Oh my, the smile! Petty Officer Bowen later shared with me, that having grown up in Chatham, he used to spend hours doing the very same thing. Kindred spirits, those two. I’m not sure he’s aware of the little fire that was lit in Thatcher that day. But I’m incredibly thankful for it.
As the love affair continued there would be more tours of the Coast Guard Station and vessels at Harbor Loop, a Coast Guard hat for his birthday, a Coast Guard shirt that reads, “Schrafft” and the year “2025”….as in the year Thatcher would be eligible for the academy, Coast Guard patches, and even a Coast Guard Halloween costume (loved that!). And then….there was the tour of the Grand Isle.
The boys couldn’t even believe their good fortune. They looked forward to the day for a couple of weeks….and then clammed up like crazy in the midst of all of the excitement….but, talked about it relentlessly for months afterwards. (Thanks, Cousin Rob!) They were so little then….yet, so in love with that boat.
As a parent, you never really know what your children will become passionate about. We have clocked hours sitting in the parking lot of the State Fish Pier just looking at the Grand Isle. During winter months, the boys would sip their hot chocolate after hockey practice. Summer months….there’d be smoothies. On so many of those days, my dad would happen to call and get a good chuckle upon asking, “What are you guys up to?” only to find out that we were sitting looking at her ….again.
I wouldn’t trade a single one of those seconds that I spent wondering who thought I was stalking them as we sat in front of her bow. I was always keenly aware that surely there was someone up in the pilot house thinking, “Yikes. There’s that Jeep again.” I was happiest when I could put the windows down so that the boys would be visible in the back seat.
So, Thank You, Grand Isle. Thank you for helping me foster something wonderful in my boys. Thank you for helping to spark their interest and for being the impetus for many valuable lessons. I know at least two little boys who will miss seeing you sit proud and strong in our waters.