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Gloucester Schooner Festival Prepares for Another Great Weekend

Schooner Bald Eagle from Gloucester

Schooner Bald Eagle from Gloucester

There are three key story lines for this year’s 32nd annual Gloucester Schooner Festival, which runs from September 2 to September 4, 2016.

First, the Schooner Columbia, last year’s winner, returns to the Festival to defend its title. The original Columbia was a 141’ classic Gloucester Fishing Schooner built at the historic A.D. Story shipyard of Essex, Massachusetts in 1923. The replica Columbia was built by Brian D’Isernia at his boat yard, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, in Panama City, Florida. “It is great to have her here in Gloucester,” says Schooner Committee Chair Daisy Nell, “and her captain Karl Joyner raced her to victory. What a tribute to the old Essex schooners to have this modern recreation join us.”

Second, Gloucester’s flagship schooner Adventure celebrates its 90th birthday this year. Built in Essex at the Story Shipyard in 1926, she is celebrating with a busy summer including welcoming thousands across her deck during the Festival weekend.

Third, this year’s Festival is dedicated to a great friend of the festival and to Cape Ann, Kay Ellis, who passed away earlier this year. Kay, with her husband Tom built the Schooner Thomas A. Lannon in Essex in 1997, and brought her to Gloucester Harbor to offer public sails and charters. Kay’s warm personality, business acumen, and commitment to promoting maritime heritage on Cape Ann are sorely missed. Their son Capt. Heath Ellis continues to operate the Lannon and will, once again, participate in this year’s races.

Despite the changes on the waterfront this year – Maritime Gloucester’s docks are being torn down in August  — nearly twenty schooners have signaled their interest in returning to Gloucester to participate in the weekend.  Maritime Heritage Day takes place Saturday, September 3rd from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm. This year Heritage Day will take place on Harbor Loop and under the First Ipswich Tent located in front of Maritime Gloucester. Maritime heritage organizations and area environmental groups and will be set up with interactive exhibits along with local crafters demonstrating their art. Music will be provided during the afternoon and lunch will be available on the pier. This is a great and fun event for families and visitors to Gloucester Schooner Festival weekend. Admission to the Museum will be free this day, and deck tours will be available on some boats, such as the Schooner Adventure, which will be berthed at the State Fish Pier.  The event is followed by a Lobster Bake at the Gloucester House and Fireworks over Gloucester.

The race on Sunday includes the Esperanto Cup, the Mayor’s Award, Ned Cameron Trophy and the Betty Ramsey Trophy.

Lead sponsors of the Festival include: First Ipswich Bank, the City of Gloucester, Market Basket and Institution for Savings. For a full list of sponsors, go to the website. The Festival raises much needed funds from the community by offering Schooner Festival raffle in addition to corporate support. Please purchase raffle tickets (available at Maritime Gloucester) or during Maritime Heritage Day. These funds directly support our efforts to put kids on the water.

Maritime Gloucester is a 501(c) (3) non-profit institution whose mission is to inspire students and visitors to value marine science, maritime heritage and environmental stewardship through hands-on education and experiences. Its one-acre campus is located on Gloucester Harbor at 23 Harbor Loop, adjacent to the Coast Guard Station. For more information go to or like us on Facebook.

Fairwell to Kay Ellis

Kay Ellis, Gloucester, MA

Kay Ellis, Gloucester, MA

Kay (Bonaventura) Ellis, 65, of Gloucester passed away at home on March 2, 2016 after a yearlong battle with ovarian cancer. Kay was the loving wife of Tom Ellis whom she shared 37 years of marriage.

Kay was born in Beverly, MA on October 22, 1950 to the late Louis and Margaret (Larkin) Bonaventura.

Kay grew up in Beverly and graduated from Beverly High School in 1968. She studied at UMass Amherst and graduated in 1972 with a BA in Sociology. Kay spent most of her life in Gloucester.

Kay’s husband Tom always dreamed of building a schooner to help bring history alive and introduce tourist and locals alike to the amazing wonders of Gloucester. Tom was the dreamer, but Kay made it happen. In 1997, Kay and Tom sold their other businesses, borrowed every nickel they could, and built the Schooner Thomas E Lannon. For the last 17 years, every 5th grader in the City of Gloucester has come for a sail welcomed by Kay and Tom. She and Tom played host to many of the best parties in town.

Before owning the Schooner Lannon, Kay also co-owned Essex River Basin Adventures in Essex. Kay had previously been a reading teacher, Realtor, and worked for the Beverly Housing Authority.

Kay served the City of Gloucester and the Cape Ann community in many ways. She served on the West Parish and O’Maley School PTOs, the School Connection, the North of Boston CVB, and helped start the Discover Gloucester DMO.

Kay loved life. She and Tom often told their friends and sons that their goal was to have all the fun of retirement early. And so for the last 8 winters, they would drive a few thousand miles from Gloucester, MA to Driggs, ID. There, they would ski 80+ days every winter at Grand Targhee in Wyoming. Kay was always first on the chairlift in the morning for fresh powder. She would ski hard all day and then go cross-country skiing with her dog, Lucy in the afternoon while Tom read cowboy and pirate books. One of Kay’s favorite memories was taking her granddaughter Sydney skiing for the first time. She loved travel, skiing, horseback riding (she grew up riding at Pine Tree Equestrian Center in Beverly Farms), and most of all adventure.

Kay is survived by two sons, Heath J. and his wife Yvonne G. Ellis of Gloucester and Brian T. and his wife Malisa K. Ellis of Arlington. Kay is also survived by her grandchildren, Sydney K. Ellis and Eliza G. Ellis. Kay was the sister to the late Paul Bonaventura. Kay is survived by many nieces and nephews.

Kay’s celebration of life will be held on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at the Gloucester House 63 Rogers Street, Gloucester, 6:00 pm. Relatives and close friends are respectfully invited to attend. Interment will be in Dolliver’s Cemetery at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Kay’s honor to “Turning the Tide Ovarian Retreat” which was a great encouragement to Kay in her last year. They should be sent to the

Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center
Michael Reisman, Director
PO BOX 322
Elsworth, Maine 04605
Please put IN HONOR OF KAY ELLIS in the memo line on the check.

(written by Kay’s son Brian Ellis)

Maritime Heritage Day — Update

As part of the Gloucester Schooner Festival line-up, Maritime Gloucester will host its annual Heritage Day celebration from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The event is free to the public. Over 30 artisans, food vendors and community organizations will be set up on Schooner Way and down Webster Pier with maritime art, handmade wares, demonstrations. family activities & more! Visit the schooners tied up at the pier, including the long-awaited Columbia!

Performances by Daisy Nell reading her new childrens book, Tilly & the Pirates & performing songs from the accompanying CD and Country Blues & Swingin’ Folk artists, Chick & Ellen & Friends performing Dory Shop deck.  “How to Really Eat a Lobster” Demo, Knot Tying and Block Printing Activities.  Lunch & refreshments available onsite. To celebrate Schooner Festival, Maritime Gloucester’s exhibits and aquarium will be open throughout the day for half-price admission!

We’ll be selling all the Gloucester Schooner Festival gear as well as raffle tickets for the beautiful painting for John Caggiano. Great, fun event for families and visitors to Gloucester for Schooner Festival weekend. For a complete Heritage Day schedule, visit

USS Fort McHenry Public Tours

Update 9/6/2015

The USS FT McHenry will be open to free public tours Sunday, 9/6 (12:30-4pm) and Monday, 9/7 (10am-4pm). Launches leave from 67 Rogers Street in downtown Gloucester. First come, first serve. Restrictions apply.


Update 9/5/2015

Due to mechanical difficulties with the launch, Sept 5 tours on the USS MCHENRY are indefinitely postponed. We hope to have everything up and running soon.

The 610-foot USS Fort McHenry, one of the Navy’s fleet of Whidbey Island Class dock landing ships, is scheduled to dock about 9 a.m. Friday in the Outer Harbor and will be open to free public tours Friday, 9/4 (noon-4pm), Saturday, 9/5 (1-4pm), Sunday, 9/6 (12:30-4pm) and Monday, 9/7 (10am-4pm). Launches leave from 67 Rogers Street in downtown Gloucester. First come, first serve. Restrictions apply.

Maritime Gloucester Evening Under the Spars Auction 2015

savethedatespars2015b-w528The Maritime Gloucester Evening Under the Spars Auction 2015 is now open. The auction will run from August 28, 2015 to September 5, 2015, with proceeds going to Maritime Gloucester in order to support our programs.

Auction items range from exotic vacation getaways to donated items guaranteed to delight and surprise. So, tell your friends, family, community. Let the bidding begin!

Now is your chance to not only get all the great items you want, but to do it knowing you are helping support our organization and mission to inspire students and visitors to value marine science, maritime heritage and environmental stewardship through hands-on education and experiences.