While also acknowledging Marblehead’s fishing heritage, the author stresses the role that yachting plays in the town’s cultural and economic life in 1945. Local children as young as 7 “get down to the serious business of learning to sail” even before they learn to swim, notes the author. Atwood captures the flavor of Marblehead with an anecdote about an old-timer who refused to vote for a young town office-seeker because the latter had been born in Salem, making him a “d_____d foreigner.”
The tiny community of Essex gets a mention from the author as the source of many of the vessels built for Gloucester fishermen, Danvers as a center of activity during the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Curiously, Ipswich, one of the most important Colonial Massachusetts towns, is mentioned only in passing.
Before finally moving on to New Hampshire and Maine, Atwood visits and pays tribute to the once-great port of Newburyport. Like most literary visitors, the author cannot resist mentioning Lord Timothy Dexter, the town’s filthy rich and eminently unlikable eccentric.
Salem historian Jim McAllister writes a regular column for The Salem News.