FYI: May 2004 Page 2

FYI — May 2004
By Brad Dunn
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Pain in the Tax, Things We Like, and more
• Part 2: A Word With.. Tom Leach, and more

 Related Resources
• News/FYI Index

A Word With... Tom Leach
This month Tom Leach marks his 30th year as harbormaster in Harwich, Massachusetts. The veteran shellfisherman and marine conservationist has watched recreational boating flourish in his small town on Cape Cod and has worked steadily to restore the local shellfish population and maintain a safe boating environment. In fact, at presstime, he was set to speak before the state legislature to promote a new PFD law after two kayakers drowned last fall near his marina. PMY recently talked to Leach about life as a harbormaster.

Q: How did you wind up in this profession?
A: I moved up here from New Jersey during college and thought this was going to be one of those jobs you do for a while and then move on. But I stayed—30 years now. I love the people, I love the water, I love the boats. It’s great to work in the town where you live, where you feel so much support from the community.

Q: What’s changed the most since you arrived in Harwich?
A: It’s much, much busier. In 1974 we used to beg people to tie up here. There were always empty slips. Now we have a waiting list that’s about 15 years long. It’s amazing how popular recreational boating has become.

Q: So, you see mostly boaters cruising up and down the coast?
A: No, we get all kinds of people: commercial fishermen, sport fishermen, cruisers, sailboaters, liveaboards. What’s amazing is that everyone gets along so well, which is not always the case at other marinas. We’re about 50-50 sail and power. It’s interesting to watch sailboaters and powerboaters tie up next to each other and swap cruising stories. It’s like this whole boating gang is married together.

Q: How do you maintain that cohesiveness?
A: Well, I make sure all our customers know that this is a family marina, first and last. That means no four-letter words—at all. No late parties. No loud music. We deliberately don’t offer Cablevision access. Basically, this is not a wild place to be, not even remotely, and we make sure everyone knows it.

Q: You’re trying to get Massachusetts to pass a PFD law for kayakers that would be the first of its kind in the country, after two women got lost in the fog and drowned last year. How did you come to lead this effort?
A: Well, the deaths of those girls were by far the biggest calamity of my career. It hit me hard. Even though there was little anyone could have done, I felt like two lives were lost on my watch. Right now the law says kayakers only have to wear life jackets in the off-season. I think this tragedy clearly shows the importance of expanding that law to cover the whole year.

It’s long overdue, and I want to do everything I can to change it.

Cruising to the Afterlife
Do you think your new, fully rigged Viking battlewagon will be around in 1,200 years? If so, do you think it will carry you to the other side of the grave? The original Vikings certainly did. In fact, they believed the boat would carry its deceased passenger gloriously into the afterlife.

In February a pair of amateur treasure hunters were combing for valuables with a metal detector outside Yorkshire, England, when they discovered a Viking boat burial site. Many archaeologists believe the find could be one of the most important ever in Great Britain.

The lucky duo uncovered a stash of ancient silver coins, pieces of swords, and other trinkets that were later dated to the ninth century. Scientists conducted a comprehensive dig and found the remains of a Viking longboat, complete with the original iron “clinch nails.”

Because the treasure contained coins from ancient countries as far-flung as the Middle East, archaeologists believe the discovery could be the burial site of a rich warrior. The Vikings often buried their wealthiest mariners inside their boats with hoards of treasure.

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This article originally appeared in the April 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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