Camper Fan Outspoken

Our new readers (and God help you for choosing The Clam as an information source, by the way) should know that The Clam swings between a few different modes: “Clamsplainers” that help cut through the treacle of issues of interest to those connected to our beloved city of Gloucester; general tomfoolery like our horrible parking lot contest, Wiked Tuna Recaps and reviews; occasional general-use content like drone videos and, on most Sundays, we hang up our snark guns and feature something amazing about this place we call home.

“You are how you camped,” is our motto. For all its informality,camp is a profoundly formative experience for kids. After a year of being measured, tracked and evaluated against standards it’s critical for them to just be handed a bunch of cool stuff and told to go nuts. And more importantly, not by a formal teacher, but more likely by an awesome high school sophomore in sunglasses who’s going to show them the ropes, make sure they have a good time keep an eye out so they don’t maim themselves. Behind all this are dedicated adults (often teachers in their summer alter-egos) who are making the whole thing work and bringing down the fun/learning.

Gloucester has incredible camps. Just incredible. We punch way over our weight in great things for kids to do during the summer generally at low cost (with plenty of scholarships available). I attribute this to a point I’ve made before that Gloucester favors those who would be considered “weirdos” in the outside world, but are critical to the camping experience. If your population does not support the kind of person who is skilled and knowledgeable in a topic area, but who will also don a Dr. Seuss hat and oversize sunglasses to sing Weird Al songs, or who has too much self respect to do the “chin puppet” routine, you’ll never have good camps. And we got both. Boy do we ever.

Critical job skills

Critical job skills

We’re going to shout-out the camps our own kids have been too, but this is by no means supposed to serve as a list of what’s going on. For that get a copy of “A Kids’ Guide to Cape Ann” which is available in places who have brochures. Sadly, I think their website is down at the moment. Call the Chamber of Commerce at 978.283.1601, they’ll have it. It’s great.

Ok, Huzzah time, people. Add your own in the comments or make suggestions for a round two:

Y Sailing Camp

You knew the Internet would get weird when we googled "aquatic people"

You knew the Internet would get weird when we googled “aquatic people”

Do you want your kids to be those salty folks who traverse docks with ease, competently grab the helm of any boat and know all kinds of useful knots? My kids transition between the terrestrial and the aquatic the same way most of us go from hallway to the kitchen, with no effort whatsoever. Also they will thrill our summer guests when we’re out boating with random little tidbits of harbor knowledge such as, “Dad, there are rocks over there and if you go that way you are going to kill us all.” Also there is pirate day and they use super soakers. All this for $150 a week, which is what they would rack up in Netflix if they were home anyway.

High School Sailing Camp

Taking the sailing to the next level, this camp focuses on racing. I see these kids doing all kinds of advanced stuff and I see them hanging off the boats on lines and doing all that wack-looking sailor craziness you think you’d only see in rich summer ports like Kennebunkport or the Hamptons. The Amazing Rebecca did this camp earlier in the summer and though she said she enjoys the super-soaker and pirate thing a bit more, she learned a ton. If we ever have to go to a post-petroleum society, Gloucester kids are all set to dominate the seas between the sailing and buccaneering skills they get during the summers.

Or as high priests in an up-and-coming religious movement

Or as high priests in an up-and-coming religious movement

Art Haven Camp

How great is that place, btw? Listing all the cool crap they do isn’t even worth it, but let’s just say that we jump at any chance to get our kids there. They had a Harry Potter week. They do scavenger hunts. They make their own board games. I fully expected this to be a popsicle-stick and macrame experience, but this thing is oh-so-much more. For older kids there are sessions like videography, cartooning and something called “Building a Better Lobster Trap” which I don’t know what it is but I want to do myself. I am grateful every time I go past Art Haven and the Hive that these folks set up shop in Gloucester.

Project Adventure Camp

My redhaired son is active in the same way one might describe a purely theoretical subatomic particle. The other day he came home stinking of low tide mud, bug bitten, sandy and he dumped a pile of coal onto the foyer in the house and said, “we cornered the obsidian market.” I don’t know what the hell is going on out there on Ram Island, but as far as I can tell one of the councilors is running a Minecraft-like trading system involving natural resources the kids have to go and find while running them ragged all over the place. Huzzah to you, sir. Again, Huzzah. The world owes you a great debt. This camp is generally incredible and there is nothing like sending your kid off in a rowing dory in the morning to start your day. General Huzzahs to all involved.

Minecraft joke

Minecraft joke

O’Maley Middle School Drama Camp

Think for a second, what could get a kid to willfully go into a middle school during the summer? The Drama Camp at O’Maley, is what. A drama program focused on kids in 4th grade and up, it’s an extension of the off-the-hook greatness that is the O’Maley drama program responsible for such recent hits as Fame, The Little Mermaid, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and forthcoming Equus early next year. Or Alice in Wonderland. They’re trying to decide between the two. Kids sing, dance, play drama games, all that. Wow, it’s good and when you go see a production at North Shore Music Theater and say to yourself, “Hey, the Gloucester kids are pretty much as good as these guys,” you’ll realize what a great job they do.

Maritime Heritage Center

Plankton Safari. An amazing program these guys do and coincidentally the name of a band I played bass for in college. “Build your own underwater robot” is another. Coastal sailing on the Ardelle, marine-based art with Art Haven. Seriously, folks, how many of us went to daycamp and learned to dissect a squid? Very few, I’m guessing. Think about it though, where else do you find programs like this? At the Museum of Science, in Cambridge at MIT and Gloucester. Suck it, everywhere else.

What I'm picturing

What I’m picturing


We’re going to do a whole future NSS on Rick Doucette. Literally. We’re going to sit on him and write it, and he’ll probably be fine with that, that’s how great that guy is. This camp has transcended a summer kid storage solution to pillar of the community.  I don’t even know where to start with this camp. Send your kid to this thing and you will hear unending stories about the pool, the waterslide, Olympic week, , they will come home with no end of masks, shells and beach glass necklaces, tell you about piracy (again with the piracy), show you medals for events you never knew existed. The whole thing, from the staff to the kids form an alternate community of support for so many people that I don’t know how to express its value to us. ALL the camps from the Y, the aforementioned sailing to the downtown camps to the adventure camps are all incredible.

You don't need to know what's going on here to know it's awesome. (photo Jen Amero)

You don’t need to know what’s going on here to know it’s awesome. (photo Jen Amero)

Ok, that’s a highly truncated list I could put together to still get this thing out by noon. Give me yours in the comments.