Monday, August 5, 2013

Touring with Violet - My FAM Tour with Sweet Shots Secret Spots

cape ann, gloucester, tour, charter, sweet shots secret spots, jennifer amero, violet gray, tourism, boston, boatingOk so this might just be the coolest land and sea limo going. Sweet Shots Secret Spots Tour Company, Operated by Violet Gray and Corey Newman (flanked in my case by their 2 year old Dahlia and their pup Bogie), SSSS is a two part operation combining a 6 passenger Jeep and a 6 passenger Chris Craft boat giving tourists the flexibility to start from and get to pretty much anywhere on Cape Ann.

cape ann, gloucester, tour, charter, sweet shots secret spots, jennifer amero, violet gray, tourism, boston, boating, rocky neck, paint factoryOur tour was a two part excursion - one with kids and one without.  Narrated by Violet, who's worked for both the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and many local eateries in the area, we got "in deep" with the local scene - which is saying something when you consider she was touring around a bunch of townies!

 Here's what me 8 hour tour looked like:

DAY ONE

 Pickup by Violet in "Charlie" the Jeep. Open sides, a beefy yet skeletal metal frame and a rear facing seat immediately jazzed the kids who were with us - and started some fighting about who got to sit where, of course.

cape ann, gloucester, tour, charter, sweet shots secret spots, jennifer amero, violet gray, tourism, boston, boating, rocky neck, paint factoryWaving emphatically from the rear and middle seats, our young passengers were whisked away to the highest point in town to take in the most breathtaking view of our beautiful island and to learn a thing or two about the many landmarks visible from that point.

cape ann, gloucester, tour, charter, sweet shots secret spots, jennifer amero, violet gray, tourism, boston, boating, rocky neck, paint factoryOver the course of four hours we explored the back and side streets of town, finding one incredible unknown vista after another while Violet entertained us with have endless knowledge of quirky local history and even engaged the kids in some fun trivia about their hometown.

Tales of Nazi hideouts in famous oft-photographed homes along our beaches and aircraft training history on our islands were among our favorites  though the best was Vi's own account of having "kidnapped" a Brazilian journalist from a FAM tour to sample SSSS and found the woman was interested in visiting two most unlikely spots - the very blue color fishermen and truckers' rooming house and saloon known as The Crow's Nest made famous by the Sebastian Junger's novel-come-smash-hit-movie, "The Perfect Storm" and the less famous Paper House in Rockport which is more like something from Tom Robbins' "Another Roadside Attraction". I'm guessing no other journalist has written an article on these two establishments together. I'd take that bet.

We wrapped up our tour with a stop at a very cool private beach where we found (and buried) a sand shark (dog fish) and took a dip. Little Dahlia illustrated the not-yet ripe bloom of a rose hip, encouraging her contemporaries to indulge in a taste. This child has all the makings of a foodie tour guide as well. This is truly a family business.

Dropping tired children home to their dinners and beds, Violet and I planned a grown up sunrise trip for the next day. The meeting time: 5:22am

DAY 2

Let's start with a word to the wise - do not make sunrise tour plans without making sure there is coffee in the house.

Ugh.

Off to Cape Hedge Beach in Rockport we went to watch a breathtaking Atlantic sunrise. Purple and orange, pink and turquoise spread like watercolor as the night blackened rock wall separating the land from the sand slowly came to life in illumination as primary became pastel and the land awoke with the bluing of the sky. Wow. This never gets old.

cape ann, gloucester, tour, charter, sweet shots secret spots, jennifer amero, violet gray, tourism, boston, boating, rockport, sunrise, cape hedge beachPiling ourselves and Bogie into the Jeep, we made our way back into Gloucester for breakfast at Mamie's Kitchen. The beauty of Mamie's is that
cape ann, gloucester, tour, charter, sweet shots secret spots, jennifer amero, violet gray, tourism, boston, boating, parksalthough everything is made from scratch and positively delectable, the price is so low you'll look twice to be sure they haven't undercharged you. Always bustling with plumbers and masons, church-goers and just-coming-home night-shifters, owners Alicia and Chris DeWolf have built a successful business here in just a few years by putting as much into the community as they do their food. These owners are real "communitarians" and real social media and live PR movers and shakers. I tweeted a photo of my sourdough egg sandwich calling out @mamieskitchen and within maybe three minutes five other local business and Alicia herself were sharing it. Well played Violet, Alicia et al.

cape ann, gloucester, tour, charter, sweet shots secret spots, jennifer amero, violet gray, tourism, boston, boating, SUP, Rocky Neck, 10 pound islandFed, coffeed and caught up on local news, Vi and I trucked over to Rocky Neck Art Colony (the nation's first fyi) to meet Dominic Olivo from Cape Ann Stand Up Paddle Board (S.U.P.) to grab our boards for a paddle out to Ten Pound Island and around Smith Cove.

Paddle boarding is a great shoulder, leg and core workout as managing the board without dumping requires tremendous attention to form from toes to tummy and maneuvering through the water (and, most importantly turning the board into the wake of passing motor boats to spare a total aqua yard sale) means having a swift stroke with the paddle. My first time, I am addicted! It was a lot like walking on water. I understand the craze. And I never got swamped.

cape ann, gloucester, tour, charter, sweet shots secret spots, jennifer amero, violet gray, tourism, boston, boating, SUP, Rocky Neck, 10 pound islandCape Ann S.U.P. offers paddle boards for $25 per hour but taking part in their "Fitness Package" means buying a bulk package of 10 1-hour sessions for only $100. Dominic and his staff deliver the board to a spot of the client's choosing and pick them up at hour's end. This option is limited to AM paddles, but I found it easier and more peaceful before the harbor got busy and probably wouldn't paddle after like 10 o'clock anyway. Plus, it's cooler.

Returning our boards to the awaiting Dominic, we hopped back into the Jeep to deliver me home. We never did make it out onto the Chris Craft, as Corey kept getting booked for sea tours. Thinking that's as good a reason as any to plan a little Aqua Crawl for my girlfriends. Ladies?

YOUR TOUR

Customized tours can or have included  a mountain bike path scouting mission for visiting cyclists, romantic picnics on Thacher's Island complete with sushi to go from The Madfish Grille arranged by tour staff, a kid's birthday trip for St Josephs' Sandwiches at Virgilio's Bakery followed by a hike to see "Babson's Rocks" at Dogtown Common and even a Girl's Night Out Aqua Pub Crawl delivering college roommates by boat to docks bordering so many waterfront venues for a Pub Crawl like no other and many sunset champagne cruises for newlyweds tying the knot in the many function rooms and inns on the island.

SSSS's Magnum Opus? Corey's favorite - the Cape Ann Grand Slam which covers fishing, clamming and lobstering  (yes,all caught by the passenger) and resulting in one heck of a picnic with your day's catch cooked for you at one of Violet and Corey's many restaurant connections.

The versatility of the tours is endless. The "livery" status means they can transport guests with open containers - think of a limo jeep and boat complete with on board adult beverages and no fear of OUI. The cost is low because of the capacity of the vehicles and the knowledge and connection of the guides at Sweet Shots Secret Spots means locals and visitors get access and intel that you won't find anywhere else.

Rates for either vehicle are $100 per hour for slots under three hours with a discount for full or half day excursions. Both boat and jeep can accommodate up to 6 passengers (size considerations, of course may effect capacity). Booking can be arranged on their website at: http://sweetshotssecretspots.com

FULL CONTACT INFO:
77 Rocky Neck Ave
Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930

Always open
Phone (978) 559-6649
Email sweetshots@me.com
Website




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