On Tuesday night, I headed out after putting the kids to bed in hopes of capturing another good sunset.  While the clouds and approaching storms should have combined to put on a strong show, the light never really materialized.  I had driven to Chandler Hovey again but didn’t make it out of the car before turning back.  On the way back, I turned down Foster Street to see what the view was like.  As I got out of the car, I noticed someone sitting by the cannon and realized I had made it in time to witness the great Marblehead tradition of firing the cannon at sunset.

Every night from May through October, the yacht clubs that line Marblehead harbor fire their cannons at sunset.  I tried to find the origin of this tradition and was directed by a number of yacht club historians to customs of the Royal Navy.  I found this information at one such site

[link] “Until recently it was the practice (even within my memory) that a volley should be fired at sunset, at which time the colours are lowered when in harbour.  The privi­lege of firing this gun is only enjoyed today by certain Commodores and Flag Officers, and the old expression which was used on hearing the evening gun fired was the Commodore has fallen down the main hatch , or, in other words, his day’s work was finished.  This is con­nected with the custom of firing an evening gun, which some say was meant as a sign of defiance to the enemy, while others affirm that it was to ensure a dry priming and charge being in the gun prior to nightfall.”  Other sites date the origin of this tradition to sometime in the 17th-18th centuries.  As the yacht clubs follow the traditions of the Navy, it seems that the local firing of the cannon at sunset must date back to the founding of the Marblehead yacht clubs in the late 1800s.

Whenever this tradition began, there is no denying the joy of hearing the cannon salute at sunset as it rings Marblehead harbor.  And so on this day, I set up and captured the fire and smoke bellowing from the cannon at sunset with Abbot hall standing in the distance.  I can personally attest to just how loud these cannons are as I did not have proper ear protection and needed to keep one hand on the camera to fire the shutter.  My ears were ringing for an hour afterwards.

Thanks to Nate for allowing me to use his likeness in the image and for the Club for allowing me to share this image with my viewers.