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Gordon Baird
January 28, 2021

Seas the day

Gordon Baird ’68 notches a nautical milestone
by Joseph P. Kahn ’67

One brisk afternoon in early November, the wind was blowing 12 knots in Gloucester Harbor as Gordon Baird ’68 stepped onto his 37-foot sailboat Crazy Uncle and prepared to cast off. Two visitors hopped aboard to lend a hand—and to record the trip for posterity. For, as routine as this 90-minute sail promised to be—Baird undertakes one like it virtually every day, no matter the season or weather conditions—it was, in fact, historic.

Meticulously kept records confirmed this to be his 10,000th sail, a total that began on May 7, 1987 and a milestone number for any activity, never mind one that shares a setting with The Perfect Storm, a cautionary maritime tale if there ever was one.

During much of that period, Baird averaged more than 325 sailing days annually. Three times he’s eclipsed the 350 mark. In February 1996, the Boston Globe celebrated his then–record streak of 365 straight days with a front page feature, written by David Arnold ’67.

“My motto is, if you can find a reason not to go, you will find a reason not to go,” said Baird, who lives with his wife, JoeAnn, in an antique farmhouse on Gloucester’s picturesque Eastern Point.

Gordon Baird ’68 at home in Gloucester, MA

An actor-musician by trade—he’s also a cable TV host, newspaper columnist, and gentleman farmer—Baird likens his routine to that of a guitarist aspiring to play like Jimi Hendrix.

“You do that by practicing every day,” he noted. “And I do mean every day. Otherwise, you’ll never get there.”

That attitude has won Baird a boatload of trophies from races up and down the New England seacoast. In Gloucester, he has sailed his smaller boat, a 14-foot Sunfish, in heat waves and snowstorms, on whispery calm days and menacingly blustery ones. He’s even chipped through harbor ice to hoist sail in the dead of winter.

And yes, he ventured out during the infamous October 1990 storm—that so-called “perfect” one—but only briefly, and only with the inner harbor sheltered from the worst of the howling gales.

“I chicken sailed, stayed about 10 feet from land,” recalled Baird with a smile. Years later, he played an extra in The Perfect Storm’s climactic church scene.

One might guess that Baird, now 70, sailed competitively at Andover. But no. A city kid from Manhattan, he actually hated sailing (“I was afraid of it, really.”) and instead pursued extracurriculars like choral singing and acting.

After graduating from PA and Marlboro College, Baird moved out west. In 1976, he co-founded Musician magazine in his mother’s Colorado barn, then later moved its headquarters to Gloucester, where he oversaw the operation with a staff that included his brother, Jonathan “Jock” Baird ’67.

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My motto is, if you can find a reason not to go, you will find a reason not to go.

Gordon Baird ’68

In 1981, Musician was sold to Billboard; it would fold in 1999. These days, the brothers Baird get their musical kicks mostly by playing in The Tide, a local pop-rock trio.

Meanwhile, Baird, long since bitten by the sailing bug, set his sights on becoming a competitive racer. With the means to do so—he’s owned more than a dozen boats over the decades—he made a point of learning how to handle almost anything the seas, tides, and winds could toss at him.

He also writes a weekly column for the Gloucester Times and serves as producer-host of Gloucester Chicken Shack, a community access TV show. The shack itself is located on his property, home to dogs, chickens, goats, pigs, and one donkey. He and his wife have three grown children and three grandchildren.

All this could be fodder for a lively Class Notes column—and in some ways already has been. For all but six of his post-PA years, Baird has served as ’68’s class secretary, chronicling bits of his own life along with those of his classmates. Way back in 1993, he created a PA ’68 online chat room, a gold mine for any class secretary perpetually digging for column material.

Journalist Joseph P. Kahn ’67 (L) and Gordon Baird ’68 (R)

On this overcast November afternoon, though, Baird was not wearing his Andover hat. Rather, he was chasing a personal goal—his own Mount Everest climb, if you will—that had been on his horizon for a very long time.

“How different does this one feel?” he was asked as Crazy Uncle got underway.

“It hasn’t really dawned on me yet,” a smiling Baird replied, then confessed, “I was pretty nervous leading up to this.”

Baird relaxed, though, as the boat zipped along and the cockpit sound system pumped out old favorites by Patsy Cline and The Beatles.

He steered by the waterfront building that once housed Musician’s main offices, remembering how he used to sail to work nearly every day. As one of his crewmates helped winch the jib, Baird delivered a short seminar on wind physics and sail angles. He was clearly, and happily, in his element.

Growing more reflective, Baird allowed how he might become more cautious about going out in bad weather, now that he’d reached a major life goal. Or maybe not. Old habits are hard to break. Also, daily sailing helps slow the aging process, Baird noted, tapping his head.

Later, back on shore, he opened his logbook and entered report number 308 for the year 2020. “Cold, dark, breezy, southeasterly wind,” he wrote. “Round-trip to Eastern Point.” And then, this kicker: “Hitting the big 10,000 in 33 years!”

Photos by Jaime Kahn

Categories: Alumni, Magazine, Magazine Online

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