“Gloria”: Singer’s Ode To An Oyster Boat

Chris Bousquet is a singer-songwriter. He led High Lonesome Plains, and has performed with Roger McGuinn, John Sebastian, Asleep at the Wheel, the Nields, the Turtles and J. Geils.

A decade or so ago, he read about Westport oysterman Alan Sterling, and his boat Gloria (named for an old girlfriend). Bousquet calls it “a profoundly moving story of grief, continual struggle, and the simple triumph of carrying on.”

Gloria (Photo/Bruce McFadden)

Having grown up in Clinton, Connecticut, Bousquet always found the sea to be “ethereal and transcendent.” Staring out at the water, he believes in the interconnectedness of all things. So when Sterling noted in the story that a gull might be Gloria watching over him, Bousquet understood.

The sea can be warm and caressing, but also brutal. “Alan was well aware of the cold and raw, but it didn’t blind him to the beauty,” Bousquet says. Inspired, he reworked an old song into a new one: “Gloria.”

Bousquet never met Sterling in person. He thought about sharing the song with him, but felt it was presumptuous. Sterling died on July 4, 2014. Bousquet wishes he had told the oysterman what an inspiration he’d been.

“He made me appreciate my life — and my wife! — even more,” Bousquet says. “I don’t mean to sound trite. But he reminded me to head out on my proverbial boat, and sail on each day.”

Bousquet calls the song “my plywood skiff version of Alan’s oyster boat.”

Alan Sterling culling his oysters.

Gloria remained in Gray’s Creek after her owner’s death. For years it served as a memorial to Westporters: of a rugged individual, a centuries-old tradition, and our ties to the sea.

But over the past year, Gloria deteriorated. The old oyster boat is near collapse.

“Gloria, ” this spring. (Photo/Bruce McFadden)

Yet she — and Alan Sterling –live on.

Connecticut Public Television and PBS have produced a documentary called “Oyster Heaven.” It documents the history of oystering in our state’s waters, from Native American times through the industry’s collapse, and on to its current renaissance.

Screenshot from “Oyster Heaven.”

Much of the documentary focuses on Norm Bloom, and his Norwalk-based Copps Island Oysters.

The song “Gloria,” though, serves as the film’s theme. It’s the perfect choice.

Chris says, “I give this song with love and gratitude to the people of Westport — and Alan and Gloria.”

(To view “Oyster Heaven” — and hear “Gloria” — click here.) 

(Like PBS, “06880” relies on support from the public. Please click here to contribute whatever you can.)

10 responses to ““Gloria”: Singer’s Ode To An Oyster Boat

  1. Maybe the owner of the trash that was Gloria (Gloria was bequeathed to him by Sterling) will, after this third reference to the decrepit condition in which his thoughtlessness has left the rig, deign to clean up the mess that greets each person leaving the Longshore complex.

  2. Rindy Higgins

    Is there a link to Chris’ song Gloria?

  3. Richard Johnson

    Gloria is a Westport icon. I’m shocked that there’s been no attempt to collect funds to restore her to a condition where she can be anchored semi-permanently. Even in her dilapidated state, she’s a welcome bit of charm, not trash – a reason to ask, “What’s that?” and get, in response, a classic Westport tale.

    Among the many aesthetic insults imposed on us by the town of Westport -ranging from our stupid logo to the chain link fences adorning Veteran’s Green to the dilapidated state of many town buildings to the overgrown parks and medians to the new Compo parking sign that belongs at LaGuardia, Gloria at least has an interesting story and link to the town’s history.

  4. Eileen Lavigne Flug

    I found this link to the whole song itself and its beautiful music video:

  5. Isabelle Breen

    Wow Dan, great story, really connecting the dots to Where Westport Meets the World.

  6. Suzanne Wilson

    Wonderful tribute and reminiscence of “Times Past”. Part of Westport’s history and the individuals who made it what it is. The video is great–it reflects how arduous it is to commit to that kind of work, that it’s in winter says it all.

  7. Wish there had been efforts to restore her before she got to the current condition. She is a Westport treasure and part of our oystering history.

  8. Bruce McFadden

    I enjoyed viewing Oyster Heaven on PBS but was very disappointed not to even hear Alan’s name or his beloved, home made oyster boat Gloria come up in the video. The only connection to Westport is the music.

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