Meet the four women helming Nantucket’s waterfront.
Historically, women have served as the backbone of Nantucket. As the Nantucket Historical Association has highlighted in many exhibits over the years, so many women of prior centuries kept businesses and families alive while their husbands were off whaling in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. That independence, determination, competence and stability is now exemplified in four talented women running the island’s harbor and yachting operations. For the first time ever, the Nantucket Yacht Club and the Great Harbor Yacht Club are both helmed by women, with Lucinda Ballard and Cece Fowler serving as the current and incoming commodores of the Nantucket and Great Harbor yacht clubs, respectively. In many ways, Ballard and Fowler are following the course set by Nantucket Harbor Master Sheila Lucey and Nantucket Community Sailing director Diana Brown, both of whom have been working on the water for decades.
Nantucket Yacht Club commodore Lucinda Ballard grew up on-island during the summers with her six siblings from Maryland, where her family has its own sailing regatta each year. After college at the University of California, Berkeley where she studied to be a filmmaker and an actress, Ballard had a career in advertising at Ogilvy and Mather and in public relations, before chairing volunteer programs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the annual Winter Antiques Show in New York. Evolving from her many committee assignments at Nantucket Yacht Club to be its current commodore, Ballard is the third woman to assume this leadership role. With patience and grace, she manages a complex mix of responsibilities with her charm and wits about her at all times.
Meanwhile, Cece Fowler came to Nantucket as a houseguest but later had the good fortune of purchasing a home in ’Sconset with her husband, Mack. She grew up sailing in Newport Beach, California, and joined the University of Southern California sailing team as an undergraduate. Once arriving on-island, she was invited for a day sail on an Alerion, one of which she eventually bought with two female sailing partners and raced for a number of seasons. Founded in 2003, the Great Harbor Yacht Club has both a harbor and Nobadeer recreational property, which its members can enjoy. It has created a foundation as well to invest in clean water and healthy harbor initiatives in an effort to sustain Nantucket’s marine ecosystem. Fowler will be the club’s first female commodore, and her big smile and gracious ways will provide both guidance and leadership for the entire entity on both land and sea.
Sheila Lucey originally came to Nantucket with the U.S. Coast Guard where she served in numerous capacities for twenty-four years. Trained in boat safety, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and oil pollution responses, Lucey was the first woman in the U.S. Coast Guard certified to handle crafts in thirty-foot seas and fifty-knot winds for rescue operations. Following her service running the Brant Point station, she became assistant and then chief harbormaster in 2012 and today supervises the island’s nine beaches, fifty lifeguards, mooring and dock operations and 250 transient vessels. With her dog Chance and devoted island friends, Lucey followed her dreams to have a life on Nantucket.
Diana Brown, who studied physics and business before an extended career at IBM, came to her Nantucket responsibilities as director of Nantucket Community Sailing as an avid summer guest who loved crewing on large boats. When the NCS job became available she jumped on board and in the intervening eighteen years has trained more than 21,000 children to sail while raising over $1 million dollars for sailing scholarships. Brown has supervised the building of housing for her eighteen summer employees and partnered with the town to create a maintenance facility for her diverse fleet of boats. She supervises both the Polpis Harbor and Jetties Beach operations for the summer months as well as the Nantucket Race Week and Opera House cup regattas. Considering the tens of thousands of children Brown has introduced to the water over the years, one can only wonder what future leaders may emerge to take their own place on the waterfront like Brown, Lucey, Fowler and Ballard.