Distinctively Nantucket, Harbormaster, Sheila Lucey

Sheila Lucey is one of the more iconic Nantucket figures.  She has been coined the “Modern Day Millie,” based on her achievements with the Coast Guard and her love of Nantucket. With 39 years of experience on the water, there is no place she would rather spend her days. Here is a snapshot of her experience and day to day life on the island.

What is your Nantucket story?  

I came to Nantucket in April 2002 on assignment as Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Station Brant Point. My previous assignment was Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Woods Hole which was in charge of maintaining all of the buoys and Lighthouses on the Cape and Islands. We loved coming out to Nantucket to work on their aids to navigation and always scheduled it for 2 weeks in the summer. Earlier in my career I was stationed in Chatham and we used to come to Nantucket for lunch. I have always loved the island so when the opportunity to get the Chief’s job over here opened up, I jumped on it and was lucky enough to get it. In 2007 I was going to be reassigned if I stayed with the Coast Guard.  The Assistant Harbor Master position opened up. I didn’t want to leave Nantucket so I decided to retire from the Coast Guard.  I applied for the Assistant Harbor Master job and was lucky enough to get that. In 2012, I became the Harbor Master and that’s where I am today. Greatest job in the world!

Tell us about yourself?

How did you get to where you are today? I grew up in Boston and joined the Coast Guard after graduating High School. I served in the Coast Guard for 24 years on Active Duty. The majority of my career was on the Cape and Islands and Rhode Island. I served 3 years on a ship based out of Florida where we spent most of our time in Cuba and Haiti rescuing migrants and doing drug interdiction in the waters of the southeast United States, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. I was operating all kinds of small boats and trained hundreds of crewmembers in safe boat operations, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and oil pollution response. My experience in the Coast Guard was perfect training for my current job. 

What is your most memorable moment in the Coast Guard? 

I have 2 most memorable moments in the Coast Guard, both from when I was qualifying as a Surfman. It is an extremely difficult qualification to achieve. The qualification is the highest qualification a boat operator in the Coast Guard can achieve. Surfmen have proven that they are qualified to operate vessels in 30′ seas, 20′ breaking surf and 50knots of wind. I was the first woman in the Coast Guard to achieve the certification.  The second most memorable moment was being promoted to Chief Petty Officer.  Chiefs are what hold the Coast Guard together and make it work.  

How did you become the Harbor Master, and what does your day to day look like?  

I became the Assistant Harbor Master in 2007 and the Harbor Master in 2012. My days in the winter and summer are very different. In the winter, we are doing maintenance on our equipment, doing training, recruiting for the seasonal employees, reviewing applications, conducting interviews, reviewing out moorings and mooring applications, and general paperwork. In the summer, we start at 0700, get the dock staff busy on doing pumpouts and opening the Town Pier and boats. We do beach cleanup on the islands beaches with trucks and ATVS. At 0900 the lifeguards muster at Surfside beach. We go to muster for training and morning brief. Then, they workout and open the beaches at 1000. After the lifeguards are on the beaches, we are responding to any issues on the water or on the beach.  We do recreational boating safety patrols and mooring inspections and enforcement.  We respond to inshore search and rescue calls and offshore when the Coast Guard requests assistance. The lifeguards are on the beach until 5 p.m. After they return their gear and do an “end of the day” debrief, we go home around 6 p.m.

Do you have any hobbies that don’t involve the water? 

Not really. I tie nautical knots and make nautical decorations and my favorite hobbies are fishing and boating.

What is your favorite thing about living on Nantucket? 

The people are my favorite part of Nantucket.  The community has always been so great to me since I came here in the Coast Guard.  I’ve made amazing friends and met so many incredibly kind and generous people on this island. I am extremely grateful!

Nantucket by numbers, give us a snapshot of how many mooring permits, slips (and applications), lifeguards, and any other cool facts that you think we should know?

We maintain 7 boats, 6 buildings, a 100 slip marina (Town Pier), 18 floating docks, 3 boat ramps, all Town owned beaches, and the oil pollution response equipment. We maintain on the water firefighting and dewatering equipment and ice rescue equipment.  We run the pumpout program. We have a pumpout boat that services all the boats on anchor or on moorings in Nantucket Harbor.  We pump approximately 25,000 gallons of product for the season. We perform between 40 and 50 search and rescue cases a year.  We have 50 lifeguards that guard 9 beaches and roving lifeguards on ATVs for the unguarded beaches. In 2019, the guard successfully guarded over 240,000 patrons! We have 14 dock staff that work on the Town Pier and perform safety patrols. We have 1800 permitted moorings and 125 rental moorings managed by private enterprise. We manage transient dockage at the Town Pier and host over 250 transient vessels. We manage the only dinghy docks in Town at the Town Pier. We perform about 130 mooring inspections on land and perform mooring enforcement patrols daily.  We host 3 cruise ships per week and participate in 9 marine events every summer (fireworks, triathlon, etc.)