Mr. “Bill” Spence, was not rocked in the cradle of the deep or born on the crest of a wave. He was however a U.S. Navy veteran, astute businessman, tireless entrepreneur, visionary impresario, and highly regarded State representative from nearby coastal hamlets of Hingham and Hull.
“You are not one bit better than anyone else nor one bit worse. People may be smarter or stronger or wealthier than others, but in the eyes of God, all people are equal.”– Mr. Wm. Spence
Mr. Spence was also a Harvard graduate, and with his beautiful bride Wilma, had a family of four to raise. Recognizing that running a maritime company required a strong hand on the tiller and a sharp eye on the horizon he cast aside aspirations to be a banker and instead jumped feet first aboard the opportunity to run a small fleet of passenger vessels serving the local communities.
FIFTY years ago, in the summer of 1965, the Red Sox’s opening day lineup included Bill Monbouquette, Carl Yastremski and Eddie Bressoud. Shocking absolutely no one, the Boston Celtics won their seventh consecutive NBA title. It was a sweltering summer with August seeing 100degrees. If you were going to get cool you’d need to get on a boat. Fortunately for the Spence family they had several including the M/V Vineyard Queen; wooden boats skippered by iron men- and women. In fact, Captain Louise (aka “Lou”) can still be found effortlessly turning boats on a dime; in the middle of congested Boston Harbor.
All four of Bill and Wilma’s children played a role in building their family business, from being deckhands to serving lunch there was no task too small, no effort too large. Darcie, Jeffrey, Jay and Kerry spent many a day toiling under the hot sun, running from stem to stern handling lines, anchoring or assisting passengers aboard. Pleasant customer service and a strong work ethic quickly differentiated them from the others along the working waterfront of Boston. It was almost certain that if you sailed once upon their vessels you would return for another.
Over one million people have co-created shared memories with family and friends aboard this boutique fleet of red, white and blue charismatic vessels. In fact one near mythical legend has it that Henry Ford II, grandson of auto czar Henry, celebrated his marriage to Maria Vettore aboard an MBL boat listening to the sounds of the wildly popular folk singer Jim Croce. Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Nancy Sinatra and other Rock & Roll legends also performed for Mr. Spence.
Today, Massachusetts Bay Lines still enjoys a strong reputation for excellence. The fleet of vessels now numbering five, continue to be operated by the Spence family; management has passed to the able hands of Jay and Kerry. They employ nearly 100 people in season, provide their vessels at no cost to many charitable groups, and underwrite a brilliant fireworks display every Labor Day in partnership with the venerable Boston Harbor Association.