March/April: It’s Damariscove


If you can correctly identify this harbor, you’ll be on your way to winning a fine Points East designer cap. To qualify, identify the harbor AND tell us something about the harbor, such as how you recognized it and some reasons you like to hang out there. We’ll pick a winner from all of the correct entries and print the answers in the next issue of Points East and also post them here.

It’s an amazing place with a magical history

The answer is Damariscove, Maine. “Damariscove” is a punchline for my wife and me when we discuss possible anchorages on our trips up and down the coast from Freeport to Vinalhaven, winter storage and summer home for our Bristol 35.5 Bodhisattva.

We had a pretty sleepless night there a few years ago in the outer harbor with our kids, farther out than the boat shown in the photo. It was calm enough, but Damariscove is wide open, and the shore looked close on a 2 a.m. low tide with the waves gently crashing. (I know, we are wussies who enjoy a good night’s sleep).
Still, it’s a magical place, and the history is amazing. That Damariscove was the center of seafaring life on the Maine coast – that the Pilgrims came to Damariscove for food rations twice – is almost incomprehensible to me. Going ashore at Damariscove makes me think that’s where humankind crawled out of the primordial ooze.

It’s low, scrubby and exposed. “A Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast” [by Hank and Jan Taft and Curtis Rindlaub] has a great section on it and “The Lobster Coast” [by Colin Woodard] even more on the wildness and inhospitability that made Damariscove the toehold where early settlers could get a grab on America. They were ridiculously tougher than me, on my mooring with cold beer and email).

Last summer, on the first sail of the season (it was still June; we felt lucky), we caught the afternoon breeze out of Casco Bay, sailed outside Seguin, and then, later, past the buoy peering into Damariscove. We like the angle and openness of this outside route when the southwest breeze is up. It was getting later in the afternoon, and I looked into Damariscove and thought about it. I love knowing it exists, but no, not tonight. There was that glimmering freshness of early summer light and a sweet reach to Monhegan out before us. That’s where we ended up, a wobbly but comfy night on that stout ferry mooring.

So . . . I’m guessing Damariscove, and I’ll be embarrassed but not totally surprised if it’s a cove somewhere off Buzzards Bay or something. Points East is my favorite summer reading, I only wish summer was longer.

Geoff Schaefer
Northampton, Mass.

It’s PE’s fault we never got there

We’ve long wished to sail to Damariscove Island harbor, but we’ve never made it. The reason? All the other Mystery Harbor destinations captured our attention and guided our summer cruising for the past quarter-century. It’s solely Points East’s fault we never made it there.

But how, then, did I know this picture was Damariscove Island harbor? The answer? I turned to my extensive library of Points East back issues, blew off the accumulated dust, and accessed a similar picture from the May 2002 issue. Voila! And, thank you David Buckman.

With a Points East cap perched firmly on my head, I’m confident this season will find us anchored one evening in the Outer Pool, enjoying the serenity and beauty of this reputed lovely harbor.

Richard Fried
Marblehead, Mass.

I take my charter tours out there

That looks like Damariscove Harbor. Why do I think that? Well, I’m in there almost weekly, either on my charter tours, or to help out a boater. There is a re-created lookout tower on top of the hill, just to the left, out of the picture. The mooring looks like one of the private ones for the old lifesaving station, now a private dwelling.

In the early part of July, the hill is covered with wild roses – truly spectacular. I always make sure my guests are on the flybridge with me when I enter the harbor, and give the history. There are plenty of hiking trails there, and the view from the lookout tower is breathtaking and worth the hike up past the ice pond.

This island is one of the earliest settlements in the New World predating the arrival of, and settlement at, Plymouth, a fun fact to give to my Massachusetts passengers. Deep water, sheltered anchorage, peaceful, it is fortunately owned and cared for by the Boothbay Land Trust, and will stay as it is forever.

Bruce White
Hay-Val Charters & Sea Tow Portland
Southport Island, Maine

Farther in, you need stern anchor

The Mystery Harbor in the March/April issue is Damariscove Island, off Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The boat anchored in the photo is just inside the south-facing entrance. It appears to have only a single anchor out, or to be on a mooring. Any farther in to the harbor and it narrows, requiring a stern anchor. Even so, you can end up close enough [to shallow water] to step ashore when the tide drops.

Ed Berry
s/v Windquest
Topsfield, Mass.

Its fishermen helped the colonists

We have been in Damariscove about four times in our ketch, and we like it there: It is isolated, well-protected, and a good place to catch poison ivy. There is a narrow entrance, and we have used two anchors. It was enjoyable to walk the trails, meet the summer caregivers, and look in the little museum. The former Coast Guard Station was inhabited. The history about the Pilgrims was interesting to us as my spouse is from Plymouth, Mass. The fishermen from Damariscove supplied the colonists with cod to prevent starvation. It’s a good harbor, with good views.

Diane Barlow
Orland, Maine

Lucky we had a centerboard

It looks like Damariscove Island to me. No trees, that narrow harbor. When we went there many years ago, we went aground at low tide while anchored out. Thank goodness we had a sailboat with a centerboard that we could pull up. The keelboat near us wasn’t so lucky; it was way over on its side.

Kathy and Joe Krusas
s/y Rebellious

Beware the poison ivy ashore

Looks like the entrance to Damariscove Island harbor. The photo was taken from the caretakers’ lawn, facing southeast. It has been a commercial fishing outpost from the early 1600s up until the present, with lobstermen working there six days a week, then “partying” on Sundays. If you plan to overnight on an anchor, a kedge would be advised as there is little swinging room at low water. Mind the poison ivy ashore.

Bob Damrell
Georgetown, Maine

Stopover on the way to Monhegan

My wife and I know this harbor very well. Damariscove Island Harbor is located a few miles south of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. We use the anchorage for a stopover on our way to Monhegan Island or points east. The entrance to the harbor is a bit tricky, but the surrounding ledges keep out the large ocean swells that would otherwise make the anchorage quite untenable at times.

Rumor has it that Joshua Slocum ran aground just outside the entrance to the harbor. In the olden days, the harbor was an important port for the fishing fleets from Europe and beyond. The island was also used for almost a century as a quarry for granite.

The island is inhabited, in summertime, by the resident caretaker(s) of the nature conservancy. Fishermen, with their private wharves, also use the harbor. For years, a young family on an old wooden sailboat spent their summers anchored at the very end of the harbor.

If you do go, plan to arrive early because there is only room for a half-dozen boats, and you might get lucky and grab one of the moorings. Don’t forget to use a stern anchor as the harbor is very narrow. Fair winds and following seas.

Jim and Brenda Kern
s/v Great Scott
Yarmouth, Maine

Did Paul ID the Mystery Boat?

I don’t know the harbor, but the boat looks a lot like my Sabre 32. Possibly this is the Sabre 34. Maine boat, Maine harbor. That’s as close as I can get.

Paul Murphy
Scituate, Mass.

Woke up high and dry on ledge

Damariscove is your Mystery Harbor for March/April. I’ve been there many times; it’s a great place to stop on your way along the coast. You need a stern anchor, though. I didn’t have a second anchor one time, and I woke up high and dry on the ledges on the west side of the harbor. Good thing I pulled up the centerboard and rudder. And it’s a great spot to catch the sunrise over Monhegan. There used to be a lobster family, with son Tom living on a schooner hull year round. Tom must be a young man by now.

John Maull
Exeter, New Hampshire

It looks like Damariscove Island

We think it looks like Damariscove Island. A tight little harbor. We have moored there a few times. Love walking on the island. Lots of history there.

Lois Hatch
Hulls Cove, Maine

There are great walks ashore

Originally a fishing station in colonial times, Damariscove is now a wonderful cove to visit in the off season (very crowded in high summer). Great walks ashore. I first visited there in the early 1980s and get back every few years.

Walter Wales
Chamberlain, Maine

Not much change since 1600s

I’ve been to Damariscove many times. In early spring, it’s a wild and lovely place, especially if you’re alone in the anchorage, tucked way up at the northern end. The island is just loaded with history, and it doesn’t take much imagination to think about what it was like in the 17th century. There hasn’t been much change. It’s beautifully preserved by the Boothbay Land Trust. I have a lovely panoramic sketch of the place done by John Luoma over my desk.

Bill Macleod
Yarmouth, Maine

It’s lucky we had a 30-inch draft

Damariscove Island! This view is looking easterly toward the mouth of the little harbor. We spent many calm, quiet nights at the shallow end of the harbor, going back into the ’90s. Our Albin 25 only drew about 30 inches, so we would anchor at the very end of the harbor, leaving the deep water for the rag flappers.
We were very fortunate to have Thomas, an excellent guide, show us some of the secrets of his homeport. You see, Thomas and his mum and dad, Robin and John Hammond, lived aboard a big old wooden sailboat named Otok (not sure of spelling).

Thomas was probably about 10 years old when he gave us a very special tour. First we stopped by the Brown cottage, which was on its last legs; it has since crumbled to dust. Then we stopped at a sumac grove, where Thomas invited us to sample some of the red seed pods. Did you know they are citrus-flavored?
At the end of our tour, after seeing the whole south end with its maze of muskrat trails and wild flowers, we were treated to a drink. At a small spring trickling from a ledge Thomas picked up a mussel shell and filled it over and over for us to refresh ourselves with the sweet water. Damariscove will always be a favorite stop when cruising Downeast.

Paul and Nancy Wagner
Scarborough, Maine

Great memories from this island

I spent a lot of time on Damariscove admiring other boats, walking the trails and spotting birds, and chatting with other visitors. Great memories.

Andy Bangs
Portsmouth, N.H.

Wild ladies, bad actors in 1600s

The Mystery Harbor in the March/April issue is at Damariscove Island. It’s where the wild women and assorted bad actors hung out while the Puritans were being good in Salem. It’s a tricky little spot if you sail right in and round up when it starts to get narrow. It is said that Slocum tried it, and went up on a ledge. Glad for this opportunity to ID the Mystery Harbor because my collection of Points East hats is once again down to one sadly frayed example.

W.R. Cheney
Lady’s Island, S.C.

Thom helped build tower in 1980s

Damariscove outer harbor. One of my faves. Helped rebuild the navigation tower back in the ’80’s.

Thom Perkins
s/v Stella


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