Mystery Harbor December 2020: Gosport Harbor

Photo by Roger Karlebach

I got engaged there!

That’s Gosport Harbor, at the Isles of Shoals, looking across the N.H./Maine border toward Cedar and Smuttynose Islands, with Appledore (Shoals Marine Labs) at 11:00 o’clock. The view is from Star Island, Rye, N.H., in front of the Oceanic Hotel, operated by the Star Island Corporation (Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ).

I recognize it from the pier, where the Thomas Laighton, operated by the Isles of Shoals Steamship Authority, drops off its passengers.

I love it there because I fished for flounder with a hand line when I was a boy (gosh, is it deep!), sailed in the harbor in my youth in our “Townie” sailboat, and got engaged on Star Island as a young man to the wonderful woman I am proud to call my wife. We started “on the rocks” almost 40 years ago.

Len Johnson
Amesbury, Mass.


It’s a great day-sail destination

Your Mystery Harbor in the December issue could only be Gosport Harbor at Star Island, at the Isles of Shoals. That’s Smuttynose Island in the background, which is actually just over the border in Maine. Once a thriving 17th and 18th century fishing village, it was the site of two ghastly murders in 1873, as described in Anita Shreve’s 1997 novel, The Weight of Water. The rotating caretaker at Smuttynose will direct the public on a self-guided walking tour of the two remaining structures, various historic sites and the scenic nature trail.

Gosport is a great day-sail destination, only about six miles from Portsmouth. There is almost always a mooring available to pick up, with plenty of deep water. If you don’t have a dinghy, the launch Thomas Dudley – pictured inside the dock – will shuttle you in to Star Island. The smaller of two gazebos on Star Island is pictured, with the larger one at the top of the hill providing spectacular vistas.

The large, mid-19th century Oceanic Hotel – scene of conferences, environmental programs and retreats – is behind the photographer’s right shoulder.

Charlie Perlo
Beverly, Mass.


“You will come back!”

The Mystery Harbor is a picture of the view of Gosport Harbor looking northeast from Star Island toward Smuttynose. The breakwater to Cedar Island is on the right. I have fished around and motored in and around Gosport many times.

My wife and I have also spent many beautiful days there – almost from where the picture was taken – doing volunteer work such as caning and repairing the rocking chairs on the porch that are available to visitors. Through the Isles of Shoals Historical and Research Association we also met a docent who let us spend a few nights in the cabins on Smuttynose with them and doing volunteer work there, as well.

It is a truly beautiful and historical place to visit and linger. As the Pelicans (the young volunteers who make the island run during the summers) say, “You will come back, you will come back!”

David Doskocil
Rye, N.H.


Note to self: Safe harbor

So that is definitely Gosport Harbor, Isles of Shoals. It’s our go-to spot as we head to Maine every summer on our Cambria 46 sailboat. Now we know about it, but we didn’t always. Our first encounter was when we had a wild, rollicking sail from Kennebunkport, Maine, to Provincetown, Mass., and we passed close to the islands but kept on going. To our surprise, we recognized the big racing boat Congere, happily anchored in the harbor. Hmmmm, note to self: Safe harbor.

This summer was a little weird, since nobody was staying on Star Island. No kids trying to figure out how to row the dories, and no shrieks as teenagers jumped off the dock into the cold water. Here’s hoping that the summer of 2021 will be back to normal!

Joan de Regt
Rowayton, Conn.


I have access to a mooring there

The December Mystery Harbor is Gosport Harbor at the Isles of Shoals.

I am a Portsmouth Yacht Club member and we have a number of moorings at the “Shoals.” If you look hard you can make out Smuttynose Island in the background.

Russ Roth
Campton, N.H.


Love this place!

My favorite New England harbor – Gosport Harbor, at the Isles of Shoals. I was in charge of the stewardship program on Smuttynose Island for several years, so know the area well. We’re looking forward to many enjoyable hours at the Isles this coming season.

Laurence Bussey
York, Maine


Not just N.H. real estate

The December Mystery Harbor is Gosport Harbor, picture taken from Star Island. While most people assume all the Isles of Shoals are part of New Hampshire, they would not be correct. New Hampshire can only claim a portion of them. Those nuts from Maine stole the rest! I really enjoy reading Jack Farrell’s dispatches, and your publication is just plain great and takes us all to a better place.

Neil Levesque
Springfield, N.H.


From the pen of Mrs. Crabby

This month’s mystery harbor is Gosport Harbor at the Isles of Shoals. The picture was probably taken from the porch of the hotel on Star Island. Catboat Bob and Mrs. Crabby [friends of Points East columnist Jack Farrell] were married here on Aug. 1, 1992, on a large, mooring-testing raft-up just to the right of the photograph, with 60-ish guests in attendance. The day was quite memorable. It blew 40 knots from the northwest straight into the harbor and there were several boat rescues. One friend said it was the best wedding ever as she got to wear her foul weather gear.

Mrs. Crabby and Catboat Bob
(Anita Rosencrantz and Bob Tutwiler)
Kirby, Vermont


Hey, I’ve been there!

December’s Mystery Harbor is Gosport Harbor at Star Island, Isles of Shoals. In the background is the long breakwater between Star Island, Cedar Island and Smuttynose Island. I stopped in Gosport Harbor in August of 2019 on a sail back from Portland, Maine, to Cape Cod, Mass., in my friend’s 45 foot Tartan sailboat.

Steve Cook
Mashpee, Mass.


Stay in the channel

Thank you for the December edition of Points East, in which I was pleased to recognize Gosport Harbor on Star Island in the Isles of Shoals. In this picture the photographer is standing a stone’s throw from the small cemetery where many of my namesake lay at rest. I often enjoy visiting them after sailing to the Isles from Newburyport, Mass., in Resolute, my 1979 Tartan 37. A warning to others, though, to follow the channel carefully! I mistakenly cut a corner a few years ago and bounced hard over Halfway Rocks. That earned me several days of grinding and glassing a deep gash in the keel.


Ward Slocum Caswell
Newburyport, Mass.


I’m a frequent visitor

Finally, a Mystery Harbor I can identify! We often make the trek from Rockport, Mass., to Gosport Harbor in the Isles of Shoals. I’ve loved this place since attending the Shoals Marine Laboratory while at the University of New Hampshire.

Bob Visnick
Rockport, Mass.


This is easy peasy, lemon squeezee

The December Mystery Harbor is no mystery to me; it is Gosport Harbor, which is surrounded by the nine islands that make up the Isles of Shoals. In normal times I volunteer on Star Island for about a month in the spring, helping with the open-up process. A little farther into the season I may help run the free launch on the weekends (call on Ch. 09) – you can see her sitting pretty behind the dock. If all the rowboats are in use sometimes it’s necessary to shout to an approaching dinghy, “Don’t run over the haul-out line!” One will receive a friendly welcome at the dock and some tips on how to find the snack bar or where to go for a good walk. This photo looks to have been taken mid-week, just before the weekly softball game between the staff and the conference guests. The rules are a bit bizarre (there are no strikes or walks) and everyone has a good time.

Jonathan Welch
Newburyport, Mass.


You can straddle two states

Gosport Harbor is located at the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Portsmouth, N.H. The state line between New Hampshire and Maine bisects the harbor, so your vessel could be moored in two states at the same time. The view of the mainland at sunset (affectionately known as “America”) is spectacular! Hotel staff members at Star Island have been known to pretend to be a passenger who has missed the last ferry. They run down to the stone pier yelling “WAIT,” toss a suitcase to the departing vessel, and then leap! Of course they end up in the drink for an evening swim . . . all to the amusement of the departing guests.

Laurel Bavendam
Hampton, N.H.


Much to do ashore

The December Mystery Harbor is Gosport Harbor at the Isles of Shoals off Portsmouth, N.H., looking northeast from Star Island. The ferry jetty is to the far left, with the dinghy dock and small fleet of rental boats off to the right. Anchoring is a challenge due to the rocky bottom, but unoccupied moorings are often available at no charge. Visitors are welcomed ashore on Star Island for hiking, exploring, showers, ice, dinner (if you sign up in time), and, best of all, ice cream at the snack bar! Or you can just sit on a rocker on the expansive hotel deck and enjoy the incredible view and the tranquility. We stop here as often as we can on our annual cruise to Maine with our fellow Friendship sloops.


Laurie Raymond & Rusty Strange
Falmouth, Mass.


Weathered a nasty squall there

The Mystery Harbor was quite easy for me. It is Gosport Harbor, at the Isles of Shoals. My wife, friends and I have been going there for decades. I was the rear commodore of the Piscataqua Sailing Association when we restarted the Gosport Regatta, originally won by America of America’s Cup fame. In 2015 we were in a 75-kt squall there, during which we were rammed by three fly-bridge sport fishers who were rafted and broke their mooring. My friend, Archer, helped untangle us, but not before we incurred $35K of damage. Fortunately no one was hurt and the boat was restored. We’ve had many happy times at the Shoals, and I am sure there will be many more.

Ric Shultz
Kittery, Maine