Scituate Harbor is not just any … port in a storm




Story and photos by Marilyn Pond Brigham
For Points East

Scituate Harbor – 42°12N /70°42W – is a great waypoint. Whether it’s your homeport, a port of refuge from a Massachusetts Bay storm, or a harbor to revisit each season, this working waterfront offers easy access, a deep harbor, excellent protection, and lots of amenities for the mariner.

We favor Scituate as a milestone on our travels between our moorings in Quissett Harbor, in Falmouth on Cape Cod, and Winthrop, in Boston Harbor, a distance of about 60 miles.

When we cruise, we like a short day at sea, with a no-stress destination and time to secure to a mooring or slip in mid- to late-afternoon. Then there’s time to relax, do boat chores, and explore town before dinner. Scituate offers us all that.

It’s an easy day’s sail away. From Falmouth, it’s about 40 nautical miles; from Boston, it’s almost 20. With reservations, there are generally moorings and slips available for the night, and plenty of shops and land-based activities to browse through.

From Quissett Harbor, through the Cape Cod Canal, we aim for Mary Ann Rocks lighted whistle buoy R “12” (off Manomet); then Farnham Rock lighted bell buoy R “6” (off Brant Rock); and then to Scituate approach lighted gong “SA”, right outside the entrance to Scituate Harbor. Or, if we are coming towards Cape Cod from Boston, through Boston Harbor and past Boston Light, we head for “21 Foot” Lighted Whistle “21”.

From there, Minots Ledge Light, off Cohasset, is quite a sight – a 97-foot, dark-gray conical tower looming out of the water on Minots Ledge. Obviously, we keep that well to starboard, as well as avoiding the rocky ledges. Then we make for “SA” gong. By then you can see the iconic, white, octagonal Old Scituate Light, built in 1811 on Cedar Point on the northern edge of the harbor.

The entrance to the harbor is wide and well-marked, and always busy with pleasure craft and fishing boats. With C “1” to port and N “2” to starboard, follow the channel to the mooring field just behind the light. We generally have reservations with one of the yacht clubs. They ask that you hail their launch when you reach N “4”, due south of the lighthouse, and the launch comes to meet and escort you to a mooring. In the busy summer months, we’ve found it can be some time before the launch comes for you, as it is busy ferrying about their own members to and from their vessels. You may find you are among several yachts cautiously circling around the moored boats waiting for the launch.

Once safely attached to someone’s mooring, it’s great to relax and take in the view. Scituate Harbor is a working harbor with a great deal of rock-faced armoring to contend with the nor’easters; there are not many trees or shapely vistas. There are a lot of rocks, jetties, wharves, marinas and other man-made structures. That makes the harbor quite different from many other Massachusetts harbors. But this means that there’s lots to see and lots of boating action. If you are moored near the lighthouse, and are up early the next morning, it’s a treat to see the sun rise over Cape Cod Bay and the light. While the harbor is deep, with about eight feet at low tide, there is also a fair amount of shoal water, flats and rocks on the opposite side.

Several yacht clubs and marinas are in the harbor for the visiting cruiser to try. We heartily recommend the two facilities that we’ve visited, but there are others. The 75-year-old Scituate Harbor Yacht Club (SHYC) has an impressive site on the harbor, with clubhouse, tennis and sailing facilities. You’ll see the club, straight head, as you first enter the harbor. It welcomes visiting yachtsmen from reciprocal clubs, and offers transient moorings, launch service, ice, showers, and dinner in their beautiful dining room. Reservations for transient moorings and dinner reservations should be made in advance by calling 781-545-0372. Bring your best yachting attire if you want to blend in with the club members for a formal dinner. The launch monitors VHF Channel 9.

Just down the street to the southwest, and next along the harbor, is the Satuit Boat Club, just shy of 75 years in existence. A club with an emphasis on increasing members’ maritime knowledge and skills, their facilities are more casual than those of the SHYC. Satuit Boat Club also offers transient moorings as well as an excellent launch service, Wi-Fi, barbeque, and access to their clubhouse and grounds. For reservations, call 781-545-9752; they also monitor Channel 9.

If you’ve ever wondered about the origin of the town’s name, it is derived from a Wampanoag Indian term Satuit, meaning “cold brook,” and the Satuit Brook runs to the inner harbor near the beginning of Front Street.

Farther south, down the same street, is the Scituate Harbor Marina, which offers floating docks for vessels up to 80 feet LOA. Other private marinas are in the harbor for visiting mariners to investigate before making reservations. Scituate Launch (781-545-4154) offers transient moorings, harbor and launch services.

Through town and farther down the harbor – across the channel from C “11” – are facilities run by the Town of Scituate, including the Scituate Town Pier. Here exists a 78-slip municipal marina, where transient slips are often available. A great building provides mariners with information, water, showers and ice. Contact the Scituate harbormaster (781-545-2130) if you’re interested in securing one of their slips.

The town facilities are a great place to tie up your dinghy and begin exploring Scituate on foot. We also found that the launch drivers for both clubs were more than willing to ferry us down to the Town Pier, so we could be closer to Scituate’s many offerings. But it’s no great effort to walk to town from either the Scituate Yacht Club or the Satuit Boat Club – an easy and interesting walk.

Try stretching your legs along the Scituate Harbor Walk, which runs along the harbor from the Satuit Brook, through town center and out toward the Scituate Light. It’s also a great place to bring your four-legged sailing companions so they can stretch their legs.

For those with canine crew, we’ve found Scituate to be very dog-friendly. Our dog was welcomed aboard the clubs’ launches, and pick-up bags and designated walking areas were provided both by the town and the marinas. In the village, we’ve dined alfresco on the patio of a high-end restaurant with our dog beneath the table. A dog water bowl at the entrance to the patio was the sign that this place welcomed canines.

Scituate Harbor is the center of town. Banners along Front Street, the main drag, proclaim “Sea Scituate,” and there is a lot to see, do and eat. Interesting specialty shops abound if you’re buying gifts or treats for yourself, your pet and your boat. In Scituate center, you are near many excellent restaurants, both casual and formal. Several eateries have outdoor patios or decks – all the better for savoring the offerings and the harbor views. And you are in easy walking distance of a drug store, U.S. Post Office, coffee shop, and stores providing provisioning necessities for your vessel and crew.

Few harbors offer as much as Scituate does, in such close walking proximity to your boat. So, put 42°12N /70°43W into your GPS and make the harbor one of your regular waypoints. And don’t miss the chance to “Sea Scituate.” You won’t regret it.

Marilyn Brigham, along with her co-captain/spouse Paul, sails Selkie, a Catalina 445, out of Quissett Harbor, Falmouth, Mass. She is a lifelong sailor and a current member of both the Quissett and Cottage Park yacht clubs. She hopes the 2018 sailing season finds Selkie cruising off the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. If fair winds and time allow, perhaps Selkie will cruise to Maine this year.