Tired of the same old spots? Move it!

At left, Marilyn Pond Brigham’s boat Toujours tied up at Sunset Marina in South Portland, Maine. At right, Apponaug Harbor Marina where Larry Andersen placed his boat for a summer.

This month we feature two cruising families who, having thoroughly explored their home grounds, opted for a temporary relocation to a new “home port” for a season. These are their stories.

July, 2021

North: Quissett, Mass. to Portland, Maine

Story and photos by Marilyn Pond Brigham
For Points East

With our homeport south of the Cape Cod Canal, we have a long passage ahead of us just to reach the Maine coast. For those who work a nine-to-five job, there’s seldom sufficient vacation time to cruise to the Pine Tree State, then enjoy sailing along its coast. Often, by the time you get there, it’s time to start the return cruise home.

Several years ago, my husband/co-captain, Paul and I decided we’d like to cruise the coast of Maine. We discussed this potential cruise one wintery evening at home by our fireplace. We envisioned exploring Casco Bay, the fun and perils of sailing while dodging lobster pots and cruising to picturesque harbors.

Paul would have enjoyed sailing nonstop from our mooring in Quissett, Mass., to a friend’s mooring near Kennebunkport, Maine. I, however, preferred to bump along the coast, sailing during the daylight and coming to safe harbor before cocktails every evening. I had no intention of taking the night watch somewhere in Massachusetts Bay while my co-captain napped. So, with a limited amount of time available for vacation and the desire to sail in Maine that summer, we needed a better solution.

As we schemed that night by the fire, the answer to our dilemma became clear. We’d find a Maine marina where we could leave the boat for an extended period. Our precious vacation time would be used to cruise Maine from Maine. We decided to trade a two-hour drive down Route 495, from our home in Central Massachusetts to our Cape Cod mooring, for a two-hour trip up the Maine Turnpike to a transient slip.

Early one fine spring day, we ventured to Maine to check out marinas in Portland. We enjoyed exploring the many excellent boating facilities – those right in downtown as well as those across the Fore River in South Portland. It’s so much fun to walk around boatyards and gawk at the vessels on the hard, and our reconnaissance mission gave us the perfect excuse to do so.

Since our day trip coincided with commissioning season, it was particularly interesting with so much bustle in the yards. Hardly anyone noticed as we wandered around various places, checked out the slips and gazed out across the river. And when they did, they seemed to enjoy talking up the advantages of staying at their marina versus the others. Bonus: We found a couple of great dining spots we hadn’t encountered on previous trips..

Our intention was to enjoy Portland and cruise Casco Bay, so we decided to make our reservations at the Portland Ship Yard, which, at that time, was located at the mouth of the Fore River, at Fish Point. It was at the far end of Fore Street, near the Eastern Promenade, and offered everything we would want. We also thought this would be an ideal location at which to quickly arrive and depart Portland for our various excursions. The facility was also within walking distance of Commercial Street, so that downtown Portland’s Old Port was just a short walk away.

Later that spring, we made our reservations at for the summer slip and started planning our cruises. Our first would be getting to Maine. Ports of call: Provincetown and Winthrop, Mass.; New Castle, N.H.; Biddeford Pool, Maine, and our destination, Portland.

Of course, if you plan to sail somewhere new and leave your boat at the dock for a period of time, there has to be a way to get home. We are a two-car family, so, before our cruise, we drove both cars to Portland, left one, and drove the other home before bringing it to Cape Cod to begin our cruise. The logistics required to make this work were tiring in and of themselves.

Sailing past Portland Head Light, and heading into Portland Harbor in our own boat, was thrilling. We had a beautiful day to arrive and be welcomed at our new slip. Once secured at their docks, we were off on foot to explore downtown. We had dinner at our favorite restaurant and slept that night on the boat. We left the following day to return to work.

The next weekend, we were back in Portland to jump on the boat with all our provisions. At first light, we were off the dock to cruise to South Harpswell and return to our slip several days later. The following weekend, we circumnavigated Chebeague Island and had reservations for our boat and ourselves at the Chebeague Island Inn.

Our boat bobbed at one of the Inn’s moorings while we explored the island by bike during the day, followed by dinner on the inn’s porch. Some visits, we just sailed where the wind directed us – around Great Diamond Island, Peaks Island, and Long and Cliff islands. We enjoyed every minute on the water; the time on the Maine Turnpike, not so much.

Soon, fall was approaching, and it was time to return home to Massachusetts. Lots of logistics and work were required, but it was all well worth it for the experience to day-sail and cruise in a new and exciting locale. We resolved to go back to Portland, with the intention of cruising farther north and east.

The following year, we did return. This time we chose Sunset Marina, in South Portland, for our transient slip. The facility has 125 slips, a fuel dock, showers and laundry. A great restaurant, the Saltwater Grille, is next-door. And, as you might imagine, with the name Sunset Marina, there were beautiful evening displays over Fore River and the city.

Our routine was pretty much the same as the previous year. We cruised from South Portland to Boothbay Harbor where, for several days, the two of us enjoyed exploring. We cruised all around Southport Island, and stayed in Dekker Cove. We had great times, cruising as long as we could be away from home and work.

Toward the end of our planned stay on land, the Sunset Marina owners called us. Panic struck. Something had happened to our boat. No, this was not the case, but a hurricane was expected to hit Portland, and the marina wanted all the boats removed from their slips. It was September, and many boats had already given up on the season and hauled out. Knowing we had nowhere to go, and couldn’t get on the hard, Sunset Marina arranged with South Port Marine to have a slip made available to us. We followed up by phone and were relieved they could accommodate us.

South Port Marina is farther up the Fore River in Mill Cove, and it was thought to be a safer place in a blow. So, we raced up to South Portland, transferred our boat to this new marina, and made her ready to ride out a hurricane. We regretted that we had to leave the boat unattended, but a liveaboard fellow at the next slip took our number and promised to call to let us know how our boat was faring.

Call he did, luckily there was nothing to report. The hurricane changed course, and Portland was spared. Well, for all that, we’d found another new marina, which we enjoyed. South Port Marina is tucked away but offers over 170 slips and full-service. Laundry, fuel, dinghy docks – the works. There’s also a terrific restaurant, the Snow Squall, almost onsite, as well as a brew pub, an in-season farmers market and a large grocery store within walking distance.

Close to the end of the sailing season, we left the boat where it was at South Port. Soon thereafter, we made a final trip to bring the boat back down to Massachusetts and homeport. And then, again, another road trip to pick up our second car.

Surely, this arrangement is not ideal. However, we felt that the experiences of those two Maine summers more than compensated for all the planning, effort and mileage required. We’ve not done it since, but we won’t hesitate to try to make it work again. Maybe this season. Who knows?

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 current member of the Quissett and Cottage Park yacht clubs. Selkie is hoping to be in a transient berth in South Portland, Maine, for part of this summer, but she is content to be afloat anywhere other than bobbing at her mooring.

 

South: Boston, Mass. to Bristol, R.I.

Story and photos by Larry Andersen
For Points East

A boat is freedom, an escape from the ordinary, from routine, from work, from the business of everyday life. When I set sail, part of me is running away from home, if just for a couple days or even hours. Or maybe it’s a mini-vacation, an opportunity to explore places that landlubbers don’t even know about.

Still, I am a creature of habit, and I came to a surprising realization last season: Having been in the same marina for 10 years, Boston Harbor barely qualifies as a vacation anymore. I’d done the same day sails to Spectacle, Peddocks, Georges and Great Brewster islands, and to World’s End, off Hingham Harbor, over and over for a decade. Even the longer voyages to Provincetown, Buzzards Bay, Salem, and Gloucester had all been repeated many times. I couldn’t complain about the richness of sailing in Massachusetts waters, but I realized that it had been quite some time since I’d been anywhere new. Where’s the adventure in that?

A boat can be anywhere. As a cruiser, given infinite time and money, I’d ultimately go everywhere, so I decided to make a big leap and seek out new sailing grounds for this summer season. It was not an uncomplicated decision. My friends and family are all Boston-based, so I didn’t want to go too far. A summer in Maine would be a dream come true – and a nightmare driving. Similarly, I ruled out Cape Cod and Newport, both famous for their weekend traffic snarls.

So, I decided to try Buzzards Bay or northern Narragansett Bay, both as little as an hour from Boston. I also insisted on having a slip instead of a mooring. I just know that I’ll sail more, and take better care of my boat, if it’s in a slip.

Buzzards Bay offers short day trips to several beautiful harbors on its northern shores, including Onset, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Padanaram (South Dartmouth) and Westport, as well as some of my all-time favorite destinations on the south side of the bay: Hadley Harbor, Pocasset, and Cuttyhunk, which I’ve only reached a couple times. Martha’s Vineyard would be a reasonable weekend sail as well.

The one downside for me was the famous Buzzards Bay chop. The rough seas created by the prevailing southwesterly breezes had put a damper on more than one of my voyages. I’d like to believe that if the boat was in Buzzards Bay full-time, I’d have more flexibility on travel times, which might mitigate that issue. The other issue I found with Buzzards Bay was that, while there were many moorings to be found, there were surprisingly few big marinas with slips. I was able to get on just one waiting list with a decent chance of a slip in New Bedford.

Narragansett Bay was less well-known to me. I’d sailed there briefly a couple times, and knew some of the towns from land vacations, but I wasn’t familiar with the ports, coves and hideaways. Newport is rightly known as a sailing mecca, and it’s a bustling fun town I’d hope to visit regularly if I wound up in Rhode Island. However, I didn’t know what to expect in the northern part of the bay. I did a little research and found a lot to like there.

Unlike Buzzards Bay, there were many marinas ranging from less than a dozen slips to hundreds of them, from fancy to cut-rate. Some marinas had restaurants and swimming pools. One had a nine-hole golf course. Barrington, Bristol, Tiverton, and Portsmouth had their charms, but I became interested in Warwick and East Greenwich, which had quick access to Narragansett Bay as well as a shorter drive to Boston.

As bad luck would have it, everyone and their brother bought a boat during COVID, and it was hard to find any available slips. My New Bedford option disappeared, ruling out Buzzards Bay. I didn’t seem to be having much luck in Rhode Island either – slips were beyond scarce. I was about to beg my Boston marina to take me back when I got a call from Apponaug Harbor Marina, in Warwick, R.I.

They were calling to tell me they had no slips but did have available moorings. When I mentioned I needed a slip, one miraculously appeared – if I acted immediately; funny how that works.

So how has it worked for me? It’s still early in the season, but I’m pretty thrilled with the change. Every time I set out I’m finding something new. Nearby, Potter Cove, on Prudence Island, is a great protected spot that’s full of energy and noise on weekends and peace and tranquility on weekdays. Bristol is a fantastic welcoming anchorage with excellent restaurants, coffee shops, art, parks and a bike path to Providence.

Even closer, Goddard State Park is all of 20 minutes away and has a mile of beach, beautiful hikes and horseback riding. I can even dinghy from the marina to Warwick’s lively Oakland Beach and its boardwalk fried-seafood joints, or East Greenwich, with its excellent restaurants and even a hotel bar with karaoke and open-mic nights.

A bit farther abroad is beautiful and well-protected Wickford. Tiverton and Portsmouth each with its own charms. Dutch Harbor in peaceful Jamestown is a beautiful destination. And, of course, Newport always beckons.

It doesn’t stop there. Given a three- or more-day weekend, some of my favorite places – and soon-to-be new favorite places – will become possible. Cuttyhunk, Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island, Gardiners Bay in Long Island Sound, and Mystic, Conn., are all begging to be explored.

It’s a complete change in perspective. Where I’d thought I had enough time to get to Salem, I’m now pondering a trip to Newport. A cruise to Buzzards Bay from Boston is now like getting to Block Island or Montauk Point, without having to schedule around the Cape Cod Canal’s ebbs and flows. Even if I just stay at the marina, I’m now within easy driving distance of the great cuisine and art of Providence, picturesque small towns along Narragansett Bay, the southern Rhode Island beaches – and places not yet discovered.

This is not a PR piece for Rhode Island. It’s a PR piece for adventure. Imagine the joys of changing your boat’s location. If you’re in Rhode Island, try Boston Harbor – you’ll be blown away boating with the Boston skyline as a backdrop, and discovering the Harbor Islands. Or maybe you’ve dreamed of a summer in Vineyard Haven, Rockport, Provincetown, Newburyport – or how about that Maine cruise? When you settle in, I think you’ll feel like I do now, like you signed up for a six-month vacation.

Larry Andersen is a freelance video editor, videographer, and documentarian. He’s also an avid writer, photographer, musician and sailor. He bought his first sailboat 12 years ago on a whim and has been sailing the northeast since. He’s sailed the last 10 years on his able sloop, Zero Decibels, a 1981 Tartan 37, living aboard for the last 6 years.