Hello from New England! We continue to head north along Massachusetts on our way to Maine. We arrived at Cape Ann, the northernmost limit of Massachusetts Bay, which encompasses the city of Gloucester and towns of Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Rockport.
Our first 2 nights were in Gloucester (Glostah as the locals will say). This is a true working port, very distinct from many of the charming, quaint locales we have been to. The numerous lobster boats, fishing boats, very loud seagulls, gulls, more gulls, and the subtle fish smell in the air are the big giveaways as to the livelihood of this port. Glostah is also known for the Andrea Gail, commercial swordfishing boat that was lost at sea in 1991 and the basis for the book and movie “The Perfect Storm.” (Of course we had to watch this onboard, just because, when in Gloucester…). We moored in the Inner harbor with a nearby dinghy dock. There are few leisure/cruising boats here, most spending about 1-2 nights. Onshore there is a bit of traffic and many semi trucks. We learned this is the home base for Gorton’s Seafood, you know the bearded guy with the bright yellow hat and rain jacket? Maybe you remember the tune, “trust the Gorton’s fisherman…” or the famous frozen fish sticks! Either way, Brian thought this was pretty cool and desires to work there someday. The public landing takes you to Commercial Street (popular name in these parts, every town has one) with a short walk to Main Street. There are shops, restaurants and cafes. Since tourism doesn’t seem to be their thing, it is not a busy bustling downtown. A good coffee shop was the Lone Gull and a delightful Italian market, Virgilios, are on Main Street. The market is family owned and operated since 1934 with very good fresh cold cuts and cheese. We found an inexpensive liquor store and stocked up on wine and Appeltons rum, sweet vermouth, and bitters, as the Rum Manhattan has become a fav for some on Rover. There is a vibrant artist colony, Rocky Neck, that you can walk to from another public dinghy dock. It is a peninsula between Inner Harbor and Smith Cove. There are quaint little houses and artist galleries. We enjoyed a dinner at The Studio, waterside dining in this part of town. I must digress now about the movie, “The Perfect Storm.” The Crows Nest is the bar in the movie. It is on Main Street, however, the magic of Hollywood has it located on the pier with the fishing boats. At its true location, Diane Lane would have had to run across 2 lanes of road, a parking lot and then the pier to jump into Mark Wahlberg’s arms. I think this would have lost the dramatic effect of the scene. A replica of the bar was set up for the movie. No hopes of seeing George Clooney here either, but, there is a picture of him in the Italian Market I mentioned. Ah so close…
We departed Gloucester for the postcard-perfect town of Rockport, Ma. We were told to stop here from other cruisers we met in the anchorage at P town. We are happy to have met them as this was a must see. It a picturesque beauty atop rock and granite cliffs with blue green waters. We anchored off Front Beach with a short dinghy ride to town. Beware, this town sits high from the sea and because the tides are huge at 10 feet, you literally must climb a seaweed covered wooden ladder to get on land from the floating dinghy dock. There are many shops (Lula’s Pantry is a great kitchen store), cafes, restaurants, ice cream, boats and lovely Atlantic Ocean views from the rock and granite formations. We enjoyed a dinner at Bracketts Ocean View Restaurant with a terrific view of Rover in the anchorage and a stunning sunset. A yummy dessert at the Ice Cream Store completed the evening. Great runs along the water, quiet streets and Public Foot Paths are all over the place, some along the water and others in wooded areas (beware tick haven!). There is also the Latoff Farmers Market about 1 mile outside of town, an easy walk for delicious sweet corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes. Rockport is also a stop on the commuter train, the T, from Boston, so it is very accessible.
As we watched the developing storm, Hurricane Isaias decided his path would indeed include the coast of Maine. We hustled onward to the Isle of Shoals and then planned on Portland, Maine as our harbor of refuge from the storm.
Isle of Shoals is a group of small islands only about 6 miles off the coast and straddles the borders of New Hampshire and Maine. There are 9 islands total, 4 in NH (Lunging, Star, Seavey, and White), and 5 in Maine (Appledore, Smuttynose, Cedar, Duck, and Eastern). The Isle of Shoals anchorage is called Gosport Harbor, and it sits between 3 of the islands. It is not a “hidden gem” as it is easily accessed by day tripping powerboats from Portsmouth NH, so can have a party vibe on nice days. Luckily, most of the boats around us were there just for the day. As dusk arrived, only a few boats remained and we enjoyed grilling out and a quiet evening. Star Island is curious as it attracted artists and writers to the Oceanic Hotel in the 1800’s and is still standing but in dire need of a makeover. Brian said it was super creepy. Today, it is operated by the Unitarians and the United Church of Christ and hosts retreats, camps, and conferences. Due to Covid it is all shut down. We did not disembark as it all seemed a bit like a horror film set. Instead, I was able to enjoy SUP in the quiet and protected harbor.
We are off to Dimilo’s Old Port Marina in Portland to take safe harbor against the impending hurricane. We decided on a slip to indulge with electricity, heads/showers/laundry, and the last of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for provisioning! Hurricanes, lobsters and Maine to be continued…P