WindCheck Magazine Hightlights New Bedford and Other SouthCoast Seaside Communities as Sailing Destinations

Destination: Western Buzzards Bay
Chris Szepessy

Buzzards Bay can lay claim to being one of the most consistently windy bodies of water on the East Coast. A fortuitous southwest-to-northeast orientation and a funnel shape create a venturi effect that accelerates the prevailing southwesterlies. The seabreeze averages 15 knots on a typical summer afternoon, frequently approaching 25.
Surrounded by the Elizabeth Islands to the south, Rhode Island Sound to the southwest, Cape Cod to the east and Bristol and Plymouth Counties in Massachusetts to the northwest, Buzzards Bay is approximately 28 miles long and 8 miles wide and is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Cape Cod Canal at its northeastern end. We’re visiting the harbors along Buzzards Bay’s western shore (all included in MAPTECH ChartKit Region 2), moving in a roughly northeasterly direction.
Sheltered from ocean breakers by Horseneck Point to the south, Westport remains unspoiled because of its out-of-the-way location and the fact that getting there can be challenging. Among the rewards for negotiating the Westport River’s currents are hundreds of small islands to explore, clean water and seafood straight off the boats.
Use NOAA charts 13228 (1:20,000) and 13218 (1:80,000), and tide tables for Newport, RI (p. 35). High tide at Westport Harbor is nine minutes later and low tide is 33 minutes later. Multiply by 0.9 for height at high or low water. The mean tidal range is 3 feet. On your approach, look for the Knubble Light on the south side of the mouth of the Westport River. A four-knot current flows out of the river and the harbor entrance opens on the Atlantic, so don’t try to enter the harbor in a strong southerly wind because seas breaking on the entrance bar make the passage hazardous.
Anchorage and Moorings
After you’ve rounded the Knubble and the western tip of Horseneck Point is directly to the east, you’ll see Spindle Rock Yacht Club to the west. The club maintains a few transient moorings (40 feet LOA max). North of the club is the West Branch of the Westport River, which has good anchoring with a mud bottom, although navigation can be tricky because of the shifting channel. With this harbor’s strong currents, your best bet is a mooring or marina slip.
If you head east toward Westport Point, the first facility is F.L. Tripp & Sons, Inc., on the north side of Horseneck Point. A full service boatyard and marina, they have 15 transient berths with 12 feet at MLW, 150 transient moorings (60 feet LOA max), restrooms, showers, laundry and a pumpout facility. They sell gasoline and diesel and do repairs. Westport Yacht Club, east of Tripp’s, maintains a few transient moorings (40 feet LOA max), and they have launch service, restrooms and showers. Shamrock Marine has 50 deepwater berths and several moorings (50 feet LOA max) and a pumpout station.

Going Ashore

Dinghy over to Westport Point on the north side of the harbor where you can tie up for a short time at the Westport Town Dock. You can choose the catch of the day to grill on the boat at Lee’s Wharf. Complete your menu at the Westport Point Market. If you’re arriving on a summer weekend, you might want to wander over to The Back Eddy restaurant, at the docks on the harbor’s south side. They have an outdoor barbecue and raw bar during the summer.
Don’t let Westport’s peaceful atmosphere lull you into thinking there’s nothing to do. You can enjoy a day swimming or surfing on Horseneck Beach or visit the Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery. Bob and Carol Russell bought an old dairy farm that became New England’s largest yineyard. Some visitors claim their wines are better than those from California and even superior to many French wines. The New York Times says the Westport Rivers Chardonnay is “virtually flawless.” Don’t be put off if you’re not an oenophile – the Russell family also owns Buzzards Bay Brewery. During the summer, show up from 11am – 5pm with your own grillables and buy a pint glass ($5). That’ll get you two fillups of the “beer of the night.” If you’re heading out to Padanaram from here, be sure to check the larder and visit the market for groceries.
You won’t find Padanaram on your charts, but this scenic village is well worth discovering. Although “New England’s best-kept secret” is properly known as South Dartmouth, locals and cruisers alike use its Biblical namesake.
Use NOAA charts 13229 (1:40,000), 13230 (1:40,000) and the tide tables for Newport. High tide at Apponagansett Bay is 25 minutes later and low tide is 33 minutes later. Multiply by 1.1 for height at high or low water. The mean tidal range is 3.7 feet. Getting into Padanaram is straightforward, although the buoys aren’t just guides – they mark navigational hazards including rocks and ledges.
Anchorage & Moorings
Transient dock space in Padanaram is hard to come by during the summer. Contact the Harbormaster at 508-999-0759 or on VHF channel 9. New Bedford Yacht Club may have an overnight mooring (50 feet LOA max; reserve well in advance). Visiting yacht club members are asked to register in the clubhouse for reciprocal privileges, which include showers. The club also has a restaurant. Davis & Tripp, a full service boatyard and marina, may also have dockage available.
Concordia Company, South Wharf Yacht Yard and Marina has several transient slips with ten feet at MLW as well as dinghy docks. South Wharf has a 55-ton travel lift and can handle virtually any repair, and it’s home to a Cape Yachts dealership. They have a ship’s store, ice and wireless Internet, and there’s a Doyle Sailmakers loft on the premises.
Going Ashore
Padanaram’s tranquil, shady streets invite you to take a stroll. If you haven’t provisioned ahead of time, be prepared to dine out. Cecily’s Café offers excellent scones, sandwiches and light fare. The Black Bass Grille serves seafood and brick oven pizza with a view of the harbor. TheMarshall Marine Corporation, founded in 1962 and located on the harbor, is the builder of the Marshall 22 catboat and her little sisters, the 18-foot Sanderling and the 15’6” Sandpiper.
New Bedford & Fairhaven
New Bedford, the largest town on Buzzards Bay, is located on the west bank of the lower Acushnet River, and the town of Fairhaven lies on the east bank. The harbor is protected by a 3.5-mile long hurricane barrier with a 150-foot wide opening that’s closed when hurricanes or nor’easters threaten, making this one of the safest ports on the East Coast.
fleet, and Fairhaven was populated by whaling ship captains, boatbuilders, chandlers and sailmakers. Herman Melville shipped out on the Fairhaven ship Acushnet for a voyage that provided the inspiration for his 1851 novel Moby-Dick. Joshua Slocum rebuilt his 36-foot sloop Spray in New Bedford between 1843 and 1845 before his solo circumnavigation. Today, the harbor’s 200-boat strong commercial fishing fleet is America’s largest.
Use NOAA charts 13229 (1: 40,000), 13230 (1:40,000) and 13218 (1:80,000) and tide tables for Newport. High and low tides are seven minutes later. Multiply by 1.1 for height at high or low water. The mean tidal range is 3.8 feet. The main channel leading to the hurricane barrier is very well marked, although the tidal flood and ebb reach 2.4 knots and will set you to the east. Plan on motoring through the barrier, and watch out for the fishing boats.
Anchorage & Moorings
You’ll find an anchorage with 15 to 18 feet of water to the west of the harbor entrance. For anchoring information, contact the New Bedford Harbormaster at 508-961-3085 or on VHF channel 16 or the Fairhaven Harbormaster at 508-984-4529. You can tie up for refueling at Sea Fuels Marine Services, Inc., located just north of New Bedford’s State Pier. They have gasoline, diesel, lubricants, filters and a marine supply warehouse. Pope’s Island, situated in the center of the harbor, is the harbor’s yachting center. Pope’s Island Marina offers five transient slips with nine feet at MLW, showers, laundry and a pumpout facility. If you need marine supplies or parts there’s a West Marine across from Pope’s Island Marina – they also have some transient berths with 12 feet at MLW.
In Fairhaven, the first facility to starboard inside the hurricane barrier is Fairhaven Shipyard and Marina, a full service marina with 20 deepwater transient slips that can accommodate very large yachts. They do all kinds of boat repairs (including 24- hour emergency haul-out) and sell gasoline and diesel. If you need rigging parts or repair, stop in at Rigging Only, located on the shipyard premises. Overnight dockage may be available at either Moby Dick Marina or Cozy Cove Marina.
Going Ashore
On New Bedford’s State Pier you’ll find the Coast Guard cutters #908 Tohoma and #909 Campbell, the New Bedford Lightship, and the Schooner Ernestina. Built by the James and Tarr Yard in Essex, MA and launched in 1894, Ernestina saw service as a fishing vessel, immigrant packet and Arctic explorer; she presently awaits restoration. Visit
Walk up Johnny Cake Hill to the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, where you can take free guided walking tours. At the New Bedford Whaling Museum, you can board an 89-foot, half-scale model of the whaling bark Lagoda (the world’s largest ship model) and view a collection of figureheads, harpoons and whale skeletons. Across from the museum is the Seaman’s Bethel. The gravestone-shaped cenotaphs (a Greek word meaning empty grave) on the walls were created to memorialize sailors lost at sea and give their families a place to pay their respects. Before leaving the historical district, stop in for lunch or dinner at Freestones, diagonally across from the Whaling Museum. You’ll really enjoy is the award-winning fish chowder and lemon soufflé. The atmosphere is friendly and the menu offers much variety. The Candleworks serves Italian cuisine in an elegant setting, and they often have live entertainment.
Fairhaven militiamen aboard the sloop Success fought the first naval battle of the American Revolution on May 14, 1775 within sight of Fort Phoenix, which the British stormed and burned in 1778. After being rebuilt and enlarged, the fort helped repel an attack in the War of 1812. Today, Fort Phoenix State Reservation has a beach with views of the Elizabeth Islands. For breakfast or lunch in Fairhaven, try Margaret’s, a local favorite. The honey-almond French toast and Norwegian pancakes are highly recommended. It’s only a ten-minute walk from the harbor to the Fairhaven Chowder House, and the fresh seafood is worth the hike. Besides, it will give you an opportunity to admire the town’s 19th Century architecture.
One of New England’s busiest shipbuilding ports in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Mattapoisett is among Buzzards Bay’s prettiest towns. The name, given by the area’s first inhabitants, the Wampanoag, means “place of resting.”
Use NOAA charts 13230 (1:40,000), 13218 (1:80,000), 13229SC (1:40,000) and 13232 (1:20,000) and tide tables for Newport. High tide at Mattapoisett Harbor is 11 minutes later and low tide is 20 minutes later. Multiply by 1.1 for height at high water. Mean tidal range is 3.9 feet. Entering Mattapoisett Harbor is fairly straightforward; the channel is well marked and there are few obstacles.
Anchorage & Moorings
You’ll find anchoring areas on the southwest and northeast sides of the channel, although this harbor is exposed in a southeasterly. Molly’s Cove, in the harbor’s southwest corner, offers the best protection from the prevailing southwesterlies, although it’s a long dinghy ride across the harbor to the town dock. Contact the Harbormaster at 508-758-4191 or VHF channel 68.
Mattapoisett Boatyard, Inc., the first facility to starboard, maintains 15 guest moorings (50 LOA max) with launch service, although there’s only five feet at MLW. Their fuel dock sells gasoline and diesel, and they have ice, restrooms and showers. They have a pumpout boat (free) and can haul and repair boats. Yacht club members have reciprocal privileges at the adjacent Mattapoisett Yacht Club, and Aucoot Cove Boatyard may have a guest mooring available. Although they’re not on the waterfront, Triad Boatworks, specialists in the restoration of classic yachts, has 14 guest moorings with 10 feet at MLW, and they sell diesel fuel. Going Ashore
On most summer evenings there are band concerts or square dancing at Shipyard Park, and you’ll find art galleries and gift shops along Water Street. The beautiful town beach is nearby, and if the wind’s up (it probably will be!) boardsailors should make tracks for Ned’s Point, reputed to the be the best windsurfing spot in the Northeast.
The Kinsale Inn is a short walk from the town dock. Built in 1799, it’s the oldest seaside inn in the nation still operating in its original structure. The eatery is a popular destination for locals, serving authentic Irish Style foods such as Irish Boxty (a spin on the potato pancake), Dublin Lawyer (large chunks of Maine lobster flamed in Irish whiskey) or Bunratty fried oysters (marinated in Guinness and fried in a shallow pan). The Inn hosts a jam session on Sunday evenings. Musicians show up with all kinds of instruments – guitars, mandolins, harmonicas, or even a bodhran brought over from Ireland, and all are welcome to sit in.
If you walk a few blocks to Route 6, you’ll find several restaurants. From subs and pizza to steaks or seafood, you’re sure to find something to please the palette. The Oxford Creamery is famous for homemade ice creams, frozen custard and raspberry lime ricky, and they also have overstuffed lobster rolls.
Lovely Marion, located on Sippican Harbor, is another of Buzzards Bay’s quiet towns, and it’s home to two boatyards.
Use NOAA charts 13236 (1:20,000), 13229 (1:40,000) and 13230 (1:40,000) and tide tables for Newport. High tide at Sippican Harbor is 12 minutes later. Multiply by 1.3 for height at low water. Mean tidal range is 4 feet. The channel into Marion is narrow, and straying outside is ill advised. Local boaters recommend navigating from green can to green can on your approach, keeping them close to port…and not attempting any shortcuts. Sippican Harbor is open to southwesterlies, although Ram Island provides good protection.
Anchorage & Moorings
The designated anchorage is located north of Ram Island, and the area is marked with four spindle buoys. East of Ram Island, there’s room to anchor in Blankinship Cove and Planting Island Cove. The approach channel starts north of the island, although there are shallow spots. Contact the Harbormaster at 508-748-3535 or VHF channel 9 for guidance.
Beverly Yacht Club, to port as you pass Ram Island, has nine transient moorings and a dinghy dock. Just past the club is Barden’s Boat Yard. They have a few guest moorings (with launch service) and can handle all types of repairs. The Marion Municipal Wharf, where you can tie your dinghy, is just beyond Barden’s. At the head of the harbor, Burr Brothers Boats, Inc. has ten transient moorings and a few slips. They sell gasoline and diesel and can perform repairs. Harding Sails performs sail repairs.
Going Ashore
The Marion General Store, in business since 1841, offers a wide variety of provisions. You’ll love this old-fashioned store’s wavy wooden floors, and they have just about anything you could possibly want, from produce, wine and a meat counter to local and out-of-town papers.
The Homeport Deli has sandwiches to go, and Ansel’s Pantry at the Ansel S. Gurney House serves sandwiches, soups, salads and quiche with a garden view. The Moonfish Restaurant has an eclectic menu and an extensive wine list. Discover Marion’s past at the Sippican Historical Society, including the mysterious disappearance of the crew of the Mary Celeste, which departed Marion in 1872 and was found adrift off the Azores with no one aboard.
While strolling through this quaint downtown, you can browse through a bookstore or antique shop. Visit Serendipity Gifts for a souvenir or wind your way through an art show in the park. The Buzzards Bay Musicfest presents a different concert each day in July, and admission is free at the Fireman Center on the Tabor Academy campus.
The “Gateway to Cape Cod” and the unofficial cranberry capital of the world, Wareham offers cruisers a host of amenities, most within a short walk of the harbor.
Use NOAA charts 13236 (1:20,000), 13230 (1:40,000) and 13229 (1: 40,000) and tide tables for Newport. High tide at the Wareham River is 22 minutes later and low tide is 16 minutes later. Multiply by 1.2 for height at high or low water. Mean tidal range is 4.1 feet. Unless your boat has very shallow draft (or you enjoy discovering uncharted rocks), don’t be tempted to venture up the Weweantic River on the west side of Cromeset Point.
Anchorage & Moorings
Cromeset Point provides protection in a southwesterly, and there are a couple of anchorages on the east side of the harbor, to starboard as you enter the harbor: the area east of the channel between G C “13” and Long Beach Point, and further north around the mouth of the Crooked River. Contact the Harbormaster at 508-295-8160 or on VHF channel 9 or 16 for anchoring guidance or if need a pumpout. Zecco Marina has several transient slips and moorings, although there’s only five feet at MLW. They sell gasoline and diesel, have a pumpout station, and can perform repairs. You can tie your dinghy at the Wareham Town Pier.
Going Ashore
Wareham is home to builders of classic boats and a dealer for very modern ones. Established in 1899, the Cape Cod Shipbuilding Co. builds a variety of boats including the Herreshoff 12 ½, Cape Cod Knockabout, Atlantic and Shields. First built by the Beetle family in New Bedford in 1921, the 12-foot Beetle Cat is now built exclusively by the Wooden Boat Center. The Multihull Source is a dealer for Corsair and Windrider trimarans and Gunboat catamarans.
This bustling village was recently featured on the Massachusetts television show Chronicle, where it was described as the “Jewel of Buzzards Bay.”
Use NOAA charts 13229SC (1:40,000), 13230 (1:40,000) and 13236 (1:20,000) and tide tables for Newport. High tide at Monument Beach is 23 minutes later and low tide is 18 minutes later. Multiply by 1.1 for height at high or low water. Mean tidal range is four feet. The currents around the Cape Cod Canal often run six knots or more, creating powerful crosscurrents.
Anchorage & Moorings
You’ll need permission from the Harbormaster (508-295-8160 or VHF channel 9) if you want to anchor overnight in Onset Bay. The best anchorage (for boats drawing up to seven feet) is northwest of Onset Island, off the docks at Point Independence, although tides and currents can make the approach tricky.
Onset Bay Marina, on the north side of the harbor, is a full service marina with several transient slips and moorings (seven feet at MLW), and they sell gasoline and diesel. You’ll find deepwater dockage (and perhaps a mooring) at Onset Pier, and Stonebridge Marina may have a slip or mooring. Point Independence Yacht Club has several guest moorings and a few slips, although there’s only five feet at MLW.
Going Ashore
You can tie your dinghy, enjoy the beautiful beaches and walk up the hill into town. There are shops of every description – from souvenirs and gifts to hardware and groceries. The City Park offers shade, a breathtaking view of the harbor, and live music on summer evenings. Marc Anthony’s La Pizzeria is a local favorite. With long tables pushed together, strangers quickly become friends.
Buzzards Bay is a beautiful fall destination. The mornings are cool and crisp, days pleasant and the waters are still warm. We’ll explore Buzzards Bay’s eastern side in a future issue.
August 2008
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