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Boating Destination Reviews for Travelers Along the Eastern Seaboard

Perfect Picks

Photos by Robert L. Drake

Soundings contributing writer Mary Drake and her photographer husband, Bob, have profiled 150 destinations for Soundings since 1986. Traveling every year between their homes in Hodgdon, Maine, St. Simons Island, Ga., and Big Pine Key, Fla., the couple are gifted with a restless curiosity that keeps them poking around and looking for unique, historically rich, friendly waterfront communities that are steeped in maritime tradition and heartily embrace boats and boaters.

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Northeast Harbor, Maine

Photo by Robert L. Drake

Millions of years ago, geological forces created Maine’s Somes Sound, steep-sided Northeast Harbor at its mouth and superb sailing waters all around. A century ago, John D. Rockefeller and other wealthy summer residents made Northeast Harbor the yachting center of Mount Desert Island. Today, their descendants and Morris Yachts’ service yard keep this protected bight filled with impeccably maintained sailing and power yachts.
Although the harbor may seem full when you arrive, hail the harbormaster agents on channel 9, and they’ll direct you to a mooring. Several facilities in the harbor offer fuel, water, ice and pumpout.

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Marblehead, Mass.

Photo by Robert L. Drake

When you cruise into Marblehead’s magnificent harbor it seems as if all of the sailing yachts in the world are here. A forest of masts towers above the busy harbor. Like water bugs, club launches dart here and there, yachts slip in and out of the 2,000-plus moorings, dinghies dodge obstacles, and kayakers paddle unperturbed. As you enter, hail a yacht club dockmaster for a vacant mooring (with launch service).

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Mystic, Conn.

Photo by Robert L. Drake

As you cruise from Long Island Sound up the river to Mystic, Conn., you’re following in the wake of well-known yachtsmen and ordinary boaters headed for Mystic Seaport Museum, a must-see treasure trove of New England maritime history for more than 70 years.
The serpentine six-mile Mystic River channel is well-marked and lined with marinas, especially above the railroad swing bridge, which remains open unless a train is expected (VHF channel 13). Above the railroad bridge to port stands the craggy bluff that protected colonial Mystic. Patriots erected a stone barrier there to prevent British invasion during the War of 1812. Local lore says the barricade was named for “Aunt Rachel,” who provided water and other favors to the militia.

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Chestertown, Md.

Photos by Robert L. Drake

A cruise up Maryland’s serene, unspoiled Chester River takes you to Chestertown, an amazingly well-preserved town of 2,000. Imposing pre-Revolutionary War buildings from the town’s days as a colonial Chesapeake Bay port of entry line the downtown waterfront. To the south lie Wilmer Park and the maritime campus of Washington College. (George Washington was a founding donor and sat on the board.)
Front and center downtown, at the foot of High Street, is the town dock, where the schooner Sultana is berthed. A cadre of shipwrights and 100 volunteers, plus townspeople and 2,500 schoolchildren, built and launched the 58-foot replica 10 years ago. Volunteers spent 200,000 hours abuilding, following the original 1767 plans, materials and techniques (and adding modern safety equipment).

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