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.
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).
Phot by Robert L. Drake
If I were to move from Maine, I’d be tempted to resettle in Oriental on North Carolina’s “Inner Banks” at Intracoastal Waterway Mile 181. This secluded former fishing village proclaims itself the “Sailing Capital of North Carolina” for good reason. Five navigable creeks converge just above Oriental, then flow together into the 4-mile-wide Neuse River (the ICW) just outside the harbor breakwater. Pamlico Sound is about 25 unobstructed miles downstream.
All these convoluted waterways provide about 150 miles of year-round playground — gunkholes, anchorages, fishing spots and broad, deep sailing waters — for sail, power or paddled boats of all sizes. Oriental even has a no-amenities town dock and another in the works, where you can tie up free for 48 hours.
Photo by Robert L. Drake
Outposts and islands have a unique appeal — remoteness, self-sufficient residents and usually an enveloping natural world where you can escape the rat race. Flamingo gives skinny-water boaters all this and more, as the southern outpost of Everglades National Park. The habitats — tropical and temperate, salt- and freshwater, sloughs and shallows, wetlands and uplands — make wildlife viewing in this international bioreserve unsurpassed. Among the native species, including 1,000 plants, 300 fish, 90 mammals and reptiles, 99 butterflies and more than 350 birds, you’ll surely see alligators and white pelicans, maybe even an endangered Florida panther, a toothy American crocodile or a brilliant pink flamingo. Birders, bring your life lists — fishermen, your fresh- and saltwater licenses.
Photos by Alison Langley
When Alec Brainerd talks classic wooden boats, the conversation drifts from the philosophy to the business to the practical issues of wooden-boat building and ownership. Brainerd, founder and owner of Artisan Boatworks in Rockport, Maine, specializes in building, restoring and maintaining wooden boats. The shop is best known for building replicas of classic daysailers, Nathanael G. Herreshoff designs especially.
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