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Gunkhole getaways: Pulpit Harbor, Maine

By Mary R. Drake

Cruise into Maine’s Pulpit Harbor and you enter a world of rural tranquility, old money, and spectacular views of the Camden Hills across Penobscot Bay.

In this spacious hurricane hole on North Haven Island’s northwest shore, you can get away from the rat race, though not necessarily civilization. On summer weekends you’ll be one of many yachts seeking anchorage here. And yacht-watching is part of the fun.

Guarding the secluded harbor entrance is Pulpit Rock, appearing even more massive because of the century-old osprey nest on its top — yet it’s often difficult to see upon approach. As you pass around its northwest side, have your camera ready: The parents and chicks may eye you from the biggest nest I’ve ever seen.

Holding is good in mud inside the half-mile-long convoluted harbor —15- to 20-foot depths near the shore, closer to 30 in the center, which the windjammers prefer. Avoid the private mooring fields. Cabot Cove (first on the right) offers anchored boats the best protection, while the harbor’s southeast end has unobstructed sunset views. Tides range around 9 feet.

Along Pulpit Harbor’s northern shore are rolling fields and a few understated homes of wealthy urbanites who have summered here and raced Herreshoff 12.5s and North Haven dinghies for generations. The more rugged southern shore is indented by three coves that beg to be explored by dinghy. You can also dinghy under the bridge and almost a mile up the stream that flows into the harbor. Watch out for kids swimming and diving from the bridge … or join them.

Landing is permitted on the north shore at the cobble beach or the public dock, where water is available and a shoreside walking path begins. North Haven’s winding roads offer pleasant strolls past classic farmhouses, meadows, ponds and flower-filled fields with sweeping water views. Here and there a driveway disappears over a hill or into cathedral-quiet woods.

Follow the road across the bridge and a half-mile to the new North Haven Grocery and restaurant, open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Call (207) 867-2233 and they will pick you up, or deliver rental bicycles or your grocery order to the Pulpit Harbor dock. “We want to accommodate people on boats, as well as locals,” says owner Gordon Bulbar.

The Islander Store just down the road offers groceries and sandwiches during its limited hours. A mile farther is “downtown,” where a few restaurants, galleries, gift shops and the performing arts center cluster around the Rockland ferry dock on the Fox Island Thoroughfare. J.O. Brown’s Market sets downtown’s tone with its sign: “If We Don’t Have it, You Don’t Need It — Groceries, Beer and Ambience.”

But the highlight of a stay in Pulpit Harbor is just being there. Relax and watch the boats, from small craft to a windjammer or two, and more than a few Hinckleys, Sabres, Morrises and the like.

Sunlight and shadows play across Penobscot Bay and the distant Cam-

den Hills, creating a spectacular ever-

changing backdrop. As the sun sinks

behind the hills, the ocean reflects the sky’s reds and oranges, fading to purples and dusky grays. Stillness prevails. The cry of a loon may echo across the harbor, or you may hear only the water lapping against your hull. It’s hard to believe that Pulpit Harbor is less than 10 miles from Camden’s hustle and bustle.

NOAA chart 13305 — Penobscot Bay, Carvers Harbor and Approaches — covers North Haven Island. Charts 13302 and 13303 cover Penobscot Bay and approaches.


Check out the other parts to our Gunkholing series:

Explore our picks for 10 great gunkhole getaways:

Learn The Art of Gunkholing

Or introduce yourself to "Mr. Gunkhole."