Being near the water is something we see a lot of around here, but it’s not something we take for granted. To walk out the front door and have the privilege of knowing that ocean air just feels different is something that many North Shore residents are fortunate enough to regularly experience. It is both peaceful and joyful to be on the water!
Locally, there are many options for sails, whale watches, and fishing and boating trips, ensuring that no matter how you prefer to get out on the water this summer, there’s a way to do it.
Sailing guidelines for the season are subject to change but as we have gotten used to things being in flux, one thing has remained constant. Boating is in and of itself a social-distancing activity, especially where private charters and privately owned boats are concerned.
Whether you want to cruise the Merrimack River, head farther north toward Hampton or Portsmouth, visit Sandy Point in Ipswich, or drop anchor at any one of the harbors in Newburyport, Rockport, Gloucester, or Salem, each location is sure to provide you with a quintessential New England day at sea. If recognizable landmarks are what you’re after, Gloucester is a good place to start. Full of rich history, well-known sites such as Ten Pound Island and the Ten Pound Island lighthouse can be seen from the water. Boaters are also likely to recognize Gloucester’s Fisherman at the Wheel statue, which sits near the edge of the harbor.
Speaking of Gloucester, the Schooner Thomas E. Lannon calls it home, and Captain Heath Ellis is ready for another busy season of sailing. Last year private trips ran at half capacity and that is expected to continue through the first half of this summer. Sailing aboard the Lannon is a family affair, with several generations of the Ellis family involved in various aspect of the business, making sure that every trip, whether it’s a day sail, a wedding, a school group, or even a memorial service, is special and unique. With a season that runs from mid-May through October, it may seem like there are plenty of opportunities to sail on this beautiful vessel, but don’t delay—Captain Ellis is already seeing a lot of interest and bookings for the 2021 season.
In Manchester-by-the-Sea you’ll find Captain Claude Beaudet of Frayed Knot Sailing Charters. With over 40 years of sailing experience, Captain Beaudet is also looking ahead to a busy season. From day sails to overnight trips to sailing classes, there are options to suit whatever your needs are. Beaudet and his wife, first mate Judy, love having the vessel play host to a variety of events including weddings, bachelorette parties, and family trips. Despite the state of the world last summer, it was still a busy sailing season, filled with a lot of locals who were looking for things to do—so keep in mind that this summer you could be competing with them, plus out of town visitors, for a spot.
If deep sea fishing is more your style, you have several choices, including Yankee Fleet Deep Sea Fishing out of Gloucester. From half to full day to overnight fishing trips, options abound—and so will the fish. For those who want to see whales and other marine life deliberately and not by chance, whale watches cannot be overlooked. They are a truly incredible experience for the whole family. Both 7 Seas Whale Watch and the well-known Captain’s Lady fleet in Newburyport are excellent places to book a whale watch trip. If you are searching for a shorter jaunt, Newburyport’s Harbor Tours are perfect—and especially nice for a sunset sail.
Marinas to Stop At
Here are some great pairings if you're aboard your own boat. You have a little more leeway in terms of where you can go, because the size of your boat is often smaller than that of a rented vessel.
Cape Ann Marina & Mile Marker One
This marina is supremely popular for a reason. Come for a meal or stay overnight—either way your boat is welcome here. A favorite spot among locals and daytrippers alike, Mile Marker One offers transient dockage, dock and dine options, takeout and more—because catering to boaters is a big part of what they do.
The city rents visitor moorings in three separate areas: InnerHarbor, Southeast Harbor and the Western Harbor. The Inner Harbor is close to downtown shops and restaurants and Southwest Harbor has views of Eastern Point and the Boston skyline. The Western Harbor is where original settlers landed and has sweeping views of churches and Gloucester City Hall tower.
The city has four marinas (Newburyport Harbor, Hilton’s Marina, Windward Yacht Club, and the Newburyport Boat Basin). Visitors arriving by boat will be best served by the Newburyport Harbor Marina, which offers 65 deep-water slips with 70 slips altogether.
Contact: Schooner Thomas E. Lannon, Gloucester, schooner.org; Frayed Knot Sailing Charters, Manchester-by-the-Sea, frayedknotsailingcharters.com; When & If, Salem, sailwhenandif.com; Yankee Fleet Deep Sea Fishing, Gloucester, yankeefleet.com; 7 Seas Whale Watch, Gloucester, 7seaswhalewatch.com; Newburyport Whale Watch, Newburyport, newburyportwhalewatch.com; Yankee Clipper, Newburyport, harbortours.com