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Home » TRAVEL AND LODGING in RI » RHODE ISLAND (all topics) » Yachting - Not just for the Rich and Famous
Point Judith
Yachting - Not just for the Rich and Famous

Part 2 - The Best Places are Free

By George Boase | October 17, 2011

Previous Article in this Series

This time George Boase explains how he discovered the delights of Port Judith, Rhode Island.

When I moved to New England in 1986, like many mid-westerners, I had preconceived notions of how New England should look. One day I had the chance to take a short business trip to Booth Bay, Maine. It was one of those iconic places I had always been curious about; I was not disappointed.

Point Judith Moorings

Before me was a living postcard with sounds and smells. It was a Norman Rockwell moment. Fishing boats tied to moorings in the harbor, lobster pots stacked all willy-nilly on the dock and I swear, with God as my witness, there was a white bearded old salt in a captain’s hat and peacoat mending a net in front of a cedar shingled hut at the water’s edge.

That was the day I knew I would, no, could never leave New England. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else my entire life. There have been many such experiences since that day over 24 years ago.

Last year I was sailing to Long Island for an O’Day owners gathering on Long Island. By design I stopped at Point Judith’s Harbor of Refuge. What started out as a weather perfect day finished with a storm chasing me down Narragansett Bay. I no sooner dropped anchor when the sky opened up and the winds turned the rigging into an opera diva. The “fat lady” was definitely singing.

I never made it to Long Island that trip. For two days the weather pounded the area. The irony is, I don’t feel bad about missing it. Point Judith is one of those places you can’t just see, you have to feel it. You must experience it firsthand and let your senses make you a part of it.

A Beautiful Day on the Water

Visually it’s interesting. The barrage of auditory sensations is astounding. Less than 100 yards away you have the background of surf on the breakwater. The bell buoy at the entrance adds punctuation. The low drone of the foghorn from Point Judith lighthouse keeps a slow rhythmic pace. Add in a variety of muffled engine noises in the channel and the squawking seagulls following the fleet to sea. If you wanted every sound associated with New England, this is where you go.

There are several ways to enjoy Point Judith as a sailor. If your idea of roughing it means you drew an outside dock at an upscale marina, they can certainly accommodate you. Just past the protected harbor to the port are several quality marinas with costs to match. If you’re there for the fishing, several marinas can supply you with anything you need, including the boat and captain.

Early Morning in Point Judith

In keeping with the spirit and intentions of this series, the free anchorage there is as good as it gets. A sandy bottom holds the anchor well, and breakwaters circle the harbor protecting you from waves. Wind protection is decent considering the fact that you are on the ocean.

Unless you’re easily amused, Point Judith is not a destination. It’s more like that stretch of highway where they warn you, “No gas for the next 100 miles.” The city planning must have been a government project. It’s laid out backwards.

There are many tourist attractions here, beaches, restaurants and shopping for the mandatory tee-shirt. Trouble is, you can’t get to them from either an anchorage or dock. Rowing a dinghy across the inner channel is only for the brave and strong. Commercial traffic and a rip current makes it a sporting event. Once you get the chicken to the other side of the road, there are no public docks for dinghies.

The good news is, unless you want to overspend in a tourist trap, there’s no reason to be on the eastern (starboard) side of the harbor. The western (port) side has all the amenities most boaters need. You can get everything from a propeller to a cup of coffee and donut at 5:00a.m.

Anchored Offshore

The most significant thing about the Harbor of Refuge is the location. It’s a gateway for the coastal cruiser going almost anywhere. Block Island is visible from here. Montauk point is just beyond the horizon. It’s less than 8 hours to Providence, Rhode Island or Fall River, Massachusetts. New York and the Hudson River are reachable with a crew in a single day. Cape Cod and the Islands are also within an easy day sail. For the navigationally challenged, a water tower is visible from many miles offshore and the Point Judith lighthouse and Coast Guard station are hard to miss.

There are quite a few great gunkholes (small sheltered coves that are ideal for mooring small boats) in this immediate area and up into Narraganset Bay. One of the little gems on the internet is a site called Active Captain. They not only list all the usual points of interest, but they are the only site that rates and reviews anchorages. Joining is free and participation is welcome and it offers wealth of information for boaters on a budget.

My wife coined a phrase for a tradition we follow when staying onboard. She calls it our “Salute to the Sunset.” It’s a quiet, meditative time for us. We simply sit on the back deck, and silently watch the sun go down. Located on a point a mile out to sea, it’s the perfect place. Do yourself a favor if you visit here. Close your eyes and take in the sounds.   Anchoring in the Harbor of Refuge... $0. The experience... priceless.

Fair Winds!

In the next article in this occasional series, we’ll look at some real bargains in dockage, mooring and places to visit.

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