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Home » TRAVEL AND LODGING » RHODE ISLAND » Yachting - Not Just for the Rich & Famous
Allen Harbor Anchorage
Yachting - Not Just for the Rich & Famous

Part 4 - The Best Anchorages in Narragansett Bay

By George Boase | November 08, 2011

Previous Article in this Series

George Boase continues to teach us how to sail without breaking the bank. This week he tells us where to anchor - for free!

Last time, I extolled the virtues of Newport Harbor, but that is just one of the great places to lay anchor in Narragansett Bay.

Goddard Park has to be one of the most hidden of all jewels in Narragansett Bay. I’ve lived near there for over 25 years and not once heard anyone mention what a great place to anchor it is. The only detraction I can find is the distance from the ocean. Not exactly a bad thing when the weather is mixing it up a bit.

On the Move

Located in Greenwich Bay at the mouth of Greenwich Cove you have all the protection you would need. I’ve spent a great deal of time sailing around the area while the rest of the bay is a washing machine. The bottom is like super glue and it’s not uncommon to see two boats rafted on a single anchor. Lack of space is not a problem; it’s purely a social event.

For a laid-back kind of vacation spot, it’s hard to beat. You have Goddard Park, one of the better state parks, right in front of you. There’s a swimming beach with buoyed off areas and lifeguards in season. It’s a short dinghy ride courtesy of a bottom that drops off quickly allowing for close to shore anchoring.

A real bargain, the nine-hole golf course is only $12. If you want to do some touring on horseback, a riding stable is also close by in the park with 18 miles of bridle trails. There are 355 picnic tables, BBQ pits and 11 game fields. Heads are just off the beach along with a bathhouse. RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority) has a stop in the beach parking lot for transportation to anywhere in Rhode Island.

Just across the cove are two fine dining restaurants with docks. Milt’s 20 Water Street and Chelo’s Waterfront Café are both local favorites. Bait and tackle are just up in Apponaug cove at Ray’s. If you need to fix what broke, Norton’s is a full service shipyard and less than a mile away. Free pump out docks are available from two locations, Norton’s and Apponaug Harbor. There is also a pump out boat that can come to you at anchor.

Now that you know the secret of Goddard Park, don’t tell anyone. Let’s keep this one to ourselves.

Allen Harbor is an even bigger secret. Part of that is because there’s really not much there. A former navy facility, it was turned over to the town of North Kingston who now runs it as Rhode Island’s only municipal harbor. It’s located within the Davisville Navy Yard. Just north of the runways, you’ll find a marked channel leading into what appears to be a dead end.

Allen Harbor

Sitting in the middle of an active military base and next to an airfield, there are no stores, restaurants or much of anything for miles around. You may ask why would I even mention it.

If you have a storm coming, this is where you want to be. It’s a virtually landlocked basin and remains completely calm no matter the weather. I had the misfortune once of being caught out in the bay with winds on the rise and no end in sight. I ducked in, dropped hook and spent the night. The winds gusted over 30 knots and I never budged an inch or rolled with a single wave.

Entering Allen Harbor requires local knowledge. It’s a little scary when you can see people standing knee deep a few feet away from the marked channel. There is a sand spit that extends out making the channel S shaped. Close to the sand spit and you’re in 8 feet. Swing too wide and you’re in 3 feet. Once past the point you’re home free. The mooring field is to starboard and anchorage is north of that.

Allen Harbor marina has a courtesy/dinghy dock with a pump out. It’s located in a park with heads, showers and picnic areas. Four-legged Admirals are allowed on a leash, much like husbands. There is a small store with snacks and ice. Docks here don’t have electricity. Future plans are to have 30-amp service available for a fee. They do have water.

This is definitely not a destination kind of place. As shelter from a storm, it’s as good as it gets. It’s close enough to the ocean to make it here before you get into real trouble.

Wickford Cove Lighthouse

Wickford Cove has to be one of my personal favorites. The wife and I have stayed overnight here on many occasions. Our favorite destination marina (Wickford Marina) has gone out of their way to accommodate us on several occasions. I’ve spent many hours here in the cove while doing marina reviews. I’ve interviewed everyone connected to marinas here including the harbormaster. No one told me about the free moorings. In fact, there is no mention of it anywhere in print or on the internet.

When you enter the breakwater, immediately to port there are five bright orange mooring balls with “NK” in blue lettering. These are free for 24 hours on a first come first serve basis. There is also a town dock in the channel to port where you can tie up for two hours for free.

The town of Wickford is a real pleasure to visit. It’s the model for the John Updike book The Witches of Eastwick and has more 18th century architecture than anywhere else in the US. The word “quaint” maybe overused, but it’s the only word appropriate for this town.

Allen Harbor

It wouldn’t be hard to spend a weekend or a week here just visiting the shops. Provisioning is no problem. There are plenty of fine dining restaurants and casual eateries. Seafood is almost everywhere.

If you enjoy nature excursions, Wickford Cove feeds into Miller’s Cove with 2.5 miles of nature preserve estuary to explore by kayak. You’ll probably notice a considerable amount of kayak traffic in the harbor. If you didn't happen to bring a kayak with you, The Kayak Center in Wickford sells and rents them.

This is a rather large area. You can easily spend 15 to 20 minutes by dinghy to get anywhere. It’s often a crowded harbor, especially when the town is having a special event. That’s most weekends in the summer. The harbormaster (North Kingston Harbormaster) is one of the best and very helpful.

If all else fails, there are no moorings or docks, you still have the option of anchoring in the cove. Just outside the breakwater to both north and south, there is room for hundreds of boat to anchor with plenty of swing radius. Protection is good and holding is excellent. Depth ranges from 7 to 15 feet so a short scope works well.

Narragansett Bay is a unique place to sail and hopefully, like me, you can do so without being fearful of your next credit card bill.   Happy sailing!

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