A couple of months ago, my wife and I were forging our way through the Woods Hole cut after anchoring for the night in Tarpaulin Cove. In a spur of the moment decision we thought it would be nice to head for Pocasset and grab a mooring in Red Brook Harbor. Right after transiting the Cut and heading north northeast I caught my first glimpse of Quissett Harbor. It looked so pretty and inviting, calling to me; “Rick…Come visit… you’ll like it here! Really!” We agreed to spend some time there before the summer was out.
Saturday evening September 1, 2012 Wareham, Ma
The Labor day weekend is upon us, the marine forecast is wicked good, so now would be the perfect time see what Quissett Harbor is all about.
Our cabin cruiser patiently awaits us on it’s mooring off Swifts Neck. In the waning early evening light we approach her in our dinghy with enough food, drinks, and ice to hopefully sustain us through the long weekend.
Sunday morning September 2
“I always sleep so good on the boat. It’s like a water bed on ten!” I say between sips of scalding hot coffee. Susan looks at me sideways and adds a few ice cubes to her own large mug. “OK…OK. I sleep good anywhere,” I admit. It’s not uncommon for me to be snoring on the couch before ten o’clock. “But it feels so good to wake up here.” I spread my arms expansively toward the gorgeous sunrise glowing majestically before us.
I cook a breakfast of bacon and eggs sunny side up, scooping the bacon fat over the top of the eggs with a spoon until they are firm, just like my mother showed me. It’s one of the few things I can cook fairly well. We eat on the sun drenched aft-deck. “Mind if I finish the coffee?” Susan asks. She knows I only have one cup but she always lovingly asks.
It’s like a mill pond out here as we slowly motor to the Zecco Marine fuel dock. Our bow slices smoothly through the unrippled Wareham River. “Where is everyone?” I remark. It’s nine o’clock on a beautiful holiday weekend and we have the whole harbor to ourselves. Sometimes I don’t get it. My wife and I sleep over on our boat every chance we get but we are the only ones doing so in our entire mooring field! What is wrong with all these boat owners? We live in this beautiful area surrounded by long sandy beaches, lush unspoiled greenery and hunting Osprey. To me it’s like heaven on earth. It’s so nice that sometimes we spend the whole weekend just tied to the mooring!
The fuel dock is empty as we pull up to the pump out station. The attendant helps with our lines and we tell him we just need a pump out and some water. Afterwards I give him a generous tip and we head out, excited to try a new place.
Quissett Harbor, a brand new way-point on the GPS, is twelve miles away and pretty much a straight shot with maybe a little zig to avoid the rocks near Great Hill Point. Susan takes the helm and I wash the breakfast dishes and make the bed. “Hang on! We’re gettin’ waked,” she warns, leaning out over the companionway. Two huge Sea Rays pass us close on both sides like they were racing or something, bow up and plowing for maximum wake. They both toss us friendly waves, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they could be damaging somebody’s property. We have gotten so used to this type of rude behavior that it would be shocking if someone actually passed us correctly and signaled. It just doesn’t happen in New England! Susan turns into the large wake to starboard, riding over it at a forty-five degree angle, two bottles fall off the liquor shelf harmlessly onto the bed. She does the same for the other to port. Ginger Lee’s old wooden interior groans in protest. “Save the rum!”
As predicted, the seas are running 1-2 feet, this is very good for Buzzards Bay. We pass Bird Island light on our right. Framed between it and Butler Point, we watch a school of small sailboats leaning in unison in Sippican Harbor beyond. Across Buzzards Bay, Old Silver Beach is glowing orange from all the rental beach umbrellas. A chirping osprey, the sole resident of Cleveland East Ledge Light, warns us to stay away and we comply.
After an hour or so, a large rock promontory called The Knob, gleams in the sunlight off our port bow, welcoming us to Quissett Harbor.
12:00 Noon Sunday
The entrance is wide and well marked with a red flasher as well as red and green nav aids. Sailboats are coming and going under sail, not unlike Mattapoisette Harbor, another sailboat haven. I call Quissett Boat Yard on the phone (they don’t monitor VHF) and ask about a mooring. “Keep nun 6 to starboard and grab any one with a QBY written on it. The inner harbor is full, but the outer harbor is beautiful,” says a pleasant female voice. “It’s thirty dollars for the night,” she continues. There is no shortage of empty moorings even on this nice holiday weekend. I ease up to the closest one.
Susan hooks the floating line attached to the white and blue float and loops it over the bitt. “Yeah! We’re here!” I say and shut down the diesels. We have a hug on the fore-deck and take in our new surroundings. Big oaks and elms, large mansions with manicured lawns and dock houses. Rocks! Lots of Rocks. In fact, a large mess of rocks separate the outer harbor from the inner harbor. Right off the bat I see at least a dozen Herreshoff twelve and a half’s, they all look like the real deal from the 1930’s, designed and built in Bristol Rhode Island by Nathanial G. Herreshoff himself, specifically for this exact Buzzards Bay location. I’m impressed at the sight of them! No sailboat snob I. A good line is a good line, be it stinkpot or snailbote!
“What’re ya drinkin’ hon?” I ask. The driving of the boat is done for the day so it’s time to relax with a few adult beverages. I’m surprised that Susan doesn’t put up the Bimini in this brilliant sunlight. She is as tanned as I have ever seen her…well…as tanned as a fair skinned flaxen haired woman of Celtic descent can be. Usually she is either burnt or not burnt. “The angle of the Sun is not so severe” she correctly reasons. Myself? I’m not a sunbather but I love sitting in the Sun. It feels especially good in late Summer. Like getting into your car that has been sitting in the sun on a coolish day. It just warms ya to your bones.
Suddenly, four feet from our stern, an Osprey crashes into the water and emerges with a large silvery fish. Rising to about twenty feet, it shudders and shakes off the excess water causing it to temporarily lose altitude before rising again with its unfortunate prey secure in large talons. I like how they turn their catch toward the front in a aerodynamic fashion.
Early afternoon, Sunday September 2
All around us boaters are enjoying the day. The water temperature is 74 degrees, warmer then the air temperature, so there is a lot of swimming going on. A few boats are rafting with friends. Several children are playing a loud game of tag on the lawn of a nearby mansion. A 62 foot Ocean Alexander motor yacht is pulling up to an adjacent mooring. On it, a woman, holding a fancy mahogany and brass boat hook, lays flat on her stomach on the tall bow, she reaches down as far as she possibly can and just barely reaches the mooring line! We wonder why she doesn’t get a longer pole.
Time for a walkabout! We plan to walk the scenic trail through the Cornelia L. Carey bird sanctuary. These trails wind their way along the Quisset coast and end at the Knob. On the way to the dock, our dinghy “Salty ll” is acting up. The normally dependable Honda 9.9 is sputtering and almost stalling. I managed to keep it going by working the choke. “Let’s take our walk and deal with the motor later. We can always row back,” I say, but I am thinking I can get her running with a screwdriver.
We leave the boat yard and walk a short distance along Quissett Harbor Road. Wooded hills on our right, the harbor to our left. Twenty feet away, a Herreshoff “S” class floats apprehensively, like an athlete at rest, a thoroughbred in a cage. I think I hear her talking! “I don’t want to be floating here, tied to this stupid buoy, take me out and race me!” she screams. Twenty seven feet of timeless sleek lines. Elegant, refined, and powerful. Its mast curves quite a bit aft ward. My eyes are drawn to it like a beautiful woman. “YOU! look at me!” she demands. “I hear you. I am looking at you. Yes! You are lovely,” my mind answers. It’s hard to believe they were building them in 1919. Less than a hundred were built, more than seventy still sail, forty still race, three of them are right here in Quissett and will race tomorrow.
The entrance to the trail has a large sign with lots of useful information like; stay away from the poison ivy. The whole place was donated as a preserve by the former owner, Cornelia Carey, thereby keeping it out of the hands of the evil, money grubbing developers who would have surely turned this wonderful place into something either not so nice, or not so public, a strip mall or condo’s or something. The path is well worn through deep woods and the smell of vegetation and peat mixes nicely with the salty ocean aroma. The sun, almost completely blocked by the trees, allows a coolness from its absence that dries the sweat on my neck. Every person we pass says a friendly hello.
Eventually the woods break into a lovely view of Racing Beach on our right. Its irresistible expanse practically forces us to descend the long wooden stairway just to put our feet in the water. The Knob itself rises high in front of us and we climb the path to it. A stone patio offers an amazing 360 degree view across Buzzards Bay. Two new wind turbines in Fairhaven give us our bearing and we easily pick out places we recognize on the western shore.
Both our on-board cruising guides confirm the same two things about the Quissett Boat yard; they specialize in wooden boats, and there are no amenities here except ice. Their dock, at the head of the inner harbor, is kinda small and features only a small shack and an ice freezer. In January of this year, a two alarm fire destroyed most of the main shop building. The owners are in the process of rebuilding. Fire in a boatyard filled with old wooden boats is definitely not good. Fortunately, only a couple of boats were destroyed.
We stop by the office to pay for the mooring and ask about ice. Owner Weatherly Dorris is on the phone with a boater who has a some kind of medical emergency. Apparently an older gentleman is having alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the captain wants him off his boat. Susan translates: Grampa got the DT’s and being a real pain in the ass
We get a couple of bags of ice and jump into the dinghy which starts right up but immediately dies. I open the cover and hit the electric starter. Raw gas is bubbling out of the carb…must be a stuck float. I was psyching myself up for rowing back to Ginger Lee when a friendly guy from Long Island offers to tow us back to our boat. “Are ya sure? I got oars,” I say “Ya, no problem. It’s what boating is all about,” he says.
Quoted from Dozier’s Northern Waterway guide: “Simply attach to a vacant mooring, and the yard’s skiff will eventually appear in the evening to collect the fee.” Sure enough, just after the sun dipped below the horizon, co owner Richard Dorris and his skiff “Ticker” appear at our stern. He is standing at the rear of the tidy little 14 footer holding onto a shapely wooden tiller. He deftly whips it around stops it dead two inches from our port side. “Nice skiff. How are you controlling it? I ask, seeing no throttle or shifter. “With my foot! Check it out,” he says pointing. In the middle of the boat is a small engine doghouse with a maroon vinyl pad atop it. Sticking out of the side near his foot are two metal paddles right next to each other. Shifter on the left, throttle on the right. “Sweet!” I gush. He proudly flips up the maroon pad to expose a clean little engine. “Atomic 4!” he gushes back. Jeez! I love that skiff! Looks like glass over wood painted white, plumb bow, flat bottom, decent freeboard. nice straight lines, probably tinkered it together himself. He says good bye and motors slowly off. Susan notices my obvious skiff envy and says, “you wanna talk to him some more, don’t ‘cha.” “I do! I do! Please come back. I have beer!” I joke.
Monday Morning September 3
Wake up on a boat in a new location and you will feel the way I feel right now; inspired. I want to take it all in, imprint my mind with the new visual experience. I can’t find a cloud in the whole sky and everything has a bright blue sparkle. It’s crisp, dry, and about 70 degrees. Susan is asleep and I have the aft deck to myself. This is the time I like to make my log book entries. I grab the familiar brown volume and instead of writing, I start sketching, something I do only when I am really moved.( Apparently I’m moved a lot because almost every log entry has sketches!)
A white and grey lobster boat with tall outriggers and a proud bow anchors near the far shore. Three children scramble to the fore deck. Out of a brown paper bag they pull out sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and eat them hungrily, coltish legs dangling over the bow. Youthful chatter interspersed with laughter reaches my ears. Our neighbors in the big Ocean Alexander have donned swimsuits and dive in. Brrrr! I give ’em credit. The last time I went swimming the temperature was in the hundreds! Their transom swings my way in the breeze. It says “Celtic Charm” from Monkeybox Florida. They have a wicked expensive boat but I like that they run it themselves, no crew, boating just like me, only with more expensive stuff.
Several Herreshoff 12 and a half’s, each with two people, are sailing down the channel into Buzzards Bay. Two Quissett Yacht Club launches, a center console skiff and a Parker pilot house, follow. The race will begin soon! Here come the gorgeous ‘S’ class boats. Yesterday I wondered about the curved mast. This morning as I watch them speed by under sail, the reason is so obvious; the curved mast and sail create a wind scoop. A hot rod sail boat!
While the racers assemble just outside the harbor entrance, the largest sailboat I have ever seen cuts across Buzzards Bay and drops anchor fifty yards off the Knob. It must be well over one hundred feet long and has only one mast! The tallest mast in the whole friggin’ world! Through binoculars we watch as a twenty foot section of the port side flips down hydraulically to form a dock for the fancy inboard tender that they winched off the aft deck. The tender made two trips to the modest Quisset Boat Yard dock. One trip just for a slew of matched black leather luggage and another for a well tanned, well dressed, family of four. We speculate that it is a movie star and family but we don’t recognize anybody. I think the man sort of looks like Timothy Olyphant. On shore, four large men dressed in black suits and sunglasses wait by two large black Cadillacs with blacked out windows
Just before noon Susan drops the mooring line and we motor off. “Good bye Quissett! Thank you for a great weekend.” I actually say the words aloud. Sometimes I am just too corny. But this place is special and I really like it. I can’t wait to go back!