Boating in Portland, Maine
Pride of Maine
Of all the major port cities in New England, Portland is among our favorites. It offers shopping, dining, and cultural activities that may take you by surprise if you haven't visited in a while. Old Port refurbished its Victorian architecture to house artists' studios, shops, and eateries at every corner, and tourists from near and far noticed. Portland is now a full-fledged vacation destination that will leave you looking to return for more.
Part of its charm among seafarers is that it remains a working harbor. Aside from being the second-busiest oil port on the East Coast, the city boasts a large fishing fleet, cargo ship berths, dry docks, and ferry terminals. Just as the Old Port rubs shoulders with the industrial waterfront, elegant homes and multi-family dwellings sit side-by-side in pedestrian friendly neighborhoods surrounding the city.
If you want to stretch your legs in a vibrant urban downtown that has a small town feel, gaze at priceless art at the Portland Art Museum, or take in a boisterous sporting event, Portland can deliver. If you want to dine at the finest gourmet restaurant, or elbow to elbow with fishermen fresh in from sea, Portland can deliver. If you want to dock the boat for the day or leave it for extensive repairs, you guessed it-Portland will deliver.
Portland is a port not to be missed.
Things to See and Do
Once the docklines are tight, make a beeline for Old Port. This district, the heart of Portland's downtown, encompasses a few blocks of waterfront. Today, gourmet markets and specialty shops line Exchange Street, the core of the downtown district, and hip people of all ages populate the coffeehouses and bars, each with a personality of its own. The shops here are equally diverse and interesting, offering everything from gourmet dog biscuits to imported textiles and locally-made pottery. Stop in at Chase Leavitt & Co. for your nautical needs or peruse the "nautiques" at China Sea Marine Trading Co.
We hope you're in the mood for culture, because you can't escape it here. View the latest exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art (207-775-6148 or www.portlandmuseum. org), a wonderful place to spend a few worthwhile hours. Highlights among the permanent exhibits include works by Degas, Matisse, Picasso, and Renoir, as well as many pieces by Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth, two painters with strong ties to Maine. Want to catch the rising stars? Check out the free exhibits by Maine College of Art (MECA) students at the Institute of Contemporary Art (207-879-5742).
Dozens of one-of-a-kind galleries dot Portland's Arts District. Wander through the streets and see what's there, and you just might find the perfect piece to take home for a permanent memory of your Maine cruise.
For a little "play time," call the Portland Stage Company (207-774-0465), or let the Portland Sea Dogs (800-936- DOGS) take you out to the old ball game. This Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox plays at Hadlock Field on Park Avenue in Portland.
Rise above it all in a once-in-a-lifetime hot-air balloon ride; check in with Hot Fun (207-799-0193 or www.hotfunballoons. com) in South Portland to see about getting that special view of Casco Bay. For those who prefer terra firma, Greater Portland Landmarks (207-774-5561) runs daily walking tours of historic Portland, or you can choose a 90-minute trolley tour with Mainely Tours & Gifts (207- 774-0808). Another great way to tour the city is on your own via pedal power. Rent a bicycle at Back Bay Bicycle (207-773-6906), grab a map, and see what there is to see!
Any young crew members aboard will appreciate the playground and wading pool at Deering Oaks Park, a 51- acre Olmsted parcel that's some distance from the water (but it's worth getting there to spend a few leisurely hours). After some recreation there, lead those young'uns to the Children's Museum of Maine (207-828-1234), next door to the Portland Museum of Art. The hands-on exhibits will enchant minds of any age; of note is the Camera Obscura, one of only three left in the country.
You'll love the Lucky Catch Lobstering Cruise (207-233- 2026), a 90-minute trap-hauling excursion. While we're talking water-borne expeditions, let's run through a few more. The Olde Port Mariner Fleet (207-775-0727) runs a regular schedule of departures for whale watches, deep-sea fishing, and scenic cruises, with musical outings on weekends. Bay View Cruises (207-761-0496) will take you out to look for seals or sunsets, and they offer a special lunchtime cruise. Lighthouse fans relish the Lighthouse Lovers' Tour offered by Eagle Island Tours (207-774-6498), which also presents seal-watching and narrated land and sea tours. If you want a guided tour of the outer islands, Casco Bay Lines (207-774-7871) can oblige with its staff of knowledgeable and experienced local captains.
Get on track at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum (207-828-0814). Among the museum's offerings are rail heritage exhibits and daily three-mile train excursions along Casco Bay. Another place that piqued our interest was the Portland Fire Museum (207-772-2040) housed in an 1837 firehouse-the only one left standing in Maine that contains horse stalls. In addition to firefighting equipment, the exhibits include photographs, paintings, and other artifacts. The highlight is a 1938 pumper truck.
Live music is bigtime in Portland. You can catch it in the coffeehouses and small clubs, and occasionally even at the Portland Civic Center, but the best venue of all is the great outdoors. Several regular outdoor concert series run through summer: on Thursday evenings the place to be is Monument Square, for national and regional artists; the nearby cafés and beer garden round out this event to a can'tmiss for dinner with entertainment. At Post Office Park, Friday's lunch hour features local acoustic acts, while the same time and place on Wednesdays features entertainment for the small fry. Another option for music fans: check out the Portland Symphony Orchestra at Merrill Auditorium (207-842-0800). If a movie is more your thing, take one in under the night sky at Congress Square on Monday evenings in July and August. It's better than a drive-in!
In South Portland, the Portland Harbor Museum (207-799-6337), at Fort Preble on the campus of Southern Maine Technical College, provides insight into the area's maritime history. The admission fee is mere pocket change, and afterwards you can venture out onto Spring Point Light's breakwater.
Restaurants and Provisions
In Old Port start with DiMillo's Floating Restaurant (207-772-2216), a ferry-turned-eatery. Lobster is their specialty, but they also serve other great seafood, steaks, and Italian dishes. On Commercial Street, grab a cup of the award-winning white at Gilbert's Chowder House (207- 871-5636). Nearby, you can feast on American classics at Becky's Diner (207-773-7070 or www.beckys.com), what Gourmet magazine called "A slice of Diner Heaven." We agree. Breakfast is served from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m., and they are open for dinner until 9 p.m. This is where the fishermen feast, so you can bet the seafood is fresh and the conversation as memorable.
Nearby on Portland Pier, slurp down a few at J's Oyster (207-772-4828), an old favorite with those who appreciate a genuine oyster bar (and who among us doesn't?). At Three Sons Lobster & Fish (207-761-0825), you can grab take-out or buy something to cook in your galley. Near the Casco Bay Ferry terminal, you'll find the Flatbread Company (207-772-8777), a very popular pizzeria that is indebted to a wood-fired oven for the unbeatable flavor that it imparts. Next door, try Ri Ra Pub (207-761-4446 or www.rira.com) for Irish fare and live music. Across Commercial Street, near Moulton, satisfy your late-night cravings at Bill's Pizza (207- 774-6166), serving until 2 a.m.
Head up the hill into the heart of Old Port and its endless assortment of eateries. Fore Street Restaurant (207-775- 2717) sports an upscale grill with lots of brick (including the oven). Barstool quarterbacks will bask in the athletic atmosphere of the Fore Play Sports Pub (207-780-1111), featuring two floors of televisions (including a plasma TV) as well as hands-on games: air hockey, foosball, and darts. Oh yes-this place also serves food.
A few long strides down Fore, Gritty's Brew Pub (207- 772-BREW) pulls in the crowds for handcrafted ales, pub food, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere. And you probably won't leave without a t-shirt and other mementos from the Brewtique gift shop. If you head eastward on Fore you will happen upon Bull Feeney's (207-773-7210), an Irish pub that specializes in steaks and seafood. The entire next block is the Portland Regency Hotel, which features Twenty Milk Street (207-774-4200), a place for four-star dining at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
Fans of Asian cuisine will not be let down by Portland's selection. Try the waterfront Sapporo (207-772-1233), a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, or make tracks for the other end of the harbor, opposite the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad, for Benkay Japanese Restaurant (207-773-5555), which also boasts a fine sushi bar. Saigon Thinh Thanh (207-773-2932) on Congress offers Vietnamese dishes, while Siam City Café (207-773-8389) serves Thai.
On Exchange Street in Old Port, Fuji Restaurant (207- 773-2900) is very popular for its Japanese-style steaks and Korean selections. Farther north on Exchange, look for Oriental Table (207-775-3388), a Chinese eatery featuring Szechuan and Hunan dishes with plenty of vegetarian choices. Right next door, Tandoor (207-775-4259) serves authentic Indian food for lunch and dinner.
Those who prefer Mexican food are equally served in Old Port. Grab your friends and hobble up Dana Street to Amigos (207-772-0772). On Fore Street, Granny's Burritos (207-761-0751) will make sure you get at least one square meal for the day. Look for two more Mexican eateries in the Arts District: Margarita's (207-774-9398) is on Brown Street and Herb's Gulley (207-780-8080) is on Oak.
Old Port is a haven for great coffeehouses. Portland Coffee Roasting Company (207-772-9044), on the corner of Pearl and Commercial, offers a great vantage point for watching the world go by. Billed as "a community coffeehouse and micro-roastery," Coffee by Design has several locations in town: on Congress Street, India Street, and Monument Square. Before your e-mail gets too outdated, you might want to check it at JavaNet (207-773-2469), also on Exchange, while enjoying a beverage, snack, or lunch.
Our favorite spot for lunch is O'Natural's (207-321- 2050), found on Exchange Street. It's tough to select just one thing from the salads, noodle dishes, soups, and other choices, but you can't go wrong with their signature flatbread sandwiches. Need a quick revitalization during your Old Town shopping spree? Go for a frosty treat at Smoothie King (207-780-0900) on Temple Street, or go straight for the sweets at Fore Street's Old Port Candy Co. (207-772-0600), featuring fudge and all of the favorite confections from your youth. Little Lad's Bakery (207-871- 1636), on Congress Street, will also make you feel young again, as will a cone from Fuller's Gourmet Chocolates & Ice Cream (207-253-8010).
From Maine Yacht Center, you'll have easy access to numerous stores and eateries. The marina recommends Quattrucci's Variety (207-773-0424) for groceries and take-out, Pizza Time (207-774-2222) for good food fast, and a couple of diners: Steve & Renee's (207-775-2722) and Espan's Quick Lunch (207-772-9412). Get your dessert at Beal's Ice Cream (207-828-1253).
If you're staying in South Portland, step into the Saltwater Grille (207-799-5400) next door to Sunset Marina for great selections and a harbor view. They have their own dock, so it's as easy as tie up and order in. At Spring Point Marina, Joe's Boathouse (207-741-2780) is a convenient and tasty lunch or dinner stop.
Portland is the perfect place for re-stocking those larder goods before moving on to less-developed parts of Maine. Convenience stores and small markets such as Paul's Food Center (207-772-3704) on Congress and Portland Greengrocer (207-761-9232) on Commercial can be found in Old Port, but full-scale stores await across the bridge in South Portland. We recommend that you head to Shaw's (207- 799-8149) and haul a full load back to your galley in a cab.
Use ChartKit Region 2, page 59; Maptech Waterproof Chartbook Casco Bay to Camden; or Maptech Waterproof chart 73. Also, Maptech electronic and NOAA paper charts 13292 (1:20,000), and 13290 (1:40,000).
Navigation and Anchorages
Portland Harbor, found at the western end of Casco Bay, is the most important port on the Maine Coast. The harbor offers decent protection in most winds except an easterly gale. Large commercial vessels are the most common hazard to cruisers. Understand that they are less maneuverable and should be given the right of way. From Portland approach buoy RW "P" Mo (A) WHIS Racon (--) east-southeast of Cape Elizabeth, steer 339° M for 6.3 nm to R "8" Q R WHIS at Pine Tree Ledge. If you're approaching Portland from Saco Bay, round Cape Elizabeth and steer for R "8" Q R WHIS south of Pine Tree Ledge. From R "8," set a course of 335° M for about 1.8 nm to reach R "12" Q R BELL off the southwestern tip of Cushing Island. You'll pass Portland Head Light (Fl 4s 101ft 24M HORN) on your way to R "12." Follow the channel northwestward, past the distinctive black and white Spring Point Lighthouse (Fl 6s 54ft 10M HORN) at the end of the breakwater, and swing west around South Portland into Portland Harbor. Keep in mind that there is a significant amount of commercial traffic, so keep an eye and ear fore and aft.
CAUTION: The waters off Portland Head can be choppy with an outgoing tide and an easterly or southerly wind.
Entering Portland Harbor from the north is relatively straightforward. Once west of Great Diamond and Little Diamond islands, your only concern is avoiding Diamond Island Ledge, marked on its western side by Fl R 2.5s 24ft 5M. Just to the east of the light is Fort Gorges. To avoid cutting too close to the ledge, head for G "1" Fl G 4s off Fish Point on your way into Portland Harbor. If you want to be steps away from Old Port, look for a slip at DiMillo's Marina (207-773-7632), where you can also get a great meal in their floating restaurant. They can accommodate yachts as large as 250-feet. No matter what your size, you can take advantage of their WiFi, laundry, and fuel. Maine Yacht Center (207-842-9000) offers slips, Internet access, grills, a store, and transportation to anywhere you'd care to go in the area. When your vessel has a need for repair, try Gowen Marine (207-773-1761) or Portland Yacht Services (207-774-1067); each is a full-service yard capable of any repair you can call for. If you're in need of supplies-and we mean anything-visit Hamilton Marine on Fore Street (800- 639-2715). For safety gear or navigation equipment, including your new copy of the Eldridge Tide & Pilot Book, call Chase Leavitt Co. (207-772- 6383) on Commercial Street. For sail and canvas replacement or repair, don't hesitate to call Fortune Inc. (207-878- 5760). For diesel engine repair, call on the folks at New England Detroit Diesel (207-797-5188) or Volvo Penta Power Products (207-797-5188). In South Portland, full-service South Port Marine (207-799-8191) often has slips available in their protected basin. Your closest access point to open ocean is the large and transient-friendly Spring Point Marina (207-767-3213). Full services and amenities (fuel, marine supplies, laundry, etc.) are available, and the on-site eatery, Joe's Boathouse Restaurant (207-741-2780), is a great place to grab a shrimp melt sandwich.
Shoreside and Emergency Services
Portland Int'l. Jetport 207-774-7301
South Portland 207-767-0363 or VHF 16
Police, Fire, Ambulance:
Sea Tow 800-4SEATOW or VHF 16
Sea Tow Portland 207-772-6724 or VHF 16
TowBoatU.S 800-391-4869 or VHF 16
TowBoatU.S. Portland 207-460-5866 or VHF 16