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Boating around Rockland Harbor

Boating, dockage and reservations in Rockland Harbor, ME

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Boating in Rockland Harbor, Maine

Attractive Cruising Destination
Rockland is a renaissance town. Not too long ago, cruisers shunned this ugly duckling port whose mooring field was downwind from the fish plant. But Rockland has cleaned up its industrial image to become one of Maine's most attractive destinations.

As the new hub of boating activity for lower Penobscot Bay, Rockland offers cruising enthusiasts more amenities, better anchoring space and more diversions than any other two ports combined. With its huge, accessible harbor, Rockland has eclipsed Camden as the "schooner capital" of the Maine coast-and the rest of the country for that matter. These large, handsome excursion boats are on the move daily, at all hours, offering photographers plenty to capture.

Better yet, while Rockland has essentially completed its upscale renaissance, there is still some of the older, grittier charm left along the waterfront. Remember: This is also the lobster capital of Maine-more lobsters are landed in Rockland than in any other Maine port. So devotees of "the real Maine" will be almost as satisfied as those looking for a slice of "the good life."

Before the breakwater was built of stone, which was mostly quarried from Vinalhaven as a turn-of-the-century public works project, Rockland Harbor offered little protection in easterly winds. The new breakwater made Rockland a terrific city for commercial fishing and the associated industrial companies that dealt almost daily with fish landings by the ton, not the pound. But as the fishing petered out so too did Rockland's economy-until someone got the bright idea to tap into all those pleasure boats passing by just beyond the breakwater. Thus, in the last two decades or so, Rockland has gone from a withering waterfront to a shoreside powerhouse, all to the benefit of cruising boat owners.

Things to See and Do

While the Rockland municipal docks and marina often act as the center of transient boat activity, there are plenty of other options along the waterfront. The municipal docks area is also part of the chamber of commerce's Gateway Center, a good place to kick off your visit.

Even better, a good way to get around is on the All Aboard Trolley (207-594-9300), which stops all over town. This legsaving convenience can whisk you from the public landing to the distant Samoset Resort, and just about everywhere in between. Take a kayak tour with Breakwater Kayak (207596-6895), right next to The Landings Marina, near the municipal docks.

Around the Fourth of July, rock gently in your boat as waves of harmonious blues waft over the water from the Schooner Days and North Atlantic Blues Festival. The first weekend in August brings the wildly popular Maine Lobster Festival (207-596-0376) and there is usually an in-water boat show or two as well. For the latest dates, times and schedules of all events, contact the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce (207-596-0376).

Andrew Wyeth once said his paintings looked better in Maine, as the light here slanted just right across the landscape. See for yourself at the Wyeth Center at the Farnsworth Art Museum (207-596-6457) at 352 Main St., home of the largest collection of Wyeth art in the world, with works by three generations of the family: N.C., Andrew, and James. The Farnsworth also features 19th century portraits and landscapes by Winslow Homer, Frank Benson, Maurice Prendergast, Fitz Hugh Lane, and Gilbert Stuart, who is famous for the portrait of George Washington that graces the dollar bill. Artists from the 20th century whose works are exhibited include George Bellows, Edward Hopper, and Fairfield Porter.

The Maine Lighthouse Museum (207-594-3301) at 1 Park Drive is now near the Rockland waterfront instead of at its old location way out on of town. Pay a visit for what is said to be the largest collection of lighthouse artifacts in the country. If you're an old car, plane, or bicycle buff, find a way to get out to the Owl's Head Transportation Museum (207-594-4418), about five miles out of town on Route 73. In addition to exhibits that include barnstormers, roadsters, antique trucks, and silent film-era limousines, there are also bi-plane fly-ins, antique car rallies, and even vintage motorcycle meets on weekends.

Back on the waterfront, you can satisfy your curiosity and hop aboard one of the many windjammers on Schooner Wharf. While many schooners go out for a week at a time, others offer day excursions. To find out what's available, contact the Maine Windjammer Association (800-807-9463). For a less involved wooden boat experience, drop in at the Rockland Apprenticeshop for a tour, courtesy of the Atlantic Challenge Foundation (207-594-1800) at 643 Main Street.

Restaurants and Provisions

Choices in eateries, provisions and marine goods and services abound in Rockland, which is second only to Portland in its numerous shoreside offerings. The Landings Restaurant & Marina (207-596-6563) at 1 Commercial St., close to the municipal docks, continually upgrades its menu and services for boats, including Wi-Fi.

With stacks of enthusiastic dining reviews in its favor, Amalfi on the Water (207-596-0012) offers a wide variety of Mediterranean meals, including dishes from Morocco to Spain, southern France, Italy, and Greece. The adjacent Boat House & Raw Bar (207-596-0600) offers lighter fare, outdoor dining and a bar on the pier.

If you're looking for a good breakfast or a reasonably priced lunch, try the nearby Brass Compass (207-596-5960) at 305 Main St., offering standup coffee with muffins or thick sandwiches to carry you through the afternoon. Rock City Coffee Roasters Cafe (207-594-5688) at 252 Main St. uses only organic, politically-correct Arabica coffee beans. Another great place for breakfast is the Rockland Cafe (207596-7556) at 441 Main St., where you can choose between a hot breakfast and their famous mufins, or a seafood lunch or dinner with the option of all-you-can-eat specials. And last but not least is The Brown Bag (207-596-6372) at 606 Main St., where fresh-baked goods for breakfast and sumptuous sandwiches for lunch (try the roast turkey!) have built a lasting reputation among locals and visitors alike.

Back on the dining-out circuit, try some Italian fare at the Rustica Cucina Italiana (207-594-0015) at 315 Main St., where exotic pizza, Panini, and other dishes are offered, with some of the menu available for take-out. If you're looking for old favorites like escargot prepared tableside before moving on to blueberry-glazed breast of duck or Chateaubriand, catch the trolley out to the Samoset Resort (207-594-2511) and dine in elegance at Marcel's. If you have time, you could even try a round of golf and then keep it casual at the 19th hole, the Clubhouse Grille, or move on to the Breakwater Cafe for elegant salads, seafood casserole, and onion soup or clam chowder.

Grocery options begin with Hannaford's (207-594-2173) at 75 Maverick St., or keep it organic at Good Tern Natural Foods (207-594-8822) at 750 Main St., a great co-op market. Get fresh fish and lobster from Jess's Market (207-596-6068) at 118 South Main Street.

For boating supplies, try Ocean Pursuits (207-596-7357) at 75 Front St., where electronics and all things electrical, including repairs, are the specialty. Likewise, Sawyer & Whitten Marine (207-594-7073) at 118 Tillson Ave. can address electrical and electronics problems that may have cropped up.

For more general marine repairs, from engine and hull problems to paint and varnish needs, there's old standby Knight Marine Service (207-594-4068) right next to the state ferry pier. And if sails, rigging, bimini, or dodger issues need to be addressed, you are spoiled for choice in Rockland. Longtime favorite Pope Sails & Rigging (207-596-7293) at 237 Park St. is not far from the municipal docks. Gemini Marine Canvas (207-596-7705) close to the docks at 50 Tillson Ave., specializes in marine upholstery. Also, Hamilton Marine (800-639-2715) at 20 Park Drive is worth visiting for a wide variety of guides and charts and other supplies.


Use ChartKit Region 2, pages 65A and 65B; Maptech Waterproof Chartbook Casco Bay to Camden; or Waterproof Chart 74. Also, NOAA paper chart 13305 (1:40,000) and 13307 (1:20,000).

Navigation and Anchorages

Rockland Harbor is right around the corner, or about a mile west, from Owls Head, at the northern end of Muscle Ridge Channel.

From Two Bush Channel, steer toward R W "PB" Mo (A) GONG. Adjust your course to westerly for 3.1 miles to Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light (Fl 5s 39ft 17M HORN). If you are traveling up from the south in good visibility, you can shed some miles off this route by steering toward G "11" Fl G 4s BELL off Monroe Island or G C "7" at the end of Owls Head Bay. The prominent light at Owls Head (F 100ft 16M HORN) is a good reference point. Keep a good distance between you and the Owls Head shoreline before heading west into Rockland Harbor. From the north, set a course to the Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light (Fl 5s 39ft 17M HORN).

As soon as you pass inside the breakwater, head north for a good anchorage, especially in an easterly blow. The breakwater makes a considerable difference in a chop-although this anchorage is anything but convenient to Rockland's amenities. Still, just behind the breakwater off Jameson Point, the Samoset Resort (207-594-2511) maintains three guest moorings.

Close to shore, virtually all the marinas offer guest moorings and are marked as such, sometimes including information on the overnight charge and how to contact the business for payment. Trident Marine Basin (207-236-8100; www. yachtingsolutions.com) at 60 Ocean St., has two restaurants, a pumpout station, and a courtesy vehicle is available. Journey's End Marina (207-594-4444) at 120 Tillson Ave., offers deep-water slips, fuel, repairs and other nautical services. There are also some moorings-only businesses offering guest berths, but be sure to ask if showers, launch service, and other standard marinas services come with the mooring.

Shoreside and Emergency Services
Knox Co. Regional, Owls Head 207-596-0617
Coast Guard: Rockland 207-596-6667 or VHF 16
Harbormaster: Rockland 207-594-0314
Police, Fire, Ambulance: 911
Tow Service:
-Sea Tow 800-4SEATOW or VHF 16
-TowBoatU.S. 800-391-4869 or VHF 16 ✦

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