Cruising Stories

The Virginia Bay Loop

October 2014

Some of the prettiest ports in the country are located in the southern stretches of the Chesapeake Bay, in eastern Virginia, where waterfront towns have both long and rich histories and the kind of laid-back lifestyle that appeals to those who crave a quiet escape. Cruisers come here for those peaceful mornings on the hook, with a light breeze coming slow and easy out of the west, blowing over a creek that's glassy and calm. And there are ports in this region of the bay to suit different sensibilities. While the eastern side of this section of the Chesapeake is more clapboard houses and salt marshes, the western shore is colonial brick and rolling hills. Here are four great places to visit.

Irvington, Virginia

Located along the banks of Carter Creek on the western shore, a tributary of the Rappahannock River, it was once a popular spot for oyster pirates and hosted some of the south's most distinguished families, from state governors to Civil War heroes. Irvington once thrived as a regular stop for steamboats carrying goods and travelers across southern Chesapeake Bay, which is why The Steamboat Era Museum is a popular stop for visitors; displays include models of ships and steamboats. For more history, head to Christ Church (finished in 1735), where you can learn about the area's Colonial history and tour one of the nation's finest examples of Georgian architecture. For provisioning, hit the farmers' market at Irvington Commons for fresh seafood, meat and vegetables. For an elegant wine to pour with dinner, visit one of the vineyards in the area such as The Dog and Oyster Vineyard, owned by Hope and Glory Inn. While you're calling on these places, enjoy the southern hospitality that still runs in the heart of this community.Where to Dock

  • Located on Carters Creek, The Tides Inn Marina (804-438-4418, is part of the historic Tides Inn, and as a marina guest you have access to the resort's amenities, including the golf course, pool and spa. With new floating docks that accommodate boats up to 150 feet, it provides the tranquility of a secluded harbor with the facilities of a top resort. Services include full electricity, water, cable TV, WiFi and pump-out.

Deltaville, Virginia

Deltaville has been dubbed Boating Capital of the Chesapeake for good reason. This beautiful, rural peninsula hosts 24 marinas and 10 boatyards. Its location makes it a popular home port as well as a convenient cruising destination. If you need anything for your boat, you can find it here: service, provisions, marine supplies, all served up with welcoming smiles. Deltaville residents take pride in their community and love to share a lifestyle of fishing tournaments, sailing races, local festivals and firehouse dinners. There are consignment and antique shops to browse on a lazy day in port and if you are in the mood for some touring, head for Deltaville Maritime Museum in Holly Point Nature Park. The museum chronicles the history of Chesapeake Bay watermen and its 36 acre park features outdoor sculpture gardens and a venue for waterfront plays and concerts. If you have time, see the tip end of Deltaville, called Stingray Point. Local lore says Captain John Smith was stung by a stingray here and was given the antidote for the bite by local Native Americans.Where to Dock

  • Deltaville Marina (804-776-9812, is a full-service, family-friendly facility in a resort-like setting on Jackson Creek.
  • Deltaville Yachting Center (804-776-9898, a fullservice marina, home of Chesapeake Yacht Sales, on Broad Creek.
  • Norton Yachts (804-776-9211, a full service marina, sailboat school and charters, yacht sales, on Broad Creek.
  • Chesapeake Cove Marina (804-776-6855, a full service marina with on-site prop shop, on Broad Creek.

Cape Charles, Virginia

Some cruisers who have visited this former railroad town at the tip of Virginia's eastern shore say it's one of the Mid-Atlantic's best-kept secrets, though a hot second-home real estate market in recent years has put it on the radar of more out-of-towners, so it's no longer a place where residents know everyone's name. Life is flip-flop easy, with bikes and golf carts sufficing for transportation and menus heavy with local seafood (this area is thriving with Little Neck Clam aquaculture farms). Start your day with a hearty breakfast from the Cape Charles Coffee House, housed in a beautifully restored 1910 haberdashery on Mason Street. For lunch check out Kelly's Gingernut Pub, which serves lunch in a 106-year old former bank building. Save room for dinner on bistro nights (Tuesday through Thursday) at Hook U Up Gourmet where you can sample local seafood or indulge with a steak dinner that will easily fill you up. And for your sweet craving after dinner head down the street to the Brown Dog Ice Cream. Save time for shopping at the many boutiques and galleries on Mason Street and then head to the beach at the end of the street this long, quiet beach is a great place for kids to collect periwinkles on sandbars. Cape Charles can seem charmingly rural, with oyster roasts at the historical society a popular community event. But there's an upscale edge, too. The Hotel Cape Charles is a very cool, new, upscale boutique hotel in the heart of town. Golfers can play The Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at Bay Creek Resort. Enjoy the total Cape Charles experience and attend Fall Festival (October 11) with live music, artisans, crafts and food.Where to Dock

  • The Cape Charles Yacht Center (757-678-5800, is a new marina located in a harbor that sits right off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and features an 18-foot-deep channel for easy access, even for megayachts. A member of the U.S. Superyacht Association, this marina offers first class amenities and access to activities at the Bay Creek Resort, including the golf course and the pool.
  • Cape Charles Town Harbor (757-331-2357) this deep-water slip marina offers 95 slips and is just a short walk from downtown.
  • King's Creek Marina and Resort (757-331-8640, is located in the protected harbor of Kings Creek and offers 224 slips, and two onsite restaurants.

Onancock, Virginia

Onancock is a hamlet on Virginia's eastern shore, poised on a peninsula and surrounded on three sides by water. Here, the Onancock Creek courses for about five miles to empty into the Chesapeake Bay. Easy schooner access to the bay made Onancock a shipping hub as early as the late 1600s, and it's proximity to the peninsula's rail line kept that going into the 20th century. Today, the artists, entrepreneurs, retirees and tourists drawn to this small and walkable town still love it for the water, the open land that surrounds it, the leafy quiet and the wharf with its compact commercial district, which sends the friendly message that Onancock is also a working town. There are plenty of entertainment options in town such as the North Street Playhouse, the Roseland classic old-time movie theater (built in 1950) and a variety of galleries and boutique shops including Dawn, which sells everything from home furnishings to women's clothing, and Willie Crockett's art gallery and studio on Market Street. This fall, one of the most significant collections of antique maps and original Audubons ever assembled in Virginia is traveling to Onancock for a special exhibit at the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society Ker Place Museum. You can visit Tangier Island by ferry from the marina, only a 4-mile trip that runs daily (except Monday) from May through September. There are plenty of great dining options in town from Mallards at the Wharf (with outside seating and amazing homemade crab cakes) to the Corner Bakery to satisfy your sweet craving (their cream puffs are to die for). If you want to get out on the water, you can charter a fishing boat, rent a kayak from Southeast Expeditions, next to the marina or drop a fishing line from the wharf with the locals. There is truly something for everyone in this small, friendly town.Where to Dock

  • Onancock Wharf and Marina (757-787-791, is the only docking facility in this very well protected harbor. The marina has a brand new harbormaster building with new bathrooms, showers and laundry.The marina welcomes pets and can accommodate boats up to 90 feet. Gas and diesel are available, as is electricity (30 and 50 amp). If you need provisions, the harbormaster will transport you to the local grocery. Just outside his office, you'll find good conversation with locals gathered on the Liar's Bench.
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Lyman-Morse: Breathes New Energy into a Coastal New England Town

The buzz of construction at the docks of Camden, ME, is finished, and it’s been replaced with an air of excitement among residents and visitors who watched a beautiful new development emerge along the waterfront.

The rebirth of Camden’s harbor started in 2015 when Lyman-Morse bought Wayfarer Marine. Based in nearby Thomaston, Lyman-Morse has run a successful boat-building business since the 1970s. More than 120 vessels have been constructed in the yard, located in the same site where Malabar schooners, Friendship sloops and other fine vessels have been built for nearly two centuries. Lyman-Morse has expanded beyond custom sailing and motor yachts, now offering high-quality refits, and other services.

Lyman-Morse’s boatyard and nine-acre facility enjoy a long maritime tradition on Camden’s shoreline, ranging from building schooners in the 19th century to U.S. minesweepers and troop transports in World War II, and servicing vessels from high-end yachts to recreational boats.

The location of this acquisition is idyllic. Nestled in a lovely cove on Penobscot Bay, Camden has been a bastion of seafaring activity and a world-
wide nautical travel destination for centuries. The scenery is dramatic, with forested mountains that meet the ocean and offshore islands that are an explorer’s
paradise. The 1830s Curtis Island Lighthouse near the harbor keeps watch over the town’s quaint homes, shops, restaurants, opera house and galleries.

Inspired by the area’s natural beauty, the new development’s designers also understood Camden’s historic role in the region and wanted to carry that forward in modern form. They studied vintage photos, matched the style and created 33,000 square feet of new buildings for marine services and mixed-use commercial space.

Lyman-Morse’s Camden boatyard attracts maritime professionals and boaters with essential services for carpentry, mechanics, electronics, rigging and more, and brings the general public back to the working waterfront with amenities such as restaurants, a distillery, a few overnight accommodations, and a boardwalk big enough for a morning stroll or brisk dog walk.

Added bonus: Sensitivity to the environment was not overlooked in construction. Engineers took a sustainable approach when they elevated all structures above the flood plain, installed LED lights and upgraded all systems to today’s energy-efficient levels.

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Camden, Maine

True boaters say the real Maine coast doesn’t start until you reach Penobscot Bay. This is “Down East” from Kennebunkport and Portland. The dramatic stretch of coastline from Camden to Mount Desert Island sparkles with granite shores, dotted with archipelagos of pine-tree covered islands and mountains cascading into the sea. This region offers some of the best cruising ground in the world.

Camden is a magical little seaside town in the heart of Maine’s mid-coast. It’s historic but hip. “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” is their moniker, as Camden Hills and 780-foot Mount Battie stretch down toward the bustling waterfront where this 1769 New England village sits, creating a postcard scene.

Camden is super foot-traffic friendly, starting at Harbor Park and the beautiful brick Public Library that graces the top of the bay by the Town Docks. Enjoy a picnic on the sprawling park lawn; there’s often a craft festival or free concert at the outdoor amphitheater. From the waterfront, stroll the quaint sidewalks leading to cafés, boutiques, craft stores and art galleries, pubs, and surprisingly trendy restaurants.

You can hike, bike or drive the toll road up Mount Battie in Camden Hill State Park, which encompasses 5,500 acres and 30 miles of trails. Your reward is spectacular panoramic views of the harbor and Penobscot Bay below.

Eaton Point, at the eastern entrance to the harbor, is home to a new Lyman-Morse yacht facility. Camden remains a working harbor with lobster fishermen, boat builders, ferries and tall-masted schooners taking folks out for scenic sails.

Camden hosts festivals throughout the summer season of jazz, film and its trademark Windjammers. In winter, the U.S. National Tobogganing Champion-ships are held at Camden’s namesake Snow Bowl – our country’s only ski area with views of the Atlantic.

Camden is an ideal boater’s gateway with all the services and shops you need in walking distance from the waterfront. Excursions from this protected harbor are countless and legendary. A quick cruise brings you to quiet Lasell Island for a sunset anchorage. Farther on you reach Maine’s Maritime Academy home in beautiful Castine, and the rustic islands of North Haven, Vinalhaven and Deer Isle. Ultimately you can cruise north and east through beautiful Merchants Row, or the more protected Eggemoggin Reach, to Mount Desert Island, home to famed Acadia National Park, Northeast, Southwest and Bar Harbors.


Camden Public Landing
Town Docks

Contact the harbormaster for overnight slips, limited but in town, and moorings throughout the harbor.

Lyman-Morse at
Wayfarer Marine

Across the harbor on Camden’s east shores, this revamped marina is a half-mile walk to town, with new docks and a marina facility, home of Lyman-Morse Boatyard and 30 slips plus moorings.


40 Paper

Relish artful cuisine locally sourced from farmers, fishermen and “foragers.” In an historic wool mill in downtown Camden, it’s comfy but chic. Savor octopus, lamb, mussels, salmon and more with fresh produce and creative sides. Save room for dessert made from scratch.

Peter Otts on the Water

Get your chowder and Maine lobster fix from Chef Peter. This classic setting overlooking the harbor is a Camden staple you “ott” not miss. Open for lunch or dinner.

Franny’s Bistro

With a neighborhood feel, Franny’s serves up lobster fritters, crab cakes, shrimp dumplings and land-lubber faves, too. A fun menu in a cozy setting.

Bagel Café

For fresh-brewed morning coffee and daily “boiled then baked” bagels or breakfast sammies served all day.

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Jamestown, Rhode Island

Located on Conanicut Island, Gould Island and Dutch Island, Jamestown welcomes boaters to Narragansett Bay.  Its southernmost point is on Gould Island and marked by Beavertail Lighthouse and State Park. The northernmost point is marked by Conanicut Island Lighthouse.  While Conanicut Island is the second largest island on Narragansett Bay, it is near the western mainland in Kingston, and Newport lies to the east on Aquidneck Island.  Hop on the Jamestown Newport Ferry to get the lay of the land and sea.

Jamestown was settled early in colonial history and was named for James, Duke of York, who became King James II in 1685.  By 1710, many of Jamestown’s current roads were already in place and a lot of its early architecture is well preserved. Soak up some local history at the Jamestown Fire Memorial Museum, Beavertail Lighthouse Museum and Park, Jamestown Windmill, Watson Farm, Conanicut Island Sanctuary, Fort Wetherill State Park, and the Jamestown Settlement museum.

The main town, shops and restaurants are located on the eastern shore of Conanicut Island.  But even from the western side, Dutch Harbor and other attractions are easily accessed with a one-mile walk.


Conanicut Marina

This full-service marina has a ships store/chandlery, gift shop, extensive dockage and a large mooring field.  It’s located in the heart of town overlooking Newport and the Pell Bridge, but bring your fishing poles for the kids.

Dutch Harbor Boat Yard

Located on the west passage of Narragansett Bay, this small, local marina has good moorings, launch service and facilities.  At times, the harbor can be rolly from a SW wind up the West Passage.  The holding ground is excellent for anchoring, but the dinghy dock is by seasonal permit only.

Safe Harbor Jamestown Boatyard

Jamestown Boatyard is renowned for excellent workmanship on all types of boats.  It also has a large mooring field and is in a beautiful location on the East Passage.


Slice of Heaven

This family-owned café and bakery with an outdoor patio is an ideal spot for breakfast and lunch, especially if you’re looking for tasty gluten-free and vegetarian options.

J22 Tap & Table

This lively, year-round restaurant specializes in classic American cuisine and local seafood dishes such as New England clam chowder, lobster tail and seared yellowfin tuna while accommodating meat eaters with wings, burgers and steak tacos.

Village Hearth Bakery & Café

Take a seat inside this rustic eatery or outside on the patio to enjoy wood-fired bread, pizzas and pastries with a cool beer or wine.  To start your day with a smile, order a cup of the eco-friendly coffee.

Bay Voyage Restaurant

Inside the Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn, this casual dining establishment presents a seasonal menu of American cuisine standards and seafood with fresh ingredients and a stellar view of Narragansett Bay.

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