Around Cape Ann by Boat

harbor-tours-signOn August 27th, a perfect summer day, I went on a great adventure, circumnavigating Cape Ann in a boat! Sponsored by the Cape Ann Museum, this was a Harbor Tours cruise to see all six lighthouses that stand around Cape Ann. This turned out to be one of the best days of my whole summer, a fabulous experience.

I had to get up early to catch the 8:30 train from North Station (I have to allow an hour to get from Jamaica Plain to North Station on the Orange Line, so this was a very early departure for me. I’m not a morning person.) It all worked out, and I got to the dock in Gloucester in good time.

our-boat-king-eiderWe set out on this little boat, King Eider, which was rather full with the group from the museum. There was no space to spare. I found a place in the bow and stayed there for the duration as I wanted to get an unobstructed view and take photos.

First we passed Rocky Neck, the old art colony, one of my favorite parts of Gloucester.  Just beyond there we saw the first lighthouse on Tenpound Island, a small rocky island in the harbor.

Then it was on to Eastern Point Light at the mouth of the harbor, with the breakwater extending out from the point. People were walking on the breakwater.

We saw the Thomas E. Lannon sailing in the outer Harbor as we rounded Eastern Point.

The Thomas E. Lannon
Eastern Point Light from the other side

The Back Shore looked a little like Maine for a moment. It was interesting to see some of the large houses from the water side.

Here is the familiar house that stands on the bluff looking over Good Harbor Beach. It looks different from this side. Note the pretty little clouds in an otherwise pure blue sky. I kept seeing them as we continued around the Cape.


Here they are over Good Harbor Beach, with the three wind turbines in the background.

Good Harbor Beach

I really enjoyed the views of the charming cottages of Brier Neck and Salt Island. You can walk out to Salt Island at low tide, although I’ve never done it.

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Twin Lights, Thacher Island

We continued past Long Beach and on to Rockport waters. The famous Twin Lights on Thacher Island are on Rockport’s town seal. They may not be the most beautiful lighthouses individually, but together they are special.They are the only operating twin lights in the U.S.  I saw an extraordinarily beautiful video of the island and the lights at the Cape Ann Museum, including aerial photography at sunrise and sunset. I really want to take the launch out from Rockport and visit the island–maybe next summer.

Straightsmouth Island Light was next. Here it is seen behind Emerson Point. Our captain explained that Emerson Point is considered to be the closest point of the U.S. mainland to Europe. When the transatlantic cable was laid, it terminated near here.

First View of Straightsmouth Light
Straightsmouth Island Light
Straightsmouth Island Light from the other side
There are those pretty little clouds again.

Looking back, the Twin Lights are visible behind Straightsmouth Island.

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I wanted to take a photo of the open ocean as it rolls away toward Europe. Nothing but blue water all the way to Spain! We go to Maine in the summer, and I love it, but in Maine you don’t often see this kind of view. You’re always up an inlet or bay where you see land opposite or there are islands out in the water. I love that Rockport is really on the edge of the sea.

Nothing but water all the way to Spain

We passed Rockport and crossed Sandy Bay. I silently told Rockport I would be there soon as it was my intention to take the bus to Rockport after the boat ride.

Here are the Emerson Hotel, where Emerson himself did stay,  and Andrew’s Point in Pigeon Cove.
Emerson Iinn
Andrews Point, Pigeon Cove
At Halibut Point, where the state park is, we made the turn around the northern most point of Cape Ann toward the west, and the mainland came into view across Ipswich Bay.

Halibut Point and the mainland in the distance

The next lighthouse was Annisquam Light, one of the most photogenic. We came quite close to it.

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From that point on our boat traveled up the Annisquam River. This was one of the most interesting parts of the journey as I had never seen some of these views before.  I was trying to take in everything on both sides of the river. We saw people walking way out on a sandbar from Wingaersheek Beach–half a mile, the captain said. We passed the Annisquam Yacht Club and Annisquam harbor. I  particularly enjoyed seeing the houses along the shore as I’m always interested in houses everywhere I go. I loved the one with the two flags.

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A highlight of the entire trip for me was seeing Pearce Island with its simple, traditional summer cottages. Even though I lived on Cape Ann for ten years (long ago now), I had never seen Pearce Island. Our captain told us there are no cars on the island, so I guess the people with the cottages get there by boat. I was really intrigued by this place.



There was also a floating house in the river–quite a sight.

We passed under the bridge cars take to Cape Ann and saw more houses and marshes, with another view of the three wind turbines from a different angle.

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Our boat had to wait its turn to go through the Blynman Canal bridge at the Cut.

Our journey of circumnavigation was almost done. We passed along the boulevard and the Man at the Wheel and then it was back into the inner harbor, where I took some final photos of the working harbor.

What a wonderful experience this was! I will never forget it. As a result of it, I think I understand Cape Ann better than ever before. The lighthouse cruise is available to the public through Harbor Tours, but I was really glad the Cape Ann Museum’s sponsorship of this event got me to actually do this. The programing as well as the exhibitions at the museum have been drawing me up to Cape Ann more often lately, and I’m happy about that.


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