Move your cursor over the chart to see resourse information for Portland.
Three months after leaving our home port of Annapolis, Maryland, we arrive in Portland, Maine, the perfect staging area to begin the Down East leg of our one-year, virtual cruise. Ideally, we’ll want two months to explore Maine’s most popular ports and anchorages, and July and August are the best for warm days, cool evenings and moderate winds (in the mornings at least).
It’s also the time of year when heavy fog often rolls in, so we’ll have to be prepared to stay put for a bit, we hope in harbors with a variety of things to do. Along with dodging lobster pots, fog is just part of the Down East experience.
After our enjoyable visit to Plymouth, Massachusetts, we stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for a couple of days, and from there we have a 60-mile run up the Atlantic Coast before arriving in Portland late in the afternoon. This route takes us three to five miles offshore as we head northeast, first rounding Kennebunkport and Cape Porpoise and then Cape Elizabeth before turning north. We spot the iconic Portland Head Light off our port bow and follow the marks into the busy harbor. Freighters, cruise ships, tugs, commercial lobster boats, tour boats and fast ferries seem to be coming and going in all directions.
As we cruise along the shoreline of the Fore River, with Old Port on one side and South Portland on the other, we first pass the mooring field managed by Portland Yacht Services and then the row of megayachts docked at DiMillo’s Old Port Marina. My wife, Stacey, spots something small moving in the water dead ahead and fears it’s a dog that fell overboard. Changing course to get a closer look, we are relieved to see it’s a seal, welcoming us to Portland. Seal or dog, this busy harbor is no place for a leisurely swim.
During past visits we’ve learned that things can be a bit hectic and noisy on the north side of the harbor, so this year we decide to get a slip at Sunset Marina in South Portland. Tied up along the 500-foot floating dock with our bow toward the chop stirred up by harbor traffic, we have a great view of the bustling harbor and the city’s signature skyline.
After a late lunch at the Saltwater Grille, the marina’s excellent on-premises restaurant, we walk along the waterfront to Bug Light Park and Spring Point Marina, part of the Port Harbor Marine group. With more than 250 slips and room enough to handle yachts up to 200 feet in length overall, this is another alternative to staying in Old Port.
The next morning we take a short taxi ride to Old Port. Although Sunset Marina has a dinghy dock, and it’s possible to cross the harbor channel in a decent-size tender, such an adventure has been likened to “making your way across an active airport runway on a tricycle” by the late, noted sailor Dodge Morgan. (We’ll later anchor off Morgan’s home port, picturesque Snow Island.) We also discover several water taxis that run between the two sides of the harbor as well as to outlying islands.