At the Isles of Shoals, Gosport Harbor makes an excellent anchorage from which to stage your entry up the Piscataqua or a passage further up the Gulf of Maine. The isles are truly beautiful – lonely, spooky beautiful. Unless it’s a busy weekend, you can usually pick up a free yacht club mooring and step ashore to see the sights on Starr or Appledore islands, which, combined with Smuttynose, form the harbor.
Privately owned, Smuttynose has a name associated with both good and evil. The good is beer; the other, murder. Named for the island, Smuttynose Brewing Company crafts several brews at its Seacoast New Hampshire facility, including its popular Smuttynose Pale Ale. One of the last men hanged in the State of Maine was Louis Wagner, convicted of a gruesome double ax-murder on Smuttynose. His 1873 crime was revisited in the bestselling Anita Shreve novel “The Weight of Water,¨ published in 1997 and made into a movie starring Sean Penn.
The Smuttynose murders are just a morsel of the lore that surrounds the nine islands of the archipelago, five of which are in Maine, four in New Hampshire. Blackbeard the pirate left his bride on Smuttynose and never returned for her. She died there 15 years later, and some swear that her wailing ghost wanders the rocks at night. Shipwrecked Spanish sailors once were found frozen like statues after their ship had foundered in a winter gale. Not all the events were unhappy, however. An early resident actually found treasure, bars of silver hidden beneath the rocks.