By LUCY ALEXANDER
Blue Hill, Eastern, Corinthian, Edgewood, Red Brook, Beverly, New Bedford; these are not just a string of names and places, but some of New England’s top yacht clubs. Add to that list – Cruising Club of America and the Catalina Owners Association. Now, can you guess what they all have in common? Answer: This summer they will all be setting sail for historic New Bedford Harbor.
Once considered strictly a commercial fishing harbor, through the efforts of the Harbor Development Commission (HDC) this well-protected, deep water harbor has been transformed into a Mecca for visiting boaters. The 2010 re-grid of the Pope’s Island mooring field at the north end of the harbor, newly installed ground tackle and the fact that the mooring field can now accommodate boats up to 55 LOA have played a big role in making this a popular destination for regional boat clubs and organizations. Both Pope’s Island Marina and the U.S. Coast Guard Park (located on the downtown waterfront) have been upgraded with new dinghy docks.
Pope’s Island has nothing to do with the Vatican but its location is divine. The small island is home to a big marina known for creating a welcoming community for seasonal and transient boaters alike. Operated by HDC, the marina sits prominently at the head of the harbor like a jewel in the city’s recreational boating crown. Additionally, the location offers easy access to downtown restaurants, museums, galleries and other attractions – including the Whaling National Park Historic District. Flanked by New Bedford on one side and Fairhaven on the other, the marina is also convenient to a ships chandlery, hardware store, engine repair/parts and canvas shop.
Top this all off with much to do within walking distance of the downtown waterfront and you have the perfect destination. Just a few blocks from the Visitors Center is the New Bedford Whaling Museum and Ocean Emporium. Art galleries are abundant, as well as an array of shopping opportunities and an eclectic selection of restaurants Ð from casual to fine dining; seafood to Italian, Portuguese and whatever your palette is craving!
In addition to being such an excellent cruising destination, New Bedford is a very nice gateway to Martha’s Vineyard. For all of you who love the water, would like to visit beautiful places and don’t want to drive or hop aboard their own boat Ð here is the answer to your summer vacation! If you live close to Atlantic Highlands, NJ or Manhattan, catch a ride on Seastreak! Seastreak leaves Chelsea Pier on Friday afternoons for Martha’s Vineyard. The ship gets onto the Island at about 10 pm and leaves Sunday afternoon – a perfect schedule for a weekend break or a 10-day island vacation.
For those who live closer to Eastern Connecticut, a two-hour drive will put you in New Bedford where you can either explore the city or board Seastreak. Seastreak arrives at Oak Bluffs on the Vineyard, where transportation to anywhere on the island be arranged. Rent a car, catch a cab or catch the island bus, which operates until the wee morning hours during the summer.
Even without a boat, the Vineyard offers so much to do! One of my favorite weekend past times is to buy a day pass on the bus. Pick up a route map at the bus ticket office, get on and off where you want. The island’s transit system will take you just about anyplace you want to go Ð including Morning Glory Farm, which is famous for its fresh produce and specialty products.
Of course, if the bus isn’t your thing, you can always tour the island in the luxury of a rental car. But scooters and bikes are an other option for those who want to feel the sun on their face and wind in their hair. With so many little delis and the local Stop & Shop, it’s easy to throw together a picnic lunch and head for your favorite corner of the island Ð be it a beach or an off-the-path hideaway. Whatever your sightseeing and relaxation needs may be, you are sure to find them on the Vineyard!
New Bedford Harbor no longer a secret, but New England’s new, must visit sailing destination and your gateway to the world beyond!
For more information visit windcheckmagazine.com – go to the third page of our cruising section and read Laurie Bullard’s Destination New Bedford story; visit newbedford-ma.gov or ahanewbedford.org Visit seastreakmv.com and mvy.com to plan your Martha’s Vineyard vacation.