All that and the most painted and photographed red shed in the United States! This gem of a town (pop. 8,000) sits 25 miles north of Boston; settled in 1623 it was originally home to several Native American groups, notably the Agawam tribe.
In 1743 a timber wharf was built to shield vessels from the open sea. Rockport is very exposed to the ocean and we are loving the tranquil August weather that allows us to stop at a place like this with no worries. Beginning in 1800, residents began to harvest the area’s most abundant resource, rock, and the wood pier eventually gave way to a much-improved granite version. Granite became the cornerstone of the town’s economy; you can see it everywhere and quarries would ship the rock throughout the East Coast. You will find Rockport granite in parts of the Statue of Liberty as well as other famous structures.
The protected inner harbor holds moorings; many bow and stern style, a couple with a wooden “dock” between like the ones we had in Deep River and of course the free swinging kind. No anchoring and for the brave few who want to tie up you can use the pile-lined granite piers, but mind the 10ft tide range. Yikes. Sandy Bay is large, protected (if you can call it that) by a partially completed breakwater that’s mostly submerged and lies one and ½ miles away from the shore where boats anchor.
We tucked in close to shore in 16ft (at low); a few other boats anchored closer to Back Harbor where you bring your dinghy and tie up to a floating dock before climbing up the wooden ladder attached to the granite wall.
Some sailing actually took place on this 12nm trip from Gloucester but as we rounded Cape Ann the main came down (we took it down). This process is always exciting, trying to find enough room amidst the pot floats to point into the wind long enough.
Bearskin Neck (named for a bear found washed up on the rocks) is a piece of land with a breakwater at the end that forms the northern side of the main harbor.
What once were fishing shacks are now art galleries, silversmiths, cafes, clothing shops, eateries and the well-known Roy Moore Lobster Co.
Walking, eating and shopping (looking, mostly) came easily in this adorable, easy walking portion of Rockport. The donut intel was that Bros Brew offered the best cinnamon/sugar ones around and they were very good. Molly’s serves Richardson’s ice cream, named #1 ice cream in Mass by the Boston Globe. 16% butterfat, so smooth. We shared a Death by Chocolate, barely surviving the flavor and texture onslaught.
Posted signs told us about Lobster Festival this weekend and the best part was fireworks Saturday night off Granite Pt- 500 yds from our boat where we’d be closer than at the canal.
Also the Historical Society was closed due to a Quilt exhibit at the Community Center- hey not my fault we are skimpy on cultural stuff this trip. The walk to it was pleasant and took us past the First Congregation Church, the old burial ground, Millbrook Meadow Park, the site of the town’s first frame house, the beach and the new Shalin Liu Performance Center. The Center is gorgeous. From the front it fits in with the rest of the architecture along Main St, but you walk in to beautiful room with an enormous window that looks out upon Sandy Bay.
The story of Sloop Church is that in 1812 (those darn British again), a British frigate in the harbor fired at and missed the church bell (which had been rung to alarm the town). The shot landed in the tower support instead and supposedly remains there today. We are certain the wood would have splintered but a bit of careful repair makes the ball look perfectly lodged into the wood.
The location of Motif #1, the ultimate artist’s subject of the New England Coast sits on Bradley Wharf, the former site of a schooner boat building yard. This (not so humble) fishing shack was built in 1884 and artists quickly took to capturing it on canvas. The town purchased it in 1945 as a monument to Rockporters in the armed services. The Blizzard of 1978 destroyed the structure but the town rebuilt it, using a new formula red paint as the original was no longer available. I remember well that blizzard where Bryant College (University now) was shut down with no classes for several days. A bunch of us walked the back way into town for pizza once things cleared; first time I ate pizza with black olives.
Saturday, we celebrated (nothing in particular- more great weather!) with lobster pizza from the trendy looking Atlantic Pizza on Bearskin Neck. Extra kudos because thanks to a perfect night for the fireworks, they were mobbed, turning out pizzas as fast as possible but only four at a time. Excellent thin crust held a white sauce layered with arugula, tomato, corn, scallions and cheese (all just the right amount) ending with a generous amount of lobster. Worth every penny we shelled out.
9:30 brought a 30-minute fireworks display that just may have been better than the one at the CCC. I remembered to try the fireworks setting on my camera and got some interesting photos. Boats poured in all day; I didn’t think that many would fit in between all the pot floats around and the water so darn deep, but they did.
Each morning we watched diver school training as the small groups suited up and then waded in with their floating dive flags, the only sign they were underneath. Saturday morning I looked out to see one right off our stern; gee should I ask him to check our anchor or invite him aboard for breakfast? Later we did see a couple right over where we figured the anchor was.