The New England coastline is steeped in maritime history, drawing a host of visitors to its cruising grounds each year. Our media partner, SYOG, spoke to Robin O’Brien, charter broker at Fraser Yachts about the reasons why she loves New England as a cruising destination, and the must-see things to consider while visiting the region.
When clients ask what makes New England great as a cruising destination, I say that it has everything: bustling towns, great restaurants, bicycle paths, quiet anchorages, protected marinas, dramatic coastlines, and natural history. New England provides a backdrop for whatever trip you may fancy, catering to the proletariat traveler and the jet set alike. Visit aboard a superyacht, and you only increase your viewing pleasure.
Day 1 – Newport, RI
A popular starting point for any New England cruise is Newport. Most charters begin and end here for tax purposes. It’s also a great place for provisions; dockage is plentiful, and the town offers a wide variety of shore-side support, plus restaurants, shopping, and history. Anchor up at Newport Yacht Club, Bannisters Wharf, or Goat Island Marina.
A typical day in Newport starts with a morning stroll along the Cliff Walk. This National Recreation Trail borders the shore, so you can watch the ocean crash along the rocks below you. Then take a mansion tour to fill out the afternoon. At sunset, grab a cocktail at a local bar; most have live music. In fact, the town has a large population of musicians, so the summer is filled with music, the highlight of which is the annual Jazz Festival in July.
Day 2 – Block Island, RI
A short cruise from Newport (just under 20nm) will take you to Block Island; a peaceful beach lovers’ paradise. Ample superyacht berthing can be found on the west side at Block Island Boat Basin.
An island of just 25 square miles in total, 17 miles are made up of pristine beaches, plus varied terrain, hundreds of freshwater ponds, and a unique variety of flora and fauna beyond. Rent a bicycle near the harbor, and explore the scenery.
Day 3 – Martha’s Vineyard, MA
A destination that famously attracts the powerful and influential, Martha’s Vineyard is, contrary to popular understanding, intentionally “rustic,” with T-shirts and flips flops considered to be the norm. Rather than being a tourist destination, this is more a place to escape from the daily hustle and bustle. Edgartown has an elegant old town and vibrant waterfront. Anchor up at Vineyard Haven Marina to enjoy kayaking and waterskiing nearby, as well as bike rides, art galleries, and shopping ashore, before taking in the sunset at Menemsha Beach.
Day 4 – Nantucket, MA
Seaside Nantucket (top) has been a tourist destination for over 100 years, but this doesn’t make it any less special. Its whaling culture has been preserved for centuries; the waters are pristine and the habitat unique. Visit the whaling museum, within walking distance of the Nantucket Boat Basin marina, to find out more before taking in the sand dune beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, and inlet creeks beyond.
Days 5 & 6 – Elizabeth Islands, MA & Mystic, CT
If breathtaking views are your inclination, or even if they’re not, stop at Cuttyhunk at the bottom of the Elizabeth Islands chain. It may look a far old walk, but I recommend going ashore to hike to the highest point of the island for what is a spectacular view of the eastward-running archipelago and its waters. Afterward, enjoy a clam and lobster bake on the beach.
Next, cruise into Connecticut and up the Mystic River to Mystic (above). It’s home to the famous Mystic Seaport. Anchor up and explore with an excursion ashore.
Day 7 – Newport, RI
If you only have a week, it’s back to Newport to disembark. If there’s time before departure, explore Narragansett Bay, which, as New England’s largest estuary, functions as an expansive natural harbor, boasting all the associated attractions and amenities, historic villages, and a small archipelago.
If you have more time, drop in on New Hampshire, with its varied, beautiful coastline. Enjoy tax-free shopping and seek out local birdlife. I also recommend making your way up to Winter Harbor in Maine, which, while not for the novice sailor with its three-story tides twice a day and traditional Maine fog, is spectacular. Enjoy beachside bonfires on the rocky coast, watch waves of lobstermen, visit Acadia National Park (below), and take in the silence amongst the evergreen trees. You’ll be left with a lasting appreciation of just how beautiful New England really is.
Regulations and Clearances
The standard cruising regulations of the States apply in New England. If coming straight from international waters, foreign-flagged recreational vessels exceeding 300 gross tons must file a Notice of Arrival with the National Vessel Movement Center (NVMC) prior to arrival. This is a separate step than obtaining a Cruising License from Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If in doubt, contact the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance, Foreign and Offshore Division, or enlist the services of a local yacht agent.
When navigating U.S waters, non-U.S crew must have B1/B2 visas. Non-American guests on board must have the B1 visa for business and the B2 visa for pleasure.
As a popular cruising destination, New England offers a wealth of unspoiled anchorages and modern marinas:
Bannisters Wharf – Newport. Bannisters Wharf offers 30 coveted, deep-water slips for sailing yachts and motoryachts in the center of Newport Harbor. Within walking distance to Newport’s sights and sounds, it offers ample amenities and crew facilities.
Goat Island Marina – Newport. Also in Newport Harbor, and host to the Tall Ships Festival and world-class sailing regattas, Goat Island Marina offers a quieter setting for superyachts up to 250 feet (76.2 meters) LOA, on-site fueling, and on-site crew and guest amenities.
Newport Yacht Club – Newport. Offering one of the most historic berthing experiences in the state, Newport Yacht Club provides ample guest and crew facilities and unrivaled access to downtown Newport.
Block Island Boat Basin – Block Island. On the western side in Great Salt Pond, Block Island Boat Basin offers 100 berths for superyachts up to 110 feet (33.5 meters). Basic amenities are in place to cater to superyachts and their crews.
Vineyard Haven Marina – Martha’s Vineyard. A deep-water, beachfront marina accommodating vessels up to 200 feet (60.9 meters) LOA, complete with private boaters lounge, restaurant, and crew bar and facilities. Visit the nearby Mansion House Health Club and Net Result Fish Market.
Nantucket Boat Basin – Nantucket. A full-service marina, Nantucket Boat Basin is fully equipped and ideally located to cater to visiting superyachts.
Climate and Cruising Conditions
New England experiences four distinct seasons. Generally great throughout the year, New England also experiences foggy mornings at times. Typically, however, temperatures in summer are perfect for cruising: mid- to upper 80s (27C) during the day and cooler in the evenings.
The fall is my favorite time to cruise New England. The evenings are crisp, and the weather is generally stable. The leaves are changing, and the kids are back in school, so the marinas, restaurants, and shops are less crowded. Beware of lobster pots while cruising, however!
BONUS IMAGES: See our Photo Gallery of the most popular areas to visit via yacht in New England.