Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Gloucester, Mass. USA
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Ah, the Annisquam River. The official Northern end of the Intercoastal Waterway. I grew up and live here in Gloucester and have been up and down that river more times then you can shake a stick at! I’ve rowed it, sailed it and blasted through it in a speed boat at 3AM!
The first thing to worry about is the current. It flows up to 5 knots at the “Cut bridge” and the “Train bridge”. On the other end, it can get up to 4 knots off of the Annisquam Yacht Club. The mid point with slack water is near the entrance to Little River, by N”36”. The ebb and flood changes roughly follow the times of high and low tides in Gloucester harbor.
When the Cut bridge opens, the “up river” traffic is allowed to go through first on either tide. Although not stated, it’s the opposite at the train bridge as there’s more room to maneuver on the north side. Monitor Channel 13 and the tenders will tell you when it’s safe. If for some reason you have to abort your run up the river outside of the Cut bridge, don’t turn to port as the spoil mound from the Cut sticks out quite a ways on that side.
Pull the skiff up tight and put the chart right where you can see it. Give it some throttle to keep good way on through the water and keep in the center. Don’t try to take in the whole picture here because you can get confused trying to watch your mast and the top of the open bridge. It opens at an angle and creates sort of an optical illusion. Focus on straight-ahead and center and you’ll do just fine.
Once in the river, you’ll pick up the buoys off of the High School launching ramp. Keep the red nuns on your left for the entire northward run through the river and try to hold as true a course as possible between buoys. The current doesn’t flow fast enough to give a good indication of deep water but it does stir up a lot of sediment which makes it hard to make out the shallows.
In the early times, the river between the Cut and the area of the train bridge was a mere cripple, or small brook. The fishermen would have to pole their boats along as it wasn’t wide enough to row. This was known as “fudgin”. Near the train bridge, the water opened up a bit at a place known as “Dunfudgin”, for obvious reasons. Now, just because it looks like it’s opening up, north of the High School ramp, doesn’t mean it is.
This is favorite aground spot #1, either side of the river at C”47” and N”46”. Don’t wander from the channel! If you need to wait for the Train bridge here, you can easily hold position by turning into the current and jogging in and out of gear with the motor at idle if need be. Wait for the go-ahead from the bridge tender. He’s the only one who can see the traffic on the other side of the bridge. This is where my Father-in law got the nick-name: “Captain A. Ground”.
Going through this bridge is much the same as the Cut bridge but a little quieter. There’s a sharp port turn around buoy N”44” just on the other side of the bridge
Favorite aground spot #2 is on the flat near the mouth of Little River near N”36”. The chart shows blue there but that little number 2 is to be respected! The average rise and fall is less then the 9.5 foot out in the harbor or the bay so be diligent around this corner.
Now you can relax a bit and enjoy the passage under the A. Piatt Andrew bridge. To the right after the bridge is the old Montgomery’s ShipYard, the home of the famous marine architect, Phil Bolger. Check out the “Frog Rocks” east of C”29”. There’s a tight turn at N”24”, tighter then the chart shows. The current may momentarily flow across your bows but a little jab of the throttle will set you to rights if needed.
Once you’re past C”21”, things open up a bit and it’s a straight shot for Annisquam. On a summer weekend the river will be chock full of runabouts and all sorts of watercraft destined for Wingersheek Beach. They can be so prominent as to block your view of the buoys at a distance.
If you’re planning to stop at Annisquam for lunch or for the night, make your swing to the north of C”11” and mind what the current is doing to you by that 5 foot spot. There’s really no room to anchor and the Annisquam Village Market isn’t as well stocked as it could be, but they serve a great burger!
It’s a “no brainer” from there on out but don’t try to “cut the bar” short of Annisquam Light on Wigwam Point, which you may want to do if you’re heading for Newburyport, Ipswich or Essex, It’s been told that marker C”7” was put there because JFK ran aground on the rocks there while sailing with his friend and resident of Annisquam, Senator Smith.
Yes, the Annisquam River can cut some miles off of a run to lower Maine but if you want my opinion: provision in Gloucester and get underway for the outside in the late afternoon. Clear the sea buoy off of Thacher’s Island and take a course for Manana and Monhegan Islands. It should be a down wind run through the night and you’d arrive at the doorstep to the Penobscott Bay in the morning! That way you can save your stopping for the slog back to windward and you’ll be glad for the Annisquam River then!