September 7, 2019
Boater’s Bastion: Falmouth Harbor, MA
From megayachts to skiffs, all boats—and boaters—find welcome refuge in Falmouth Harbor. Text & Photos by Tom Richardson
Falmouth Harbor, shown on charts as Falmouth Inner Harbor, was created in 1907, when an inlet was cut in the barrier beach separating freshwater Deacon’s Pond from Nantucket Sound. Long and narrow, with a mean low-water depth of 10 feet, it’s a wonderfully protected spot and makes a great port of call for cruisers on their way up or down the coast, as well as an ideal base for boaters launching shorter excursions to destinations such as Nantucket (27 nautical miles), Martha’s Vineyard (5 nautical miles) and Cuttyhunk (12 nautical miles).
No fewer than five marinas provide service to the area, the largest being MacDougalls’ Cape Cod Marine Service. Established in 1938, MacDougalls’ is the largest marina and service facility on Cape Cod, and can accommodate boats up to 150 feet. It offers a 75-ton Travelift, a fuel dock, showers and laundry, free WiFi, a paint shop, storage, a canvas shop, engine and hull repair, and transient dockage for nearly any size vessel.
Marinas Big & Small
Across the harbor is Falmouth Marine, another full-service marina offering haul-out, repair, fuel and transient dockage. Farther north and also on the west side of the harbor is the Falmouth Marine Park, a public facility that’s home to the harbormaster’s office and the Falmouth town marina, which also offers transient slips. Just north of that is Pier 37, a valet rack-storage and outboard service facility that’s popular among fishermen.
Back on the east side of the harbor, north of MacDougalls’, is North Marine and the Island Queen ferry terminal. The Island Queen, along with two other small ferries in the harbor, make frequent trips to and from Martha’s Vineyard. In other words, be aware that Falmouth Harbor can be a busy place, particularly on summer weekends. Aside from marine traffic, however, the approaches are deep and relatively deep and free of hazards.
Grounded in Fishing
If you like to fish, you’ve come to the right place! Anglers of all stripes know Falmouth as an ideal jumping-off spot for trips to the productive inshore grounds of Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds, as well as longer forays to the offshore waters south and east of the islands. The harbor boasts a free all-tide launch ramp with parking for large rigs, not to mention two nearby tackle shops. And for those who want to leave the fish-finding and bait-cutting to someone else, there’s a fleet of top-notch charter crews that specialize in everything from fluke and stripers to shark and tuna.
Yet another advantage to launching or keeping one’s boat in Falmouth Harbor is its accessibility. The harbor is just 12 miles or so from the Cape Cod Canal, so there’s usually less traffic to deal with.
But Falmouth Harbor also offers a few good reasons to consider it a destination in and of itself, one being the band shell just behind the town docks, where concerts and other events are held during summer. For a good meal on the harbor, visit the Flying Bridge Restaurant. Also nearby is the celebrated Falmouth Clam Shack, which turns out succulent fried clams, lobster rolls, and more. When the wind is right, the scent of fried food will lead you straight to the goods.
Daytrippers in boats under 26 feet can tie up at the town float in the extreme northwest corner of the harbor for up to two hours at no charge. From here you can get something to eat or drink at the nearby Falmouth Raw Bar, or make the easy 10-minute walk to town, where you’ll find an assortment of stores, boutiques and restaurants, among them the Añejo Mexican Bistro.
It should also be noted that Falmouth is a somewhat overlooked summer vacation spot. The long, white-sand beaches east of Falmouth Harbor are some of the finest on Cape Cod, and offer warmer, calmer water than what you’ll normally find on the Outer Cape.
So, no matter what your pleasure, Falmouth Harbor has you pretty well covered.