Port Clyde Lighthouse. Photo Joe Devenney

Port Clyde has always been a “crossroads” harbor, originally in the navigational sense only. These days, though, it’s at a much more complicated juncture, one that’s changing the town in ways both visible and some a bit less obvious. By Ken Textor

Located in eastern Muscongus Bay, Port Clyde has seen its once-robust fleet of big steel and wooden commercial fishing draggers decline from 30 to just a handful. Conversely, recreational boats in the harbor have increased noticeably in terms of both transients and permanently moored vessels.

Port Clyde is home to a large fleet of lobster boats. Photo Joe Devenney

Sensational Location

The changes have little to do with the harbor’s breathtakingly beautiful surroundings. Rather, what first attracted the dragger fleet—once among the biggest in New England—is Port Clyde’s location at the tip of the Saint George peninsula. Because the land here juts far into the sea, steaming time to the prime fishing grounds is minimized.

Likewise, the distance to beautiful anchorages and forgotten gunkholes in both Muscongus and Penobscot bays is shorter for recreational boaters. Plus, it’s relatively easy to navigate in and out of the harbor in almost any weather. Best of all, Port Clyde offers protection from the worst that Old Neptune can conjure up.

As the commercial groundfishing fleet has dwindled, Port Clyde’s dependence on the sea’s bounty has been supplanted by tourist-oriented enterprises. That’s good for visitors, but a big challenge for locals.

Mackerel can be caught from the town dock. Photo Tom Richardson

Local Flavors

The fish are still there. Indeed, visiting anglers can target cod and flounder a few miles south of the harbor. Moreover, the wide-angle look of the village remains much the same, with one general store, the ferry to Monhegan Island, a few eateries, an impressive lighthouse museum and some accommodations for tourists, most of them open only during the summer. But even some of that has changed, subtly.

Take, for instance, the Port Clyde General Store. “It used to be creaky floors, canned goods and fishing gear—shackles, boots and all that,” said one longtime visitor. “Now there’s a lot more tee-shirts, mugs, that sort of stuff.”

The Port Clyde General Store sells all sorts of stuff, including breakfast. Photo Tom Richardson

Indeed, key portions of the waterfront have passed out of local hands and now reflect modern marketing techniques normally seen in areas where merchants are more concerned with volume sales. But elsewhere in this town of about 1,000, Port Clyde remains timeless. The Marshall Point Lighthouse is just one example.

Legendary Lighthouse

Greeting mariners entering Port Clyde from the southwest since 1858, the lighthouse and its grounds passed into the town’s hands in 1980 and a small museum was added in 1990, all thanks to locals who raised money little by little and volunteered a lot. The result is a fascinating grounds and museum, open to the public. Adding to the light’s cachet was an appearance in the movie Forrest Gump in 1993. Altogether, it is, understandably, a source of intense local pride.

It doesn’t get more “Maine” than Port Clyde. Photo Tom Richardson

With almost equal verve, local commercial fishermen decided in 2009 that waiting for government regulators to help them out was unproductive. So a few of them got together and started Port Clyde Fresh Catch, a cooperative venture that links consumers directly to the fishermen and their daily catch. Starting with only an online presence and word-of-mouth marketing, Fresh Catch now has a waterfront store (18 Lobster Pound Way) where visitors can buy whatever is available on a given day or put in an order for some specific species when it arrives at the dock. Its popularity has grown exponentially.

It seems much of Port Clyde will survive with its proud “Maine-ness” intact. For transient boaters, the superb shelter and location will always be there. And the town’s spirit seems ready to endure, even if the outward appearance and ownership goes through the inevitable changes that even the rockbound coast of Maine cannot avoid.

Kayaking is popular in the Port Clyde area. Photo Tom Richardson

Port Clyde Names & Numbers

Getting There:

Chart: NOAA 13301
From the southwest, pass north of Eastern Egg Rock and between G “15” and RN “14” (Egg Rock North Ledge). Head northeast some 4 miles and pass north of GC “13” at Seal Ledges. Continue 2 miles toward Marshall Point, passing north of GC “9” and south of RN “8” and Hupper Island. As you approach Marshall Point, be sure to stay north of GC “7” marking Allen Ledge. Pick up RN “2” off Marshall Point and follow the channel into the harbor.

From the east, pick up the R “2” bell off Mosquito Island and head to RN “4” (Mosquito Ledge) then to RN “6” (Marshall Ledge). From there turn northwest and pick up RN “2” off Marshall Point. Head north into the harbor.

Harbormaster:

Dockage, Moorings & Service:

Anchorage:

  • Chart: Port Clyde

     

    Boaters can anchor anywhere inside of Marshall Point, space permitting, as long as they are not impeding traffic in the main channel. Depths run 20’ to 35’, with good holding ground. Dinghies can be left at the town dock. A nifty and well-protected anchorage is between Hupper Point and Hupper Island, in depths of 20’ to 40’.

Kayak Rental:

  • Port Clyde Kayak (207) 372-8100: Kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, sales and instruction on the harbor.

Launch Ramps:

  • A free public launch ramp is located on the harbor next to the town dock. Parking available off-site.

Where to Eat:

  • Dip Net (207) 372-1112: Wharfside dining with full outdoor and indoor bars and table service. Located next to the General Store and the Monhegan Ferry.
  • Black Harpoon (207) 372-6304: Locally owned, casual-dining restaurant serving prime rib, seafood, steak and more.
  • Port Clyde General Store & Marina (207) 372-6543: Small lunch counter and store with hot breakfast items, sandwiches, pizza, deli, beer, wine, soda, pastries, coffee and more, right on the wharf.

Things to Do & See:

  • Marshall Point Lighthouse & Museum (207) 372-6450: Learn about the history of the lighthouse, the village of Port Clyde and lobstering off Saint George. Gift shop carries souvenirs, handmade local art and books written by local authors.
  • Monhegan Puffin & Nature Cruises (207) 372-8848: Puffin and seal-watch cruises to Monhegan Island available from June through Labor Day.

About the author