February 2, 2020
Hey Jude: Point Judith, RI
This busy port offers plenty of boater-friendly accommodations, as well as a quiet side most folks fail to appreciate. By Tom Richardson; Photography by Andrea Zimmermann
Point Judith is commonly considered a stopover for transient boaters heading to more glamorous ports along the coast or as a jumping off point for trips to Block Island, Newport or Long Island. However, the curious boater who chooses to spend some time here will find a few good reasons to stick around.
“Point Jude” is really three ports rolled into one. Galilee, on the east side of the pond, is a long-established commercial port, home to huge draggers, lobsterboats, the Block Island ferry and a fleet of party- and charterboats. On the other side is Snug Harbor, where you’ll find several marinas that serve the area’s numerous recreational fishermen and boaters. Lastly, there’s the handful of marinas and yacht clubs on the quiet upper portion of the pond, in the town of Wakefield.
At Play in the Pond
Point Judith Pond itself is a 1,777-acre, 3 1/2-mile-long estuary where fresh water from the Saugatucket River blends with salt water from the ocean. The result is a marvelously rich ecosystem that serves as home and nursery to an enormous array of marine life, from seaworms and mummichogs to quahogs and winter flounder. Many species of waterfowl and wading birds also depend on the pond, and the expansive marshes on its eastern edge are a popular spot for birdwatching, especially during the spring and fall migration periods.
The pond is a maze of shallow bars and narrow channels best explored in a small boat, canoe, or kayak, although a deep channel leads three miles to the very northern end of the pond. The shallow area north of Plato Island in the center of the pond is a haven for adventurers, with plenty of room to drop anchor or beach canoes, skiffs, small sailboats and kayaks. It would be easy to spend a full weekend relaxing in the pond’s warm, protected coves. Just be sure to stay clear of the oyster farms, which are marked by yellow floats.
The popular transient anchorage north of Plato is marked by white floats. To access the anchorage, follow the channel until you are just north of Plato Island (don’t take the shortcut, or you’ll hit a mudflat) then cut across to the anchorage between Plato and Gardner Islands. At dead low tide, the water is only four feet deep between the channel and the seven-foot-deep anchorage, so larger boats should run north of the islands and cut into the anchorage between Gardner and Beach Islands.
Boaters can access the pond via several launch ramps or through the busy inlet, also known as the breachway. The 15-foot-deep, 150-foot-wide breachway is the environmental and commercial lifeblood of Point Judith. It can also be a chaotic place, especially during the summer when it’s plied by hundreds of vessels each day.
The breachway has existed since the last ice age, although the natural inlet was widened and reinforced with riprap in the early 1900’s to accommodate the increasing number of fishing vessels in Galilee. In the mid-1930’s, a nearly three-mile-long, semicircular breakwater made of granite boulders was constructed to create a harbor of refuge for commercial shipping and steamship traffic between New York and Boston—although by the time it was finished so was the heyday of coastal shipping.
Nevertheless, the breakwater wasn’t a complete waste of time and money, as it does a fine job of protecting the breachway, Salty Brine and Roger Wheeler Beaches, and the cottage community of Breakwater Village to the east from the full force of the sea, as well as providing an excellent anchorage for transient boaters stopping in Point Judith.
Point Judith at a Glance
South Kingstown (Snug Harbor/Jerusalem) (401) 783-3321
Narragansett (Galilee) (401) 640-1038
Dockage, Moorings & Service
Full-service facility with deep-water slips for boats up to 110 feet. Amenities include a pool and hot tub, private bathrooms, laundry, electrical service, fuel dock, pump-out, ice delivery, picnic gazebos with barbeque grills, parking, emergency on-site repair, plus a ship’s store and parts.
Maintains one transient slip (43-foot max) available on a first-come, first-served basis. Call at least a week in advance to reserve. The marina also has a fuel dock with gas and diesel, bait, tackle and boating supplies.
Full-service marina offering seasonal and transient dockage, fuel, haul-out and repair.
Located in Jerusalem, Jim’s Dock offers transient dockage (call for rates) and is home to a popular restaurant of the same name. Also sells bait and ice.
Located at the far northern end of Point Judith Pond, in Wakefield, Stone Cove offers fuel and transient dockage. Stone Cove is home to the Java Madness coffee and espresso bar, which also serves smoothies, sandwiches and baked goods.
Located in the upper pond, Ram Point offers transient dockage, restrooms, showers, marine store and supplies.
In Wakefield, Silver Spring offers transient slips, ice, gas, service and repair, heated pool, ice, laundry and free WiFi.
Point Judith Yacht Club (401) 783-5603
Private club offering reciprocal privileges.
A free (and busy) double-lane concrete ramp is located at the base of the Galilee Escape Road, on the right just before the Great Island Bridge. This ramp has a well-maintained fixed dock next to it, and offers quick access to the open ocean. Despite ample parking, the lot can fill early on busy weekends. Also, note that boats with towers may not be able to pass under the fixed Great Island Bridge to access the lower pond and the ocean.
On the west side of the lower pond, a small town launch can be found at the end of Gooseberry Road in Snug Harbor, but it’s best suited to kayak and cartop launching. Parking is limited along the street.
A free town ramp with float and parking across the street is located in Wakefield, on the Upper Pond.
There is plenty of good holding ground and deep water (20-25 feet) inside the Harbor of Refuge. Just be sure to anchor outside the main channels. Best spot to anchor is in the southern end of the HOR, between the breakwater and buoy RG N. You can usually find good protection here in any wind, but be aware that wakes from the numerous commercial vessels and large fishing boats can make for a rolly experience.
Good anchorages for smaller vessels can be found inside Point Judith Pond. A popular transient anchorage exists north of Plato Island, and is marked by white floats. To access the anchorage, follow the channel until you are just north of Plato Island (don’t take the shortcut, or you’ll hit a mudflat), then cut across to the anchorage between Plato and Gardner Islands. At dead low tide the water is only four feet deep between the channel and the seven-foot anchorage, so deeper-draft boats should run north of the islands and cut into the anchorage between Gardner and Beach Islands.
The Kayak Centre (401) 295-4400
Rents kayaks and offers courses and guided tours of the rivers and waterways of the South County area.
Where to Eat
Champlin’s Seafood Deck (401) 783-3152
Located in Galilee, Champlin’s offers rooftop dining overlooking Point Judith Pond. Serves a great lobster roll.
George’s of Galilee (401) 783-2306
Also on the Galilee waterfront, George’s offers seafood and grilled items with water views, plus a take-out window on the beach.
Aunt Carrie’s (401) 783-7930
Located just outside Galilee, Aunt Carrie’s has served delicious seafood since 1920 and is open seasonally.
Buster Krab’s (401) 284-0218
Burger shack and beach bar located across from the ferry terminal. Specializes in fresh seafood and grilled fare.
Jim’s Dock (401) 783-2050
Popular waterfront restaurant and marina with dockage located in Jerusalem. Outdoor dining with great water views.
Cap’n Jacks (401) 789-4556; capnjacksrestaurant.com
Seafood and more, adjacent to Lockwoods Marina in East Matunuck.
Java Madness (401) 788-0088; javamadness.com
Coffee and espresso bar; also serves smoothies, sandwiches and baked goods. Located at Stone Point Marina.
Things to Do & See
Fishermen’s Memorial State Park
Offers walking trails and a campground for overnight stays.
Roger Wheeler State Beach
A short stroll from the breakwater, this popular beach offers lifeguards, food, showers and bathhouses.
Point Judith Lighthouse
A 1 1/2-mile walk from Galilee village. The lighthouse is home to a Coast Guard station, and not open for tours. However, the surrounding grounds are open to the public year-round.
Pettaquamscutt Historical Society
Showcases historic trivia and artifacts dating back to the settlement of South County by Europeans.