August 1, 2019
This Mid-Coast Maine town isn’t so much a destination as a state of mind. By Ken Textor; Photography by Joe Devenney
Most boaters who cruise to Georgetown never know they’ve visited this small Mid-Coast Maine town. And fewer still realize they’ve actually visited a Maine island, albeit one that has a bridge connecting it to the mainland. In fact, there’s no one way to define a Georgetown “harbor,” mainly because there is no single boater’s haven with the name “Georgetown” applied to it. But there are plenty of harbors.
The official count is seven, but it really could be as many as 15. Moreover, depending on what the tide’s doing on any particular day, you could make a case for Georgetown being two islands, not just one. More on that later.
Give Me Five—Islands
Just to add a little more misdirection to the discussion, the Georgetown “harbor” that most cruisers visit is called simply “Five Islands.” Located on the west side of Sheepscot Bay, perhaps a day’s cruise east of Portland and with easy access in most weather, it’s a protected basin surrounded by five small islands, with room for about 35 boats on moorings. Thus, the uninitiated might think it’s picturesque and convenient enough, but why so popular? Well, it all started with a bit of national publicity it received some 17 years ago.
Beginning with the New York Times and repeated by just about every major East Coast newspaper from the Baltimore Sun to the Boston Globe, the advantages of this small haven were reduced to one major—and apparently very compelling—virtue: Food.
That’s right. Whether it’s fried clams or lobster rolls or just a hot dog, the on-the-wharf take-out restaurant that has gone by various names over the years (it’s currently called Five Islands Lobster Co.) still draws hundreds daily, whether a few via the water or the lion’s share who travel the long, winding road to the well-known wharf. If you go by water, there are some guest moorings, and rowing ashore is recommended. The diminutive marina at Sheepscot Bay Boat Company also has some moorings and a gas dock. In short, Five Islands is a little primitive, but worth the stop. And the food really is pretty darn good!
Riggs Cove Refuge
Visitors looking for more upscale facilities generally head for Riggs Cove, a few miles farther north and west along Georgetown’s roughly 35 miles of shoreline. Along the way, however, it’s possible to feel you’re getting a bit more than you bargained for. That’s because the small strait known as Goose Rocks Passage marks the beginning of the legendary tidal currents that characterize most of Georgetown’s shores. Currents in the Passage swirl and boil prodigiously during big moon tides, enough to knock even 40-foot cruisers off their course. It’s not really dangerous, though. Just disconcerting.
Once you’re through the worst of it, you’re at the doorstep of one of Maine’s best marinas, Derecktor Robinhood. Longtime cruisers will recognize the name Derecktor as one of the East Coast’s premiere boatbuilding/marina giants, with locations in both the New York City and Fort Lauderdale areas. But this version of Derecktor is a little more retiring than its sister marinas, having been acquired by the company in 2016 and still sporting its old roots in Georgetown. In fact, there is even a museum on-site, detailing the 350-year history of the island town and giving a reasonable explanation of how the moniker “Robinhood” departed Sherwood Forest and ended up in 17th century Maine. A restaurant, extensive repair facilities, and flower gardens round out this peaceful oasis amid the tides.
Another harbor just next door to Derecktor is Robinhood Cove. The cove is huge and the currents peter out just beyond Birch Island, at the south end of the cove. The coves also happens to hold striped bass most years. The best fishing is north of Birch Island, and fly anglers seem to have the best luck casting amid the rocky edges of the cove on a rising tide.
At times, the cove also turns into the knife that slices Georgetown Island in half. During big, moon-inspired tides, it’s possible to take a kayak, dinghy, or similar small vessel to the southernmost end of the cove and continue through salt marsh meanderings that eventually lead to Sagadahoc Bay, which is nearly in the mouth of the Kennebec River. It’s also near yet another harbor for Georgetown—a shallow little gutter known as Bay Point, just east of Long Island in the river.
Running Hell’s Gate
If shoalwater derring-do isn’t your cup of grog, you can head north out of Riggs Cove and aim for yet another Georgetown landmark: Lower Hell’s Gate. As the name implies, it’s another swirling madhouse of currents, where the tides run so hard they sometimes drag navigation buoys underwater. The bobbing steel buoys then become the principal danger, along with a pretty good chance of snagging a lobster trap buoy. But it all becomes worth it when you emerge in Hockomock Bay north of the Gate and find yourself in a gunkholer’s heaven. There are more Georgetown havens amid Webber, Castle and Beal Islands. Charted depths are accurate, and it’s easy enough to drop a hook in quiet, nearly current-free waters.
And so it goes with additional adventuring amid Georgetown’s numerous other harbors. Harmon Harbor, Little Sheepscot River, Knubble Cove and Back River are just some of the additional spots in which you can drop anchor and relax amid the lucky Georgetown residents who have permanent moorings in this town that, to some, doesn’t seem to even exist.
Georgetown Names & Numbers
DOCKAGE, MOORINGS & SERVICE
DERECKTOR ROBINHOOD MARINA (207) 371-2525
Full-service marina on Riggs Cove offering transient slips and moorings, an on-site restaurant, fuel, service, repair and more. Also rents vacation houseboats on Riggs Cove.
SHEEPSCOT BAY BOAT COMPANY (207) 371-2442
Transient moorings and fuel dock in Five Islands area. Can accommodate vessels up to 30 feet.
WHERE TO EAT
FIVE ISLANDS LOBSTER CO. (207) 371-2990
Delicious seafood and more at Five Islands. Boaters are advised to grab a guest mooring and row ashore after dropping off passengers at the dock.
THE OSPREY (207) 371-2530
Dock-and-dine restaurant at Derecktor Robinhood Marina.
BLUE (207) 371-2616
Highly acclaimed restaurant at the Grey Havens Inn specializing in fresh seafood and local produce.