Photo:Ram Island Light at Damariscotta River entrance – by Paul VanDerWerf
Described by many as one of Maine’s most scenic estuaries, the Damariscotta River is also a place of peaceful beauty, especially on a day with foggy or stormy conditions on the ocean just outside.
As one approaches the Damariscotta River, it becomes evident that Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and the southwestern coast of Maine have all been left behind. The scenery and general conditions are more typical of what lies further east. While there are some rocks and ledges along the way, with careful attention and planning, there should be no problem navigating in these waters.
Extending just over 14 miles from the river entrance to the town dock in Damariscotta, the river changes character several times, progressing inland through narrows, open vistas, and steep-to shores, becoming more peaceful further inland and generally calm above Glidden Ledge. On a thick day outside, it may scale up to be sunny and warm by Hall Point. A dip in Seal Cove will likely be brisk, but the water is warm inland, and a real swim can be a pleasure at Dodge Point.
Approach & Cautions
Photo: Pemaquid Point Lighthouse at sunrise by Andy Thrasher
From the south – A quick introduction to scenic Maine and some of the hazards off Damariscove Island will be apparent. Bantum Rock breaks in almost any sea. It marks the entrance to Damariscove Island – an intriguing harbor itself and highlighted in a separate entry on this website. Leaving the ledges of Outer Heron and the White Islands to starboard, make sure to leave the day marker (RW H), just south of the Hypocrite Islands, to port and then on to the mid-channel RW Buoy “HL,” bringing the entrance to the river into View.
From the west – Passing Seguin, Boothbay, and the Cuckolds to Fisherman’s Passage, the ledges are well marked and should be no problem even in thick weather with a sharp lookout.
From the East – Pemaquid Point Light stands as the entrance to the Damariscotta area. Make sure to honor R2, and in heavy weather, to stand off outside and below the GRC “PL” can to the south to avoid seas that build on those ledges. Head NW through outer Johns Bay to the “Thread of Life,” south of Shipley Point and Christmas Cove. While the chart may make you think twice, this is not to be missed – being narrow but deep. A weatherly boat can short tack through. If coming from well outside, you may choose to enter by passing Thrumcap Island and enter leaving Inner Heron Island and N2 to starboard.
See General Navigation Tips at bottom of page
Click the chart to open Navionics.
Not to be used for Navigation.
Docking, Anchorages, or Moorings
Little River – Access is limited to settled weather and moderate size boats. The anchorage is tight, with 10-15 feet at low and 5 feet at the dock. There are no moorings, only short-term dockage. Lobster may be available, but not much else.
Christmas Cove – Split the day markers for entry to this snug mooring-filled little harbor. Coveside Restaurant and Marina, at 207-644-8282 or hail on 16, is the prominent landmark ashore. With 14 feet alongside, they also have moorings, some dockage, and a very popular restaurant. Ice and some supplies are available. The Christmas Cove Inn is close by.
East Boothbay – Ocean Point Marina (207-633-0773) has deep water on the approach and 15 feet alongside. While usually calm here, there may be wakes from river traffic, and a swell can make in when a sea is running from the south on the outside. Fuel, water, moorings, dockage, ships store are all available. We recommend calling ahead. Lobsterman’s Wharf restaurant is the next pier over. Hodgdon Yachts and Washburn & Doughty boatyards are adjacent, and all manner of interesting vessels may be on their rails. Gamage Shipyard (207-644-8181) is directly across from East Boothbay on the east side of the river at Bristol Gut. It has a reported depth of 10 feet, plus fuel, water, dockage, and moorings are available here. There’s also a small grocery in the village. Passage through The Gut is limited by depth and overhead power lines.
See Anchorages below and More Harbors Upriver at bottom of page
East Boothbay – Relatively deep in Meadow Cove. See notes re: Ocean Point for general conditions.
Fort Island – Minding the Western Ledges, the anchorage behind Fort Island reportedly has good holding and is sheltered in a northerly. It used to be refuge while waiting for fair current in the narrows.
Seal Cove – While there may be hundreds of Seal Coves in Maine, this is still a somewhat hidden gem with almost no indication of civilization once inside, including limited or nil cell service. There is good holding in mud anywhere in the middle carrying 20 feet at low. A dinghy cruise around Hodgson’s Island or the unnamed island to the east is always a hit – check the tides, as the passages can be very thin or even dry out at low. Or continue deep into the cove over the 5-foot bar to the inner harbor to anchor in 12- 15 feet — although there are now a few houses, and it doesn’t feel as secluded as outside the bar. Well named, seals are often seen here, especially on the ledges in the inner harbor.
See More Anchorages Upriver at bottom of page
General Navigation Tips [Followed by MORE Harbors & Anchorages]
The river entrance is wide open in any weather and runs deep to the Narrows at Fort Island.
The Narrows – favor the Fort Island side of the marked channel, where the current can run up to 5 knots at springs.
After the Narrows, the river widens, and the course is up the middle – line up for the center of Miller Island and Carlisle Island as the ledges on the ends make out a bit.
Approaching Merry Island, R14 deserves some room to the west. Note that the shallows are south of the mark.
Glidden Ledge is covered at high water and runs across from the eastern shore – give the day marker R16 a bit of room — the channel is deep; however, the current runs hard through this narrows.
After Perkins Point (G19), the channel narrows and requires close attention to your GPS or at least depth finder. Note, you cannot run directly from mark to mark; however, there is a safe passage all the way to Damariscotta village.
More Harbors Near Top of Damariscotta River
Damariscotta and Newcastle – At the head of navigation, the channel is narrow above Hall Point up to N24. The current runs hard past the mooring field, so this would be a problematic anchorage. Riverside Boat Co. on the west shore, the Newcastle side, is owned by Paul Bryant, who is also the Harbormaster (207-563-3398). Limited moorings are available and suitable for up to about 40 footers. For larger vessels, one large mooring may be available near Hall Point. There is a town dinghy basin on the east side (Damariscotta side). It has outside floats reporting 5 feet at low and a two-hour limit. No fuel is sold here; however, a gas station is less than 100 yards walk across the town parking lot. Schooner Landing Restaurant on the river has no transient slips (207-563-7447). The town has numerous services and pleasant cafés, restaurants, shops, and galleries for this size village. In Damariscotta, there is a large Hannaford, approximately 1.5 miles east with Rising Tide Co-Op organic foods and other groceries choices, as well as a Walgreens, Damariscotta Hardware, and a NAPA on the way. In town, there is a laundromat across Main Street, a Reny’s, kayak rentals, river tours, etc. Waltz Soda Fountain and old-time luncheonette is not to be missed for a lime rickey. Weatherbird, a gourmet shop at 72 Courtyard Street, has fresh baked goods, cheeses, wines; plus the Riverside Butcher Co. and Fisherman’s Catch Seafood are both first-rate.
For urgent healthcare needs, seek out LincolnHealth Miles (Hospital) Campus. 35 Miles St., Damariscotta, Phone: 207-563-1234
More Anchorages Upriver
Moving up the river past Carlise Island, there are several possibilities for anchoring. Between Carlisle Island and the shore, the
bottom is rocky, so using a tripline is advised. Take care not to find the rock at the south end of the island or the shallows off the mainland.
Clark Cove – This is a more open anchorage on the eastern shore — good for settled weather. Caution: This area may be active and congested with oyster farming
The mid-river above Miller Island has several possible anchorages from long and narrow and deep to some a little more than a scallop in the shoreline.
Pleasant Cove – Scenic at high tide and open to the east, this changes character as the tide recedes, with large areas of flats. It offers good protection from all winds when anchored deep in the cove.
Wadsworth Cove – Past can #13, there is good mud and protection from Carlisle Point to the south.
Salt Marsh Cove – While the inner cove dries out, there is thick mud at the 13-foot spot.
Mears Cove – Snug in NE corner and reputed to be the best holding and out of the current.
Fitch Cove – Above Glidden Ledge, there’s reportedly good holding in mud on the eastern shore near Brick Hill Rd. Shore access may be available to the oyster farm near here.
Dodge Point – South of the point anchor in 12-14 feet with good mud. There’s access to Dodge Point Park and several trails – a nice walk in the woods or running path. The park provides a pier and float for landing a dinghy.
Hall Point – good views and good dingy access to town, Bald Eagles on Hog Island will be soaring, and an easy dingy ride back to Dodge Point too. Note much of the area between C 21 and 23 can dry out on spring tides.