Somes Sound

44° 18′ 48 N , 68° 18′ 38 W

Southwest Harbor

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Photo: Courtesy of Acadia National Park

Somes Sound is the only fjard* on the eastern Atlantic seaboard. It is connected to the ocean among the many mountains of Mount Desert Island, all formed by glaciers 360 million years. A sail up Somes Sound is exhilarating. Ocean swells drop astern and dramatic cliffs plunge into the deep water. At the head of the fjord lies graceful Somes Harbor, where the shoreline levels.

* According to the Maine Geological Survey Somes Sound’s geology makes it “like a fjord, but not quite. So another Scandinavian term, fjard’, applies better to the sound. A fjard is smaller in all ways than a fjord, and is simply a glacially carved embayment that is drowned by the sea.

Approach & Cautions

Photo: Schooner at anchor in Somesville Harbor by R. Rubadeau

The sound is about 4.5 miles long and 0.2 miles wide, lying between steep rocky shores. It has a narrow entrance with few dangers, but a CCA member cautions, “The green flasher at the entrance to Somes Sound is small and sometimes quite difficult to pick up. The east side shoals up from place to place, so it’s better to favor the center to the west side of the sound once reasonably north of the green flasher at the entrance.” Sailing in the sound can sometimes be trying because of the topography—be ready for downdrafts from the surrounding mountains, with cats’ paws reaching out in all directions.

A schooner anchoring in Somes Sound with sails still up.

Click the chart to open Navionics.

Not to be used for Navigation.

Docking, Anchorages, or Moorings

Among the most inviting stops for overnighting in Somes Sound are these:

  • Valley Cove under Eagle cliffs. One of Somes Sound’s most popular anchorages, this historic spot is on the western side, not far from the Norwood Cove anchorage. Proceed through The Narrows into Somes Sound, then just beyond Sand Point to starboard, turn to port and head into Valley Cove, looking for about 30 feet MLW along the south side. The bottom tends to be rocky and pebbly, but I’ve always managed to find enough good, sticky Maine mud to hold my anchor well. Protection from prevailing winds is excellent, but don’t be surprised by shifting winds with occasional gusts coming down the mountains. Even with her all-chain rode and a snubber terminated at the waterline, my 100,000 lb. boat tends to dance around the anchor a little while anchored here.
  • Hall Quarry, an inactive quarry is about 1.7 NM north of Valley Cove to port. It’s too deep for anchoring, but the John M. Williams & Co. Boatyard (207-244-7854) offers rental moorings in July and August and a float (about 20 feet alongside) where water can be taken on. The yard has a 50-ton Travelift and offers full-service repair and restoration services, with indoor and outdoor storage and service, accommodating up to 200 boats. Close attention to detail and quality for boat services of any level of complexity on both power and sailboats as large as 55 feet in length and 7-foot draft. Offering complete woodworking, fiberglass, metal, composite, paint, and varnish capabilities, plus repairs and installations of mechanical systems, electronics, electrical, engine, and plumbing. Heated and unheated winter storage.
  • Somes Harbor is another 0.8 NM to the north. The beginning of the entrance is very narrow. Leave the red nun marking Myrtle Ledge to starboard, then pass the green can close aboard to port and proceed up to Sheep Island. Quiet, well-protected, and serene, this is a favorite harbor of refuge in nor’easters, tropical storms, and hurricanes. You’ll find a fine anchorage between Sheep Island and the mainland in about 15 feet MLW. All the moorings are privately owned and best avoided unless you know the owner.

Getting Ashore

Photo: The iconic white footbridge in Somesville – courtesy of Acadia National Park

The floats on the NW side of the Somesville town landing are privately owned, but visiting boaters are welcome to come ashore and leave their dinghies in the designated area at the SW corner of the large float. The village is a short walk away.

Ashore you’ll find the picturesque village of Somesville, the first village to be settled by Europeans on Mount Desert Island. It’s part of the Town of Mount Desert. Like the sound, it’s named for Abraham Somes (1732-1831), who is considered the pioneer settler on Mount Desert Island. Visitors come to Somesville to take in the sight of beautifully preserved examples of early New England architecture, the Acadia Repertory Theater, and what must be one of the most photographed bridges in the state – a simple white footbridge in the center of town that arches over the stream flowing from Somes Pond to Somes Sound. Somesville enjoys close proximity to Echo Lake, Long Pond, and Acadia National Park hiking trails.

Among the very limited services in Somesville is Freshies, a convenience store with fresh food for take-out. Freshies is in the opposite direction from “downtown” Somesville. Turn left for the museum, gardens, church, and library. Turn right for Freshies.

Across Somes Sound to the east of Somes Harbor is the Henry R. Abel Yacht Yard (207-276-5057) and the ever-popular Abel’s Lobster Pound restaurant. The yard offers summer rental mooring and slips for lease, and there’s plenty of room for anchoring in good-holding mud off Abel’s at the head of the sound. With two Marine Travelifts and nine inside storage buildings, Abel’s offers mechanical, electrical, fiberglass, engine and generator, gel coat, painting, buffing and waxing, rigging services, and carpentry, plus winter and summer storage.

OUR REVIEWS

What CCA Members are saying:

Sailing up and down Somes Sound can be delightful if the wind is favorable. Valley Cove offers a wonderful hike up the hill, and Somesville is a lovely sheltered anchorage.

woman wearing sunglasses and safety harness

Jane Babbitt

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