What to Do
For pleasure boaters or sailors making their first cruise to Nantucket, the site of the Congregational Church steeple and rooftops rising above the horizon before the town itself can be seen, landfall on Nantucket is a special feeling.
Thirty miles at sea, mostly out of site of land, brings a feeling of accomplishment to someone who has just completed a true ocean voyage. Nantucket has extended its ocean tradition to be welcoming of boaters, whatever the size of their craft.
The harbor itself is well protected from the usual Southwesterly breeze. Its great size means there is plenty of mooring space for all.
Nantucket Boat Basin caters to the largest megayachts on the east coast, but will welcome boaters of more humble means. Reservations are strongly recommended.
The Boat Basin includes 240 slips, a full-marina and services to meet the most discriminating yachtsman. It is just two blocks from Main Street, surrounded by shops, galleries and restaurants.
Nantucket Moorings, operated by Dennis & Wendy Metcalfe provide 125 transient moorings in the harbor. They are available both by reservation (www.nantucketmoorings.com) and on a first come, first served basis. Call Nantucket moorings on VHF Channel 68 or (508) 228-4472 as you pass Brant Island and their launch will direct you to your mooring. Rates start at $60 per night. Typically mid-week you are not likely to need a reservation, but busy weekends and special event like the Figawi Race in May or the Opera Cup Race in August, don't count on a mooring without a reservation.
If you arrive too late to snag a mooring, there still should be plenty of swinging room to anchor northeast of the mooring field. Watch out for forecasts of strong Northeasterlies and mind the eel grass when checking the hook to avoid a bump in the night experience.
If you're looking for some real peace and quiet and don't need the services in town, Take a sharp left after entering the harbor and anchor behind Cotue. The night sky will be alive with stars away from the lights of town and you will awake to beautiful beaches in the morning.
If you are moored within the anchorage, and don't feel like launching the dinghy, hail Harbor Launch on channel 68 and catch a ride to shore.
Once on your hook, remember that Nantucket is a no-discharge harbor, that means no sink or shower water in addition to no sewage. The Town provides free pumpout from the aptly named Head Hunter. The town also provides water, bathrooms, showers, trash recycling and ice to boaters from the office at the head of the Town Pier.
Nantucket Boat Rentals
You don’t have to own a boat to enjoy Nantucket from the water, there are a number of places to rent a boat, sailboat or kayak and enjoy island waters.
Alex Patterson, manager of Nantucket Boat Rentals says the most popular destination for his customers is the beach at Cotue. He rents 14 and 17 foot boats that can only be used inside the harbor as well as 20 and 22 footer large enough to take into Nantucket Sound.
The larger boats are often used by those interested in catching fish off Great Point or seal watching off Muskeget.
Another popular destination is Toppers at the Wauwinet Inn, either for cocktails or lunch.
Capt. Mark Scharwenka of Nantucket Adventues recommends a visit to Polpis Harbor, if the tide is right. He says you will find scenery more reminiscent of Chesapeake Bay than Nantucket Island, with grass growing down to the shore and brown tannin colored water. Paterson agrees the spot is beautiful, but cautions the water is very shallow.
If sail power is more your style, don't miss the Nantucket Community Sailing rental center at Jetties Beach. The organization offers sailboat rentals and lessons to youngsters and adults. The center also offers kayaks and windsurfers.
The rental fleet includes Sunfish, Lasers, Rhodes 19s and Marshal Cat 15s. If you're on the island for an extended stay, a membership that allows free use of all their boats might be in order. Members can also participate in the Wednesday evening sailing and social events. Community sailing also offers a Tuesday night session for women who would like to enhance their sailing skills in a fun and relaxed environment.
And if you'd rather paddle yourself, try renting a kayak from SeaNantucket Kayaks, at the Francis Street Beach.
Mallory Gollick has been working at Francis Street for the past two summers. While many of her renters take off toward Cotue, if the weather is right, she suggests a paddle through the creeks as a special adventure. Just a 10 minute paddle from Francis Street the creeks off numerous streams through the salt marshes. The water is warm and shallow, great for young children and the wildlife is numerous. Only a short distance from town, yet it seems like another world.
She also suggests shell hunting on Cotue, if the weather is right.
Beetle Cat's brightly colored sails brighten the harbor.
Inquirer and Mirror photo