Ratings

Our harbor ratings are admittedly subjective and intentionally vague. They are meant to help with cruise planning, especially for sailors new to the area. We hope they don't become the cruising equivalent of the racer's PHRF ratings - a disputatious intrusion on cocktail hour.

Massachusetts enjoys a remarkable concentration of fine harbors, most of which come attached to towns over 300 years old. These are the 3-star destinations; in a sense, we recommend them all. You won't get far from civilization, but you won't go wrong.

The harbors we have rated as exceptional, though, are literally set apart. Their character derives more from the water around them than their proximity to commuter rail.

Attractiveness

four stars
Scenic, remote, compelling. The best in the area.
three stars
A good balance of natural beauty and man-made vitality.
two stars
Something to offer, but not to plan your cruise around.
one star
Worth a stop if you're nearby.

Protection

four flags
Well protected. Suitable for overnight in anything short of a hurricane.
three flags
Good protection for overnight anchorage. Exposed to severe weather from one direction.
two flags
Reasonably protected on 2 or 3 sides. An overnight anchorage in mild summer weather.
one flag
Protection on 1 or 2 sides. Suitable for lunch in fair weather.

Difficulty

four wrecks
Good chance of a serious grounding without local knowledge.
three wrecks
Tricky in the best conditions, with little margin for error.
two wrecks
Requires prior planning for tide, current or weather. Sometimes impassible, even in routine summer conditions.
one wreck
Demands increased attention to navigation or boathandling