Going Ashore

Scituate is a town with a somewhat elusive personality. Driving its tranquil back roads in winter, it seems there's a boat in every second driveway. It's a sailor's town, a fishing town, whose harbor is its most prominent feature.

But unlike the compact old ports of the North Shore, Scituate's relationship to the sea is spread more thinly over both time and geography. Its maritime heritage may not be obvious as you step from the launch into the waterfront parking lot.

Shipbuilding thrived for nearly two centuries, but on the nearby North River rather than on the harbor itself. Fishing in Scituate historically meant mackerel, though both the fish and the market for it largely disappeared in the mid-1800s {SHS}. As the offshore cod fisheries of Boston and Gloucester were adapting to the industrial era, and leaving their mark, in large scale, on those waterfronts, Scituate fishermen "developed a small, clinker-built boat, and made the town famous for day fishing." {Alongshore, p.325}

The harbor was never deep enough for ocean-going trade; the railroads came to Scituate only in the 1870s (compare 1839 for Salem, 1847 for Gloucester); the essential breakwater dates to 1890.

So the Scituate we see today is shaped primarily by its 19th century quietude, and by the major influences of the 20th century: the automobile, the intense appreciation (in both senses) of shoreside property, and effective local efforts at historic preservation.

And the sailing, and the fishing. Today the harbor is filled with sailboats on moorings; quite a few small trawlers are tied up at the Town Pier; the waterfront is lined with wharves; sport fishermen are everywhere, alongside the active lobstering fleet.

Skipping stones on the beach at Cedar apoint
Anne Grimes
yellow cape
Geoff Rand
This yellow cape was the home of lightkeeper's daughters Rebecca and Abigail Bates, Scituate's "Army of Two".

One Hour Ashore

The lighthouse is just over a mile walk from town, or a quick dinghy trip from the outer mooring area. The grounds are open; the keeper's house is a private residence.

Off the Beaten Path

The much-celebrated Lawson Water Tower was closed for renovations when we visited in 2003. Open or not, it's a long trip for a large anomaly.

Maritime History

The inescapable story is of lightkeeper's daughters Rebecca and Abigail Bates, who are said to have bluffed away a British raiding party in 1814 by playing a very marshal set on fife and drum as the Brits attempted to row ashore.

The Scituate Historical Society's Maritime Museum is located unfortunately far from the harbor, on a highway outside of town, but it promises exhibits on Irish Mossing (seaweed gathering). Summer weekends only(?).

Rainy Day

There are a couple of galleries and a movie theatre within an easy walk of the harbor. Otherwise it's the waterfront sports bar.

Facilities

  • Launch
  • Dinghy
  • Showers
  • Restrooms
  • Trash

The launches in Scituate are ubiquitous, friendly and efficient. Get the specifics from whichever launch arranges for your mooring. Dinghy tie-ups are in the vicinity of the launch landings.

Showers & Restrooms are available at the clubs or marina if you're on a club mooring or marina slip, or at the Harbormaster's office (really) if your mooring is through the public launches. The Harbormaster's showers are notable for plenty of hot water.

Dumpsters for trash are adjacent to the harbormasters' office as well.