Last night was the full moon and we had tickets for Portsmouth radio station WXQR’s their monthly Portsmouth Harbor Cruise. It’s very cool boat ride from the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company dock near downtown Portsmouth to the Atlantic Ocean. Our cruise vessel, the M/V Thomas Laighton, can accommodate up to 350 people so this is not a small boat tour like some.
Pulling away from the dock we got to see a pair of the Moran tugboats headed out to take an oceangoing freighter to the harbor mouth. Portsmouth Harbor is a working seaport with oceangoing tankers and freighters a common sight, not to mention the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and US Coast Guard base here. As a special point of interest, the Moran tugs have special fenders (boat bumpers) to enable them to handle nuclear submarines which are frequent callers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Here’s a short video clip of both tugs headed under the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge which local folks just call the Middle Bridge because it’s the center of three Portsmouth bridges across the Piscataqua River/Portsmouth Harbor.
The Piscataqua River flows into Portsmouth Harbor and it is a very swift tidal river, third fastest current in the world, so movement by tankers and other large vessels is restricted to slack tide when the current is basically zero. Slack tides occur roughly 4 times a day when the tide is turning from high to low and back. Here’s a neat Portsmouth Harbor cam by the tugboat docks so you can see what’s happening on the harbor. It also lists the slack tide times which are you best bet to see the tugs in action.
Here are some of the very cool harborfront condos Portsmouth has to offer; several of them are for sale. Many of the photos of these listings have spectacular harbor views from the land side.
In port this week and until June 20th at the Badger Island Marina, are two replicas of the famed trio of Christopher Columbus’ ships the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. The two in the photos are the Nina and the Pinta which are on a tour to demonstrate maritime history and the hard life sailors had back in the 1400s. Self guided tours are available and you can actually walk on the ships and imagine yourself sailing in search of the new world. The Nina is 70 feet long and the Pinta is 66; not very big to said around the world in. For comparison a standard tractor and trailer you see on the Interstates every day is about 60 feet long.
On the left past the Marina is the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard which has been building and repairing ships since 1800. George Washington first visited this area in 1798 looking for a place to build warships for the then new United States Navy. The new federal government bought both Fernald’s and Dennett’s islands where the shipyard is located for the bargain price of $5,500. Today the Portsmouth shipyard’s mission is primarily the repair and overhaul of Nuclear submarines; a long journey since wooden warships for the fledgling US Navy in 1800.
The huge, beautiful building still on your left past the shipyard that looks like a luxury hotel is actually the long abandoned Portsmouth Naval Prison. This island site was first used in 1775 during the American Revolution as Fort Sullivan, one of two forts built to guard the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor. The current building was built in 1905 and abandoned in 1974. The site has been the setting for the movie “The Last Detail” with Jack Nicholson as well as mentioned in several novels. The last cost estimate to renovate the building in 2000 was over 10 million dollars because of lead paint and asbestos hazards so it remains closed and unused.
On the opposite side of the Harbor lie the south side of Portsmouth and adjacent New Castle Island. Lots of beautiful period homes are located here along with an eclectic mix of all the years following. The south side and New Castle are both within walking or biking distance to the vibrant downtown Portsmouth area.
After seeing some of the beautiful sunsets I started thinking this cruise should have been called the harbor sunset cruise instead of the full moon. Portsmouth lighthouse is in the lower right photo with a sailboat headed in to port after their own cruise on the water.
In the bottom left a lobster boat heads into port with Whaleback lighthouse in the background. Portsmouth has a fairly large number of lobstermen and fresh lobster is a popular menu item at many local restaurants. The last sunlight fades away on the lower right photo as night falls over the ocean.
Headed back to the docks here. The full moon finally made an appearance; it’s the large, orange disc to the center right of the bottom left photo. On the bottom right is Portsmouth harbor at night with the gleaming white steeple of the Old North Church bathed in light. Portsmouth is a beautiful city at night as well as in the day.
If a move to the New Hampshire Seacoast or southern Maine area is in your future plans my partner Ann Cummings and I invite you to visit our New Hampshire and southern Maine real estate website to see all our areas beautiful homes for sale. We’re also happy to answer any questions you may have about the New Hampshire Seacoast and southern Maine areas.
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