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Small Adventures: Cape Porpoise

By Ben Ellison

The Ramp's whimsically decorated deck. Ben Ellison (2) After last winter’s down-and-back cruise, where I racked up about 1,000 miles along the East Coast, I found Cape Porpoise to be a terrific first stop when I arrived back in Home Sweet Maine. I got there in early May, and found plenty of anchoring room in the main harbor (1), which was lively with birds, bait fish, and an energetic lobsterboat fleet that rivals ports much farther down east. The Town Wharf (2) on Bickford Island offered a roomy dinghy dock, a pocket park, and at least two compelling dining opportunities.

Cape Porpoise: anchor, hike, dinghy, and dine.

One, the Cape Pier Chowder House, is a conventional lobster and fried seafood shack with an exceptionally nice deck that overlooks Cape Porpoise’s scenic upper harbor. 

Chartlet based on NOAA Chart 13286, 1:10,000 scale harbor inset, quilting & overlay by The other, located right next door, is the Pier 77 Restaurant and The Ramp Bar & Grill. In a brilliantly schizophrenic fashion, the restaurant and the bar occupy the same building and kitchen, and the menus overlap. If you arrive by car, you first see the elegant colonial blue Pier 77 façade, which suggests the white tablecloths and haute cuisine found within. But if you arrive by boat, or walk around the building, you’ll grin at the dense collage of old boats, trap buoys, and oars that decorates the entrance to The Ramp. Once inside, you’ll find a woody, low-ceilinged tavern loaded with antique sports memorabilia. I found the bar full of cheerful locals and some of the tastiest food I’ve ever eaten along our coast. Pier 77 and The Ramp might be thought of as one well-conceived establishment with a distinct choice of ambiance. 

Whichever style you favor, it’s definitely worth a side trip when passing through southern Maine. I also think it’s possible to get there via a dinghy ride from the Stage Island Harbor anchorage (3) to the Town Wharf at about half tide or better. There are a lot of charted mud flats and ledges to cross but a low tide view (and the satellite photos available at suggest that it can be done, though oars might be preferable to outboard. 

Cruisers can further whet their appetites by visiting Cape Island (4) and/or Trott Island (5), both of which are owned by the Kennebunk Conservation Trust and are now part of the Maine Island Trail. KCT also maintains Goat Island (6), which is also open to visitors, although access to the historic lighthouse requires prior arrangement with the keepers. As you may surmise, Gizmo’s last stop in Maine this fall as I travel south again may well be Cape Porpoise where I’ll anchor, hike, dinghy, and dine.

Please e-mail Ben ( about restaurants, parks, and the like that he can visit aboard the M/V Gizmo.


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