SMUTTYNOSE AND MALAGA ISLAND
Isles of Shoals

Charts: 13283, 13287
Chart Kit: 56 (D), 14
Southern coast overview chart





NAMED for the dark rocks at its eastern end, uninhabited Smuttynose boasts enough history for several volumes. In a little graveyard behind his 1750 cottage lies Captain Samuel Haley, aged 84, “a man of great ingenuity and industry,” according to his headstone. On this little island Captain Haley built a 270-foot ropewalk, a saltworks for curing fish, windmills to grind wheat and corn, blacksmith and cooper shops, a bakery, a brewery, and a distillery.
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Pirates such as Captain Kidd and Quelch are reputed to have visited Smuttynose. In 1720 Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard, arrived on Smuttynose with his new young bride, who happened to be his fifteenth. The arrival of the British fleet, though, brought a quick end to the honeymoon. Being short on sentiment and long on self-preservation, Blackbeard fled, leaving his wife behind to wait for him in vain until her death fifteen years later. The ghost of Blackbeard’s wife, they say, still roams the shores crying, “He will come back. He will come back.”
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For once, stories of buried pirate treasure have proved true. Captain Haley found four bars of silver under a flat stone and used the proceeds to build a breakwater connecting Smuttynose to little Malaga Island, creating Haley’s Cove.
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Smuttynose was also the site of a grisly double murder on the cold night of March 6, 1873. Six Norwegian immigrants—three couples—lived in what would become known as the "Hontvet House," which was owned and operated as a boarding house by the family of Celia Thaxter on Appledore Island. The men had sailed to the mainland on a bait-buying trip but had not returned by nightfall. The women turned in. Suddenly, in the depth of the night, they were awoken by a brutal attacker swinging an ax. Two of the women were killed, but the third, Maren, managed to escape and hide among the rocks with her dog Ringe.
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Maren survived the night in nothing but her bloody nightdress. She later identified the murderer as Lewis Wagner, a Prussian fisherman who had helped the Norwegians bait trawls the previous summer. Lewis supposedly rowed the 12 miles to Smuttynose to rob the Norwegians of money he knew they were saving for a new boat. He was hastily tried and convicted and was hanged two years later despite his proclamations of innocence. The story has been intriguing the American imagination ever since, most recently in Anita Shreve’s book The Weight of Water, and the ghoulish can find the supposed murder weapon on display in the Portsmouth Athenaeum.
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Row ashore—if you dare—at Haley’s Cove and land at the little beach behind the breakwater. This is a lovely spot for a picnic, peaceful and secluded, and you can swim in clear water off the beach. Nearby are two houses. The Haley cottage has recently been restored, and little Roz’s cottage is used as a base for camping groups. The island is still privately owned by descendants of Celia Thaxter, but respectful visitors are generously welcomed. It is managed by volunteer rangers and shared with 3,000 pairs of gulls who nest here. A guest log is outside Roz's cottage.


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ISLES OF SHOALS




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