Ever since Christmas 1614, when Captain John Smith dropped anchor in this picturesque spot, Christmas Cove has been a favorite of sailors. The protection is excellent, and it is not far off the east-west path. Christmas Cove is a busy little place, always full of movement, but it retains its wonderful, low-key atmosphere. Seals, mallards, and ospreys share the cove, along with a multitude of cruisers.
Approaches. The usual approach is from the west of Inner Heron Island, at the entrance to the Damariscotta River. Pick up nun 4 north of Inner Heron, then aim for the square, shingled tower near the head of Christmas Cove.
The entrance to the cove is tight, about 35 yards wide, and you are likely to find kids racing small sailboats right in the narrowest part of the channel. As you can see on the chart inset, there are two tiny dots of land on each side of the entrance. Red daybeacon 2 is on your right coming in, but do not cut it close, since it is 50 feet or so from the end of the ledge. Green daybeacon 3 stands at the edge of the shoal water to port. Pass about halfway between the two beacons and expect to find boats moored just inside. In fog, finding these silent and unforgiving daybeacons could be treacherous.
Coming from the east, you might sail through Thread of Life for the sheer fun of it. Keep can 1 to starboard off Turnip Island and turn north. Keep to the midchannel to avoid the 6-foot spot near Inner Heron and the 5 and 8-foot spots near Shipley Point.
Anchorages, Moorings. Christmas Cove is packed with moorings, so it is doubtful that you will find anchoring room. Most of the moorings belong to Coveside Marina, which keeps several available for transients. Reserve ahead by hailing The Admiral on VHF or get here early if you want one. They are often taken by early afternoon.
Getting Ashore. Row your dinghy to the Coveside dinghy float.
For the Boat. Coveside Marina (Ch. 09; 207-644-8282). Coveside Marina is the complex of red buildings on the north side of the harbor. They have limited dockage but can handle large boats, with 12 feet alongside at low. The docks have electricity, gas, diesel, and pump-outs. Ice and a small chandlery are ashore. Water is for your tanks only, since it is drawn from a well.
For the Crew. Because of the well water, there is no laundromat, but there are showers and a pay phone at Coveside Marina. The popular marina restaurant serves three meals a day, and dinner reservations should be made for five or more. In good weather you can eat on the deck. In foul weather, you might spend enough time at the bar to discover why Ivan Boeskys shoes hang on the wall.
For provisions, walk 1.2 miles along the Damariscotta River to the Island Grocery and Lunch in South Bristol (644-8552). It is open daily, well stocked, and has a good supply of fresh seafood. To get there, turn left past the Coveside Inn and take the next left at a house called Wigwam on the Westside Road. Coveside Marina or someone at the store might give you a ride back with the groceries.
08.2003 S. Damon Kletzien writes:
Within the last year or so the Island Grocery has come under new ownership and is a sorry comparison to its former self. The sandwiches, I'm told, are good, but the supply and variety of provisions is piddling and dreadful... I would not recommend!
11.2004 Beth Fisher writes:
Please, give the island grocery another look, come summer '05. I am rebuilding the old grocery store into a beautiful, new one. Still small, still quaint, but ready to meet the needs of the island for years to come. www.islandgrocery.net
Things to Do. The walk to South Bristol is pretty and shaded. When you arrive, it is fun to observe one of Maines most active swing bridges at the Gut and the busy scene in quaint South Bristol Harbor as lobsterboats unload their catch.
For a shorter walk, turn right from Coveside Marina and then walk south on Route 129. You will find a spectacular view of the Thread of Life and maybe see a sailboat or two tacking through.