Boating

Find a Place

With its reliable southwest breeze and stunning scenery, Buzzards Bay is a world-class destination for sailing, rowing, and powerboating. Through boating, you can discover a whole new world out on the water. We’re here to help you chart your course. The information and resources here offer a place to start. And the launches and marinas listed below are gateways to the Bay, where you can begin a fantastic day of fishing and cruising.

In this section
— Types of boating
— Licensing and registration
— Boating safety
— Boating Education 
— Additional Resources
— Marinas and boat ramps

 

Sailing vs. Powerboating

The term boating covers a broad array of recreational possibilities. Before you get to all the various options of boats and places to go, you need to answer the big question: sailing vs. power boating? Both have their champions and their charms. The right decision for you depends upon why you want to go boating and what you want to do out on the water. It’s often said that sailing is about the journey and power boating is about the destination. That may not be universally true, but it gets at the essential difference.

Sailors will tell you that nothing beats the sensation of being out on the water with the wind filling the sails, harnessing the power of nature and relying on your skills and expertise to navigate a course. The attention to the environment that sailing requires promotes a sense of immersion in nature that can be deeply calming——the sound of wind and water, the direction of the breeze and the signals of changing weather. Beyond all that, sailing is an environmentally friendly form of travel, relying on a renewable resource—the wind—to travel as humans have for thousands of years.

However, sailing is not a pastime that promises immediate gratification. It requires technical knowledge and skill that must be learned through hands-on observation and practice. In addition, the pleasure that comes from harnessing the wind to slice across the Bay also makes you reliant on nature; you can’t sail when there’s no breeze! You’ll either resort to a motor on those occasions, or you won’t be going anywhere.

Powerboating offers its own pleasures. The relative ease and speed of getting from one place to another on a power boat provides more time and energy to focus on what you will do when you get there—mooring off a secluded beach along the Elizabeth Islands for a day of swimming and sunshine, alone or with other friends who have boats; heading out early in the morning or later in the afternoon to hunt productive fishing spots that can’t be reached from land, such as the Sow and Pigs reef, southwest of Cuttyhunk Island. And then there are boating-related sports, such as water skiing, wakeboarding and tubing, that can provide thrilling activities for the entire family. On the downside, power boats can be noisier and you do have to pay for the fuel, which can add up quickly.

Ultimately, it’s not a question of which one is better; both have their strong points as well as drawbacks to consider. In fact, what one person considers a benefit, another may see as a negative. Regardless, whether you prefer sailing or power-boating, you will find plenty to love cruising around Buzzards Bay.

Licensing and registration

Photo: Beyond My Ken

In many ways, the laws and regulations on boating are similar to those governing automobiles, motorcycles and other forms of transportation. State law requires all boats with engines—powerboats, sailboats with backup motors, canoes with outboards, jet skis or wet bikes—to be registered. Once acquired, the registration certificate should be available for inspection on board the boat whenever it is in operation, and the registration number should be visible on both sides of the forward half of the boat.

Apart from boat registration, state law also specifies the equipment, such as life preservers, fire extinguishers, running lights and visual distress signals, that must be on board each vessel. It also prohibits certain actions or behavior, such as operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You can find all the details at the state’s Boat and Recreation Vehicle Safety Bureau.

Adult boaters are not required to earn a license to operate a boat nor are they required to complete a boating safety course, although boating education courses are highly recommended for those who are new to this pastime. Young boaters aged 12–15 are required to complete a state-approved boating safety course to operate a motorboat without adult supervision.

Boating Safety

Boating safety begins with preparation. Before you set out on an excursion, whether it be a few hours or a few days, you need to gather information and supplies to ensure a safe and enjoyable time out on the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) provides authoritative information on safety for recreational boaters. And if you have a smartphone, you can take the best of that information and more with you on the water by downloading the USCG Boating Safety App. The app puts a great deal of information at your fingertips, including local weather forecasts for your location and guidelines for a pre-trip safety check. It also connects you with Coast Guard services, including a vessel safety check request and an emergency assistance feature that will contact the closest command center.

Weather and tides. The first, and most basic thing to do, is to check the weather forecast, specifically the marine forecast for the area. Experienced boaters will often check several different sources for weather information, but every boater should be sure to include the National Weather Service’s marine forecast for the Buzzards Bay zone area. You also should check on the expected tides for the area, either from the exhaustive data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or another site, such as BoatMA.

Life jackets. The proper life jacket is a must. Under federal law, all boats must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board. Massachusetts law requires that any child younger than 12 years of age wear a life jacket while on the boat. There are many types of life jackets on the market. Make sure the one that you buy is appropriate for the age and ability of the person who will wear it and for your on-water activity. You can even get a life jacket for your pet, which will help to keep you and them safe.

Safety gear. Other gear to keep on board include a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, extra sunglasses and suntan lotion, an air horn/siren or water-proof whistle to signal for help, and extra rope and a flotation device that can be tossed to assist someone in the water. Items that need protection from water can be placed in a watertight pouch or “dry bag.”

Share your plans. Before heading out on a boat trip, it’s always wise to leave a float plan with someone you trust—especially for longer trips. A float plan provides information about where and when you are boating. The U.S. Coast Guard highly recommends this practice and offers a free form that you can use to guide the information you share, whether it be a family member, a neighbor or someone at the marina.

Know the rules of the road. Be sure that you understand the navigation and boat handling rules that apply wherever you go, such as operator’s responsibility, maintaining a proper lookout, safe speed, crossing, meeting head-on and overtaking situations. Know what’s going on around you at all times, and always travel at safe speeds for the environment.

Boating Education

When it comes to boating courses, there are a number of good options for landlubbers and old salts alike. Safe boating courses are highly recommended for anyone who is new to the sport, and in Massachusetts, completion of a state-approved course is required for youth between the ages of 12 and 16. But even experienced mariners may benefit from an occasional refresher. Boat Massachusetts is a free course offered by the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and it takes roughly 10 to 12 hours to complete. However, if the state’s offerings don’t suit your schedule, private companies, such as Boat-Ed.com offer in person and online safety courses that are approved by the state and the National Association State Boating License Administrators (NASBLA).

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary offers a range of boating courses throughout the year, from the basics of boater education to a host of specialized topics—sailing skills and seamanship, navigating with GPS, inland boating and lines & knots. These in-person, classroom courses range in duration from several hours to several day-long sessions and cost about $50 on average.

Of course, there’s nothing like learning by doing. Here in Buzzards Bay, residents can turn to local non-profit organizations that offer hands-on courses on boating and sailing, for children and adults, from beginner to advanced. In fact, the Coalition will soon offer sailing lessons for all ages from its new Onset Bay Center, which opens in June 2020. Other nonprofit organizations that offer boating lessons include Bourne Community Boating in Bourne; Community Boating Center in New Bedford; and Mattapoisett Sail in Mattapoisett.

Learn More

Boat Massachusetts: https://www.boat-ed.com/massachusetts/handbook/ 

Massachusetts State Boating Regulations: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/massachusetts-boating-law-summary

State-Approved Safety Courses: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/boating-safety-course-schedule

United States Coast Guard Information for Recreational Boating: https://www.uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/index.php?m=rb

U.S. Sailing Education: https://www.ussailing.org/education/

Displaying 1-20 of 54
A man paddling a kayak away from the Agawam Mill Pond Boat Launch in Wareham
2844 Cranberry Hwy., Wareham, MA 02571
|Directions

Glide down the tranquil Agawam River for a long paddle or a freshwater fishing trip from Agawam Mill Pond Boat Launch in Wareham.

Parking: Large paved parking area
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Canoe/Kayak Launch
Arthur F. Dias Town Landing at Apponagansett Park in Dartmouth
75 Gulf Rd., Dartmouth, MA 02748
|Directions

The Arthur F. Dias Town Landing provides boaters with easy access to beautiful Apponagansett Bay in South Dartmouth.

Parking: Large paved parking lot (vehicles and trailers)
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Canoe/Kayak Launch, Pier (wood), Restrooms (seasonal), Picnic Tables, Trash, Playground, Food/Concession (seasonal)
Pocasset Harbor from Barlows Landing in Bourne
498 Barlows Landing Rd., Bourne, MA 02559
|Directions

Whether you’re ready to go boating, paddling, or swimming, you’ll find a place to play at Barlows Landing in Bourne.

Parking: Medium-sized paved vehicle parking area with additional gravel parking for vehicles and trailers
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Pier (concrete), Kayak Launch, Picnic Table, Trash, Bicycle Rack
White sandy shores on Bassetts Island in Bourne, with views of sailboats in the distance
Bassetts Island, Bourne, MA 02559
|Directions

Have an island adventure on the pristine beaches and shallow waters of Bourne's Bassetts Island.

Parking: None
Facilities: Canoe/Kayak Launch (shoreline), Picnic Tables
man fishing from sport fishing pier at Besse Park in Wareham
81 Main St., Wareham, MA 02571
|Directions

Besse Park’s sport fishing pier in Wareham Center is a hotspot for local anglers looking for stripers and snapper blues.

Size: 1.56 acres
Parking: Small paved parking lot
Facilities: Pier (wood), Dock (floating), Trash, Picnic Table
Big Sandy Pond in Plymouth in winter
20 Gunning Point Rd., Plymouth, MA 02360
|Directions

The deep, clear waters of Big Sandy Pond in Plymouth are a delight for freshwater anglers.

Size: 134 acres
Parking: Small unpaved parking area
Facilities: Boat Ramp
Small floating dock at the pier attached to Bull Island, in Naushon's Hadley Harbor.
Gosnold, MA 02543
|Directions

Take a peaceful picnic or stretch your legs with a picturesque walk on Bull Island, nestled inside Naushon’s Hadley Harbor.

Parking: None
Facilities: Dock (floating)
fishing pier on New Bedford Harbor in New Bedford's South End
1522 East Rodney French Blvd., New Bedford, MA 02744
|Directions

Just south of the hurricane barrier, this public boat ramp offers boaters and anglers access to outer New Bedford Harbor.

Parking: Medium-sized paved parking area
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Pier (wood)
The rock and sand kayak launch at Edgewater Street
Edgewater St., Fairhaven, MA 02719
|Directions

Explore picturesque marshes by kayak or spend the afternoon digging for clams on the edge of Little Bay in Fairhaven.

Parking: Space at the end of Edgewater Street
Facilities: None
the shoreline of Electric Avenue Beach in Bourne
26 Gardinier Ave., Bourne, MA 02532
|Directions

Come down to Electric Avenue to discover an intimate beach and boat ramp a stone’s throw from the Cape Cod Canal.

Parking: Medium-sized paved parking area
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Pier/Dock (wood/floating), Bicycle Rack, Trash, Picnic Table, Playground
George E. Wood Memorial Fishermen's Access Ramp in Rochester
487 Neck Rd., Rochester, MA 02770
|Directions

Explore Snipatuit Pond on a canoe, kayak, or small boat from this state launch ramp in Rochester.

Parking: Small unpaved parking area
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Canoe/Kayak Launch
Two dinghys on a storage rack at the Gifford Street Boat Ramp
110 Gifford St., New Bedford, MA 0240
|Directions

The Gifford Street Boat Ramp provides boaters and paddlers with easy access to the protected waters of inner New Bedford Harbor.

Parking: Large paved parking area (parking for vehicles with trailers only)
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Canoe/Kayak Launch, Dinghy Storage
A view of Buzzards Bay between two World War II lookout towers at Gooseberry Island in Westport.
West Shore Road, Westport, MA 02790
|Directions

Explore nature, history, and spectacular coastal beauty along the rugged shores of Gooseberry Island in Westport.

Size: 73 acres
Parking: Medium-sized gravel parking lot (vehicles and trailers)
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Kayak Launch, Restrooms (seasonal)
dock with commercial fishing vessels on Great Harbor in Woods Hole
16 Albatross St., Falmouth, MA 02540
|Directions

This Woods Hole boat ramp is a gateway for boaters and anglers to the waters of Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound.

Parking: One parking spot at ramp for loading and unloading; metered street parking available throughout Woods Hole
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Dock (wood/floating)
Sandy boat ramp leading into the waters of Great Herring Pond Boat Ramp
144 Herring Pond Rd., Bourne, MA 02532
|Directions

This Bourne boat ramp is a great place to launch paddle crafts or small boats, as well as a popular fishing spot.

Parking: Small unpaved parking lot (space for 6-7 cars) on Little Sandy Pond Road
Facilities: None
view of Hen Cove from town landing in Pocasset
109 Circuit Ave., Bourne, MA 02559
|Directions

Launch from Hen Cove Landing in Pocasset to reach Red Brook Harbor, one of Cape Cod’s favorite boating destinations.

Parking: 2-3 parking spaces for vehicles and trailers; additional vehicle parking at Hen Cove Beach
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Kayak Launch, Pier (wood)
Dharma Voyage rowing at Hix Bridge Landing on the Westport River
303 Hixbridge Rd., Westport, MA 02790
|Directions

Set on the upper East Branch of the Westport River, Hix Bridge Landing is a place to launch a boat or kayak into the river.

Size: Dawn to dusk
Parking: Large unpaved parking lot (vehicles and trailers); resident permit required to park
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Kayak Launch, Dock (wood/floating)
pier next to the boat ramp at Hoppy's Landing in Fairhaven
69 Goulart Memorial Dr., Fairhaven, MA 02719
|Directions

Called a “fisherman’s paradise," Hoppy’s Landing on West Island in Fairhaven is your gateway to Buzzards Bay.

Parking: Large crushed-shell parking area (vehicles and trailers)
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Kayak Launch, Pier (wood), Restrooms, Trash
wooden dock with boat storage slips at Island Wharf in Marion
2 Island Wharf Rd., Marion, MA 02738
|Directions

Boaters and paddlers will find a place to launch and keep their boats at this wharf and park on Sippican Harbor in Marion.

Parking: Large paved parking lot (vehicles and trailers up to 72 hours); resident privilege sticker required for overnight parking (May 31 to September 15); limited parking for non-residents
Facilities: Boat Ramp, Kayak Launch, Dock (concrete/floating), Dinghy/Kayak Storage, Restrooms (seasonal), Showers (seasonal), Picnic Tables, Water
Aerial view of Naushon and the Elizabeth Islands
Gosnold, MA 02713
|Directions

This pristine crescent of sand is a peaceful place for boaters to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and beachcombing on private Naushon Island.

Facilities: None

Upcoming Events

Suddenly In Command- Boating Seminar
Sat, December 12
10:00AM - 1:00PM
Onset Bay Center,
Wareham
Bird Tour: Shaw Farm
Mon, December 07
9:00AM
Shaw Farm Trail,
Fairhaven

Featured Adventures

Wareham kids splash into second summer of outdoor exploration in Onset

This summer, more than one hundred kids will participate in the Coalition’s second summer of the Onset Bay summer program, featuring four weeks of outdoor exploration and discovery through the developing Onset Bay Center.

Full Story ›
Third summer of water monitoring kicks off on Martha’s Vineyard

This summer, the Coalition and partners at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe are undertaking a third year of studying the health of Vineyard Sound and four coastal ponds on the island’s north shore.

Full Story ›
Buzzards Bay rowers team up to raise money for clean water at London river race

In September, rowers from three Buzzards Bay-based rowing organizations traveled to London to compete in the 21.6-mile Great River Race, raising over $2,000 for the Coalition.

Full Story ›

Things To Do