Boating In Narragansett Bay

By Joyce Black
Photography by Billy Black
Published: April/May 2012

This summer, the America's Cup World Series exhibition is coming to Newport, making the bay a very happening place for boaters. One couple decided to explore hideaway destinations in and around Newport. Their discoveries will inspire those coming to visit by boat that there's something for everyone in the Ocean State.

Photo of Joyce Black and her dog aboard her pilothouse cruiser

I admit, it was the oysters that got us off the dock and mobilized. At the beginning of the summer, my husband Billy and I had big plans, to spend several weekends cruising around our home waters of Newport, Rhode Island, on Little Brother, our friend Carl Skarne's Minor Offshore 25 trailerable pilothouse cruiser. As tends to be the case with boating, we knew lots of places around us intimately well, and went to them all the time — to fish, hang out, swim, and waterski. But other places, several literally around the corner from us, we hardly knew at all, other than from different boating friends who came in on their boats from out of town, and left raving about all the nooks and crannies around Narragansett Bay they'd visited, all of which were in our own backyard. It was time to branch out.

Jerusalem And Galilee

Photo of Newport's Trinity Church

The day of our departure was all dense wind-blown fog, and I was tempted to pick up a mooring and just stay put. After all, Newport is one of the most beautiful harbors in the world, and full of great restaurants. But our goal was to motor south past Pt. Judith to Snug Harbor between the fishing towns of Jerusalem and Galilee, and end up at the Matunuck Oyster Bar (Billy knows how to tempt me).

Jerusalem and Galilee? Really? You might wonder where these names came from. In 1900, as the story goes, a fisherman came ashore in the inlet near what is now Snug Harbor and decided this was a great place to tuck in and stay. He'd read the biblical descriptions of Galillee and decided this new land reminded him of it. Some time later another fisherman passed through the inlet and asked what it was. The fisherman told him "Galilee." The newcomer pointed to the other shore asking if that's the same place. The resident fisherman thought for a moment and said, "That must be Jerusalem." The names stuck.

Photo of Fort Adams

We opted to fight against the inertia that occurs when the weather isn't perfect, and headed out. The 10 miles between Newport and Point Judith promised to be pretty uncomfortable as the wind blew against the tide, but I'd suffer it for oysters. I'd been reading about Perry Rasso's restaurant at the Matunuck Oyster farm for years, but the 45-minute drive from our house in Portsmouth had proved to be unachievable. Little Brother was well set up with electronics, and the colorful plotter made the fog seem less of an obstacle as we set our course from buoy to buoy and then to the Point Judith lighthouse. The ride was bouncy, but I held onto our dog Millie, and when we made the turn into the harbor I felt accomplished, and also embarrassed that I'd even thought about bailing. The docks in Galilee and Jerusalem were full of serious offshore commercial fishing boats that manage weeks at sea in challenging conditions, when all I'd had to do was snuggle up in a comfortable helm seat in a dry pilothouse.

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Narragansett Facts

  • About 25 miles long, 10 miles wide, with 256 miles of shoreline, the average depth is 26 feet; the deepest part is the East Passage with 184 feet.
  • More than 30 islands are found in the bay, including Aquidneck (where Newport is located), Conanicut (where Jamestown is located, separating the East and West Passage entrances to Narragansett and Prudence, located in the center of the bay).
  • Rhode Island's nickname is "The Ocean State" because every resident is within 30 minutes of the water by car.

Photo of Newport's Rhode island's waterfront

We've Got You Covered On Narragansett Bay

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Silver Spring Marine, Wakefield (25 percent off transient slips and 10 percent off ship's store items). 401-783-0783 or

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Warwick Cove Marina, Warwick (5-cent/gallon discount on fuel, 25-percent discount on slips). 401-737-2446

Newport Yachting Center, Newport (10-cent/gallon discount fuel, 10-percent discount on slips Sun-Thurs only). 401-846-1600 or

Brewer Street Boatworks, Newport 15-percent discount on repairs). 401-847-0321 or

UK Sailmakers, Jamestown (15-percent discount on sail repairs). 401-423-3286

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