SAIL NEW ENGLAND - Newport and Block Island

Newport Bridge

Considered by many to be the sailing capital of the USA, Newport and the surrounding waters of Narragansett Bay have a longstanding maritime history as well as its more recent reputation as favored a destination for recreational sailors.

Newport offers ready access to the Atlantic Ocean and is a natural deepwater harbor with many sheltered anchorages. This no doubt contributed to the city becoming a major center of pirate activity in the late 17th and early 18th centuries - in fact, so many pirates used Newport as their base of operations that the London Board of Trade made an official complaint to the English government.

Triangular Trade

During the colonial period, Newport was active in the “triangle trade” in which slave-produced sugar and molasses from the Caribbean were carried to Rhode Island, distilled into rum, and then carried to West Africa and exchanged for captives.

Newport also shared in the lucrative whaling industry, developing no less than 17 "manufactories" of oil and candles and enjoyed a practical monopoly of this trade down to the Revolution.

Newport cliff walk

Newport's recent history is more reputable, as it became the preferred location for wealthy southern planters seeking to escape the heat and wealthy Yankees began building larger mansions.

By the turn of the 20th century, many of the nation's wealthiest families were summering in Newport, including the Vanderbilts, Astors and Wideners, who constructed the largest "cottages", such as The Breakers, on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Today, many Newport mansions continue in private use but plenty are open to visitors and can be seen from the cliff walk that runs behind them.

Closer to the heart of the yachtsman, it is well known that the New York Yacht Club chose Newport as the location to host the America's Cup for many years (from 1930-2003).


What is perhaps less well known is that the largest fleet of historic contenders and winners from the America's Cup are based in Newport offering the opportunity to sail on the broad expanse of Narragansett Bay on these classic 12 Meter yachts - click here for details: America's Cup yachts.

Newport International Boat Show in early September is a major attraction not to be missed if you are in the area around this time as it marks the beginning of the fall boat show season.

Newport to Block Island

A short 15 mile sail south from Newport, on the way out to the Atlantic Ocean, is Block Island, named after the Dutch explorer, Adrian Block, who charted the island in 1614.

Block Island

Block Island is compact (3 x 7 miles) and shaped like a pork chop but really does have something for everyone. The main anchorage in the center of the island is known as Great Salt Pond. This wide body of water is protected from all sides, offers 3 marinas, 90 moorings and a 75-acre anchorage which will actually fill right up on 4th July weekends.

Depending on your taste for exertion, there's hiking, bicycling or moped hire that will reveal the many trails that criss-cross the island and its 350 fresh-water ponds; or perhaps horseback riding; any of the 17 miles of beaches to choose from, all close at hand; New Shoreham town selling everything from t-shirts to antiques; you can stay at old-time inns, smart B&Bs, or Victorian hotels; and there's a full range of culinary delights on offer, from casual to fine dining (Dead Eye Dick's to Hotel Manisses).

Block Island

One frequently visited spot is the Southeast Lighthouse, which was moved back from the cliff edge by 360 feet in 1993 to escape the eroding bluffs. At the time it was the largest building to be moved in one piece.

Block Island Race Week

The famous Block Island Race Week is a major draw for competitive sailors in the northeast and in addition to the race courses set in Block Island Sound, there is the popular Around Island Race that always seems to present challenging weather and tide conditions.

For a more personalized itinerary for the cruising grounds of Newport and Block Island, please contact us.

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