By Merrily Lunsford
Cool Runnings, one of 45 sailboats that call Saquatucket Harbor Home. Photo by Tom Leach
HARWICH—On Tuesday, BB Hredocik was one of the few sailors at Saquatucket Harbor keeping an eye on his boat as the rains fell, washing away any chance of getting on the water. The summer is taking its good old time getting here, and rainy, cool weather has put a damper on many outdoor activities. "We’re still waiting for the crowds," Dan Garrison, assistant harbormaster, said Tuesday afternoon. Returning for his fourth season, Garrison said things should begin to pick up during the holiday weekend. "It’s been pretty thin otherwise." "I thought we’d have an earlier season because of El Nino," Harbormaster Thomas Leach said. "Maybe it’s (slower) because the economy is so robust that people would rather work than play."
Saquatucket Harbor is home to about 200 boaters. The harbor is a popular place for regulars, and for visitors who see the harbor from Route 28 and wander in. "We get a lot of interesting people coming in. We see everyone from recreational boaters to tuna fishermen," Garrison said. "We meet everyone from the yachtsmen (they tend to be visitors), charter boats to commercial boaters. The most interesting people are the transients." And then there are the regulars. Hredocik has been sailing his 32-foot wooden boat out of Saquatucket for about a decade. The Harwich man likes to take Cool Runnings out at least five times a week. "Then there’s ol’ Pat who fishes in Wychmere Harbor and then comes in to water the flowers, tells us what he caught or didn’t catch," Garrison said, rattling off several other familiar faces around the harbor.
The harbor was built in 1969 under the direction of the waterways committee, headed by Richard T. Wales. Later this summer, a plaque will be dedicated to the founding fathers of Saquatucket Harbor. "This was a marsh," Leach explained, noting the Andrews River that runs through it. "When we dredge it today, the Army Corps still think of it as the Andrews River, not Saquatucket Harbor. "Wales was the mover and shaker of the project," the harbormaster said. "Every time he moved in a direction, he did some great deed." Wales also helped to get Allen Harbor Yacht Club off the ground, Leach said.
When the harbor opened, people were immediately attracted to it. They could drive in and watch the ducks and geese. "It started off with a bang," said Orleans resident Sherrill Smith, who was the harbormaster and marina manager at Saquatucket. "I opened up that harbor," he said. "I started April 1, 1970 and stayed for three years." The new harbor also brought in new business to local boat stores. "Everyone who sold boats loved the marina," Smith said. "It was a chance to sell more boats. It did help a lot of local boat businesses." But with any new project come glitches. "We went through a lot of junky repairs," Smith recalled. The harbor has seen many changes, Smith said, and still holds a special quality.
"This is a unique place, the best on Cape Cod. We’ve got great accessibility to Nantucket Sound, we have good facilities," Leach said. "We’re a very friendly harbor." Hredocik agrees. "We sail out of here, we race out of here, we play out of here," he said. "It’s one of the best harbors to sail out of." Through his many adventures, including a sailing trip to the Bahamas, Hredocik said he has been in many ports and there’s no beating Saquatucket. "We got back (from the Bahamas) and we said this was the nicest," he said. "We have a very nice facility here." "It’s definitely special. It’s a little boating community," Garrison added. "Everyone watches out for each other. It’s almost a family."
The next chapter for Saquatucket Harbor may be just around the corner. Town officials are looking into securing state funding for improvements. One initiative is aimed at improving water-based transportation facilities and related infrastructure. It would look to improving the location of the Freedom Cruise Line boarding area and putting in a sidewalk along Route 28 that would provide pedestrian connections between the ferry and the downtown Harwichport business areas. The project also calls for expanding the marina for additional on-site parking, buying undeveloped land adjoining the harbor for a waterfront recreation area, and creating a walkway around the marina perimeter. The partnership for economic development committee has proposed a similar plan.