John Wright Asks About Rockport’s Submerged Breakwater- I’m guessing The Infamous One Or Fred Bodin Has The Deets For An Interesting Follow Up To His Question

Hi Joey,
I had a discussion with my father-in-law, Pete Ciarametaro, a former fleet fisherman, about a curious man-made rock structure 1.64 miles due east of pigeon cove.
It is linear and facing due north. It is about 500 feet long.
He says it’s a breakwater. I say it’s too far out to be a breakwater and in the past might have been a staging area for the fleet.
Would you have any knowledge of this structure? It’s purpose and when it was built?
Thanks,
John

26 comments

  • In the late 1800s, a estimated seventy thousand vessels passed Cape Ann annually. In 1885, A $5 million federal project was started to create the “Sandy Bay National Harbor of Refuge,” a 1,600-acre protected port for mooring 5,000 sailing ships, by constructing a V-shaped 1-mile long Sandy Bay Breakwater located 1.5 miles from Rockport Harbor. The deep water of Sandy Bay with good anchoring ground was ideal for creating a large safe haven between Portland and Boston, where vessels could seek shelter during storms. The Babson Farm Quarry located at Halibut Point, so-named because sailing ships had to “haul about” to clear the rocky headland during the eighteenth-century, provided 1.5 million tons of granite for the Breakwater from 1895 to 1915. The project was never completed due to World War I and the end of the “age of sail.”

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    • Thanks Cliff, that sums it up and says it all, almost… Infamous and I will fill in some history with images. I think there was more to it than the end of sailing ships. To be continued…

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    • finally the streight story on Haul About point and the breakwater, people have been blowing me off as the village idiot every time I mention it in rseponse to their questions. Thanks

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  • I have some great material, and perhaps the infamous Fred and I together could make a kiss-ass post about this subject. Building the breakwater, battleships, and ship wrecks. Let us know and we’ll co-ordinate.

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    • show us what you got, big guy. i don’t know how to get images into the comment segments, so it might have to wait til j.c. returns to add anything from the cam end. btw, i don’t do kiss-ass posts for nobody. kick-ass or nuttin…

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  • When I worked at the old Hannah Jumper Resto on Bearskin Neck for a week (yup- 1 week) waaay back in the day, a customer, seeing the unfinished breakwater, actually asked me “What holds up that wall made of rocks there, in the water”. Seriously.

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  • For those of you that use Google Earth, a nice image of the breakwater, clearly showing the submerged portion is available by using the historical images icon (it looks like a small clock with a green semicircle arrow). If you use the slider and go back to 8/18/2003 image, submerged part is very distinct. I don’t know why this image is so much clearer, perhaps a low tide or better lighting.

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  • And it is a lot longer than it looks. From the Robert Ambrogi link: “Of the 9,100 foot long breakwater called for in the plans, 6,100 feet were completed.” If you look at a chart of the water depths the breakwater extends quite a bit further than what you can see on the surface. It really does a decent job of keeping the big rollers out of Sandy Bay.

    I made an overlay map of what it was supposed to extend to and what it actually extends if I can find it I’ll link it. It was supposed to come over to within a few hundred yards of Andrews Point ending just off Angle Point (or Angel or Angler Point I’ve seen all three.) I thought angle was appropriate because the breakwater angle led right to the point. (Angle Point is the east side of Chapin’s Gully but that’s a whole other story.)

    Found it. This was supposed to be how it ended up with a Navy base behind it the likes of San Diego:

    So 2/3rds of it is complete but just underwater. Don’t cut those cans!
    Rockport sure would be a different place if they had finished it.

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  • I have heard about that breakwater since I was a kid, and heard the same things as mentioned here: Built with local granite from the quarries, discontinued due to WWI, etc. A very good view of the breakwater and nearby dry salvages is available from the Emerson Inn near Pigeon Cove. I can say that today, the breakwater is very well marked on nautical charts. See the link below for a view from sea:

    http://www.bostonharborbeacon.com/2012/10/11/a-tour-of-the-north-shore-day-trip-to-gloucester-harbor-thacher-island-rockport-and-the-annisquam-river/

    Also, very much enjoyed reading vintagerockport.com. Thanks!!

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  • Pingback: The Building of the Sandy Bay Breakwater, 1894 article | Vintage Rockport

  • Given the interest in this topic, I posted an 1894 magazine article about the building of the Sandy Bay breakwater. It has lots of details as well as photos and maps: http://vintagerockport.com/2013/01/03/the-building-of-the-sandy-bay-breakwater-1894-article/

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  • All,

    Greatly appreciate the expert responses to the question on the Rockport Breakwater. Almost overwhelming!
    It is evident that Gloucester History is well represented.

    We are fortunate to have a medium for collaborating on such facts and stories in the Good Morning Gloucester Blog.
    The “Award Winning GMG Blog”, that is.

    The “kick-ass” jabs were a nice compliment.

    I plan to follow up on the links/info provided to get a clearer picture into the history of the Rockport Breakwater.

    Thanks again,
    Great Job Joey!

    John

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  • Hillary,

    Pleased to hear you have been exonerated from “Village Idiot” status.

    John

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  • Dana,

    Followed your instructions. Much clearer image.

    John

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  • Dana, nice trick going back in time to 8/18/2003 to see the breakwater at low tide. I had found 4/17/2008 to easily mark and label the two buoys marking the ends. Then going to 8/18/2003 and the buoys are pretty close to the ends.

    I wonder if an old timer knows if the underwater part has been losing any rock over time.

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  • http://www.harbormasters.org/rockport/breakwater.shtml

    This tells the whole story as told by Herman Babson in October 1894

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