For those with drafts of less than five feet, the Blynman Canal offers the opportunity to travel from Gloucester, MA to Ipswich Bay without making the long journey around Thatcher Point, Rockport and Halibut Point. The beginning of the Blynman Canal is dotted with two large marinas, which offer transient space at their well protected docks. The Blynman Canal Marinas are often preferred for the protected nature of the canal.
Transiting the canal can be tricky for the uninitiated. Strong currents of up to four knots in speed can sweep through the canal, and there are two opening bridges to negotiate. Before you transit the canal, be sure that you have enough horsepower to overrun the current, and also make sure you have plenty of fuel and the engine is in tip-top shape. This is no place for the engine to give out; the results can be disastrous.
The Blynman Bridge, or the "Cut Bridge" is named for Reverend Blynman, the political and religious leader of the time. Rev. Blynman supervised the cutting of the first canal at the harbor end of the Annisquam River. The first bridge was built on this location so that fishing boats would have a safer passage home if they fished north of Gloucester. Now it is the source of long delays to summertime motorists who must wait for boat traffic to pass under the draw bridge. Annisquam is the Indian word for "river with two mouths."
Use NOAA Chart 13279.
The Blynman Canal has a controlling depth of 5.8 feet at its shallowest (from the railroad bascule bridge north to the Annisquam River) and two opening bridges to negotiate at its southern end. The canal allows passage from Western Harbor near Gloucester, to the opening of the Annisquam River at Annisquam on Ipswich Bay.
When approaching from the south through Gloucester Harbor, pay close attention to red nun 6" marking the series of ledges that push southwestward from Tenpound Island. Once you have cleared red nun "6," proceed north toward and white can "BC," which marks the entrance to the Blynman Canal.
The canal's southern end is crossed with a bascule bridge and railroad bascule bridge, respectively, as you move north. The first bridge has a closed vertical clearance of eight feet with 38 feet of horizontal clearance in the center span, and the railroad span has a closed vertical clearance of 16 feet with 38 feet of horizontal clearance in the center span. The bridges can be hailed on VHF Channel 13.