Nantucket Harbor offers an excellent and well-protected harbor with some of the finest marinas on the U.S. East Coast. Every year, thousands of boaters flock to Nantucket to experience the history and wildness of the island while mooring in the harbor or tying off at one of the town's many marinas. The town of Nantucket and Nantucket Harbor are located 20 miles east of Marthas Vineyard and 25 miles south of Cape Cod’s South Shore.
The image above is a view from the southeast looking toward the northwest over Nantucket Harbor. In the center portion of the image, the Nantucket Harbor Entrance can be seen with Brant and Coatue points bordering the west and east side of the inlet, respectively. The Nantucket waterfront and all its marinas are located left (west) of the extensive mooring field.
There are five marinas in the immediate harbor area and three of them offer space for transient guests. The largest, by far, is the Nantucket Boat Basin, which has transient slips, Internet access, gas and diesel fuel, showers/restrooms and a complete laundry facility. All of the moorings in the harbor are maintained by Nantucket Moorings, Inc,, and prices are best described as “premium.” There is anchorage space in a designated area (see chart), but most of this area has already been covered with moorings. If you are in need of repair, Gray Lady Maria is located in the far-south portion of the Harbor and has a series of nun and can buoy that lead customers in past the shoals.
The history of Nantucket’s settlement did not begin in earnest until 1659 when Thomas Mayhew sold his interest to the "nine original purchasers:” Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swayne, Thomas Bernard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greenleaf, John Swayne and William Pike – "For the sum of thirty Pounds…and also two beaver hats, one for myself, and one for my wife."
At this time, the true demise of the island’s Indian population began. The English presence drastically changed the healthy Indian population and, over the next century, the Wampanoag would be weakened by disease, alcohol, and debt servitude.
For nearly 100 years – from the mid-1700s to the late 1830s – the island was the whaling capital of the world, with as many as 150 ships making port in Nantucket during its peak. Within decades, however, the new wealth from whale oil drastically took a turn upon the advent of petroleum in 1838 when it began to replace whale oil as an illuminant, and the sperm whale itself had been harder to find.
It was not until around 1880 that the American tradition of summer vacations was firmly established, and it was then that Nantucket was discovered to be just about the ideal spot for vacationing. Once entrenched, tourism became the principle source of income for island residents.
Information courtesy Nantucket Chamber of Commerce.
Use NOAA Charts 13241 and 13242.
Red and white Morse (A) buoy “NB” marks the location of the initial approach channel into Nantucket Harbor and is located at an approximate waypoint of N41 19.018 W70 06.231. Brant Point Light (26 feet above water occulting red four seconds) makes an excellent range when arriving at night.
Once you have picked up red and white Morse (A) buoy “NB,” set an approximate course of 181 degrees magnetic for .4 mile until you come upon green can “1” and flashing red buoy “2” (both visible in the image above). Flashing green Nantucket East Breakwater Light “3” comes next, and can also be seen in the image above just left of the departing ferry. Also note that most all of both the east and west jetties are submerged. Although the water is shallow on either side of them, more than one boat has made the mistake of foregoing the proper entrance marks and found themselves up on the rocks.
Having safely negotiated your way in past the breakwaters, set a course of around 177 degrees magnetic for .4 mile to intercept red nun buoy “4” and green can buoy “5.” Past red nun buoy “4” and green can buoy “5,” set your sights for green can “7” and red nun buoy “6,” and farther on to red nun buoy “8” and green can buoy “9.”
At this point you should be able to see Brant Point Lighthouse to starboard. Continue in toward the harbor, making sure to pick up red nun buoy “10,” green can buoy “11,” and then green can buoy “13” just off Brant Point. Welcome to Nantucket! The last remaining aid to navigation in the harbor is green can buoy “15,” sans a small privately maintained entrance channel on the south end of the harbor.