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?

26 thoughts on “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

  1. 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.”


    1. 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…


    2. 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


  2. 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.


    1. 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…


  3. 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.


  4. 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.


  5. 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.


  6. 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:

    Also, very much enjoyed reading Thanks!!


  7. 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!



        1. I’ll coordinate with Infamous Fred, so we don’t send in the same photos, and give him EJ’s contact info.


  8. 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.


    1. “In 1836, a breakwater was begun at what was known as Long Cove.”
      Is this the same breakwater as Sandy Bay. Early beginnings?


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