Padanaram, Massachusetts

Cruising — May 2002

Cruising — May 2002
By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Padanaram, Massachusetts

While it's not listed on your chart, this quaint and quiet village is one port of call you won't want to miss.
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Padanaram, MA
• Part 2: Padanaram, MA continued

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Sometime during 1652, members of the Plymouth Colony met with Massasoit, Chief of the Wampanoag tribe, to discuss purchasing an almost 61-square-mile peninsula jutting out into Apponagansett Bay, part of a body of water that would become known as Buzzards Bay. The deal was struck for various items including blankets, utensils, tools, shoes, and wampum. The colonists, using the Native American name for the bay and nearby river, called their village Ponagansett.

The settlement thrived, and by the mid-18th century, shipbuilding and related industries made it a beehive of activity. One shipbuilder, Laban Thatcher, who arrived in 1800 from Cape Cod and whose fortune would be built on a tenacious work ethic and a deeply religious life, became one of Ponagansett's leading citizens. He so impressed his neighbors with his philanthropy and humanity that they decided to rename the village. Because the biblical Laban, who was commanded by God to go to Padan-aram in what is now Syria to marry, multiply, and live a long and prosperous life, the village was renamed Padanaram in honor of Thatcher.

Today, the quaint charm and elegance of the village remain and can be seen in the grand homes that look out over the harbor, as well as the quiet streets and the salty waterfront.

But there's one thing that sets Padanaram apart from many other destinations: You won't find it listed on any chart. Instead, it's officially called South Dartmouth--although the locals mostly use its historical name--and once you go there, you'll be compelled to share the secret of this village with your friends. Just like I'm doing with you now. Indeed, I'll wager Padanaram will become one of your favorite destinations and make your short list of special ports of call.

The current in this part of Buzzards Bay runs easy and makes the perfect excuse for a slow bell to take in the natural beauty of Apponagansett Bay. New Bedford Harbor is about four nautical miles to the north and east; Cuttyhunk Island is just over 10 NM to the south; and Westport Harbor lies almost 141⁄2 NM miles to the west and south.

The way into Padanaram--all approaches are from the south and east--is clearly marked, but pay attention to your charts, as rocks and ledges dot the waters here. And since the Coast Guard has made some changes in the buoyage in the area by moving, removing, and adding aids, it's best to pick up the latest charts or to check in with Woods Hole Coast Guard Phone: (508) 457-3277. NOAA charts for Padanaram include 13229 and 13230. 

Next page > Padanaram continued > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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