Perkins Cove Ogunquit


In the very early days of settlement, when fishing was the chief source of income for Ogunquit residents, Perkins Cove, originally called The Cove or Fish Cove, was open to the ocean where the dories usually were tied, but when high seas were running, the fishermen had to pull their boats up onto the small beach above the reach of the waves. This caused great inconvenience, especially when the high tides came at night.
The Josias River then emptied into the ocean through a shallow, rocky channel between the ledges called Crow Island and the point of land called Adams Island. This was actually a peninsula connected to the mainland by a small piece of field at the end of what is now Woodbury Lane. The fishermen thought that if a channel could be cut through this land so that the Josias River emptied into Perkins Cove, it would form a larger body of sheltered water and eventually save them much labor. They formed the Fish Cove Harbor Association and bought the land between Oarweed Cove and the Josias River for commercial use. They dug a ditch almost across this piece of field and at a very high tide, when conditions were favorable, cut through to the Josias River. The water rushed in “…with a roar that could be heard up to Pine Hill”, and in a short time, had cut a channel through which they could comfortably and conveniently bring their boats.
In the late 1930’s it became evident that each year Perkins Cove was becoming increasingly more popular with fishermen and boating enthusiasts and soon would not be large enough for future projected use. So, through the issuance of bonds and help from the federal government, the “Perkins Cove Harbor Project” got under way, and the tidal basin was dredged to nearly its present size. The harbor re-opened with much fanfare on July 3, 1941, and now offers a calm anchorage for at least 75 craft with low-depth of six feet. However, the best-known feature of Perkins Cove is probably its unique draw-footbridge.
The Perkins Cove wooden footbridge, overlooking one of the loveliest little harbors in the Maine coast and spanning the narrow entrance to the port, is perhaps the only double-leaf draw-footbridge in the United States. It can provide, with both leaves raised, a clear waterway width of over 40 feet, while a vertical clearance of 16 feet at high water permits many of the smaller craft to enter and leave the harbor without raising the bridge at all. Until recently the longer section was the only one being used and had to be raised by hand. The second half was added because so many larger vessels were soon seeking entry into this snug, sheltered harbor.
The drawbridge has a two-part span, either side of which can be raised independently of the other; the smaller of the two “draws” is cranked up and down by hand. The bridge was originally built at a cost of $12,979 and was financed by the Ogunquit Village Corporation, which appropriated $1,000 from its Perkins Cove account; the remainder came from unappropriated surpluses.
The design of the bridge is simple: two main piers composed of creosoted wood piling, bolted and bound together with steel cable. Extra independent pilings are placed upstream of the main piers to fend off heavy cakes of ice, which come down the Josias River in winter. An icebreaker has been maintained by the village to keep the harbor clear year ‘round.
Operation of the drawbridge is the duty of the harbormaster or his deputy, but if neither is at hand, any available lobsterman or fisherman is glad to do the job. Actually, many a summer visitor has accommodated boats entering or leaving by operating the drawbridge with a button located on the bridge itself. Children, especially, race to the center of the bridge, their fingers at the ready on the control button, hoping a high-masted boat will necessitate the raising of the bridge.
Occasionally bridge operation is left to itself when the lobster and fishing boats arrive from a day’s work laden with catch. Maine boasts of having the best lobster in the world, and lobstermen harvest over 56 million pounds a year (2007 statistic). Many say that lobster preparation in Maine, and especially in Ogunquit, has been raised to a fine art.
Maine has few small harbors that show such constant activity, and none more picturesque than Perkins Cove. Thousands of people have stood on the white painted bridge and watched the fascinating life of this little port and of the numerous local birds darting in and out of the birdhouses nailed to the pilings under the footbridge. The Town of Ogunquit realizes more than ever the value of this unique asset, especially from aesthetic and historical points of view. From the crown of its span and from the approaches when the span is open, people watch entranced for hours as various vignettes unfold around them. Yachts come in from all points along the Atlantic; lobstermen constantly shuttle in and out with their pots and catches, and sailing ships and fishing parties make their way through the crowded harbor, leaving for or coming in from a day of relaxation or adventure.


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