Bella Vida by Letty

Sailing in Salem an American Coastal Town

Salem motto

Salem’s history is intertwined with its harbor and surrounding waters.  Even the town’s motto: “To the Farthest Ports of the Rich East” alludes to it.  The very first colonists survived by becoming fishermen.  Salem would grow from a fine fishing village to be known as a major international trading center peaking in the 18th century thanks to the codfish trade with the West Indies and Europe.  The spices these ships brought back would make this town one of the wealthiest in the country.  By the end of the 18th century it was the sixth largest city, wealthiest per capita and home to the US’s first millionaire.

Salem an interesting bustling place buzzing with people from around the world.  Many languages, smells and aromas permeating the air.  Some of the merchandize brought in from around the world was silk, chinaware, paper, coffee, tea, molasses, sugar and rum.  A large variety of spices could be purchased and sold here; nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and pepper.

By mid 19th century Salem’s prosperity as a major seaport winded down as New York and Boston which had deeper harbors to accommodate larger vessels took over.

Pickering Wharf

We can still see the impact of the industry today.  With over 400 years of maritime history many of Salem’s historic buildings, wharves and reconstructed ships are well preserved for you to visit today.



You know how much I love being out on the water.  When visiting Salem I recommend you take a cruise on these historic waters.   I headed to Pickering Wharf located in central Salem with beautiful vistas of the harbor.  It’s a nice place to stroll with shops and restaurants.

I took a late afternoon cruise on a replica of the famous 1812 private schooner Fame.  It was fantastic.  The crew was talkative and friendly sharing tons of boating stories as well as the history of sailing and its impact on Salem.  It was a sunny mid July afternoon at Pickering Wharf but I brought a sweater because the weather changes once you head into deep waters.  Once we set sail the crew served snacks, soda, wine and beer at reasonable prices.

The trip started out on a lovely warm afternoon but before we could reach Salem Sound we ran into a thick wall of fog rolling in from the deep waters. It was really cool especially since I’ve never seen anything like it in person while boating.  We had the contrast of the sun shining brightly on one side of us as we slowly lost visibility of the water, summer houses and homes and other water vessels as the cool fog creeped closer and closer until we were completely engulfed by it.  It was far too dangerous to keep sailing into Salem Sound.  The fog grew so thick there was no way to tell when or where another boat would pop up.

Even though we didn’t get very far it was a pleasant afternoon.  The crew began teaching the children how to make the various knots needed to use on a sailboat while the skipper entertained us with tales of history and piracy.   The sailboat bounced softly and rhythmically in circles completely relaxing me.  It was a very relaxing sail.


Have you been sailing in Salem?


Where to stay: Salem Waterfront Hotel & Marina

Centrally located and literally on the wharf near shops and restaurants.

Where to eat: Finz Seafood & Grill

Right on the wharf with beautiful views and really good food.


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