A Perfect Landing Place

Sloops, schooners and brigs were once mainstays at Packet Landing on the Bass River, in Yarmouth, during the 18th and 19th centuries when Nantucket Sound served as a significant route for coastal ships. These packet boats transported raw materials like salt and lumber, manufactured goods, mail and even passengers to and from Cape Cod and Boston, as well as other northern ports. The mouth of the Bass River was an ideal location for ships to wait for favorable weather and, at times, there was a veritable traffic jam of boats at the landing. Yarmouth sea captains such as Ansel Hallet, John Eldridge and Paddock Thacher made excellent livings operating these vessels and often engaged in races with captains from rival Cape towns. In the “Great Sailing Match” of 1837, five boats raced from Barnstable to Boston. Commodore Hull, a schooner helmed by Yarmouth Port’s Captain Thomas Matthews, came in first. The packet boat business ebbed as the railroad industry developed, and with bridges spanning the Bass River since the early 1800s, trucking eventually eclipsed all other forms of transport. Today, the Town of Yarmouth operates Packet Landing as a marina for recreational, charter and commercial fishing boats, and the upper level features a memorial garden for veterans, with park benches, a flagpole and a commemorative stone. —Lisa Cavanaugh

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