New Book Now Available Sandy Bay National Harbor of Refuge and the Navy

New Book Now Available

Sandy Bay National Harbor of Refuge

and the Navy

Order today at

$23.00+Free Shipping

Safe Harbor at Sandy Bay

In 1885, construction began on the second-largest deepwater harbor in the world—second only to Cherbourg, France—to be called the Sandy Bay National Harbor of Refuge. It would consist of a giant 9,000-foot granite breakwater that would offer safe harbor to over 5,000 vessels and enclose an area of 1,600 acres.

As it was being built, the US North Atlantic Fleet began making annual visits to Rockport with its newest and largest warships, including most of Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet. These visits were designed to facilitate the fleet’s training maneuvers in the waters of Cape Ann as well as demonstrate the need for a protected harbor for national defense and security.

Over a 30-year period, 21 annual visits occurred with more than 100 naval vessels, including battleships, cruisers, torpedo destroyers, submarines, dispatch yachts, and other support craft, anchoring in Sandy Bay Harbor.


Paul St. Germain, local Cape Ann author and historian, has been a Rockport resident for 20 years and has written three other books in the Images of

America series. With assistance from the Sandy Bay Historical Society archives, official US Navy files, and other private collections, he has developed a revealing record and interesting history of the building of the breakwater, the men, the ships, and the events surrounding the Navy visits that occurred from 1899 to 1919.

2 thoughts on “New Book Now Available Sandy Bay National Harbor of Refuge and the Navy

  1. During one of the navy’s visits (I believe around 1908), my great uncle, Russell Burkhard, who used to summer in Rockport, took a rowboat out to the ships (called the Great White Fleet), and enterprisingly sold newspapers to the sailors. While he was on one vessel, the call came to haul anchor and set sail for the daily exercises. Russell did not have time to get off and thus spent the day on board the battleship. When the fleet returned to Rockport, Russell was allowed to disembark and head home in his rowboat.. Thus he was a midshipman for a day! A few years ago, his brother, Stanley Burkhard had shown me an article published in a local paper describing the incident….. but I’ll be darned if I can locate it?


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