The town of Plymouth in Southeastern Massachusetts is best known for being the first site pilgrims set up a colony in the new world. While many tourists flock to Plymouth Plantation and the Mayflower, several other historic details about Plymouth are left unknown to many.
‘Captain John’ boats at the Mayflower Pier features an hour-long Harbor Cruise aboard the Pilgrim Belle, a remodeled paddle-wheel boat. Step aboard the historic vessel and embark on a tour of Plymouth Harbor.
The narrated tour of the harbor is informative and fun while the return leg back to the pier features a variety of beach music allowing all passengers to enjoy the summer sun while on board.
One of the crew members, Alex Corcoran, is a student at Plymouth State who has always been fascinated by colonial history.
“A lot of what we learn in elementary school about the pilgrims is fabricated,” she said. “I love working on this tour because it disproves all those preconceived notions.”
One of the first points on the tour is Plymouth Rock. While the site is commonly identified as the first place the Pilgrims landed in America, the tour disputes that. Provincetown, as it was aptly named, was the original landing spot, though the Pilgrims found it uninhabitable with infertile to plant their crops.
So on they went. Eventually landing at Plymouth. But it was not all smooth sailing for the Pilgrims as 52 of the 104 passengers forced to stay on the boat during the winter, perished while another was born. Scurvy, tuberculosis, and pneumonia were among the diseases that threatened the Pilgrims.
“A lot of people who come on our boat think the Pilgrims arrived in America and were home free,” Corcoran said. “That’s one pleasure I get from this job, being able to teach people about real history in a cool environment.”
Many of the landmarks within Plymouth Harbor were named by the Pilgrims, a prime example being Bug Light. The light juts out of the water to mark a dangerous shoal for ships to avoid. Corcoran, now narrating the tour, explains how it’s called the Bug Light because pilgrims would often catch lobsters off this spot. Unfamiliar to English waters, lobsters were referred to as “bugs” by the settlers.
“It’s the kind of stuff they don’t teach you in history class,” Corcoran said. “You get an insight into the way things used to be in Plymouth. It’s interesting to hear about the origin of things.”
As the Pilgrim Belle turns around at the tip of Long Beach to head back to port, snacks and drinks are offered and music fills the loud speakers. The hits from Jimmy Buffett, The Beach Boys, and Bob Marley fill the deck on the boat with, as Corcoran puts it, “good vibes.”
“This element of the tour makes us unique,” she said. “Typically on a harbor tour you’re just sitting there listening and looking. We make ours interactive as well as enjoyable. There’s nothing better than being on the water in the summer listening to ‘feel good’ music.”
As the sun beat down and the cool ocean breeze blew, the old vessel came into port, releasing its passengers with an updated knowledge of the area. Unlike most harbor tours, this is one Corcoran believes is worth taking again.
“We get a lot of people who come back and take our tour each year,” said Corcoran. “They like the relaxed nature of it.”
As I got off the boat, I was even offered with a friendly suggestion for where to find the best lobster roll in the harbor area. Corcoran suggested Wood’s Seafood…and it was A+ fresh and excellent quality.