The Great Cove Boat Club is located on the Kittery/Eliot town line on the Maine side of the Piscataqua River, across from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and just up-river from the I-95 Bridge. The Club is centered in the Piscataqua Maritime Region, renowned for having one of the richest and most complete nautical histories in America.
English settlers established themselves on the banks of the Piscataqua nearly 400 years ago, originally to trade and fish, but soon developed a burgeoning maritime and naval ship-building industry and a strategically critical supplier of masts for the Royal Navy. The first warship produced in North America was the 50-gun HMS Falkland in 1696 on an island just downriver from the Club. Launched from this same site in 1776 and 1777 were the Continental Navy frigates Raleigh and Ranger, constructed under the energetic supervision of John Paul Jones, the Father of the American Navy. As Captain of the Ranger, Jones sailed to Quiberon, France in early 1778, and received from its harbor fort the first recognition by a foreign government of the new American flag proudly flying from its mast.
During the mid- 19th century, many of the largest and fastest Clipper ships in the world—including the Typhoon, Red Rover, Dashing Wave, Sierra Nevada, Sea Serpent, and Wild Pigeon—were built on the banks of the Piscataqua above and below the Club, materially consolidating the United States as a major maritime power, second only to Great Britain.
Downriver from the Club, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, established in 1800 and the oldest continuously operating shipyard in the US Navy, already had a long and storied record of distinction and achievement with the on-set of WWII. Its astounding submarine building program during the war years however may be the most glorious chapter in the history of the Yard. Launching 71 attack fleet submarines in less than 5 years, in addition to repairing and refitting many others, contributed immeasurably to the total defeat of the maritime-dependent Empire of Japan. The Yard of course continues to the present day as an important refit center for the Navy’s modern fleet of nuclear subs.
With the decline of New England’s fisheries and shipbuilding after the war years, the industrial infrastructure of the Piscataqua Region’s waterfront also entered a period of decline and neglect. In the event, recreational boating became affordable and popular with an equitable sharing of income produced by a strong American economy in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. Accordingly, with waterfront prices then depressed, several recreational marinas were established and expanded in the region. [Also during this time, starting in the early 1960’s with the historic preservation activities of the newly-founded Srawbery Banke in Portsmouth, there was renewed interest in and promotion of its history and that of the Piscatqua Region. Since then, the area has undergone a cultural renaissance transforming it to one of the most attractive and desirable areas in New England to live, work and recreate.]
As part of an increased demand for recreational boating in the region, Jerry’s Marina in Eliot was developed and operated by the Berounsky family from the late 1950’s to the mid 1980’s.
This family-owned marina was then re-developed and re-organized in 1986-1987, and the Great Cove Boat Club emerged as a private, boating member-owned and managed social club in 1988-1989, for the following organizational purposes.
- To establish a safe, secure and sociable home port for its boating members and the Club fleet;
- To promote, develop and encourage among its members the sport of boating and its related social and water-borne activities;
- To foster, encourage and advance the boating and seamanship skills of its members and the public;
- To encourage and assist its members in the berthing, maintenance, care and security of the Club fleet; and
- To educate and foster in its members and the public a greater appreciation of the marine environment, maritime interests and seafaring heritage of the region, and he civic obligations of their stewardship and advancement.
Presently, the Great Cove Boat Club has more than a 100 members during the boating season, and provides a full complement of services by friendly and knowledgeable staff and members in support and encouragement of what is perhaps the finest recreational boating in New England. There is every reason to believe the Club has much more history to come.