“Arise, go to Padan-aram. . . and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee. . .”
Genesis 28, 2&3
The stock explanation for the name of Padanaram attributes it to the prominence of a citizen at the turn of the 19th century named Laban. Variants of the story are repeated more often than they’re substantiated (guilty) but it’s not the only slippery name in town. The village belongs to the town of Dartmouth, although the name on the chart is South Dartmouth. The body of water which comprises the harbor is Apponagansett Bay.
Ashore, the most prominent facility for sailors is the New Bedford Yacht Club, which moved its headquarters from the neighboring harbor in 1941 but kept the old name.
The Concordia yard, highly regarded in New England yachting since the 1920’s, spread along the waterfront until moving inland in 2007. Their iconic yawls were actually built in Germany and then shipped here for fitting out in. . . Padanaram.
A large harbor of moderate depth, a quiet attractive town, and the sprawling, active New Bedford Yacht Club all draw sailors to Padanaram.
Between 2 and 3 miles off the mouth of Padanaram harbor (and beyond the margins of our chart) are a number of rocks and ledges shallow enough to be an obstacle for most sailboats. They are well-marked and not difficult to negotiate, but they don’t follow an intuitive pattern. Without a close look at the chart, it might seem like the red and green buoys were sprinkled at random. The former radar dome on Round Hill Point, 2 miles south of the entrance, used to make a prominent daymark, until the property’s new owners demolished the structure over the winter of 2007-2008. It still shows up on many charts.
Once inside the ledges, the way past the breakwater and into the harbor is wide and unobstructed. The entire harbor feels exposed to the width of Buzzards Bay south and east, but is comfortably protected unless the weather from that quarter is severe.
Via the Dartmouth Harbormaster, whose jurisdiction includes the harbor of Padanaram, the official regulations for anchoring are as follows:
“Anchoring is prohibited within the mooring fields. The only permitted anchorage in Padanaram Harbor, Apponagansett Bay, is clear of the western edge of the navigation channel and south of all moorings on the western side of the harbor. No vessel may anchor so as to protrude into the main channel, maneuvering area, mooring field or fairway. All vessels must monitor VHF 09 while anchored and must maintain watch with a responsible person on board. Each vessel must provide the Harbormaster Office with contact information for the vessel owner / operator prior to, or immediately upon anchoring.”
The Harbormaster also notes that most transients tend to interpret the situation a bit aggressively “in their favor, at least in terms of what ‘clear’ should mean.”
The New Bedford Yacht Club is the primary source for overnight moorings in the harbor. Call their launch on VHF 68 when you arrive.
Concordia has about 150 moorings, but they are typically rented by the month or season.
South Wharf now has several slips for visitors, since they took over the former Concordia yard in 2007 and renovated the marina.. The yacht club may occasionally have a slip if its regular occupant is away.
Padanaram figures far more prominently among sailors than it does in the world at large. The harbor’s size, its quick access to Buzzards Bay, and the century-old tradition of the New Bedford Yacht Club station have made it a popular destination since yachting took hold here at the end of the 19th century.
But for most of its history, the village has lived in the shadow of its immediate neighbor, New Bedford. Especially during the 19th century, as the region’s infrastructure grew, that shadow was considerable. New Bedford with its larger, deeper and better protected harbor, was long the epicenter of Yankee whaling and by some measures the richest city in America. Whaling capital fostered manufacturing in New Bedford, followed by railroads then highways. Padanaram remained a somewhat isolated coastal village.
Today it is primarily a residential town that, bypassed by industrialization, retains its highly prized tranquility. The streets near the harbor are pleasant to walk, with small shops and a concentration of marine business. A smattering of restaurants offer good casual options, or you can eat at the yacht club.
Wharf at the former Concordia yard
One Hour Ashore
A walk through town and across the bridge gives a pretty good sense of the place.There’s a small town beach just upriver of the bridge, on the southwest side, that makes a nice destination for either a walk or dinghy trip.
Off the Beaten Path
About a mile upriver from the yacht club, on Shipyard Lane, is the shop that builds the highly regarded Marshall catboats.
Dartmouth, one of the three vessels raided in the Boston Tea Party, was built in Padanaram.
The shops and galleries in town could keep you engaged for at least half a day. But Padanaram doesn’t offer the wide array of shoreside attractions to divert a fidgety crew through a long period of wet weather.
The yacht club launch serves its mooring customers, as well as anchored boats who pay the daily club facility use fee. The launch runs till sunset in the off season and 10:00 in summer. Or dinghy in to the club float. North of the bridge is a town dinghy dock.
Showers, restrooms and dumpsters are all available at the Club for their mooring customers, and at South Wharf if you’re in a slip there.
Diesel, water and ice are available at the yacht club fuel dock.
A short walk into town gets you groceries and a package store.
The Concordia yard and Doyle sail loft can fix boat and canvas.
All of Buzzards Bay is a No-Discharge zone. Contact the Dartmouth Harbormaster for pumpout.