Some Camden residents have been using the dinghy dock for many years to ferry themselves out to larger vessels they have moored in the harbor. To them, the dinghy dock is a means to an end and the little boats that live there are not the important ones, but to others, there’s enough there to be a destination all its own.

A view of part of the town float system and the harbor full of Atlantic menhaden.


Recently, we have seen an increase in the number of people wishing for a dinghy dock permit and this is making some of the more seasoned harbor users a little grumpy. Tales of not being able to find a place to tie up are growing more common and there are times when getting to your own dinghy requires stepping onto someone else’s.

Apparently, it never used to be like this, but I am a recent settler on the dinghy dock and so the crowded chaos just feels like part of the experience. It’s not that there are more moorings in the harbor and more dinghies needed to get to them. The trouble (if you want to look at it like that) comes from people like me who have discovered that you don’t have to own a yacht to enjoy the harbor. For $75, a Camden resident can get a permit to tie up a non-motorized dinghy or paddle craft at the town floats for the whole season.

Some will laugh, but I only discovered about 10 years ago that the public can even just walk down the ramp to the fishermen and dinghy floats. My kids and I have delighted in the joy of walking out onto the float system, catching crabs, chatting with lobstermen, fishing, and filming off of the floats. At least once a day, I brighten a tourist’s day by revealing that they too can walk down the ramp and see the harbor from this new perspective.

Alison McKellar’s son fishes off the dock while answering questions from tourists who are watching the schooling menhaden.

This past week, a family from Massachusetts adjusted their schedule after their kids became enamored with the experience too and joined my nine-year-old in his favorite summer sport of snagging pogies and giving them to the lobstermen for bait. Watching Atlantic menhaden splash and jump in almost choreographed displays has been generating ooohs and awwwws from the boardwalk too, and not just from the tourists. It’s a spectacular sight.

It feels like a real luxury to have a little dinghy down in Camden Harbor tied to a float that can be reached by ramp from the Public Landing. I probably spend more time sitting on the floats doing underwater photography or assisting my kids with their fishing gear than I do actually paddling around. This makes me an easy target for questions from tourists eager to know more about what they’re looking at or for comments from residents on any number of town issues. I love the conversations I have down there, the exchanging of knowledge, the excitement and diversity of the changing seasons and the different people they draw.

Another view of the town float system from the perspective of the cormorants and Canada geese who inhabit the intertidal zone.


The dinghy dock is a destination all its own — a true public asset that is still accessible to most of us. Sometime soon, I’ll write about some of the different things I’ve seen there, but until then, you can see some of the photos I’ve taken on the Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors website.

Some will probably curse me for sharing this information and drawing more people to the dinghy dock. There’s a part of me that just wants to keep it to myself but, like a lot of things in Camden, harbor access shouldn’t be reserved for a small group of people in the know. Camden’s dinghy dock spaces are first come, first served, and like I said, it’s getting crowded. The Town is working to find more space, and many will enjoy taking advantage of one of the other harbor access points, especially for a kayak or paddle board. Laite Beach, Steamboat Landing, and Marine Avenue (as of last week) also have racks that can be used by anyone holding a dinghy permit.

Alison McKellar is a Camden resident and Vice-Chair of the Select Board. Her views are her own and do not reflect those of the Select Board or the editorial position of The Camden Herald. We welcome letters and guest columns reflecting other viewpoints via


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