Boston Yacht Haven a lovely stopover, with or without a yacht

The penthouse at Boston Yacht Haven Inn & Marina opens onto a balcony with a 180-degree view.
The penthouse at Boston Yacht Haven Inn & Marina opens onto a balcony with a 180-degree view.
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When we visited Boston Yacht Haven Inn & Marina in mid-September, kayakers Dave and Amy Freeman  were spending a couple of nights. They were taking a break from their continuous paddle from Grand Portage, Minn., to Key West, Fla., via the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and the Atlantic Coast.

The Haven must have felt like heaven.

Hiding in plain sight at the end of Commercial Wharf, the compact hotel could feel like heaven to anyone — not just ocean kayakers eager for a hot shower and crisp linens. The marina complex at the edge of the North End has more than 100 slips, including 15 berths for mega-yachts, so it is well known among the deep-water cruising community. It’s a fair bet that the Freemans’ kayaks were among the smallest craft to ever use the facility.

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Boaters book it to get a break from marine toilets and tight sleeping quarters, and international visitors often find the rooms through online hotel booking sites (www.booking.com features the inn prominently, while other search engines bury it deep in a list of Boston hotels). This fall the place has been busy with parents and teens visiting prospective colleges.

Built during the Big Dig days, the inn received a complete overhaul in 2009. The 10 clean-lined rooms have a vaguely nautical motif that avoids the clichés of anchor-pattern wallpaper or ship’s bells at every turn. Beds are four-poster queens and kings painted a crisp white and dressed with heavy white sheets and navy-and-white patterned throws. A new heating and ventilation system gives each room individual climate control.

The two most popular rooms are 203 and 206: mirror-image, 750-square-foot corner suites with high beamed ceilings and harbor-side balconies. Each room is equipped with coffee machine, microwave oven, small refrigerator, Internet access, and large flat-screen television. The large windows — and outdoor balcony seating when the weather permits — make 203 and 206 perfect for watching boat traffic in the harbor. Indeed, all the guest rooms except 209 have harbor views. That room overlooks the Boston skyline.

The 200-square-foot penthouse (Room 210) is a little hideaway. What the king-bedded room lacks in size, it makes up for with a 180-degree wraparound balcony. We can imagine that guests might be tempted to never leave the room, since they can enjoy breakfast with sunrise on the harbor, follow the light across the day with a city view, and watch the sun go down over the harbor at night. But stunning black-and-white photographs of Boston landmarks are scattered throughout the inn, and they are bound to inspire visitors to go out and explore.

The common areas of the inn are small, all the better to interact with fellow travelers who have interesting tales to tell. The Captain’s Lounge is equipped with a pool table and a massive flat-screen television with the complete DIRECTV sports package. The lounge has comfortable chairs and a Keurig coffee machine for freshly brewed java around the clock. The exercise machines of the gym look out on the harbor through the privacy of reflective glass.

Boston Yacht Haven serves continental breakfast to its guests but has no other food service. That’s hardly a hardship, since Joe’s American Bar & Grill is on the other end of the wharf, and City Landing and Legal Sea Foods are a five-minute stroll in one direction, the restaurants of the North End a five-minute stroll in the other.

Boston Yacht Haven Inn & Marina
Rooms Nov. 1-April 30 $225-$375.
87 Commercial Wharf, 617-367-5050, www.thebostonyachthaven.com