yduJ Circumnavigates Cape Cod

This summer we "did the islands"---went to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The previous three summers we had gone to Nova Scotia, Bermuda, and Virginia, so this was a much smaller trip.

We headed out from Boston Harbor on Sunday August 17 towards Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod. Unfortunately the wind was not blowing much, so we ended up using our motor for much of the trip. This was, unfortunately, not the only time this happened. We picked up a mooring in P-town, but since we arrived late, around 8pm, we didn't go ashore, but just bedded down in our boat. Too bad; we'd been hoping to have dinner there and walk along the waterfront.

Monday morning we headed out along the eastern shore of the cape. To get there from Provincetown we had to do a kind of spiral course around spits of land. There seemed to be wind, which was nice, so we sailed. After a while it dropped, so we turned on the motor again. Usually we turn it on when the speed of the boat drops to 2 knots, which is pretty slow. With the motor on, we can go 6 knots. But it's loud and polluting, which we don't like. On the other hand, we really didn't want to get to Chatham, our next port of call, after sunset, because we'd never been to that harbor before, and it's quite a tricky entrance. I kept watching the wind instrument, which tells us the wind speed, and at some point I mentioned to Ken, "The wind is toying with 8 knots," and he replied, "Shall we toy with sailing?" We did, but it didn't really last.

At some point later on in the day the wind did increase to about 10 knots, which was enough to keep us in 4-6 knots of speed (depending on the point of sail: the direction the wind is coming from relative to the boat's heading), so we really did sail. We decided to raise the spinnaker (the big balloon sail that goes out in front of the boat), which can increase speed by another knot or two. Shortly after we got it up (a somewhat tricky business), there was a bit of maneuvering which caused the spinnaker to flap and flutter a lot. Normally this is not a big deal; you just fiddle with the lines to fix it and get it flying again. However, suddenly the sail was entirely in the water! Ken quickly got the boat stopped. With a lot of struggling, Valerie and I eventually managed to get the whole dripping wet spinnaker up on deck. It's a very large sail, pretty unwieldy. With some more struggling and fussing, we got it stuffed back into its bag. We looked forlornly up at the top of the mast, where the end of the halyard was. Normally it's attached to the sail, so to get it down, you just pull down the sail (well, gravity does the pulling, of course.) But in this case it had let loose somehow; at this point we had no idea how. There was no way we could fly the spinnaker---we couldn't haul it up! So we continued on the regular sails until we got to Chatham.

The harbor there is very shallow and full of tidal currents which shift sandbars and move the deep water around, so we had called the harbormaster on the phone earlier to find out if it was possible to get in at all during low tide, and what markings to expect to show us where to go. Still, it was quite hairy getting in, but we managed it without actually bashing up the boat on shallow bits. We ended up in a very protected circular cove called Crowe's Pond. The water was lovely, and we all went skinnydipping in the moonlight after anchoring. It was delightful.

Tuesday morning the weather was nice, and the water in our cove was very flat. We made a harness of ropes, hooked it up to the main halyard and a safety line to the jib halyard, and hoisted Valerie up to the top of the mast with the winches! She examined the damage up there, and discovered that a cotter ring had broken, and had managed in its breaking to free the shackle holding up the spinnaker. So we sent her aloft again, this time with tools to fix it before we got underway for the day. But now we had the spinnaker halyard back down on deck, so we could fly the spinnaker again. Which we did, and we had no difficulties this time. We did have to use the motor too often again, though, as the wind died in the afternoon.

There are shoals all over south of Cape Cod, so we had to be careful in our navigation on the way to Nantucket, our next destination, and from there to Martha's Vineyard. I'm definitely a child of the computer age here: give me Loran or GPS and I'm all set... Whenever I get confused as to where we are and what buoys we're seeing, I run for the Loran, and get straightened out in no time. I can imagine that sailing 20 years ago would have been much more stressful and I wouldn't have liked it nearly as well.

When we got to Nantucket we discovered that despite the fact that there is room for 400 boats to be tied up to docks or on moorings, the harbor was full! And more so---there were a lot of other folks at anchor. Not only was the harbor full, but it was full of very expensive boats. We were outclassed by a long shot, and Ken's boat is not a cheap little boat. It's small as ocean going vessels go, but it's certainly fancier than average. We dropped our anchor in amongst some other boats, and took a water taxi to the shore ($4/head, one way; a ripoff) to be tourists and have dinner ashore. Had an amusing conversation with the launch driver, who asked if Ken was a rocket scientist---after all, the boat's name is Proton. After we returned to the boat we had an eventful night. The wind dropped to nearly nothing, and light multihulls swing differently than big heavy monohulls. Monohulls swing with the current in light winds, and multihulls take a much lighter wind before they swing with the current, so they swing with the wind. So we hit our neighbors. CRASH! They must not have been on their boat, or they'd have been on deck too. We fiddled with shortening the anchor rode for a while and eventually decided it was hopeless and we should just go a lot further into the harbor where there was more room.

Unfortunately for us, the weather called for a huge gale with 40 knot winds to blow starting Wednesday night, and continuing on into Thursday. Since we'd hoped to spend the day on Nantucket Wednesday and sail to Martha's Vineyard Thursday, this didn't look good for our plans. Too much wind is worse than too little---it's actively dangerous. Ken didn't want to sit at anchor on that much wind either, because if your anchor lets go, you go slamming into other boats, the shore, rocks, and other undesirable things. So we cast about for options, giving up on getting dockside accommodations on Nantucket, and decided to pull up stakes and head for MV Weds where we were able to get dockside accommodations. This day's sail was great. Nice wind, not too much, not too little. A bit of tricky navigation over the shoals, but I got to punch buttons on the Loran, and that makes me happy. Our destination was behind a drawbridge, and we learned that it opened at 3:15 and 5:00. It didn't look like we were going to make the 3:15 opening, but when we got there at about 3:20 there was a long line of sailboats waiting to go through. We rushed through the sail dropping procedure, turned on the motor, and zipped into the line just in the nick of time. There must have been 10 sailboats going through; probably most of them trying to hide from the approaching storm. The lagoon behind the drawbridge was definitely a good "hurricane hole": lots of protection from winds of all directions. (We didn't get a hurricane, but 40 knots is not to be sneezed at.) We tied up at the dock and went to make acquaintance with the owners of the little marina. Ah! Showers! That hadn't been advertised! Hurray. One of the problems with sailing is that you don't ever know when your next shower will be, and our last attempt at getting clean had been in a brackish pond in Chatham.

We spent two days being landlubbers on Martha's Vineyard. The first day was of course the storm, but we rented a car, though the guy didn't want to rent it to us because it was raining. Well, duh, if it had been clear we'd have rented bicycles! Moron. Anyway, we did get the car and were able to drive around the island. Gay head is quite stunning, with its multicolored cliffs. We even got a break in the rain while we walked out to the view point. We did learn that MV is pretty hostile as tourist places go: we could not find parking in Edgartown, which we were passing through at about lunchtime, and had to give up and look for lunch in another town. We had a hard time finding restrooms. Lots of little delis would say "No Public Restrooms", and lots of sit down restaurants were closed. The amount of parking out at the cliffs was precisely the right amount for a cold blustery Thursday. What do they do with the people and their cars on a warm sunny Saturday? It makes no sense.

The second day we spent at the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Fair, which happened to be held that week. (No coincidence, actually. We knew this in advance.) Getting to and from the fair had been somewhat of a run around, since we'd turned in our car (we probably wouldn't have been able to park); they have shuttle buses but they aren't scheduled in a sensible manner. Oh well, we coped. It's just more of the tourist-hostility. We rode on the ferris wheel, admired goats and cows, and watched draught horses pull sledges of huge cement blocks totalling 8,000 pounds. Pretty impressive, actually. Then as night fell, there was a fiddle contest. Unfortunately we were on an early schedule, so we couldn't stay to watch the whole thing. They started with little kids, but boy could they play! It was just impressive to see some six year old up there with a tiny fiddle blasting out a jig. I was really disappointed to not be able to stay for the adults, since the kids had been so good---the adults must be outstanding.

Saturday morning we got up early so we could make the 8:15 bridge opening. We also had a bunch of friends join us. They'd gotten up even earlier and ridden the ferry from Wood's Hole to the Vineyard to sail with us back to Wood's Hole. This was a glorious day. I really like it when there's lots of wind but not enough to be scary and the waves splash everywhere as we pound through them. I put on my foul weather gear and sat where I'd get soaked. In Wood's Hole, which we reached in about an hour, we dropped off these guests and picked up another set of guests, all kids, who sailed with us the whole rest of the day. The sailing stayed fine through Buzzard's Bay. We motored through the Cape Cod Canal, keeping pace with bicyclists on the shoreline bike path. Then we put the sails back up and sailed up through the bay to Scituate. The wind wasn't quite good enough to get us all the way to the yacht club where we keep the boat. We were met by the kids' parents, went out for pizza on the waterfront, and driven home. I was "done" with sailing by this point, so I begged off the next day's sail to take the boat the rest of the way back, electing instead to relax at home before returning to the workaday world Monday.