2003 – A short July week’s sailing in Buzzards Bay

Onset to Cuttyhunk and Westport


Click to see the photo gallery.

Click to see the photo gallery.

The Short Version…

Sunday, July 27
11:00 Onset
2:00 Onset 14.4 nm.
howler SW – bash out; fly back
home mooring
chicken (cold)
2 blocks ice, 2 bags cube

Monday, July 28
8:45 Onset
4:30 Cuttyhunk 39.8 nm.
decent NW, then SW – sail
anchor, danforth (Aurora), raft
drop trash $2 per bag
steak (Belo)

Tuesday, July 29
2:00 Cuttyhunk
5:00 Westport 14.3 nm.
decent SW, sail
mooring (Tripps – $30×2), raft
spaghetti & sauce (Nan)

Wednesday, July 30
10:30 Westport
1:30 Cuttyhunk 14.3 nm.
decent SW, sail
1 blobk ice ($4)
anchor, claw
steak (Belo) & chicken (Nan)

Thursday, July 31
10:00 Cuttyhunk.
3:30 Onset 29.0 nm.
decent SE, sail
home mooring
chicken (Nan)

Friday, August 1
pizza (Marc Anthony’s)

The Long Version…

The weather played a major role, as it has all this year, in determining the feasibility of outdoor activities, particularly sailing!

The plan was to head out from Onset on Sunday and meet up with Paul & Sally Merry in Hadley Harbor. The forecast had not relented from 20-25 kts and 3-6 ft seas, but it looked pleasant and we motored out to the Canal in the late morning. There was a good bit of chop at Hog Island, so we continued across to the Old Channel. With sails up, we sped across Mashnee Island, all the way into Bennets Neck. (We saw this done by a larger boat a few weeks ago and a check with the chart showed that once you avoid the rocks near the red entrance mark, you can sail along the shore.)

We tacked at the moored boats and headed back towards the canal and past the inner of the two green cans-with-rock. I went forward to check a couple of things and discovered that our new sun shower was no longer on the coach roof. A present for Nan, bought Friday afternoon, and now it was gone. MAN OVERBOARD DRILL! It had to have slid off when we tacked, so back we went to Bennets Neck. And there in the water, visible through the Fujinons, floated the golden amoeba. Nan got some good practice steering and tacking as I hung over the rail, arm outstretched. After several misses, I got a grip on the bag and up it came. One of those times a self-tending jib is really nice. And the realization of just how hard it would be to pick up an unconscious person.

Off once again, we encountered some good chop and rollers as we approached the main canal channel. The worst spot is the pinch point between Wings Neck and the end of the Spit (aka Stony Dike on the charts). We had a good angle on the waves and the strong wind kept us moving, so it wasn’t as “wet” a beat as some days. Nevertheless, as we neared the green “1” can, it was clear that we had several hours of this ahead of us, and the wind and seas weren’t going to lessen. Nan looked a little uncomfortable and finally said, I don’t like this. There’s things you have to do and things you don’t have to do, especially on the first day of a vacation, so around we spun and back we went.

It was a downwind romp returning the way we’d come. Saw 11 kts on the GPS (now against the current) and most of the time we were surfing in the 7-to-8 kt range. Back on our mooring, we settled in, pretending we were in an exotic location, not our home port. We finally got in touch with Paul Merry, who with two friends had taken the Luders 33 from Cotuit to Woods Hole. He’d seen 48 on the wind gauge and 10-foot seas and sounded humbled. We were glad we’d taken a pass on the day’s sail. And had a fine sunset.

Monday morning was a lot quieter, with a NW wind, and we were off early. Motor-sailing out the canal with the current made short work of the Spit. But were we going the wrong way? Being invaded? Easily a hundred boats were headed towards us; they filled the entire length of said Spit. Best guess is that it was the New York YC, but why they would be arriving just as the current turned against them? An oops reading their Eldridge or they are so powerful a few knots of adverse current can’t stop them?

Once out in the Bay, we found ourselves on a close reach that would fetch Cuttyhunk. I like NW! It was warm, the breeze steady if not too strong, and we just slid past Marion and Mattapoisett, amazed at this stroke of fortune. (Usually Cuttyhunk is a full day’s beat into the SW.) Near West Island, the wind dropped, we motored a bit, and then picked up sailing again. Then the wind dropped again, jest a little noontime funnin’ with our minds. Again under power for a few minutes, I suddenly felt a cold wind on my face. Buzzards Bay always gets the last laugh – a SW!

So there we were, back on the usual drill, tacking our way towards West Island. Unable to clear the “2SE”, we tacked towards Naushon Island. Soon we were at the Weepecket Islands, almost invisible against the shoreline, and we tacked back towards the mainland. This would be one long leg as we beat down towards the “Martini Glass” radio tower, but this early in the day it was enjoyable. We still had some current with us and the chop was enough to confuse the Autohelm, so I steered the whole way. At the Dumplings, we swung back towards Nashawena, the last of the Forbes’ islands. Now the current was against us but with the wind, so the chop smoothed out and we had a delightful tack, laying back and enjoying the day.

Paul and Sally were just leaving Quicks Hole, so we eased off to meet them. Dumb move on my part; Paul rounded the rocky point close in and sped across our bow. We needed to get close to the island to get the wind angle to Cuttyhunk so by the time we tacked west, Aurora was off into the sun. Then it was a pinching duel of two very different but equally-rated boats the rest of the way.
It’s always amazing to watch boats stream from all points into a popular harbor at the end of the day. We zigzagged our way through the outer marks, not dropping sail until the last moment. Nan took the helm and I readied to furl the main. She called out, don’t look at that boat, but I did and saw a bikinied crew which must have affected my judgment. Next thing I knew, I’d released the halyard and felt the boom hit my head. Ah, yes, the lazy jacks needed retensioning! We motored to the inner harbor and rafted up with Aurora who’d anchored just past the rear mooring channel markers. (Moorings this year are $35 per boat.)

A day late for our meeting up. but here we were. Beer, wine, cheese, nuts, steaks, potatoes, broccoli(!) and talk. Cuttyhunk was pretty full, although it seemed like a lot more powerboats than I remember from past visits. And their generators! Aquinah (aka Gay Head) on Marthas Vineyard glowed in the sunset.

A steady rain began in the early hours Tuesday and brought a soggy dawn. After the sun appeared and dried things out a bit, we went ashore (trash $2 a bag) and hiked up to the old spotting towers. Expectations of ticks and mud kept us from further explorations, although we found a new path back down to the harbor.
Then began our “adventure” for the cruise: a visit to Westport Harbor. Hidden behind Horseneck Beach and some interesting rocks, with current supplied by the river, it was once a smugglers’ cove. Paul had never been there in his several decades of sailing this area. (In a conversation some years ago, the harbormaster told him not to come!) So Westport was a minor challenge.

We headed out the western approaches to Cuttyhunk in a SW on a close reach to the “1” can off The Wildcat and Old Cock rocks. It was another light and enjoyable sail, much like that of the previous afternoon. The rocks show mostly as a wrecked barge and a stick on the SW corner. After the mark we had a broader reach north along Gooseberry Neck (with tower) with Twomile Rock to port. At the red “4” we stopped to drop sails over Joe Burris Ledge.
The entrance to the harbor is a wonderful jog around The Knubble, keeping close to the red nuns which lead you on a tighter turn then you’d expect. Inside is a green wonderland with a well-marked channel leading around the circumference of the harbor. Well, mostly well-marked; I cut from one red to another near Lions Tongue Island, not taking the “No Wake” float as a mark, and found bottom. I spun around and with a couple of bumps powered out of the sand.

Paul by then was up the river and had checked on mooring fees. Tripps was $30 per boat and the YC $40. When he wondered aloud on the VHF about a good spot for anchoring, someone cut in and suggested that given the current and sandy bottom, anchoring was ill-advised. Accepting the advice of strangers, we took a $30 (x2) ball next to Cracked Rock. Once rafted, the current rushing past our hulls gave credence to the use of a mooring.

As with so many harbors that look small and shallow on the chart, it was amazing how many boats were moored between our spot and the bridge. There are many shore services, the afore-mentioned Tripps plus the YC, interesting-looking houses, an historic district and of course the beach. But we hung out on the boats, watched the sunset and discussed past and future cruises to Maine.
Wednesday dawned another beautiful day. We watched the ospreys swoop and dive from their nest over by the shore. And gulls jabbered up and down the river. We broke our raft and headed back out the channel with no missteps. Past The Knubble, Aurora turned east at the red past Gooseberry Neck, which would take them on a well-marked short cut back to Padanarum. We continued out past Old Cock and back to Cuttyhunk. Just another pleasant, almost too short, close reach on the SW and we were cutting again between Penikese and Cuttyhunk.

Inside the harbor we found an opening near where we’d been two nights before, dropped the Claw and backed down on it. Wow, right in line with the rest of the anchored sailboats! Then we sat back and watched the anchoring follies. There was the single-handed IOR boat under sail that couldn’t drop it’s anchor and got the motor running just before plowing into a tri named Rogue Wave (bernie?). Or the brand-new Hunter that motored around for most of an hour looking for an appropriate spot to anchor.

I went ashore for ice ($4 per bag or block) and found coffee ice cream on the menu, so treated myself. DanO had mentioned a couple of weeks ago how wonderful the ice cream tastes on the pier. Having only visited the island in the fall the last several years, I had to plead ignorance of such pleasures. He’s right!

A few weeks ago in Hadley Harbor we’d had to stand guard against a seagull making passes at the grill. And a couple of years ago at Cuttyhunk one had sat on the dinghy all evening eyeing the food preparations. So it was clearly our lapse when no sooner had Nan carried the steaks into the cockpit, then she yelled at a bird that had swooped off with half a pound of top loin. One of us had cold chicken.
Another fine sunset and sunrise, with a wind shift to the N and NE. The weather forecast was for a nice day, followed by rain Friday morning and chances of rain and thunderstorms the rest of the weekend. Call us fair-weather sailors, but hoping that the wind would accommodate, we took off early to scoot back to Onset. After tacks at Gull and Nashawena Islands, we found ourselves on a rumb line to the Canal! Of course four days ago it hadn’t held, but even if a SW turned up again, this time it’d be fine with us.
Out in the middle of Buzzards Bay, we had to round up to let an Oday 31 pass. It’s always amazing to encounter another boat on a collision course in a wide open space. Even more amazing to recognize it as Dave & Kathy Hirtle’s Dunatos. His former Dunatos, an Oday 28, we’d just left at Cuttyhunk. It’s now owned by old sailing friends, David & Jody Williams. They’d stopped in Onset the day we were to leave, along with friends from Cottage Park YC in an(other) Oday 31. (If a movie or novel, this would be the side-story.) These two had set off same as us for Cuttyhunk on Monday, but gave up on the SW and went to Quissett Harbor. They made it to Cuttyhunk on Thursday and we enjoyed their hospitality for drinks. Then on Saturday while I was waiting for the pumpout boat, S/V Dunatos came on the VHF looking for a town mooring and by the evening there were two Odays named Dunatos in Onset Harbor. (They’d also ventured out Sunday and gone 300 yards before turning back.)

Anyway, the SW held all the way across the Bay but wasn’t strong enough to power us against the Canal current and we headed for the Old Channel. There we sailed in and out of the wind shadow cast by Wings Neck but when we finally made it to the Phinney rock pile, it was a NE! Enough of this and we powered back to our mooring. On the way we passed Paul Hallisey heading out, a co-worker playing hooky in his Tartan 34.

Another night spent on the mooring imagining exotic places and we awoke to the rain. We came ashore and deprovisioned (?) in the moments of dry (not clear) skies.

So big points for it having been a sailing cruise without motoring except for harbor entrances and exits. Everything worked and nothing broke. Throw in a successful MOB drill and a four-hour run from Cuttyhunk to the Spit and I think we’ll do it again!

What Worked…

Real sheets and blankets continue to be the way to sleep. The new CD/MP3 player remains dandy. The BlueCharts in the Garmin GPSmap76 provided excellent charting capabilities.