I don’t like leaving Martha’s Vineyard; the place just pleases me. But I’m itching for a change of scenery. So at sunrise, I fire up Ginger Lee’s diesels, the XO slips the pendant off the bitt, and we’re off on another adventure.
It’s a good day on the water. What day isn’t? The sparkling seas are running one to two feet, favoring one. The temperature is in the upper seventies, and visibility is unlimited. Mister Sun is not totally with us yet, but he’s hiding behind such a thin veil of milky white clouds that it’s almost a certainty he will show his glorious face soon enough.
“How long is this ride?” the XO asks from her perch at the helm.
“Maybe our longest. Depends on the current,” I answer.
I remember a trip from Boston Harbor to Provincetown. We crossed Cape Cod Bay on a straight line course with no land in sight, nothing to look at except the occasional bird, and of course, the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, dead ahead for the whole six-hour trip. Yup. On a clear day, you can see that sucker from Massachusetts bay, just outside of Boston Harbor.
We’re on a boat that typically cruises at six mph; time is a factor. I’d love to cruise a straight line from East Chop on Martha’s Vineyard, to Chatham Roads, the approaching waterway to Stage Harbor, our destination, but no can do. When crossing Nantucket Sound, there are three areas to avoid. The first two, a pair of bars less than one foot deep, haunt the western edge of the massive Horseshoe Shoal. Fortunately, they’re well-marked and we thread our way between them. It’s a bit freaky watching our depth sounder go from thirty feet to five as we pass through the shallows. The last obstacle, called Bishops and Clerks, are deadly rock outcroppings, marked with a flashing light atop a large, bird infested, cylindrical structure. In keeping with our strict policy to avoid all deadly rocks, we leave them well to starboard and continue east past Kill Pond Bar, the Herring River, and Harwichport.
A few points off our starboard bow, Monomoy Island presents itself through the shimmering mist. Our radio comes alive with chattering fishermen, piloting their vessels through its many shoals. Dead ahead there is a flashing light plainly visible despite the blinding sun. I time the flashes, consult the chart, and discover it’s a lighthouse on Chatham’s eastern shore, or the other side of the land mass we are nearing. Chatham’s western shore has a lighthouse too, but it’s been decommissioned. I wonder why.
Maybe somebody said: “Why do we need a lighthouse on the west side when the lighthouse on the east side is plainly visible all around?” It makes sense to me. But wouldn’t it confuse an unsuspecting mariner? Lighthouses typically mark the edges of the land. Imagine it’s a dark and somewhat foggy night, our unsuspecting mariner sees the oscillating light, heads along side it, keeping it prudently to port. Suddenly, WHAM! He’s hard aground. Hey, I know it’s a stretch, but there are plenty of unsuspecting mariners out there. This is, after all, Massachusetts, where no licence is required to own and operate a boat. That’s right! Any palooka (or palookette) over the age of 12 can be out here alone, on the water, driving a motorboat. See that 42 foot Cigarette with the twin 600 horsepower V-8’s? The one that’s screaming right at you doing 75 mph. It could be legally driven by a dude who bought the thing before his first shave!
Finally, after five plus hours, the buoy marking the entrance to Stage Harbor greets us in all its red, white, and rusty glory. We on the “elbow” of Cape Cod, as far east as we have ever been in our boat. It’s wicked cool! I can’t wait to explore Chatham.