Boating in Hyannis, Massachusetts
Popular Summer Spot
If Cape Cod were a state—rather than a state of mind— Hyannis would surely be its capital. Though technically a village in the town of Barnstable, Hyannis is home to the Cape’s largest year-round population. With ferries, tour boats, fishing vessels and hundreds of private yachts coming and going at all times of the day and night, Hyannis might not be the most bucolic harbor, but has to be the most useful port on the peninsula. Here you’ll find good restaurants, lively night spots, museums, shopping, excellent transporta- tion links, fishing boats, ferries, multi-million dollar yachts, simple daysailers and top marine services.
Hyannis represents different things to different people, but its very name evokes the same image for almost every- one—a handsome young President named John F. Kennedy sailing on its waters. JFK’s parents, Joseph and Rose Kennedy, bought a summer home in Hyannisport in the late 1920s and expanded it to accommodate their nine children.
In the ’50s, Jack and his brother Bobby bought nearby homes, creating what became known as the Kennedy Com- pound, the site of legendary family gatherings, touch football games, and boating outings. The compound still belongs to the Kennedys. You can it see it—but not well—from the water to port near the breakwater as you enter Hyannis Harbor. You will certainly feel the Kennedy presence in the village—at the John F. Kennedy Memorial, in museum displays, and in memorabilia sold in shops along Main Street.
Hyannis was important long before the Kennedys arrived. Iyanno (a.k.a. Iyanough), a sachem of the Cummaquid Indians for whom the village was named, and his tribe were digging clams and oysters from Lewis Bay long before English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold arrived in 1602. Legend has it that Iyanno sold the village for 20 British pounds and two pairs of pants when settlers arrived in the mid-17th century. By 1840 Hyannis was a thriving port. A couple of decades later, Nicholas Davis began pickling his oysters in brine and opened what might have been the fi rst, albeit crude, oyster bar in the country on Pleasant Street in 1866.
Recent Hyannis history may belong to the Kennedys, but there are other famous folks who have shelled out clams to make their homes here. Such notables have included writer Jack Kerouac, athletes John Havlicek (basketball) and Paul Stewart (hockey), and actress/singer Judy Garland. This captivating harbor may make you feel like a star, too.
Things to See and Do
It’s hard to visit Hyannis without succumbing to the Kennedy mystique, so you might as well start there. The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum (508-790-3077) at 397 Main St., in the old Hyannis Town Hall, reopened in 2005 after several months of renovation. Its exhibits tell the story of JFK’s Cape Cod years through a collection of family photographs and a video narrated by Walter Cronkite. The John F. Kennedy Memorial, a fountain that overlooks the water in busy Lewis Bay, has a plaque bearing this quotation from JFK: “I believe that it is important that this country sail and not lie still in the harbor.” And, if you need to get a better view of the Kennedy Compound (impossible from land) take the one-hour narrated harbor tour from Hy-Line Cruises (508-790-0696).
Despite its rich seafaring history, Cape Cod didn’t have a museum to celebrate it until 2005 when the Cape Cod Maritime Museum (508-775-1723) at 135 South St. opened its doors. The small museum, which has an active education program for both children and adults, overlooks the water. Its main gallery exhibit “For Those in Peril on the Sea” tells the story of ships wrecked along the Cape’s Atlantic coast and the important work done by the U.S. Lifesaving Service. A fully restored 1930s surfboat forms the centerpiece of the exhibit.
Downtown Hyannis is a comfortably walkable city, but if you are moored or docked on the outskirts, you might want wheels. Guests at the full-service Hyannis Marina (508- 790-4000) can use their courtesy car to get around. Rental cars, buses and local trolley service are also readily avail- able. Contact the Hyannis Area Chamber of Commerce (508-775-2201) for information.
The Cape Cod Central Railroad (508-771-3800) offers two-hour scenic rides between Hyannis and the Cape Cod Canal, as well as elegant three-hour dinner excursions. Most popular of all shore sites are the premium Craigville and Long beaches, a few miles west of the harbor.
When the Cape Cod Mall and its 120 mid-price and upscale stores opened a few miles inshore, folks wondered if Hyannis’s Main Street would keep its lively shopping ambiance. It’s survived pretty well with a mix of boutiques, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Massachusetts residents give Cape Cod Potato Chips rave reviews. You can make up your own mind if you take the self-guided tour at the Cape Cod Potato Chips factory (508-790-3900) at 100 Breed’s Hill Road, off Iyanough Road. You’ll need to get a ride from the harbor.
Music fans take note: the Boston Pops-by-the-Sea (508- 790-2787) performs on the Village Green in August, and the Cape Cod Melody Tent (508-775-5630) on the west side of town is famous for its summer night shows.
Restaurants and Provisions
There is such a mix of restaurant styles, food and ambiance that dining in Hyannis can be the best kind of adventure.
If you’ve taken a slip at Hyannis Marina you can enjoy harborside dining at Tugboats Restaurant (508-775-6433) on Arlington Street, or lounge by the pool at Trader Ed’s Cabana Bar (508-790-8686), serving a snack bar menu and lots of cool drinks. Two people told us to go for dinner at the Roadhouse Café (508-775-2386) at 488 South St., and what a good tip that was. You can opt for the lighter menu in the Backdoor Bistro, or stay inside for pasta, steaks, chops, seafood, and ribs in an elegant setting. A piano bar makes it complete.
Alberto’s Ristorante (508-778-1770) at 360 Main St., Beech Tree Cantina (508-534-9876) at 599 Main St., offering Cape Cod's finest mexican food, and the easy-to-grab Box Lunch (508-790-5855) at 357 Main St. are among the dozens of choices for Main Street shoppers. You won’t soon forget the unique experience of dining at the Eclectic Café (508-945- 6005) at 606 Main Street. New on the block (Main Street, that is), Grille 16 in the Asa Bearse House—once a sea captain’s manor—is an upscale steakhouse with live jazz and trendy drinks.
If you can find a way to make it to Capt. Parker’s Pub (508-771-4266) at 668 Route 29 in West Yarmouth, a couple of miles to the east, you won’t be disappointed. This local favorite for nearly 30 years has won the clam chowder triple crown, taking home awards from Boston, Cape Cod and Newport competitions, and the restaurant has a reason- ably priced and highly regarded seafood menu.
Use tide tables for Boston. High tide at Hyannis Port is 1 hour, 5 minutes later; low tide is 30 minutes later. Mean tidal range is 3.1 feet.
Use ChartKit Region 2, pages 8 and 40; ChartKit Region 3, pages 66 and 80; Maptech Waterproof Chartbook Block Island to Cape Cod; or Maptech Waterproof Charts 5 and 19. Also, NOAA charts 13229 (1:40,000) and 13237 (1:80,000).
Navigation and Anchorages
Hyannis Harbor and Lewis Bay together make one of the most popular cruising destinations on the south side of Cape Cod. The approaches aren’t difficult, but there are rocks and ledges scattered about; follow your chart closely. Hyannis Harbor, the outermost of the two bodies of water, is protected by a half-mile-long breakwater to the west and by Great Island on the east. The breakwater on the west end of Hyannis Harbor is 6.6 miles from Cotuit Harbor and 6.9 miles from the Bass River entrance. Vineyard Haven is 18 miles away. Nantucket Harbor is 21.9 miles away.
The outer harbor is deep, but vulnerable to winds from the southeast. That doesn’t keep the boaters away, though, so be prepared for plenty of company during peak boat- ing season. Regardless of the direction from which you approach Hyannis, there will be several prominent markers to help you. Look for an abandoned lighthouse on the tip of Point Gammon and Fl 6s 31ft 7M “H” on the east end of the Hyannis Port breakwater.
From the southwest, as from Woods Hole or Martha’s Vine- yard, you have two options using the North Channel, which begins at Nobska Point Light. Head east along the coastline to R “12” Fl R 2.5s, and pass just north, but close to, R “12” to avoid Succonnesset Shoal which, extends to the east. From here, head northeast to RW “C” Mo (A) BELL south of Cotuit. Pass south of R N “2” at Hodges Rock, then head northeast to R W “HH” Mo (A) BELL at Hyannis Harbor.
A safer route, especially in poor visibility, is to head east along the well-marked North Channel, staying south of Succonnesset and Wreck shoals, to G “5” Fl G 2.5s BELL. From here, head north east for 3.8 miles to R W “HH” Mo (A) BELL.
From Nantucket, you have a straight 19-mile shot from R W “NB” Mo (A) BELL along a course just west of north to R W “HH” Mo (A) BELL. The fi rst mark, directly on course about 8.5 miles away, will be G “17” Fl G 6s GONG in the Nantucket Main Channel. Another seven miles to the north you’ll pass west of R “2” Fl R 4s GONG and the dangerous shoals at Bishop and Clerks as you approach R W “HH.” Point Gammon will be visible ahead and to the northeast. From the east and Chatham, keep well south of Kill Pond and Dogfi sh bars and head for R “2” Fl R 2.5s off Point Gammon. You’ll pass over Senator Shoal, which has 11 feet. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re in a deep-draft boat. Don’t cut north of R “2,” because you’ll defi nitely run into Gazelle Rock, which is located just northeast of the buoy. R W “HH” Mo (A) BELL is about 1 mile west of R “2” Fl R 2.5s.
CAUTION: You’ve just entered the busiest harbor on Cape Cod. Be on the lookout for ferry, excursion, and fi shing boat traffic.
From R W “HH,” bear 011° M for 1.1 nm to pass west of R “4” Fl R 2.5s at Great Rock. The dredged channel begins between G “5” Fl G 4s and R “6” Fl R 4s, both located just northeast of R “4.”
The charted 11- to 12-foot-deep dredged channel is clearly marked with lighted buoys. Hyannis Marina reports depths up to 15 feet. The channel heads northeast, then north between Dunbar Point and Egg Island in Lewis Bay. Do not deviate from the channel.
Hyannis Harbor is tucked behind the breakwater that extends southeastward from the Kennedy compound and is west of the entrance channel. There is an anchorage here that’s protected well enough from southwesterlies, but open to the southeast. Deep-draft vessels can anchor here, but keep at least 400 yards off shore to avoid shallows. The bottom is soft mud and sand.
Lewis Bay, to the northeast, offers excellent protection from the worst of weather, but it’s not as great an anchor- age as you might think due to its size and its fetch. The safest area is northeast of Egg Island, a beautiful breakwater. Anchor 300 yards northeast of its center in 7 to 8 feet of water. This area is well-traveled and anchor lights are a must. Lewis Bay from Dunbar Point to the inner harbor is a 6-mph no wake zone.
You can explore the waters around Egg Island and Uncle Roberts Cove in your dinghy. The channel into Uncle Roberts Cove has widely varying depths, from 2 to 10 feet. There is no landing allowed on privately owned Great Island. A privately buoyed channel leads north of Pine Island to an anchorage/mooring area with about 7- to 8-foot depths in the eastern end of Lewis Bay. The bay has a soft mud and sand bottom, which offers a secure hold. Another good gunkhole is south of Pine Island with about 7 feet of water, but the approach has only 3 feet—enter at high tide. Hyannis Inner Harbor is reached via the well-marked channel. Due west of G C “15” is a town mooring basin. The small park and fountain you see on the shore is the JFK Memorial.
Depths in the channel into the Inner Harbor average a charted 12 feet; Hyannis Marina reports 15 feet. As you round Harbor Bluff, you’ll see more moorings on either side. Hyannis Marina (508-790-4000), to the east, caters to transients. Call ahead for a reservation as there is ferry traffi c, and you don’t want to obstruct the channel while waiting to hear if there’s any space.
Shoreside and Emergency Services
Airport: Barnstable 508-775-2020
Bus: CCRTA 800-352-7155
Coast Guard: Woods Hole 508-548-5151
—Chatham 508-945-0164 or VHF 16
Harbormaster: 508-790-6273 or VHF 16
—Yarmouth Harbor Patrol 508-760-4800 or VHF 66
Police, Fire, Ambulance: 911
Taxi: Hyannis Taxi 508-775-0400
—Sea Tow 800-4SEATOW or VHF 16
—TowBoatU.S. 800-391-4869 or VHF 16 ?