Cruising Stories

Looping Nantucket Sound

By
Ed
Kukla

The Great Loop, the Downeast Loop, the Triangle Loop, Florida's Little Loop boaters seem to be quite loop happy. So here's one to add to your loopy list: the Nantucket Sound Loop, circling from Cape Cod in the north to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in the south. There are many well-protected harbors, the fishing is very good, beaches run for miles, and there are quintessential small towns everywhere.

Great place to start is in Woods Hole, just down the road from Falmouth on the Cape. It's less than 12 miles from the Cape Cod Canal and less than 25 from Newport, Rhode Island. From there, the loop runs east-southeast to Martha's Vineyard, east to Nantucket, north up to Hyannis, and west over to Cotuit Bay before heading southwest to return to Woods Hole. This route stays inside the Nantucket Sound, safe from large ocean swells. There are many shoals scattered around the sound, but they are well charted and marked, and there's plenty of room to avoid them. The longest run is about 25 miles, which means easy day trips for even the slowest of vessels. By going north from Nantucket to Hyannis, the trip takes advantage of the prevailing southwesterly winds that dominate here during the summer.

In Woods Hole, tie up in Hadley's Harbor, a very unique place. The Forbes family installed mooring buoys here in the inner harbor they are marked private but that seems to be a technicality, as cruising boats use the moorings regularly. Oh, and by the way, they're free. The only problem with that is that they're also often full. Your other options are to anchor in outer Hadley's Harbor or proceed to a mooring or slip in Woods Hole harbor. While you're in town, don't miss the tour at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, it is excellent. And when you're motoring out of Woods Hole, pay attention to the current as you're maneuvering toward open water there are rocks all around!

Next up, Martha's Vineyard. This is a very big island with many ports to choose from. I like staying in Vineyard Haven Harbor. It's in the center of the island, is sheltered from the winds, has options for anchoring, mooring or dockage, and the excellent local bus system makes it easy to get around. Plus, the collection of classic yachts moored here is great fun to check out. To the east, Oak Bluff has moorings and dock space options and seems to be party central. Edgartown, farthest east, is an outstanding little village with anchoring, mooring, and some dock space as well. A walking tour of the many old sea captains' houses is a great way to stretch your legs. Take the ferry across to Chappaquiddick to explore the marshes and beaches.

After the Vineyard, it's on to Nantucket. This has to be the most New England of New England destinations. Many of the streets are cobblestone, and the buildings are postcard perfect. There is room to anchor, a large mooring field, and in the harbor is the excellent Nantucket Boat Basin (508-325-1350, nantucketboatbasin.com), which has earned the Marinalife Transient Marina Of The Year Award for three years running. George Bassett, the dockmaster for 28 years, has built up an 86 percent customer return rate, in large part because it's all about customer service at Nantucket Boat Basin. George and his 40-person staff keep everyone happy, and it's important to book your reservations early to make sure you get a spot. The wharf-like setting is charming and one-of-a-kind, with shops and restaurants just steps away. It has the appearance more of a fishing village than a marina, and it works very well. Arrange for a bike rental to venture along the island's paved bike trails past beautiful homes and pristine beaches. You can also run your dinghy five miles from Nantucket Boat Basin up to the Head Of The Harbor and the stunningly gorgeous Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge.

There's nothing quite like Nantucket.Next, head 25 mile north to Hyannis. Don't lie, the first thing you think of when hearing Hyannis is Kennedy, and rightly so. That family made the town famous, and still has a compound there. You can anchor in the outer harbor not far from several of their moored boats. Visit the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum to learn even more about one of our best-known presidents. But there is also so much more to Hyannis. Well-protected Lewis Bay is accessed via a deep channel, and has a mooring field run by the Hyannis Yacht Club and a large area available for anchoring. Further into Hyannis' inner harbor you'll find the Hyannis Marina (508-790-4000, hyannismarina.com), a resort-like facility with all the usual extras plus 200 slips for yachts up to 200 feet, a pool, Trader Ed's Cabana Bar, Tugboat's Restaurant, three courtesy cars, and one of the best-stocked marina ships stores I've ever seen. Carla Sullivan, dockmaster for 18 years, runs a tight ship if you need it, she can get it. She regularly attends to the needs of the megayachts that frequently tie up, but gives the royal treatment to every boat that lands at her docks, no matter how large or small. If you can pull yourself away from the marina, there are all kinds of excellent restaurants and attractions to check out. The Black Cat Tavern has some of the best chowda around. Downtown there's a unique collection of waterfront artists' studios, a maritime museum, and plenty of shops to fulfill the need for retail therapy.

There are nice beaches on the inside and outside of Egg Island, just a quick dinghy ride from anywhere in the harbor.

The last stop on this loop is Cotuit Bay. The channel at the entrance to Cotuit Bay is quite shallow, so the preferred entry route is the channel into West Bay, followed by an immediate turn into the Seapuit River behind Dead Neck. This route gets dredged frequently and big sailboats use it regularly. There are marinas further up West Bay and a mooring field in Cotuit Bay, but I like to anchor behind Dead Neck in the no-wake zone. There is a sandy bottom with good holding behind the barrier-island bird sanctuary. You can walk around the beach to the sound to swim in the ocean, or just relax in the peaceful, quiet setting. From the West Bay channel, it's an easy day trip back to Woods Hole.

Falmouth Harbor, less than 10 miles west of Woods Hole, has plenty of marinas if anchoring out for a night is not your cup of tea. You can do this loop in a week, though it's better if you give it two weeks, and you could easily spend a month or two doing it, exploring all that the many islands and harbors have to offer. However long you go for, enjoy Nantucket Sound!

Related Articles
Spectacular Spans: A Tour of America's Great Bridges
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They come in all shapes and sizes, lengths and locations, ages and angles. For boaters, America’s coastal bridges are a fairly common sight, one that often goes unappreciated and undervalued, especially when most of us only get to see them up close from underneath — a unique perspective not often enjoyed by the general public.

Here are the stories of nine of our country’s famous bridges that span America’s frequently traveled waterways, along with fascinating facts that you can share as you sail under or drive over them.

Brooklyn Bridge

Perhaps the world’s most recognized span, this 139-year-old granddaddy of bridges took about 13 years to construct, linking Manhattan to Brooklyn and comprising the East River’s first fixed crossing. As the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1883, its main span measures 1,595 feet and deck rises 127 feet above the river’s surface.

Its building was a true family affair, designed by John Roebling who died unexpectedly after an injury he sustained in the early stages of the bridge’s construction. He was succeeded by his son, Washington who suffered a paralyzing caseof caisson disease. Unable to supervise construction in person, he directed the work from his nearby apartment using a telescope overlooking the site, while his wife Emily delivered handwritten instruction notes to the engineers.

Located between Piers 4 & 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River is the new ONE°15 Brooklyn Marina with 100 slips for vessels up to 300+ feet. Estuary, the marina’s flagship restaurant, features new American cuisine, and the park is home to numerous restaurants, shops and cafes.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge (aka the Bay Bridge)

Soaring above Chesapeake Bay, this dual-span bridge connects Maryland’s densely populated Western Shore with the more rural Eastern Shore, running between Annapolis and Stevensville. The original two-way span opened in 1952; a parallel span was added in 1973 to alleviate congestion. It was only marginally successful.

Especially in summer, the bridge is often referred to as “the world’s tallest traffic jam,” packed bumper-to-bumper nearly 200 feet above the Bay. Because of its height, narrow spans, low guardrails and frequent high winds, the Bay Bridge is cited by some as one of the scariest crossings in America. But to west-bound travels, the sun setting over its tall towers and curved steel girders is a spectacular sight.

Located at the eastern base of the bridge on Kent Island is Bay Bridge Marina, which accommodates boats up to 70 feet. Sandy Point State Park Marina awaits on the westside for day use and fueling. Several other marinas are nearby.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT)

Hailed as one of the great engineering marvels in the world when it opened in 1964, the original CBBT required the construction of four artificial islands, two miles of causeway, nearly six miles of approach roads, two-mile-long tunnels, four high-level bridges and 12 miles of trestle. It crosses the Chesapeake Bay between Cape Charles on the Delmarva Peninsula and Virginia Beach on the mainland.

The CBBT crosses two key East Coast shipping lanes. High-level bridges were initially proposed to span these channels, but the U.S. Navy objected to a bridge over one of the channels, because a collapse could cut off the Norfolk Naval Station from the Atlantic.

Cape Charles Yacht Center and Cape Charles Harbor Marina on the west side of the Delmarva Peninsula put you in the middle of the quaint shoreside town of Cape Charles and its charming shops, restaurants and accommodations.

Florida Keys Seven Mile Bridge

Among the world’s longest bridges when it was built, Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. Actually two bridges, the newer span is open to vehicular traffic; the older is only for pedestrians and cyclists.

The older bridge was constructed in the early 1900s as part of the Key West Extension of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway. After the Keys section of the railroad was damaged by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Flagler sold it to the U.S. government, which convert edit to automobile use. Unsupported sections were added in 1935 to widen it for vehicular traffic, and the railroad tracks were recycled, painted white and used as guardrails.

Near the center, the bridge rises, providing a 65-foot clearance for boat passage in Moser Channel on the ICW. The remainder of the bridge is considerably closer to the water’s surface. Several marinas are on the Marathon end of the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge

Named one of the Wonders of the Modern World by American Society of Civil Engineers, the 1.7-mile bridge was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge when it opened in 1937. Originally designed by engineer Joseph Strauss in 1917, the final design was conceived by Leon Moisseiff, engineer of New York City’s Manhattan Bridge.

The relatively unknown residential architect Irving Morrow designed many of the bridge’s Art Deco features, but his most famous contribution was its unique color, international orange. Others preferred that it was painted aluminum, dull gray, and the U.S. Navy suggested black and yellow stripes to ensure visibility by passing ships.

The water under the bridge is often turbulent, given the clash of the silt-heavy Bay waters and the cold Pacific Ocean currents. Consequently, recreational and commercial traffic are carefully monitored and regulated. Looking to dock and dine nearby? Try the north end of the bridge. Le Garage at Schoonmaker Point Marina in Sausalito serves innovative French cuisine, and at the casual eatery, Fish, place an order at the counter and sit at one of the picnic tables overlooking Clipper Yacht Harbor.

Mackinac Bridge

The engineering marvel often called “Mighty Mac” is the longest suspension bridge with two towers between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere, with a shoreline-to-shoreline length of five miles. Opened in 1957, it took three and a half years to build, because Michigan’s harsh winters limited construction to the summer months. Engineers faced daunting challenges. The Great Lakes freeze during the winter, causing large icebergs to place enormous stress on the bridge’s base.

The total length of wire in the main cables is an amazing 42,000 miles, enough to wrap around the Earth nearly twice. Painting the bridge takes seven years; when workers finish, they immediately start again. Locals note that the current in the Straits of Mackinac frequently changes direction, and when combined with wind-blown waves, churn from passing freighters and rebound off the bridge pilings, boating under and near the bridge can be challenging.

St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula has a full-service public marina with 136 slips and is close to shops, cafes and restaurants, like the Mackinac Grille & Patio Bar.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

One of Florida’s most iconic sights, the current Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened in 1987 and is the second bridge of that name on this site. The striking cable-stayed span connects the St. Petersburg peninsula to Terra Ceia, just north of Bradenton. The original bridge opened in 1954. A similar structure was built parallel and to the west of it in 1969 to make it a four-lane bridge.

In 1980, the freighter MV Summit Venture collided with one of the bridge’s supports during a storm, causing the
southbound span to collapse and sending vehicles into Tampa Bay. After the disaster, the northbound span was converted to carry one lane in either direction until the current bridge opened.

If you’re headed into Tampa Bay, Terra Ceia Preserve State Park is on your starboard side, a 2,000-acre mangrove forest and wetlands offering kayaking, fishing and nine miles of hiking trails. At the St. Pete end of the bridge, check out O’Neill’s Marina near Maximo Park.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

The name Tacoma Narrows Bridge has been given to three different incarnations of this span connecting the city of Tacoma with the Kitsap Peninsula to the west. The original bridge opened in 1940 and spectacularly collapsed just four months later due to design flaws that resulted in what was termed “aeroelastic flutter.” It was replaced by the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1950, which is still used for westbound traffic. A third parallel span opened in 2007 to carry eastbound traffic.

The collapse of the original bridge — nicknamed Galloping Gertie — had a major impact on the field of bridge aerodynamics, which influenced the design of all the world’s long-span bridges built since 1940. The newsreel footage of the collapse can still be viewed on
YouTube today.

Just south of the bridge you find Narrows Marina with transient docks that offer 375 linear feet of three-hour complimentary
guest side ties and 13 overnight moorage slips. The Narrows Brewing Company and Boathouse 19 restaurant are steps away.

Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge

This massive suspension bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island opened in 1964 after decades of on-again off-again planning and five years of construction.
Each tower is made up of more than a million tons of metal, one million bolts and three million rivets. The four main suspension cables are 36 inches in diameter, and each is composed of 26,108 wires totaling 142,520 miles in length. Due to thermal expansion of the steel cables, the upper roadway’s height is 12 feet lower in summer than in winter.

The double-decker bridge carries 13 lanes of traffic, seven on the upper level and six on the lower level. Both the upper and lower roadways are supported by trusses that stiffen the bridge against vertical, torsional and lateral pressure — thanks to lessons learned from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in 1940.

Fort Wadsworth, at the Staten Island end of the bridge, is one of the oldest military installations in America, built in the early 1800s to protect the Narrows. In 1994, the U.S. Navy turned Fort Wadsworth over to the National Park Service.

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Our Adventures between the Great Lakes from Detroit to Port Huron
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My husband Tim and I spent 2021 traveling 8,000 miles around the Great Loop. Like many, we wanted to cruise in Canada, but we didn’t get the green light for entry in time. We were initially bummed, but our mood quickly shifted as we discovered some of our favorite stops on the stretch that kept us in U.S. waters, including our journey between Lake Erie and Lake Huron.

Stop 1: Belle Isle

Estimated Mileage: 2 NM

Belle Isle is the largest city-owned island park in America, located on the Detroit River between the United States and Canada. The island’s only marina is the Detroit Yacht Club, which has a limited number of transient slips for reciprocal members, so it’s best to explore while keeping your boat at Milliken Marina. 

Roughly 1,000 acres, Belle Isle is home to an aquarium, maritime museum, botanical garden, beach, picnic areas and playgrounds that provide a plethora of options to explore. You won’t find great spots to grab a bite to eat, so we recommend stopping at Atwater Brewery on the way back to the marina.

Stop 2: Harrison Township, Lake St. Clair

Estimated Mileage: 24 NM

Often referred to as the Great Lake’s smaller cousin, Lake St. Clair is large enough to easily keep your distance from freighters yet small enough to explore in a day.

By boat, you can visit several of the lake’s swimming spots in Anchor and Bouvier Bays (or “Munchies” Bay as the locals say), popular for their clear water and hard bottoms. After an afternoon of swimming, cruise through the Clinton River and tie up at one of several restaurants catering to a lively boater scene for a drink and meal. Crews Inn is one of our favorites for their fun atmosphere and great food.

Lake St. Clair Metropark Marina is a popular spot for transients. The marina is located in the park, so after docking, enjoy the expansive park’s beaches, trails, picnic areas and swimming pool.

Stop 3: Port Huron, MI

Estimated Mileage: 44 NM

Port Huron is home to the start of one of the longest fresh-water races in the world called the Port Huron to Mackinac Sailing Race, and the port is a charming and boater-friendly destination.

Ideal for its central location and friendly members, Port Huron Yacht Club is a great place for tying up, sipping a drink at the clubhouse and avoiding the drawbridges on the Black River. Another popular spot is about a mile farther down the river at the 95-slip River Street Marina.

Port Huron is home to the Island Loop Route National Water Trail, a 10-mile loop through the Black River, Lake Huron and St. Clair River. Your dinghy is a must through the Black River and for exploring the town and clear waters by boat.

Walk a mile along the Blue Water River Walk that runs along the St. Clair River. Be sure to leave enough time to watch the freighters go by and delve into the area’s history that is shared along the route. Continue a couple of miles farther to Lighthouse Park, where you can enjoy an afternoon at the beach and swim in Lake Huron’s crystal clear water.

During a stroll downtown, check out the Knowlton’s Ice Museum of North America to discover the history of local ice harvesting that took place along the Great Lakes.

When you’ve done enough activities to work up an appetite, Casey’s is the place for delicious breadsticks and pizza. For a more upscale option, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at The Vintage Tavern. Maria’s Downtown Café offers a hearty breakfast, and Raven Café or Exquisite Corpse Coffee House are great options for a cup of coffee.

Kate Carney is a writer and Great Gold Looper who traveled 8,000 miles on Sweet Day, a 31-foot Camano trawler. Learn more about her and her husband’s adventures on lifeonsweetday.com

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Dock & Dine on Long Island Sound - PART 2
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In Marinalife's spring issue we explored the wonderful restaurant offerings along the Connecticut shore of Long Island Sound (LIS). Of course, the Sound has correspond-ingly delicious and tempting culinary delights along the New York side as well. In this issue, we will explore them as we make our way from the eastern end of LIS where it joins with The Race and Block Island Sound to its western end approaching New York City. The following destinations offer a sampling of the many fabulous restaurants on Long Island. We also hope they introduce you to the quaint and historic maritime villages that also abound.

East to West on the Long Island, New York Shore

At the Eastern end of Long Island Sound to the south lies Gardiners Bay between the two forks of Eastern Long Island. Many great restaurant options await you here, including Claudio’s in Greenport, Il Capuccino in Sag Harbor, and Inlet Seafood in Montauk.

PORT JEFFERSON

Wave Seafood Kitchen

Located at Danfords Hotel, Marina & Spa, the eatery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can find this charming spot on the waterfront near historic Port Jefferson Village and enjoy the delicious results of its “farm to table” concept.

Joey Z’s

This is where the locals go in Port Jeff Village. The menu is extensive and eclectic, from Mediterranean to Greek and seafood to waffles and even fondue. Come for breakfast, lunch and dinner to enjoy indoor and outdoor dining.

Tommy’s Place

Visit this great family dining spot located just a five-minute walk from the Port Jeff Ferry. Find your favorite among 30+ beers on tap including local craft brews. Guests like the energetic American tavern vibe with some twists on the usual pub fare and seafood.

Gourmet Burger Bistro

This casual dining eatery is known for good upscale burgers and toppings, plus a creative menu that includes mushroom caps on pretzel roll and specialty drinks.

PJ Lobster House

Visit this Port Jeff institution since 1995 that offers fresh and varied dishes. PJ’s supports local commercial fishermen and diggers to provide top quality fish and seafood. Large dining room and sports bar feature plasma TVs with a casual and friendly vibe. It’s very popular; reservations suggested.

STONY BROOK

Mirabelle Tavern

The historic Three Village Inn’s elegant eatery offers refined French cuisine in a casual and comfortable setting. Savor French bistro classics with American comfort foods, as well as fresh-meets-French, farm-to-table prix fixe.

NORTHPORT

The Whales Tale

Located at Brittania Yachting Center, The Whales Tale reflects the eclectic nautical vibe of the Northport area. They offer craft beers and local seafood such as fish tacos, soft shell crab and other uniquely prepared dishes. Laid back indoor and outdoor seating available.

The Ritz Cafe

Stroll into this unassuming little bar near the waterfront to discover continental fare and a bargain prix fixe brunch (try the crab benedict and a Bloody Mary). Savor the seafood, steaks and pasta, as well as comfort foods for the kids. Choose indoor or patio dining.

Bistro 44

Treat yourself to New American cuisine with an elegant, modern and chic ambiance. The classy setting with 1850s woodwork and heated patio offers pre-theater dining steps away from Long Island’s only year-round Broadway music hall, The John W Engeman Theater.

Tim’s Shipwreck Diner

Homemade blintzes, pancakes and burgers star at this vintage railroad car diner for breakfast and lunch. Family run for over 50 years, their friendly service and homemade classic food are featured with a nod to updates like cold brew coffee and stuffed crab.

HUNTINGTON

Il Posto di Joey

This classic northern Italian eatery with Tuscan-style decor offers a waterfront view, patio dining and late-night dancing. Run by an Italian family that values old world charm and fine dining that showcases seafood. Great location for lunch and dinner groups.

Prime

Spoil yourself at this high-end restaurant with surf, turf and brunch at a place with a refined interior and heated deck overlooking the harbor. Business casual attire. Reservations needed.

OYSTER BAY

Wall’s Wharf

Panoramic views of the sound draw fans to this upscale seafood venue in Bayville with beachfront seating. For years, the historical centerpiece in the town has served seafood from the local catch, sushi, baked stuffed clams, and homemade soups to the locals and visitors. Spectacular views.

MANHASSET BAY

La Motta’s Dockside Restaurant

Festive locale on the water with beautiful views of Manhasset Bay Marina and historic Port Washington. The kitchen favors seafood and contemporary American cuisine.
An outdoor tiki bar features food, tropical cocktails, live music and dancing. The new boat-side service sends a waiter to your boat who serves you on board.

Louie’s Grill & Liquors

Have fun at this iconic seafood spot dating to 1905 with deck seating and bay view, plus an oyster bar, large selection of seafood, weekly bands, mahogany bar, and Saturday and Sunday brunch. Plenty of boat parking (cars, too).

Ayhan’s Mediterranean Marketplace

Take a seat at the roomy gourmet deli featuring breakfast, sandwiches and pita pizzas, plus big windows with waterfront views. Sample a unique selection of Mediterranean hot and cold appetizers, salads, dips, entrees and pastries. Freshly prepared sandwiches and wraps are popular.

Bosphorus Cafe Grill

This Mediterranean restaurant specializes in authentic Turkish cuisine and seafood offerings such as Branzino, sea bass served fileted or grilled. Bosphorus is a short walk from Manhasset Bay.

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