Travel Destinations

Top Places to Visit While Cruising Cape Cod

New England
|
July 2017
|
By
Capt. Jeff
Werner

Many a sailor's image of cruising Cape Cod is that of a Sunday idyll with President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie wearing fashionably nautical togs as they day sailed in a light breeze. Cruising Cape Cod can be all that, and more. The more being the importance of awareness of strong tidal currents, fog, sand bars and changes in the wind. Becoming familiar with local current tables can make the difference between an enjoyable day on the water and a frustrating one.Cape Cod is shaped like an arm with its biceps being flexed. Just think of the old cartoon of Popeye the Sailor Man after he eats his spinach. The fist is Provincetown, with its Key West-style charm, located on Cape Cod Bay. The forearm has the Cape Cod National Seashore open to waves rolling in off the Atlantic on one side and the protected harbor of Wellfleet on the bay side. Chatham is the elbow. The biceps includes the Cape's well-known harbors of South Yarmouth, Hyannis, and Falmouth on Nantucket Sound, and Barnstable on Cape Cod Bay. Where the biceps and shoulder meet is the shortcut, known as the Cape Cod Canal, between Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay.

PROVINCETOWN

Known as P-Town for short, this enclave is a haven for artists in every medium: painting, sculpting, theater, writing and music. It prides itself as America's oldest continuous art colony, and welcomes visitors of every stripe. Diversity is an essential part of life in P-Town, and it has grown into a welcoming place largely built around, and by, the gay and lesbian community. In fact, there is a Provincetown-Key West axis. Boaters who visit the Keys in the winter should not be surprised when they find their favorite Key West bartenders and wait staff working in P-Town in the summer.Arriving by sea, the Pilgrim Monument is the first thing seen on approaching Provincetown. Standing at 252 feet tall, this granite tower commemorates the first landfall in the New World by the Mayflower in 1620. In the harbor, below the monument, Provincetown Marina (ptownmarina.com, 508-487-0571; fuel dock located on site) offers transient guests 100 slips accommodating vessels up to 300 feet and 85 moorings with a launch service.

WELLFLEET

With beautiful beaches on both the bay and Atlantic sides, Wellfleet (the name of which is thought to have come from Whale Fleet) is also endowed with clear spring-fed ponds. These ponds are called kettle holes and were created by glaciers several thousand years ago. Renowned for the mild, sweet oysters that grow in the estuaries of Wellfleet Harbor, this village has a quaint town center dotted with classic white-clapboard New England“style homes and sophisticated art galleries.Wellfleet Marina (wellfleet-ma.gov, 508-349-0320) is tucked away at the northern end of the harbor. Although this municipal marina only has five slips and five mooring balls available for visiting yachts, reservations can be made ahead of time.

BARNSTABLE

The village of Barnstable lies along Barnstable Harbor off Cape Cod Bay. Founded in 1638, it became the second-oldest area of the cape to be settled by Europeans. The sheltered waters of the harbor became the center of a prosperous maritime trade that reached its height in the mid-19th century when clipper ships sailed from the village to the Orient. Wealthy sea captains built great houses along the roads leading to the harbor. Thanks to vigorous preservation efforts, these homes remain largely intact.Sandy Neck, a long peninsula of sand that protects the harbor from the bay, has thousands of acres of pristine beaches, sand dunes, maritime forests and marshes to explore. Sailing in from Cape Cod Bay, after rounding Sandy Neck Light off Beach Point, follow the marked channel toward Maraspin Creek to dock at Barnstable Harbor Marina (townofbarnstable.ma.us,508-790-6273).

CAPE COD CANAL

In 1914, the same year that the Panama Canal opened to shipping, the Boston, Cape Cod and New York Canal Company began collecting tolls on a partially completed canal that promised to shorten the distance between New York and Boston by 54 nautical miles. Four years later near the end of World War I, a German U-boat shelled a tugboat and its four barges off Cape Cod. Within days the U.S. government took over operation of the Cape Cod Canal by presidential proclamation. Since that time, the Army Corps of Engineers has dredged and rebuilt parts of the canal and turned it into a free public waterway.The Cape Cod Canal was the widest sea level canal of its time when reconstructed just before the outbreak of World War II. Today, the seven-mile long canal is 480 feet wide and 35 feet deep. The hydraulics of this artificial waterway makes it particularly noteworthy for the swift tidal currents that can reach 4.5 knots at maximum ebb. Safe harbor can be found near the Buzzards Bay entrance to the canal at Cataumet. Kingman Yacht Center(kingmanyachtcenter.com, 508-563-7136; fuel available onsite) is the largest full service marina on Cape Cod. With ample dockage for yachts up to 120 feet long and 130 mooring buoys available, transient vessels are welcomed.

HYANNIS

This historic village has been dubbed the heart of Cape Cod and is the gateway to the beautiful waters of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard and more! All summer long there are activities for the entire family. Just stroll the vibrant village sidewalks, and walk to nearby beaches, restaurants and town. On the bustling Hyannis Main Street you'll find lively nightlife, specialty shops, fine dining, fun attractions and much more. Hyannis Harbor is beautiful, well-protected and one of the few natural deep water harbors in the area and Hyannis Marina (hyannismarina.com, 508-790-4000; fuel available onsite) can accommodate everything from small boats, to deep draft sailboats and mega-yachts up to 220 feet in length. Hyannis Marina offers boaters world-class amenities and marine services, a large private pool, and two harborside restaurants serving fresh local seafood and libations.

CHATHAM

Pleasant Bay is a shallow estuary sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean by the ever-changing Nauset Beach, and Chatham is the gateway to this special natural environment that offers swimming, birdwatching, nature trails and fishing. Just south of Nauset Beach is the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge consisting of North and South Monomoy Islands and a portion of Morris Island stretching out into Nantucket Sound.Chatham Light, built in 1877, is a local landmark that was featured in the movie The Finest Hours about a heroic U.S. Coast Guard rescue. This active lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for tours. Popular Stage Harbor has a few small marinas, however, seasonal users claim most of the dock space and moorings. Transient boaters will have the best luck at the Monomoy Yacht Club (508-945-3766) with two overnight mooring balls available.

OCEAN VERSUS CANAL ROUTE

Approaching Cape Cod from Buzzards Bay en route to Provincetown, the prudent mariner has two choices: either follow Nantucket Sound across Pollock Rip Channel out into the Atlantic Ocean or transit the Cape Cod Canal into Cape Cod Bay. The decision depends on a thorough assessment of prevailing conditions, the seaworthiness of the vessel and the seamanship skills of the captain. Once the safest route is chosen, getting there is half the fun. The rewards along the way are encountering whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles.Capt. Jeff Werner has been in the yachting industry for over 25 years. In addition to working as a captain on private and charter yachts, both sail and power, he is a certified instructor for the USCG, US Sailing, RYA and the MCA. He is also the Diesel Doctor, helping to keep your yacht's fuel in optimal condition for peak performance. For more information, call 239-246-6810, or visit MyDieselDoctor.com. All Marinalife members receive a 10% discount on purchases of equipment, products and supplies from Diesel Doctor.

Related Articles
Cruise to Virginia's Historic Triangle
|

Imagine you were Rip Van Winkle in reverse. You’ve nodded off for 400 years rather than 20. Now, you wake up to find yourself on the deck of a wooden sailing ship off the coast of Virginia. “Your first thought would be to look for a source of freshwater,” tells Steve Ormsby, administrator of The Watermen’s
Museum in Yorktown. “Then, it would have been protection, up a river, and at the same time finding deep water where you could tie up to the trees and row ashore. Your fellow passengers would have been tradesmen, merchants and craftsmen, skills needed to establish a settlement but not live in the wilderness. Still, you wouldn’t have gone hungry at first. Captain John Smith wrote in his journal that the oysters he found were the size of dinner plates.”


Fast forward to the historic triangle of Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown, which is among America’s first settlements and easy to reach by water. It’s a beautiful sail or motor from the Atlantic Ocean across the Chesapeake Bay to the James or York Rivers. Once here, explore ashore and offshore, too. Here’s a sampling of five top stops.

1. VISIT THE WATERMAN’S MUSEUM


Located on the Yorktown waterfront, upriver from the Riverwalk Landing marina, dining and shopping area, this nonprofit museum is a treasure trove of nautical history. Exhibits narrate how local watermen helped defeat the British in the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Yorktown with their local knowledge to help pilot the ships, as well
as the local watermen’s way of life as commercial fishermen.

“One of the focal points at the museum is the Windmill. Built in 1711, it was used to grind corn, but after that it stood as a waymark for ships sailing the York River,” says Ormsby. In April, the museum re-opened for the season with six new 10-foot by 10-foot kiosks in the Windmill Lot. These interactive displays feature ropemaking, pottery, candle making, boatbuilding and woodwork, sail making, and blacksmithing. The museum also runs an award-winning summer camp, with a pirate-themed environmental camp for kids in grades K to 5, and hands-on camps for those in grades 3 to 8 focused on boatbuilding, an archaeological beach dig and maritime trades. watermens.org

2. SET SAIL ON THE SCHOONER ALLIANCE

Cast off from Yorktown’s Riverwalk Landing Pier on this 105-foot gaff-rigged schooner. There are three two-hour sightseeing cruises daily. Along the way, see the historic Victory Monument and Battlefield, working watermen plying their trade as they did years ago, and perhaps a modern naval ship or school of dolphins. The Alliance’s sails are set traditionally with block and tackle, and passengers are welcome to help. The crew provides narration
and sea stories along the way. sailyorktown.com/schooner-alliance.html

3. TAKE A WALK ON THE RIVERWALK SIDE


You’ll find many historical markers along Yorktown’s Riverwalk Landing, a mile-long pedestrian path from the Battlefield to the American Revolution Museum, making this
an educational and entertaining stroll. “Many of the markers involve the water, specifically the Battle of Yorktown and the Middle Passage,” says Gail Whittaker, public information officer for York County, VA. “If you’re lucky, you might see an opening of the Coleman Bridge that crosses the river and joins Yorktown with Gloucester County. It is the largest double-swing-span bridge in the United States and the second largest in the world! The Naval Weapons Station Yorktown is just upriver from our waterfront. It’s awesome to see the bridge swing open as one of our marvelous Navy ships glides by.” visityorktown.org/153/Riverwalk-Landing

4. SHUCK INTO A SEAFOOD SUPPER

You might not find oysters the size of dinner plates, but you can fill your dish with fresh seafood in Colonial Williamsburg. Try Berret’s Seafood Restaurant & Taphouse Grill, located in Merchant’s Square. There’s she-crab soup for starters, seasonal specialties like lemon pepper-crusted grouper fillet and seared sea scallops, and signature entrees such as The Original Blue Plate: sauteed backfin crabcake, baked oysters Rockefeller and grilled shrimp. The oyster bar features shucked Victory Point
York River Oysters on the half shell. berrets.com

5. SETTLE BACK IN JAMESTOWN

There is likely nowhere better for colonial history buffs to spend a day indoors and outdoors than in the living history museum that is this settlement. Films and exhibits portray the lives of Virginia’s Native Americans, the first English settlers, and the initial arrival of West Africans, all three here in the early 17th century. The most fun is to climb on board replicas of the three ships on which the first English settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607 — the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery — and imagine you’re onboard. historicjamestowne.org

CELEBRATE THE 4TH OF JULY

European settlers planted roots in the Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown over a century before the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 up north in Philadelphia. Yet, it’s the wealth of national history and its preservation that makes this area one of the best places to celebrate this summer holiday.

Independence Day Celebration

Riverwalk Landing & Historic Yorktown
8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Early birds start the day with a 5K walk or 8K run. The patriotic parade follows with the best viewing spots along Water and Main Streets. Bring your flags to wave and toe-tap to the Fifes & Drums corps beat. At 1 p.m., a hot dog eating contest is hosted by Toby’s Dog House in Jamestown, with a satellite location in Yorktown’s Water Street. Patriotic concerts start after dark, culminating in a firework display over the York River. Watch from the Yorktown Waterfront & Victory Monument at 803 Main Street or anchor out and see the sparklers reflected in the water.

July 4th Celebration

Colonial Williamsburg
9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Immerse yourself in all things independence during a day-long of activities. Stand at the Capitol West Balcony to hear Thomas Jefferson read the Declaration of Independence. A special military muster in Market Square, concert of celebration at the Play House Stage, historical reflections re-enacted throughout the day, free ice cream, and live music on the Lawn of the Art Museums culminate in the Lights of Freedom Fireworks Display at 9:20 p.m. The best places for viewing are the East Lawn of the Art Museum, the Palace Green and Market Square.

Regional Marinas

Riverwalk Landing Piers
Yorktown, VA

The heart of Yorktown’s waterfront is within walking distance of historic sights, shops and dining. There are no individual slips here, but all piers are dedicated to transient and temporary stay boaters. Facilities include shore power in 30, 50 and 100 amp, pump-out and private key coded boater restrooms with showers. No fuel is available. The busiest times are May-June and September-October. To reserve docking, email dockmaster@yorkcounty.gov or call 757-890-3370.

York River Yacht Haven
Gloucester Point, VA


This Suntex Marinas property is located at the mouth of Sarah Creek, opposite Yorktown, in a 14-acre rural storm-protected area. The full-service facility boasts 280 slips accommodating boats up to 160’. Transients can enjoy amenities including fuel, laundry services, free Wi-Fi and a freshwater pool.

Kingsmill Marina
Williamsburg, VA


Along the James River, the marina at Kingsmill Resort offers a tranquil getaway with activities on-site. Enjoy everything from lush golf courses to upscale amenities and lodging at Cottages on the James or The Estate at Kingsmill’s private mansion. The marina offers annual slip leases for vessels up to 80’ depending on beam width.


Read More
Explore the Spirited Lakefront of Burlington, VT
|

A vibrant, compact city hugging the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain, Burlington abounds in scenic beauty, four-season recreation, a college town vibe, arts and culture, and a quirky character all its own.

Burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Church Street | Michelle Raponi on Pixabay

Eclectic shops named Anjou & the Little Pear or Common Deer, and restaurants called Zabby & Elf 's Stone Soup or The Skinny Pancake dot the urban landscape. A local artist's satirical comment on the bureaucracy of urban planning called File Under So. Co., Waiting for..., consists of 38 filing cabinets welded together to a 40-foot height. Birds frequently nest in the upper chambers.

History buffs stroll through the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum or the Fleming Museum of Art's multi-era artifact collection while hikers trek the 12.5-mile path at Burlington Waterfront Park, which offers bicycle, rollerblade and kayak rentals. In season, the path connects to the Lake Champlain Islands via bike ferry.

burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Bike Path | Michelle Raponi on Pixabay

Since the 1800s, the Old North End has been the city's melting pot, and global cuisine from Nepalese dumplings to the African Market can be found here today. Between munches, stroll over to historic Elmwood Cemetery, whose residents include Revolutionary War soldiers. Hear their stories and perhaps have a chance encounter with a local spirit on a Queen City Ghostwalk Tour. Liquid spirits rule when the internationally famous, regionally beloved and hidden gem breweries line up for the annual Vermont Brewers Festival. Year round, enjoy homemade bratwurst and drafts at Zero Gravity Craft Beer. At acclaimed Foam Brewers, the patio faces Lake Champlain waterfront and the Adirondack Mountains. Hop on the Sip of Burlington Brew Tour for a dozen tastings and the sights of this dynamic, energetic city.

Where to Dock

Burlington Community Boathouse Marina

802-865-3377

This full-service marina is the centerpiece of a growing waterfront. Amenities include 105 slips up to 65 feet, Splash Café and a fantastic sunset over the Adirondacks.

Burlington Harbor Marina

802-540-6869

With 160 slips (60 transient slips up to 80 feet), this new marina's tranquil harbor setting is convenient to downtown amenities and recreational activities.

Where to Dine

Honey Road

802-497-2145

Savor sophisticated Mediterranean small plates, cocktails and creative desserts in a comfy tavern setting.

burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Church Street | Needpix

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill

802-859-0888

This farm-to-table gastropub dishes up local burgers, charcuterie and innovative specials. Sip on local brews in the beer garden.

RíRá

802-860-9401

According to Irish playwright Brendan Behan, The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you. RíRá fuses classic Irish with pub grub to satisfy the first two.

Leunig's Bistro & Café

802-863-3759

Step inside the lush garden courtyard to watch fresh local fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood transform into classic French dishes. Come enjoy a romantic evening meal.

Hen of the Wood

802-540-0534

Enjoy a true Vermont dining experience in a romantic, rustic atmosphere adjacent to the Hotel Vermont.

Read More
Discover the Island Charm of Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts
|

Ever wish you could hop in a time machine and go back 50 or 60 years to experience a less frenetic pace of life? It's not as far-fetched as it might sound. There's a place off the coast of Massachusetts where you can do just that ... at least for a weekend.

Cuttyhunk Island - destinations - marinalife
Cuttyhunk Island | tkesner1 on Flickr

"It's like 1960 --you're stepping back in time," notes Captain Jono Billings, who owns and operates the Cuttyhunk Ferry out of New Bedford, about 18 miles north of Cuttyhunk Island, a 580-acre arc of stone and sand that's the westernmost of the Elizabeth Islands that lie between Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound.

For such a small place, Cuttyhunk has a long, colorful history. In 1602 --nearly 20 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock -- Bartholomew Gosnold sailed from Falmouth, England to establish a colony in the New World, explored the areas near present-day Kennebunkport, Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, and built a small fort on what he christened Cuttyhunk Island.

A 70-foot stone tower was constructed in 1902 commemorating the 300th anniversary of that historic landing. After passing through the hands of several English earls and dukes, Peleg Slocum purchased the island in 1693, and her family continued to live on Cuttyhunk for the next 165 years.

In 1865, a group of Rhode Island fishing enthusiasts bought a large portion of the island and built the Cuttyhunk Club and a few fishing stands, enhancing its reputation as a prime spot for sport fishing. In fact, two 73-pound, world-record striped bass have been caught off Cuttyhunk in 1913 and more recently in 1967.

Local fishermen know all the qualities and quirks of the area's waters, offering their services to visiting anglers and acting as expert navigators for ships sailing into New Bedford Harbor, piloting them through the dangerous Sow and Pig Reef on the west end of the island.

Cuttyhunk Island - destinations - marinalife
Cuttyhunk Island | Ben McLaughlin

Fishing isn't the only way to interact with nature on Cuttyhunk. Half the island is a nature preserve, home to a variety of birds and mammals, as well as wildflowers, sweet peas, bayberry and a host of other flora. Plenty of hiking trails wind through the landscape that's largely craggy and reflects Cuttyhunk's glacial origins. It's covered with the same kind of rocks and stones found in the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Although largely a day-tripper destination, visitors can overnight on Cuttyhunk with some advance planning. Most boaters prefer to stay aboard their own craft if properly outfitted, but limited accommodations are on land as well. Avalon, the Inn on Cuttyhunk Island, offers seven rooms, while Cuttyhunk Fishing Club has eight. A few cottage and house rentals are also available through Pete's Place Rentals.

Where to Dock

Cuttyhunk Marina

508-990-7578

The marina offers 50 transient slips that can accommodate vessels up to 110 feet and have freshwater hookups and 30- and 50-amp electricity capability. About 50 moorings accommodate vessels up to 50 feet. Pump out, ice, picnic area and restrooms are available.

Frog Pond Marine Moorings

508-992-7530

This mooring field is located in the outer harbor off the port side of Bell 6 upon entering Cuttyhunk. Bright white balls mark the moorings, which are first-come, first-serve. Tie up to any mooring that doesn't say PRIVATE, and the mooring collector will come to your boat to collect a $45 rental fee.

Jenkins Moorings

508-996-9294

Located in the outer harbor to the right of the channel's entrance, moorings are first-come, first-serve during the high season. If you spend the night, call and they'll deliver fresh oysters and raw-bar items to your boat.

Where to Dine

Cuttyhunk Café

508-802-8633

This coffee shop is located on the town fish dock. Start your day with coffee and pastries, pick up chowder and sandwiches for lunch, and finish the day chowing down on fresh lobster boils with corn, potatoes, onion, chorizo and steamers.

Cuttyhunk Fishing Club

508-992-5585

Just south of town on Cemetery Road, this B&B offers the best breakfasts/brunches on the island, and you don't have to be a guest to enjoy it. They don't take reservations, so grab a cup of coffee and an Adirondack chair while you wait for your table and enjoy the porch with a million-dollar view.

Cuttyhunk Island Market

508-538-1218

Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., this rustic spot offers all the essentials: dry goods, sundries, bread, dairy, fresh veggies, plus 10-inch subs with a bag of chips. We may be small, but we have it all.

Cuttyhunk Shellfish Farms

508-990-1317

This floating raw bar provides fresh Cuttyhunk oysters and clams, along with stuffed quahog and hot clam chowder to boaters during the summer, delivered right to your boat. Call them on VHF Channel 72 or stop in at their shack on the fish dock during the day to place your order.

Soprano's Pizza

508-992-7530

The only sit-down restaurant on Cuttyhunk, this in-season eatery serves gourmet brick oven pizzas and seafood specials. Think a pizza oven held hostage in a garage, four picnic tables in a driveway lit by tiki torches, and a croaking bullfrog in the pond! Can't beat that kind of ambiance.

Read More

Want to Stay In the Loop?

Stay up to date with the latest articles, news and all things boating with a FREE subscription to Marinalife Magazine!

Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.