Heading for the Cape Cod Canal
Another fair breeze filled in about an hour after we left Newport, Rhode Island and we had a very pleasant sail along the southern Connecticut coast. We were passing some famous spots offshore along the way, Cuttyhunk Island, Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket – all places on “the list”, but now on the list for the way back down.
We stopped the night in a small secluded harbour tucked between islands just before the channel to the canal. After the busyness of Newport we appreciated the peace and tranquillity of our anchorage at Bassetts Island.
Through the Canal to Provincetown
This is our 3rd canal transit, the first was the Suez Canal – an expensive and time consuming business dealing with the Egyptians. It takes two days to motor through and the alternative is to sail around Africa so its an experience you take in your stride to get to Europe. Our 2nd canal was the Corinth in Greece – also expensive but it saves a few days sailing, the Greeks are organised and in an hour you’ve paid and transited - popped from the Aegean to the Ionian, perfect.
So it was a pleasant surprise to find this canal is free, used mainly by pleasure craft it cuts about 150 miles off the journey of going around the outside of Cape Cod. We took note of the tides and currents (we are getting good at these by now) so had a leisurely start to the day then flew through the canal in no time with the current aiding us.
At the End of the Line
The forecast light southwest wind was coming in from the northeast, right on the nose, so we had a very slow sail tacking across Massachusetts Bay, finally making it in to Provincetown just in time for happy hour.
Provincetown sits at the very end of Cape Cod Peninsula which is a slither of land that curls some 40miles out from the mainland. From the boat the vista ashore looked reminiscent of a Cornish fishing village, somewhere Marks family often spent their summer holidays. The long wooden pier juts out over the harbour, fishing boats ply the waters and the houses looked a similar shape. But on closer inspection all the houses here are built of wood or shingles - where of course in the UK they are stone or brick.
Steeped in History
There is a reason this all looks so English, and why so many of the places we will be visiting in New England and Maine have English names. Actually there are several reasons – some of the first European settlers, the pilgrims from the Mayflower first settled here in 1620, then moved onto to other more promising areas further up the coast; the harbour is large, deep and easy to access from the North Atlantic so became a popular refuge for ships crossing the trans Atlantic waters; this is also one of the closest harbours in the USA to England and Europe … just a huge hop, significant skip and gigantic jump!!
So the population came from all over Europe and this has resulted in a very interesting mix of architecture and a melting pot blend of todays local Cape Coders.
The town was just picture postcard perfect, very arty with boutique galleries housed in converted colonial homes, and small shops selling every imaginable tourist knick knack tucked between the galleries, then of course there are the food shops – icecream parlours, fudge makers, candy stores, Portuguese bakeries, food courts and lobster restaurants, we even managed to find a decent latte – and we now accept we have to ask for hot lattes so we don’t end up with iced …. only in America!!!
Checking Out the Wildlife
We had two nights anchored off the town then moved across the big bay for a night to afford better coverage from some southerly winds due. The cove across the bay was wonderful, access is only by water, the long sandy beach was deserted, the gigantic gulls flew low above us, the inquisitive seals came sniffing around, and if we didn’t look back towards the town we could imagine being a million miles from civilisation. Skipper joined the seals for a working dip, sure in the fact that the water will only get colder he took this last opportunity to give the bottom of Balvenie a good clean, I contributed by turning on the generator so he would have plenty of hot water for a shower to warm up!!
The stronger winds passed through, we had a good forecast to head north so made the decision to add Boston to “the on the way back list” and set sail north. We had one of our best ever day sails covering 74 miles in flat water with steady winds on the beam coming off the land. We passed two whales, these magnificent sea monsters first blowing to show their presence then gracefully rising up, checking us out before majestically sliding back below with a flick of their tails to wave farewell – a truly awesome experience but one we are happy to see at a distance!
It was here we sampled our first taste of lobster pots (but not the offending lobsters), everywhere we looked there were pot floats bobbing about on the surface – there seemed no way through them. So we headed for the main shipping channel, naively thinking that they surely wouldn’t place pots in the shipping channel, well silly us – the lobster fisherman seem to have free range and put them wherever they want, even right through the anchorage! With the sun low in the sky it was almost impossible to spot them all, but somehow we managed to drop sails, weave through them and successfully anchor without sneering any – but this was only day one of lobster pots!!!
On stepping ashore we felt we had maybe made an Atlantic crossing without realising and could so easily have been walking around Portsmouth in England. Most of the buildings were constructed of red brick, there were cobbled pavements and brick lanes, it reminded us so much of an English market town on a busy Saturday morning. And it even rained for half an hour to complete the English summer picture! We combined the 3 recommended walking tours and hit the streets, found an excellent stop for lattes and later returned to the small cafe by the anchorage for some fresh seafood and for Mark to start in earnest his tastings of New England beers, tonights offering – “Gritty McDuffs”