Cruising the Cape and Islands
Nantucket Sound is the triangular body of water between the southern shore of Cape Cod, and the north shores of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island. September and October can be the most delightful months in this sailing paradise. The tourists have mostly gone home, and the weather is pleasantly brisk while at the same time being delightfully warm.
Recommended route from Annapolis: Head through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal down Delaware Bay to round Cape May and set a course for Block Island, about 200 nautical miles from Cape May. Though the phrase “Cape and Islands” does not typically include Block Island, it is a perfect place to stop for a rest as you come off the ocean from the south.
Enter the New Harbor on the west side of the Island, call the Harbormaster on channel 12 and pick up a mooring for the night. They are first come first served and can accommodate vessels to 50’. The launch will take you ashore where you can rent a bike or grab a taxi to town or beach. Don’t miss sitting on the deck of the Atlantic Inn watching the sunset while sipping the best Manhattans I have ever had.
Continuing east from Block at about thirty miles is Gay Head, the western edge of Martha’s Vineyard, and Cuttyhunk, the westernmost Elizabeth Island. You can travel between these two and head up to Vineyard Haven or leave Cuttyhunk to starboard and cut through Woods Hole passage. As you leave Buzzards Bay and head into Woods Hole, Hadley Harbour is on the right between Nonamesset Island and Naushon Island. Hadley is a great place to drop the hook and go for a swim. It is tranquil and protected, but the private islands all around you are off-limits.
The passage through Woods Hole can be confusing, so review the chart carefully, as you enter from the west red buoys are on the left even though it appears that you are “returning,” and do not go through against the current.
When you get to Vineyard Haven, there are moorings outside the breakwater. Some of the moorings are owned by marinas, while others are owned by the town.
The Harbormaster answers VHF channel nine and can direct you to the appropriate spot.
You can ride your dinghy to the beach and have a hearty breakfast at the Black Dog located 15 feet across the sand where you can leave the dinghy for the day and head out exploring. A short walk up the hill opens on a street of quaint shops and lots of local artist offerings. Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are both old whaling communities that have certainly kept up with current technology while holding on to the old ways.
There are art galleries, farm stores, museums, and old lighthouses that you can visit. Transportation around the Island is by rented bike, scooter, and car, or if you prefer, you can take the hop on hop off bus.
Edgartown is about ten miles from Vineyard Haven and is the perfect example of a quiet New England village. Moorings and dock space are available but harder to come by than Vineyard Haven, but you can anchor outside the breakwater or go all the way through town towards Katama Bay. Whichever location you choose, there is a water taxi/launch the will pick you up and take you to town.
The restaurants, shops, museums, and beaches are all the ingredients needed for a relaxing, informative tour.
Nantucket is another 20 nautical miles east of Vineyard Haven and offers more whaling and colonial history. After visiting Nantucket, head East past Monomoy and Chatham into the ocean and sail north along the National Seashore around Race Point and into Provincetown. In the summer months, you can expect to see whales playing on the surface from Cape Cod Bay up to Stellwagen Bank just north of Provincetown. From there, you can cross Cape Cod Bay to the Cape Cod Canal, which leads to Buzzards Bay and the way home.
Cape Cod offers lots of little towns and anchorages that are rich in colonial history. There are endless establishments serving lobster and clam chowder in idyllic seaside settings.
The wind is extremely reliable and provides some of the best sailing experiences in the world.
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