Sailing Vinyard H16 trip

Hobie Day Cruising
A Day Around Martha's Vineyard

By Ted Knowlton

One of my fondest memories of the summer of '90 is my solo cruise around Martha's Vineyard on my Hobie 17. 

The weather forecast for the middle week of August was rock solid. All the TV and radio weather people were dead certain that August 15 and 16th would be beautiful. So, I arranged to take a couple of vacation days.

I put all my personal gear in a small duffel bag that I got at a 16 Nationals years ago. This, along with a sleeping bag, went into a heavy- duty garbage bag; and then all of that went other-end-to into another garbage bag. This method had worked well to keep stuff dry on previous Hobie cruises. However, you do have to be careful about your harness hook when leaning over the bags. I stashed lunch and a few other items in zip-lock bags. Everything would be lashed to the tramp. Only stuff I wouldn't have to get to while on the water was in a bag hanging in the hull. 

By noon I was on the beach in Mattapoisett, on the south coast of Massachusetts facing Buzzards Bay. This particular spot was not a legal place to launch a Hobie, as I was to find out when I returned. By 1:00 I had "Buzzard's Bear" all rigged, the gear lashed to the tramp, and the truck parked. It takes a little extra time (and some extra lines), but it's satisfying to know that you can rig the boat all alone. I shoved off and ate lunch while leaving Mattapoisett harbor. The typical southwest breeze was filling in, but "the Buzzard" (our favorite summer wind) was feeling kind and gentle that day: plenty enough for the trapeze, but nothing hairy. It was probably blowing around 14 mph. 

I held a starboard tack for the 10 miles across Buzzards Bay and came up on Naushon Island, the biggest of the Elizabeth Islands, about a mile west of the Weepeckets. I tacked for another 4.5 miles, mostly on port, along the island to Robinson's Hole. The tide helped me through, and I headed toward the Vineyard, just west of Menemsha, another 7 miles on my way to the western tip of Martha's Vineyard with its high red and brown cliffs glowing in the afternoon sun. I tacked close to the Vineyard shore as I rounded Gay Head, not just because that was the quickest way to go, but because the nude bathers were out in full array. I was tempted to stop and hang out (?), but it was close to 3 o'clock and I wasn't sure about the long south side of Martha's Vineyard, so I pressed on. As I buzzed along the beach, one woman in the distance caught my eye. My gosh, what a lot of hair, I said to myself. But as the distance quickly decreased, I could see that the hair was on the head of her kid standing in front of her! 

The water was cleaner and clearer than I've ever seen it in these latitudes. I could see the bottom pass beneath me probably 30 feet down. I was in for a long downwind tacking session. In planning the trip, I figured that I could probably just pull up on the beach anywhere along the south coast of the island. However, it was nice that I didn't have to deal with that because the beach is very very steep, almost like a wall in some places. There's a little cut about mid-way and I could see a few small boats in the pond behind the outer beach. I suppose I could have snuck in there if I had to, but the weather was perfect. I just kept broad reaching mostly on starboard. During the last half of the 22-mile south coast run, I kept looking beyond the dunes for signs of Edgartown, but I never saw them. 

Suddenly, I came to a corner where there was a bunch of surf casters and their 4WDs. This was the southeast corner of Chappaquiddick, Wasque Pt. After a 90-degree left turn I was now heading north and really honkin' along on a fast port reach in smooth water right off the east-facing beach. I was hungry and it was nearly 7:00, so I pulled up on the not-so-steep beach. It was a beautiful, lonesome spot. I had a beer and a can of beef stew and shoved off again. Along about 7:40 I could hear the Edgartown YC's gun sounding colors as the sun set. By 8:00 I was off the north end of Chappaquiddick. The light was fading fast, and the wind was increasing. I ran aground and out of control briefly as I rounded the north corner, Cape Poge. I had thought of going into Edgartown for the night, but the course would have been directly up wind. The lights of Oak Bluffs were shining brightly, so I headed there on a close port tack. The daylight was gone. With no moon at all, I was trapezing in pitch dark. What a neat feeling, albeit a little risky because you have no idea of the waves you're about to encounter! 

I passed Oak Bluffs and headed into Vineyard Haven where I've been many times with the Fleet 28 excursions. I pulled up on the beach between the motel and the famous Black Dog restaurant. After lowering the sail, I went into the motel to see about a room. However, the management had gone to bed (around 9:30), so I called my wife, Annie, to report about my fabulous day. It was a beautiful night; I unrolled the sleeping bag and watched a satellite cruise by -- north to south. 

Next morning I had a typically great breakfast at the Black Dog and headed back to Mattapoisett, slowly. The Woods Hole tide was with me, but I didn't have a whole lot of control without much wind. I just had to go with that dramatic Woods Hole flow! 

Back on the beach at Mattapoisett I was greeted by a policeman who proceeded to warn me about launching on that beach. He was very nice and asked about my trip -- especially about the scene at Gay Head. Then back to Lincoln to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Total distance covered - as the seagull flies - was about 80 statute miles. "Buzzards Bear" had performed perfectly and given me a couple of super Hobie days. 

Ted Knowlton 

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