17 August 2014

A Tale of Two Extremes: Around The Outer Cape from Provincetown to Chatham

Teaser = 95% of this day was fantastic.  5% was terrifying.  Read on to learn more.....

Day 2 of LASVA (Long Awaited Summer Vacation on Argon)

We have enjoyed traveling through the Cape Cod Canal many times but Linda has been wanting to take the adventurous route around the outer Cape for a few years.  We examined several sources of wind and weather reports and determined that there were close to ideal conditions for this trip Sunday with 8-15kt winds shifting SW to W (then back to SW which was less than ideal).  We studied several sources of charts and information about preparing to cross Pollock and Butler Rip originally hoping to go to Nantucket (no moorings available) and instead planning on Chatham.  Determining that slack through Butler Hole would at 15:45, we selected an early morning departure time.
Pulled anchor at 0600 leaving PTown; Chin Chin pulled behind as we watch the sun rise behind interesting clouds
Long Point Lighthouse:   Oc G 4s Horn
Approaching Wood End as we prepare to turn NW and hoist sails (Fl R 10s 13M Horn)
All is well
Spinnaker Time!!
As we rounded Race Point to head NE then E, we expected to be downwind.  Winds were still around 8kts thus perfect for practicing our weak spinnaker skills.  The spinnaker has been up only once this season during a practice run out by The Graves early in the season and our prior sailboat, Fujin, did not have a spinnaker.  Thus we are novices for sure.

All rigged and ready for the sock to be lifted

Beautiful (note we have an asymmetrical design for the asymmetrical spinnaker)

Hummed along at 6-7 kts in 8kts of wind (positive current around Race Point helping out)

Wind shifted from the west as if the wind gods had us in their favor thus we were on a beam reach vs the expected broad.  Learned that our spinnaker (name TBD) does quite nicely on a beam.

All is well, perfect actually, as we round the Cape
Enjoying the Scenery, Perfect Conditions and Seclusion
The wind oscillated from W to slightly SW inching up to 12+kts allowing for a nice run with the spinnaker before we doused and pulled out the Genoa.  We were surprised that for hours there were virtually no boats in sight and enjoyed the miles of serene national seashore off our starboard.

Cape Cod National Seashore south of Truro

Linda ensures backstay pressure is just over 1000 lbs (Bill would be satisfied)
Hey, we're on a heading for Bermuda - tempting.....
Milestone Achieved
We hit 1000 nm on Argon since her commissioning in May just a few months ago - hurrah!!
Celebrating our first 1000 nm on Argon and looking forward to many 1000's more in the years to come!!
We re-examine our Richardson's Chart, Navionics, GPS and cruising guides in preparation for sailing through the infamous Pollock Rip Channel and Butler Hole as this is not to be taken lightly.  We were still going against a current about 45 minutes ahead of schedule and slack.  Given that we were going to Chatham since there were no mooring in Nantucket, we examined staying close to the southern tip of Monomoy Island vs. making the 15 nm U shaped course south then north of Hadkerchief Shoal.  WRONG DECISION!
Wind has picked up - switch Genoa for jib and sail a bit higher; heeling over quite a bit but very little weather helm; wind is picking up to 15+ kts.  Needed to head in to wind so took sails down shortly after.  Then the fun ended.
Fun is Over - Hang On
Most of the trip through Pollock Rip and Butler Hole was fine.  We decided we would turn NW near R"10" and carefully go through an area of 11 and 13 foot charted depth having checked multiple sources and knowing it was high tide.  However, the tide is only about 3-4' thus not a lot of extra depth at high tide and there are numerous warnings about shoaling.  Linda spotted what we think was hundreds of seals sunning themselves on Monomoy Point and asked Bob to get some pictures.  You will notice that we have no pictures of the seals.....

We were suddenly hit with 7 foot waves with Argon being tossed around in the troughs; we immediately donned our life jackets and soon found ourselves in alarmingly shallow depths.  The stability of Argon in these churning waters was fantastic (would not have felt so confident in the much lighter Fujin) but we had not counted on being in such dramatic troughs in such shallow depths.  In addition, the extreme shoaling in this area made even our very up-to-date sources not very reliable.

This was the worst rip and biggest waves we have ever been in.  Linda was at the helm and we both kept a nervous eye on the depth gauge as it oscillated from 14ft to 8ft to 16ft to 10ft, then the dreaded 7ft to 6ft to @#$%! 5ft (we have a 5"11' draft) and then we felt the dreaded thud as we hit bottom. Our heart rates increased even more as we felt another shot of adrenaline course through our bodies. If we ran aground in these rough waters that would be catastrophic. Bob yelled "turn around!" but Linda, estimating that we were more than two thirds of the way through the dangerous section, quickly decided to press on rationalizing that we could easily hit bottom again if we turned around and ended up on a more shallow path. We were both on high alert during the 30 minutes it took us to weave through these difficult waters.  We will never ever go this route again!  (Instead one can take the 14nm longer route around the southern tip of Monomoy Refuge.)  When the charts showed deeper depths and the seas calmed, our bodies and minds still swirled with anxiety thinking about what almost happened and not yet allowing ourselves to put our guard down.

On the other side of the rip near Monomoy Point but we will take the long way around Handkershief Shoal next time 
Chatham Roads Entering Stage Harbor for Respite
We were very happy to arrive safely in Chatham.  The harbor is absolutely lovely.
All is well again

Chatted with a dockhand in the Harbormaster office about our harrowing trip around Monomoy Point.  He replied "Yup, good rip out thar today."  Yup.

Stage Harbor:  One can take a long dinghy ride up in to Little Mill Pond and tie up a few steps away from Main Street in lovely Chatham.
End of Day 2 of our LASVA
We took Chin Chin over calm harbor water under a tiny wooden draw bridge up in to Little Mill Pond where one can tie up and enjoy a stroll in town.  It was great to see so many open shops and museums on a Sunday evening with a nice choice of restaurants.  We had a wonderful dinner at Vining's Bistro a few steps off Main Street, reminisced about our adventures of the day, and indulged in ice cream on our stroll back to the dinghy.  We discussed how we handled today's adventures - What did we do right? What did we do wrong? The key error was that as soon as the sudden 7 foot waves hit, we should have known that our depth would be precarious and decided on the much longer southerly route at that time. The positive aspects is that we did not panic, we communicated clearly (even when Linda decided against Bob's plea to turn around), and we handled the boat confidently.

A night ride on glass smooth water back to Argon was a peaceful end to a long, fantastical, memorable day.  

1 comment:

  1. Remember - There are three types of sailors i) those who have run aground, ii) those that will, and iii) liers! Welcome to becoming a member of the #i) team. Glad you made it without damage, and safely. I am sure the cocktails tasted particularly good last night.


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