Who doesn’t love the view of the Cape Cod Canal? When driving over the bridges, I wish I could stop in the middle just to study the magnificent waterway curving gently around the hills between Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay. The approximate difference of three hours between high tide times in these two bays results in tidal currents through the canal stimulating to observe, but challenging to inexperienced navigators. Seeing sunset over the west end of the canal from the Bourne Bridge is the best.
In Woods Hole, the vantage point of Nobska Lighthouse is so encompassing. Facing south, Nantucket Sound runs to my left between the bluffs along the New Seabury Coast and four lighthouses on Martha’s Vineyard’s north shore. The view looking south is all of Vineyard Sound separating Martha’s Vineyard from the Elizabeth Islands. On the high shore along Tarpaulin Cove on the island of Naushon stands one of the oldest lighthouses in North America. It was erected to direct sailing sea captains to the inn/tavern at Tarpaulin Cove long before there was any talk of the Cape Cod Canal. And, looking to my right from Nobska is the village of Woods Hole and Steamship Authority port for ferry service to Martha’s Vineyard.
On the Vineyard, my favorite view is of Menemsha. There is a foot path up the hill overlooking this classic, so-often-painted fishing village. However, from the high road leading toward Gay Head Lighthouse in Aquinnah, one can observe all of Menemsha Pond and its surroundings. The channel runs to the pond from the village and separates Menemsha Harbor from the beach in Lobsterville. Menemsha Pond is tidal and only for shallow draft vessels, the smallest of which can continue up into Nashaquitsa Pond. From here, Hariph’s Creek runs into Stonewall Pond. These fascinating, beautiful tidal waters flow from Vineyard Sound northwest of Menemsha to a narrow strip of land about one-eighth of a mile from open ocean south of the Vineyard.
On Nantucket, in the evening, I like to saunter to the end of the longest pier and look back over the Boat Basin to the outline of this Rockwellian harbor-front village alive with lights, music, diners, shoppers, and boaters.
In the middle of old Cape Cod, approximately seven miles apart are two views, one looking south to Nantucket Sound and the other looking north toward Cape Cod Bay. On the south side, I love the views from the highest hill in Hyannisport by the old stone church. With Nantucket Sound as a backdrop, a tidal inlet surrounds Squaw Island and a handsome golf course in the foreground. Seven miles due north lies Barnstable Harbor and Millway Beach facing toward Cape Cod Bay. Across the harbor on beautiful Sandy Neck Beach sit a few cottages in the shadow of an old lighthouse, much to the delight of many artists.
In the Lower Cape on the north side, my favorite view is of the extensive sand flats on Cape Cod Bay when the tide is out. Stretching from Eastham, in front of Rock Harbor in Orleans, across all of Brewster and portions of Dennis, low tide exposes many square miles of sand flats, much to the delight of young children—and the young at heart. At the elbow of the Cape, if you will, facing southeast, Chatham Lighthouse overlooks the harbor and its fish pier, the barrier beach and its storm breach, the open Atlantic, and the rest of the world.
Including almost all of the Atlantic-facing shore on the Outer Cape, from Eastham and Wellfleet to North Truro lies another of my favorite views: the beachside hills and sand cliffs. I like to slowly walk as close to the surf as possible, listen to the crashing and rushing waves, breathe in the ocean air, and totally mesmerized, let my mind’s eye wander ahead of me beneath the majestic cliffs of sand. One can see and feel Mother Nature at work.
Finally, what could be more appropriate than to view Provincetown Harbor, where the pilgrims first landed? And what better vantage point than atop the Pilgrim Monument? Bordered on three sides by Province Lands dunes and beaches, the village looks south over the harbor to all of Cape Cod Bay. On a clear day from the top of the Pilgrim monument, Judy, our boys Josh and Max, and I could see the shape of the Cape all the way around Cape Cod Bay to the east end of the Cape Cod Canal. Wow!
“Have you had any fun lately?” That is what my brother Connor had the nerve to ask me when we sat down for lunch together. His question gave me cause for pause. I needed a little time to think about what fun means to me nowadays. Operating a small publishing company amidst the economic conditions of recent years has been, shall we say, pre-occupying. So, I thought about his question. Read more…
Following my first long weekend on Cuttyhunk I reported to the Cape Cod Life staff that, “Now, I am permanently relaxed.” Ohh, the ssoundz of the ssurff are soo sooothing.
On the evening of the day we arrived, my wife, Judy, and I drove our golf cart to the highest point on the island just before sunset. Along with maybe a half dozen other sunset devotees, we inhaled, absorbed and lingered in the magical, pastel atmosphere enshrouding the island. From Buzzards Bay to Block Island Sound in the west, all the way up to the Cape Cod Canal, and then down to the Gay Head Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard in the east, the water was calm, the sky was clear, and the colors were soft.
In the morning accompanied by our black Lab, Sam, Judy and I walk on Barge’s Beach, from the MV/Cuttyhunk ferry dock to the Canapitsit Channel. There is always a significant tidal current running through this narrow passageway separating Cuttyhunk from the island of Nashawena. Both shores are lined with rocks and the large rolling and crashing waves at the entrance to the channel have proved at times to be treacherous for passing mariners. However, the salt-laden, energy charged atmosphere is both enticing and enthralling. Seen from a slight distance a spray mist billows above the rocky shore awash in surging surf.
Toward the end of the summer day, I find my way to a secluded spot for a refreshing dip. I don’t actually swim; I prefer to float or stand still in water deep enough to cool me down and feel myself decompress. I am reminded of my father; when I was young, this late-in-the-day ritual was one of his also.
On the evening of the full moon, I relished the moonrise over Menemsha across Vineyard Sound. Everything was very peaceful and the lighted moonbeam on the sound reached seven miles from Martha’s Vineyard to the coast of Cuttyhunk. It is unusual when we experience a few minutes of such natural beauty that it occurs to us that we don’t want it to end.
Following long weekends my son Max, 14, would go home with me because we both had to return to work. Max has been enjoying his job at the Cataumet Light Mini Golf and Bumper Boats. I told Max I really appreciated his help going back and forth to Cuttyhunk. He is very capable and very comfortable with everything aboard our boat, including navigating in a heavy fog.
I was proud to see my 17-year-old son, Joshua’s, photograph of the Long Point Lighthouse in Provincetown Harbor as the front cover of our August issue. When Editor Susan Dewey and Art Director Chrissy Caskey first showed me the photo for the cover, I did not realize that Josh was the photographer. To see “The Cape Cod National Seashore Celebrates 50 Years” featured on the cover and learn that Josh took the cover photo created a special moment for me.
Although I was just finishing grammar school at the time, my love affair with Cape Cod had begun and I was a fan of President Kennedy when he signed the national park legislation in 1961. I believe that the National Seashore has made an enormous contribution to the preservation of fragile beauty on Cape Cod. Since our first issue in 1979, Cape Cod Life has attempted to contribute to people’s awareness of and appreciation of the fragile beauty of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. So, in our 32nd year of publishing we feature the National Seashore 50th and my son provides the cover photo. It felt to me like a family milestone.
Speaking of family, as this issue goes to press, my sister, Mary, and Anthony Dorato are planning to be married on August 13th. My whole family is very happy for both Mary and Anthony. It took Mary years to find Anthony, someone as considerate, as caring and as intelligent as herself.
Judy’s and my boys, Josh, 17, and Max, 14, had just finished school with a few days left before having to report for their summer jobs. Judy and I thought that, as a family, it would be a great time to take a break. The boys agreed, so away we went. We are most fortunate in having all of the Cape and Islands so readily accessible for last minute planning.
The day before we departed was actually the first day of summer. It was hot and sunny and the ocean was flat calm. Passengers were numerous, but the ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard was as smooth as riding on a cloud. It was very quiet and as the mainland of the Cape slipped away behind us, the perfectly still water stretched to the horizon in three directions. The scene was surreal and I could feel myself relaxing. We arrived in Oak Bluffs. I just love the whole setting of the steamship ferry pier across the road from the expansive Ocean Park. The gingerbread houses are like colorful pearls in a necklace around the great green park with the band gazebo.
So much of Martha’s Vineyard just seems to be laid out naturally to welcome visitors. The harbors are indicative of what you find in each area. Vineyard Haven Harbor is very wide with lighthouses on the eastern and western shores as you enter. Year-round, Vineyard Haven sees the most ferry traffic and Main Street is only one block from the harbor. Concentrated for visitors’ convenience is a marvelous selection of unique retail shops, galleries, and eateries.
The next opening in the shoreline is Oak Bluffs Harbor. Although smaller in size, it is easy to enter and well protected in rough weather. Architecturally fascinating, old-style summer homes and hotels abut the harbor, and the pier is sprinkled with visitor-oriented shops and open-air restaurants. Within two blocks of the harbor so many small businesses offer so much fun—what better village could be home to the magical Flying Horses Carousel?
Up island, you find Aquinnah, home to the Gay Head Lighthouse, the authentic fishing village of Menemsha, and the tiny harbor by the same name.
The entrance to Edgartown Harbor is classic with a lighthouse on your right and a private beach club on your left. The stately hotels and summer homes dot the shoreline and create a beautiful skyline along the expansive harbor. The shops, galleries, and eateries are all top-notch. It was Martha’s Vineyard Restaurant Week, and we were lucky to get the last table available at L’Etoile Restaurant, the best of the best.
By way of the On Time ferry, we visited Chappaquiddick to see my brother Mike and his wife, Cathy, at their summer home. Along with their nephew, Keaton Beams, we strolled to the bluff overlooking Katama Bay, all the while the boys tossing their football in a game of keep-away. Mike pointed out how the barrier beach break had widened and was in fact migrating eastward toward Wasque Point. As Mike and I admired the awesome beauty in his little corner of the world, we agreed that, “Where the land ends, LIFE begins.”
To contribute my fair share to the local economy, I did some shopping. I bought four hand-painted wall signs. For my wife, Judy, and Sam, her black Lab, I found, “LIFE’S DRAB WITHOUT A LAB.” Also, I found signs for three Cape Cod Life team members. Marianna Lynch was visiting her first-born grandchildren that week. Her son Ryan and daughter-in-law Eleanor had very recently begun their family with triplets. Marianna’s sign reads, “GRANDCHILDREN ARE GOD’S REWARD FOR NOT KILLING YOUR OWN KIDS.” This year, Liz Flynn was recognized by the MSPCA for her generous volunteer work. Liz’s sign reads, “THIS HOME IS BLESSED WITH LOVE, LAUGHTER, FRIENDSHIP, AND A CAT.” Finally, for the office wall of our ever-so-competent Associate Publisher and Editor, Susan Dewey, I found, “I’D AGREE WITH YOU, BUT THEN WE’D BOTH BE WRONG.”
Our trip to the Vineyard was relaxing, entertaining, and fun. May your summer be as well.
Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher
P.S. Just as we were about to go to press, Editor Susan Dewey and Creative Director Chrissy Caskey showed me six potential cover photos for this issue. We finally chose the beautiful Rising Stars image that you see here. Susan surprised me by telling me at that point that my son, Josh, shot this photo last summer. What a proud moment for me! As we all know, summer days on Cape Cod have a way of shaping your life for years to come.
Is there anything more graceful than a pair of full-grown white swans slowly moving across flat calm water? Or, a couple of Snowy Egret standing still in the shallow corner of a tidal cove? The Egret wait for tiny fish to unsuspectingly pass by, and then fast as you can snap your fingers, they snatch themselves a seafood sampler. Early and late in the season, majestic Great Blue Heron frequent the cove and surrounding shoreline. All the while osprey circle high and watch, then dive-bomb, splash, snatch, and carry wiggling little pogy back to mama in the nest.
About an hour after the tide begins to ebb, folks start fishing from the shore along the channel. The slightly warmer tidal waters up in the coves and bays carry food and run through the channel, then the harbor and out to open water in Buzzards Bay. Those who are fishing stand so still for so long with their feet planted solidly on the ground they know while casting their bait into the unpredictable world under water.
When the tide gets low, shell fishermen emerge and comb the shores and shallows. Warm-weather recreational clamming is one thing, but when I watch commercial shell fishermen working year-round, I never complain about the price of an oyster.
Low tide is also my favorite time for walking the beach around the island, which is adjacent to the channel. Owned and protected by the local Bourne Conservation Trust, and very reachable by small boat, walkers, swimmers, clammers, and sunbathers young and old frolic at the water’s edge. In the off-season, or the off-hours when the beaches are deserted, my wife, Judy, brings our black Lab, Sam. It is hard to tell who loves it more, us or Sam. Judy collects pretty shells and sparkles them up as Christmas tree ornaments. Plus, she finds marvelous beach glass. Writer Katy Trip likens all of us to beach glass, “as we lose our sharp edges among the currents of life, develop inner beauty and become someone to cherish midst the sands of time.”
On the south side, this little island faces Megansett Harbor in North Falmouth. The pier, boat ramp, yacht club, and beach beyond the jetty form the heart of this graceful old community in the summertime. From sailing lessons and club races to ice cream cones and an evening stroll to the pier at sunset, the days begin and end at the harbor.
Our sons, Max and Josh, now 14 and 17, usually launch boats from the ramp in Megansett Harbor. It is such a pleasure to see them so smoothly, and so independently, maneuver on the water. From the sea conditions and marine forecast to knowing “the rules of the road” and “boating courtesy,” the wonderful world of water presents an opportunity for home-schooling and responsible behavior.
Just outside Megansett Harbor, the Cleveland Ledge Lighthouse stands proud at the head of Buzzards Bay. Just south of the lighthouse, one finds the naturally beautiful Elizabeth Islands and the Woods Hole channel leading to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and the south side of Cape Cod. Just north of the lighthouse one finds the Cape Cod Canal leading to Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts Bay, and the coast of Maine. From here one could go around the world.
When I need quiet time to think, I get where land, sea, and sky all meet in proper perspective, and the world just makes a little more sense to me.
I hope your summertime is delightful.
Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher