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Background photo by Tom Lyons

117,366 Words or Less

Once again, we have a terrific edition of the Cape Cod Life Annual Guide for you to keep close by, all year round. And in the pages that follow, you’ll find some 17,074 words devoted to 18 interviews with folks that call our special region home. Each of these stories is the product of a one-, two-, sometimes three-hour-long conversation, reduced to the essentials. Just before we went to press, I tallied up the length of the unedited transcripts, and I shuddered at the total: 117,366 words. There are plenty of novels that don’t reach that length. Read more…

A Perfect Day That's Worth the Cost

Where can we find the Cape and Islands at their essence? Step outside, inhale deeply, and look around. It’s right in front of us.

A Perfect Day That's Worth the Cost

Getting outdoors in the summer is what we wait all year for. In the spring, we fork over paychecks for a Thule rack and fix the dings on the gear in our basement. We cut back on carbs and hit the gym to get the looks and the stamina to enjoy the warmest months. We book the cottage and give thanks for so few snow days piled on to our kids’ school calendar. We count ourselves among the lucky because we found a mooring. Read more…

WHOI’s Dave Gallo: “It was a potentially career-ending moment for me.”

While out on the Titanic expedition in 2010, we had the cable to the robot wrapped around the wreckage, and we had a hurricane bearing down on us. It’s a mathematics problem for an SAT test: We had a hurricane coming at us at 30 miles per hour, and it was 1,000 miles away. We had a two-day run to get into port because we were going 10 miles an hour at best, it takes two and a half hours to get the robot from the bottom back onto the ship, and we had three hours before the captain said we absolutely had to leave the site. The question was, if we couldn’t get the robot unwrapped, do we stay there and join the Titanic because the hurricane sends us to the bottom? Do we pull on the cable and pull up a big chunk of the wreck itself and forever have to live that down? Or do we cut the cable and leave a $5 million system sitting on the bottom of the ocean? Read more…

Annual Guide Outtakes: “Here’s my beer. What do you think?”

Photo by Dan Cutrona

As I mentioned last week, I’m going to be posting bits and pieces that, due to space constraints, didn’t make it into the 2012 Annual Guide. In this outtake, Todd Marcus, brewmaster at Cape Cod Beer, talks about how he cleaned draught lines to get his foot in the door, the brewery’s community-first ethos, and why I shouldn’t have tossed my plastic cup in the trash after a beer tasting.

I usually say I was gathering intelligence along the way (while I was working for Hyannisport Brewing Company). I even went so far as to work part-time for another local business that was involved in draught line cleaning so I could get into these bars and restaurants on the Cape, talk to the managers and bartenders, learn about their draught systems, what worked and didn’t work, what they liked in the beers that were on tap and what they didn’t like. It allowed me some nice ins later on, after Hyannisport Brewing Company closed, when I would say, “Remember when I was here to clean your draught lines and said that I was thinking about opening a brewery some day? Well, here it is, here’s my beer. What do you think?”

Cape Cod Beer started with Red and IPA. Originally, you could only get the IPA if you had the Red on tap. Having the Red and IPA together meant that if a customer tried the IPA and didn’t like it, but they were still somebody who was interested in trying a craft beer, that they’d try the Red and they’d be happy and satisfied with it. To this day, Cape Cod Red still accounts for more than half of our sales.

Recycling is huge for us—it’s a major part of who we are. We typically put out about one big black bag of trash from the brewery every week. Just about everything else from here gets recycled—all of our plastics, all of our metals. To be perfectly honest, I’m going to go pick up that plastic cup you threw in the trash on the way in here and I’m going to put it in the recycling bin. It’s not your fault. It’s just one of the things I’m going to do.

People know that if they’re going to drink our beer, that money they spent is going to stay here on Cape Cod. I’m going to get my paycheck and I’m going to go to the local hardware store, the local jeweler, the local optician. What comes around goes around.

If you look at our brewery’s retail shop—the books, the candles, the coffee, all that stuff—75 cents of every dollar we spent on retail items last year went to someone on Cape Cod. Now, nobody on Cape Cod is combing cotton to make a T-shirt obviously, but at the very least we’re using local screenprinters, local embroiderers, and as many locally sourced items as we can. We’re a great tourist destination, and we’re trying to help these cottage industries by giving them an outlet. We want to say, “We appreciate what you’re doing, trying to live here and enjoy what Cape Cod has to offer, and that you’re trying to make a living doing what you love as well.” Hopefully, as a result, those people are drinking Cape Cod Beer.

Annual Guide Outtakes: “There’s a lot more padding in your writing than you think there is”

To me, the 152 pages of this year’s Cape Cod Life Annual Guide represent a lot of effort. After countless hours of research, talking, and transcription, the best part of the endeavor is holding a copy in my hand for the first time. The worst part comes a little before that. Read more…

Standing Room Only: Cape Cod’s stand-up paddleboard phenomenon

Even if you didn’t you know them by name, you’ve seen a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) somewhere. Maybe stapped to the roof of an SUV, on a ripple-free cove, or on waves off of the Cape Cod National Seashore. By now, there’s probably a good chance you’ve even tried it yourself.

Simply put, stand-up paddleboarding is a water sport in which the rider stands atop what looks like a double-wide surfboard and shovels a single-blade paddle through the water to propel and turn the board. It’s the middle ground between surfing and kayaking.

This Saturday, August 20, marks the 2011 Cape Cod Bay Challenge, a test of endurance in which a field of experienced SUPers traverse the 34 miles across the bay between Plymouth and Wellfleet. The challenge raises money for Christopher’s Haven at Massachusetts General Hospital. To mark the occasion, Shawn Vecchione, a Cape Cod surfboard shaper and Hawaii transplant who we profiled in our July 2011 issue, shares his thoughts on the SUP phenomenon.

Shawn Vecchione and his daughter, paddling across Salt Pond in Eastham

Stand-up paddleboarding is a pretty funny thing to talk about—I have love and hate for it. Stand-up in Kauai pretty much first started taking off when I was there. I was one of the first guys to make one out there. All of the top shapers there, we all helped each other. Laird Hamilton was the pioneer of it, the one really pursuing it and moving it to a new level. I worked alongside his father Billy, Dick Brewer, and Terry Chung, who were all working on Laird’s boards. And we were all working together with different board designs and dimensions. Read more…

Shark Week Comes to Cape Cod

Last Sunday, the Discovery Channel kicked off its annual Shark Week programming with Jaws Comes Home, an hour-long documentary about the recent shark phenomenon off of Chatham. Filmed in summer 2010, the documentary follows Greg Skomal, shark expert with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and crew as they patrol the waters off of Chatham and Monomoy Island to tag white sharks and to gain an understanding of why they come here.

Cape Cod Life readers may remember Skomal from “Great White? Nope,” a feature story we ran in the early months of 2009 about the region’s fixation on great white shark sightings. With the surfeit of shark sightings that arrived off of Chatham later that year—likely a result of the boom in the grey seal population, the experts say—what was once a set of I-swear-I-saw-it anomalies is nowa bona fide phenomenon.

Skomal at Naushon Island in 2004. Image courtesy of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

Read more…