Along the Water
Hy-Line’s marketing manager Betsy Rich books the bands for the cruises. “It’s so much fun,” she says. “Everyone makes friends with each other.” Rich says sometimes folks along the canal get in on the act. Walkers and skaters have been seen dancing along to the music as the cruise boat sails past. On one occasion, Rich says a cyclist followed the boat from the path alongside the canal, flashing a light in time to the music. The band followed suit, improvising a “Flashlight Man” song on the spot, with the crowd singing along. “It’s a special occasion,” Lyons says of the festive atmosphere aboard the ship. “People get into it.”
Hy-Lines runs two- and three-hour scenic cruises in the summer, too, with guided commentary on the various historical and scenic sights along the waterway with interesting anecdotes thrown in. Food choices on board include chips and simple snacks, but Rich recommends nearby Onset spots like Marc Anthony’s for pizza, or the Quaohog Republic for pub food and raw bar choices after the trips return to the dock.
For a more traditional restaurant, the Pilot House in Sandwich features live piano music in the lounge Friday and Saturday nights in summer. This is a great spot to savor a view of the canal while fishing boats glide by. On the last Wednesday of each month, the head chef leads a cooking class, guiding students through preparation of an entree and a dessert paired with a drink.
To work off calories either before or after dinner, many walkers, joggers, cyclists, and rollerbalders use the twin trails that flank the canal. Maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the trails, each about seven miles, are smooth, well-graded, and well-lit. Numbered poles along the way help bikers and joggers keep track of their progress, or choose a reasonable turnaround point. Canal Cruisers Bicycles in Buzzards Bay offers bike repair, and bike rentals are available by the hour, or by the day.
“It’s peaceful and well lit,” Harwich’s Talia Arone says of the canal paths—one of her favorite spots to recreate and relax. “I often go at night, after work, for a stress buster. It’s nice seeing the boats coming in.”
Arone has traded in her rollerblades for quads—traditional four-wheeled rollerskates, not inline skates—and in 2013 she co-founded the Cape Cod Roller Derby, based in Dennis. Years of rollerblading helped her build endurance—she was known for long, all-day trips—and now her team competes in flat-track roller derby meets, the latest in a sport that has roots dating back to late 19th-century endurance competitions.
For longer visits to the canal, the Scusset Beach State Reservation offers canal-side parking as well as 98 camping sites for both RVs and tents from April into October. Sandy Scusset Beach is right there and has a trail that links directly to the canal paths.
All the while, the celebrated 100-year-old waterway that flows between the paths is just brimming with sea life. A.J. Coots says he loves to fish on a cool morning, as the mist rises off the water. A favorite activity is tossing a topwater plug—a floating lure that splashes and is designed to create a ruckus that imitates a flailing baitfish—in the early morning stillness. “There’s stripers popping everywhere,” says Coots, “jumping two-and-a-half feet out of the water, exploding at the plugs. If that doesn’t get your adrenaline going, something is wrong with you.”
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