Jump to content

Martha's Vineyard SNG - 9-21-03


Recommended Posts

The NWS had a good forecast for Sunday following the hurricane threat; clear skies, low humidity and light wind. Slack periods were a little early for me. I’d need CPR to get up and leave Burlington in time for a 7:30 launch. Eldridge Tide and Pilot predicted the first slack shortly after 8 am and the return slack a little after 2 pm. Maine Harbors had a different read. They called for slack water around 8:50 am and 3:pm and an 8:30 launch time was more agreeable. Next time I’ll stay with the Eldridge timing and diagrams.

Plans always go astray. We arrived in time to launch at 8:30 but setting up took awhile and we actually left after 9. So what if we had some current… Vineyard Sound looked like a millpond when we first arrived and it’s only 3.8 nm to West Chop Light.

A little way out the wind and waves picked up some. Marc commented that this was his first or second trip on the ocean this year. I wished him well. Further into the channel, a curious shark broke the surface a short distance behind Shane’s boat. I said nothing, hoping to avoid a bizarre knife-wielding scene.

At mid channel I found it difficult to spot a good range on the Vineyard to stay lined up with. A route was loaded on the GPS mounted under the spray skirt. Conditions were still casual but there was enough chop that I didn’t want to change the arrangement. Closer to West Chop I could pick a range and see the effect current was having on us. There were large upsurges in water over seventy feet deep. Depth soundings went from the seventies to the twenties, indicating we were near Middle Ground. We were on the east end of it and not seeing any effects of the overfall. Instead we were in a zone where current leaving Vineyard Haven Harbor was rejoining the current in Vineyard Sound and generating a faster chop. It was time to hightail it to the quiet of an eddy on the northernmost tip of the West Chop. Good thing everybody made it because otherwise the trip would have changed to ‘Lake Tashmoo and Beyond’. We had some fun wave action going against the current for the next half-mile before it all quieted down in the harbor.

No boats were moored outside the breakwater, probably relocated because of the anticipated storm. A narrow passage between the riprap and beach let us into the inner harbor where we passed a remote-controlled sailboat regatta and on to the ferry terminal. Just south of the terminal we pulled into a sandy beach to land and feed at the Black Dog Tavern. But first it was time for shore leave. I could see the paddle around Lagoon Pond wouldn’t happen this day.

We hobbled into a gift shop on Beach Rd with a welcoming Hillary Rodham likeness at the door. Inside at the back of the store, a painting of the Boy Wizard covers much of the floor. Shane found the MV decals he was looking for. But he took exception to all the Hillary paraphernalia and the notion that with longer hair he would make a good Harry Potter look alike. We walked on past a sandwich shop on Beach St and a few other beckoning restaurants on Main St. All I could think about was food at that point. Back down the hill by ferry terminal and on to the Black Dog for lunch. Now we were really in no hurry at all. The weather could not have been better. The ferryboats were coming and going among the sailboats knocking around in light air.

Heading back on the return track would have been shorter and closer to the slack water. But I was determined paddle out to East Chop and return from there. Maine Harbors predicted a slack for East Chop at 3:03 pm. But when we arrived around 2:30 pm the current had already turned against us, consistent with the Eldridge prediction. Now there would be a couple more miles of paddling to cover the same route back to Trunk River than an hour earlier. Not that it mattered… the round trip was not long, conditions were fairly tame and we were getting the best of a great day.

The Steamship Authority has two ferryboat styles servicing the island. One has an enclosed vehicle deck with a passenger deck above. This style leaves a barely noticeable wake. The other has an open vehicle and freight deck with a passenger housing on the side. You will definitely notice the wake from one of these. The wake front traveling with the current is more subdued than its counterpart. The wake advancing into the current is steep and tall. Marc recognized a surfable wave immediately while I snoozed through it. Catching one of these would be a great way to advance against the current although you would quickly be separated from those in the group that didn’t catch on.

Throughout the day we never did encounter following chop while we had plenty on the beams. Except for a few places the irregular waves were 1-2 feet and winds around 12 knots. Things would be very different with higher wind speed. I would probably look for somewhere else to paddle if the expected winds were over 15 knots. Going downhill with both wind and current isn’t too bad because the apparent wind speed is lower relative to the moving water. Forward paddling, low bracing and surfing work in following wind & chop. Once the current reverses the apparent wind is much higher relative to the moving water and the waves become steeper.

We had light northeasterly winds all day. Things were quiet at Trunk River when we left and still quiet when we returned. Surf Drive Beach a mile or so to the east has a small breakwater protecting a good spot to launch on Vineyard Sound. There’s plenty of free parking now that it’s off-season and you can drive a little closer to the beach than at Trunk River. It may be a better spot to launch for the Vineyard given different conditions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

>Maine Harbors predicted a slack for East Chop at 3:03 pm.

>But when we arrived around 2:30 pm the current had already turned

>against us, consistent with the Eldridge prediction.

Interesting. On Saturday, MapTech prdicted 2:45 PM slack in the Waquoit to Nantucket Sound channel, which is more or less opposite East Chop. We got there at precisely 2:45, and the flood current was running at around 1.5-2 kts, befitting an hour or more after slack.

Could it have been a kind of surge effect from Isabel that raised tides and sped up flood currents -- does this kind of thing happen? Or is it just the imponderable nature of tidal currents in general?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wednesday following Sunday’s trip to Vineyard Haven was forecast to have conditions as good or better. Warm, clear & dry air with light northwesterly winds backing to the southwest were expected. Tides were similar and the slacks a couple of hours later.

I launched from Surf Drive Beach at 11:14 am, the time of the predicted slack water at West Chop. Sunday we had launched twenty minutes after the time of predicted slack water. Once again it was very quiet on the sound and a northwesterly was blowing about eight knots. Visibility was great and I spotted a good range to follow soon after leaving the beach. The West Chop Light aligned perfectly with some distant tree in Oak Bluffs marking a direct course for Vineyard Haven. The water seemed slack near Falmouth and I could stay on coarse without any angular correction. Closer to halfway I was heading a little to the east and averaging 4.7 knots. The seas were just beginning to run from the west-northwest.

Current increased sharply as I crossed the navigation channel. Before long the running waves were steep enough to surf, I was headed almost in the direction of East Chop and paddling hard to keep my range targets lined up. Areas with huge clouds of silt were churning to the surface in water fifty feet deep. By GC 25 it was too much and I turned downhill to the northern tip of West Chop. It took fifty minutes to make the 3.7 nm crossing. The rip at West Chop was stronger when we were there on Sunday because we were thirty minutes or more into its development. I’m convinced this rip develops very quickly on the ebb after the slack period.

The plan was to ride the current westward but the weather was fantastic and I stayed close to the beach instead. Small boats were busily pursuing false albacore all afternoon. After a mile there was a small structured inlet almost completely closed off with sand. Another mile and Lake Tashmoo poured into the sound. What an idyllic place to spend your time. After a slow 3.2 nm roundabout tour I landed near the inlet at Tashmoo Beach for a stretch. It still wasn’t time for lunch and I headed westward past Norton Point and Makonikey Head to Lambert Cove where a few were enjoying the warm water. The wind had turned southwesterly and picked up a little by the time I turned around Cedar Tree Neck. Menemsha was another six nm and would have been an easy destination if paddling out in the current. But by now the current was shifting back toward West Chop. It was 13 nm so far and time to turn back toward Lamberts Cove for lunch.

After the lunch break current was building and I headed out to catch it. It still wasn’t near the peak flow and I could easily average better than five knots back to Lake Tashmoo before turning toward Falmouth and Middle Ground. The bottom was visible crossing the shoal and the overfall was nothing to get excited about. It is likely more attention getting at peak flood.

Winds had been 10 –12 knots southwesterly for a few hours and the effects were starting to show. Soon after crossing Middle Ground the waves became irregular between 2½ - 3 feet. There was a long way to go in this and the course became more determined by what was coming at me than the final destination. 4½ nm from Lake Tashmoo to Surf Drive Beach took an hour & ten minutes in quartering seas. After 21 ½ nautical miles the sheltering breakwater was a welcome relief from the waves.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...