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Woods Hole to Cuttyhunk 8-7-04


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Met David Miskell from Shelburne, Vermont at the NOAA Aquarium in Woods Hole at 8AM for a planned paddle around Naushon Island, or beyond. We planned to ride the ebb current down Vineyard Sound, then paddle up through Robinson's Hole and back along the north side of Naushon with the weak flood current in Buzzards Bay. We paddled south out through Woods Hole against the tide with a light northeast wind at our backs, then headed for the deep water off Naushon Island to pick up the ebb currents. We quickly made progress down Naushon's right flank, nearly surfing on the combined light tailwind and current. Large jellyfish were everywhere in the clear, green waters, which were also full of minute particles of suspended algae which sparkled in the filtered sunlight.

Suddenly David gasped, "Whoa! Did you see that?"

What, What?

"I just saw the biggest fish I have ever seen!"

Then I saw it, too. A huge fish, somewhere between six and eight feet long, breached the water about 25 yards ahead of us, came fully out of the water, and splashed back in. We later discovered that it was an Ocean Sunfish. This is one very large and very weird fish (check this link for more about it: http://www.gygis.com/ocean_sunfish.html). They are nearly circular in shape, with long dorsal and anal fins. They eat jellyfish, which we saw everywhere, are lazy swimmers that like to ride currents (like we were), and are known to breach in an attempt to dislodge parasites. They can be as large as 11 feet and weigh up to 3000 pounds! A very cool encounter!

By 9:30 we were at Robinson's Hole, having covered the first nine miles of the trip in an hour and a half. We agreed we should push on past Pasque Island to Quicks Hole. But this didn't take long either. David suggested we head for a bluff on Nashawena Island for a break. When we got there, we could clearly see Cuttyhunk not very much further down. So after a brief rest, we paddled on into Cuttyhunk Harbor just before noon. Boat traffic was heavy in the harbor as we pulled up on a small beach in front of a raw bar and ice cream stand and a small kiosk selling "Nashaweiners". Golf carts were lined up at the dock ready to take tourists for a ride into town. We chatted with Donna, whose golf cart had American flags and a small dog draped over it. She told me that she gives rides for free, mostly to senior citizens, but really to anyone she wants to. She was very interested in our kayaks and the trip we were doing. She wants to try kayaking, but only if she can ride in the front of a tandem and have someone else do the paddling (Bad heart, she said. Mmmm, ahh! said I) She told us next time we come to Cuttyhunk she'll give us a tour. I told her I would look for her next time I'm there.

David did a little exploring and ran into a friend from Vermont (small world!). We had a quick lunch, and then headed back to the boats. Our modified plan meant that we would need to stay mostly in Vineyard Sound on the return trip to catch the flood current, but we decided to paddle on the north side of Nashawena and then cut back into Vineyard Sound via Quicks Hole. However, the wind had now shifted directly into the west, which was the perfect quadrant for us to surf Buzzards Bay back up toward Quicks Hole. We were getting such a good ride that we skipped Quicks Hole and went on to Robinsons Hole, where the current was now running fast in our favor back into Vineyard Sound. We hit some fun waves coming through Robinsons Hole on the fast flood at around 2PM, then headed out into the Sound at an angle that would allow us another downhill surf back up along Naushon. The wind was now in the typical southwest quadrant for a summer afternoon in Vineyard Sound, and, combined with the fastest part of the flood tide, gave us a great ride. We averaged over 6 knots on the return up Naushon, covering six miles in about 50 minutes.

We hoped to return to Woods Hole via lovely Hadley Harbor, but the tide charts said that we would likely be fighting a stiff southward flowing current to get in under one of the two bridges that connect Naushon and Nonamesset Islands. We headed into the West Gutter and indeed found a strong current flowing out to us. David made one valiant attempt to paddle upstream under the bridge before we agreed to portage over the road. We then paddled up through Hadley Harbor, across the boat channel just north of Woods Hole Passage and then back into Great Harbor via the cut between Penzance Point and Devils Foot Island. The day was so perfect that we even surfed through Great Harbor back to the put-in.

The total trip distance was 30.5 nautical miles (35 miles). We had lucked out with a fantastic day, where the light to moderate wind augmented the currents, allowing us to do 35 miles in about 7 hours paddling time.

Route Map:


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