On the Beach

At McKinsey, when one is in between engagements, that state of uselessness is known as “being on the beach” — a term borrowed from the Navy and the apocalyptic tale of post-nuclear Australia by Nevil Shute.

I’ve been on the beach since early June and trust me, if one has to develop new career options, one can’t do much better than being beached on Cape Cod in the summertime. But as the season draws to a close and my itch to do something substantial takes over, the beach is vanishing under the tide of future employment.

This past weekend, while returning from a boisterous sail in 25 knot breezes, I was shadowed by a Wianno Senior. As I entered the bay I noticed it was hugging Dead Neck awfully close, something possible at an new moon tide. Alas, in the morning  while running the chowder races, I saw the boat had been beneaped at the entrance to Cupid’s Cove.

Today was glorious in the way only mid-September can deliver on Cape Cod, so I made a few chicken salad sandwiches, loaded up the cooler, grabbed the iPod and my eldest son, and set sail for nowhere. The goal was lunch in Oak Bluffs, but the wind pooped out and things turned into a slatting drifter. Just before the wind faded, we steamed along like no one’s business.


Back I go tomorrow. The boat is scheduled to come out of the water the weekend of October 15, and I suspect this endless summer will be ending in Manhattan just about then.

The Post-Season

The Red Sox are out of it, the Concord grapes hanging in the arbor smell ripe in the sun, I’ve got more cucumbers than a man has a right to have, and it cormorant season in the harbor, and I may need to open a guano factory if I can’t get the filthy buggers off the spreaders of my sailboat.

Saturday morning was blowing blustery out of the north and I joined the last sailors of the yacht club in running a short informal race up and down the harbor, running the committee boat and blowing the starting horn. Feeling imperious in my role as ad hoc commodore, I sped down the harbor to make sure there was a leeward buoy and on the way back to the fleet, Red Sox cap turned brim back so it wouldn’t blow off in the gusts, I noticed another motorboat speeding alongside me. The harbormaster. Blue lights flashing.


I slowed and stopped. The harbormaster was an unhappy man and began shouting at me for speeding. I went into full obsequiousness, trying to explain in between repeated “SORRIES!” that I was a man on a mission to oversee my flock of nine Cotuit Skiffs. He would have none of it and started looking around for a reason to write me up.

“Where are the lifejackets on that thing!?!” Thing? This was my boat. I refer to it as “she,” not it. The fleet was approaching, yawing and deathrolling its way from the Inner Harbor down to Codman’s Point. My friend Philip glided by. I was embarrassed. I dug into the big cooler that serves as a seat and personal flotation device storage unit and pulled out a lifejacket suited for a munchkin. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!??” I kept digging and grabbed another random orange jacket. “PUT IT ON! SHOW ME IT FITS!” I put it on and it barely made it around my neck. “WHAT SIZE IS THAT?!? READ THE LABEL ON THE BACK AND SHOW ME!”

I took it off, looked at the label: “Adult Universal.” I showed it to him. He shook his head and launched into a lecture about going slow, no matter what the excuse. I thanked him for his diatribe and finished the race, explaining my infraction to all.

This morning, rolling out of bed, I came down stairs to see a flock of wild turkeys on my lawn. I’d seen the birds a couple years ago in Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard, when one walked up to me and tried to beg some food. These were the first I’d ever seen in Cotuit. The dogs threw a conniption and I proved, yet again, that shooting video from a smartphone means shooting pictures of my fingers.


Another race this morning, another sail on the guano boat, and in a month the yachting season ends when the boat gets pulled and propped up on stands in the back yard. Might as well make the most of it while it lasts.

Now to Google some Concord grape jelly recipes and trash the kitchen.

Driving down the dial

Three driving trips to NYC from Cotuit over the past month has taught me the importance of a decent car iPod dock — mine having failed and degenerating into weird behavior — or a decent set of FM radio presets to keep me from going insane on the long stretches through southeastern Massachusetts, southern Rhode Island and the interminable stretch between New London and New Haven. The trip is exactly 250 miles from the village to mid-town and I can do it in four hours, rush hour traffic and late summer road construction permitting.

Phone calls cut the time the fastest, interesting how interacting directly with someone cuts the sense of time. My second preferred form of aural entertainment is podcasts (remember those?), ranging from college courses downloaded from iTunes (I tend towards history and philosophy), cycling podcasts, and geek casts like the Gillmor Gang (if I can find it as it comes and goes). With the iPod dock in bad shape, I have devolved to the radio, and this past trip resolved to take one of the band of presets and once and for all organize a series of station pre-sets to coincide with the 250 miles haul.

One thing stands clear — I am a left-side of the dial guy. Why the crap stations dominate the 100’s is a mystery, but down in the 80s and 90s live the little college stations and NPR affiliates, places where anarchy and eclecticism rule the airwaves and the advertising is nonexistent.

National Public Radio can be a good thing. And I start the trip at 5 am in the dark listening to the BBC World Update — the Economist of the ether — catching up on the suicide bombings and coups in various banana republics as read by the prickly and sometimes sanctimonious Dan Damon. WGBH — one of the oldest public radio stations in the country, has a monster signal that reaches from Boston to the Cape. The joke locally is GBH either stands for Great Blue Hill (the location of the transmitter in Milton) or God Bless Harvard because the studios are so close to Harvard Stadium in Allston. Locally, the NPR affiliate is WCAI at 90.1. I like CAI (Cape And Islands) because its general manager Jay Allison was such an early force on The W.E.L.L. in the 1980s and their local programming, particularly the local food report, is generally excellent. What I cannot abide is John Hockenberry’s The Takeaway due to their pernicious belief that adding high-tech noises to intros and outros makes the news cool.

GBH and CAI could carry me through Providence Rhode Island and beyond, but once I get to Mattapoisset and Marion I switch over to theUniversity of Massachusetts Dartmouth station, WUMD (89.3) because I love student DJs and some of the very bizarre stuff they play in the early morning hours. UMD isn’t the strongest station in the world, and catering to the local Portugese population one can find a lot of Brazilian pop which — language issues primarily — is unlistenable after a song or two. Some of the more progressive programming is interesting though.

New Bedford at sunrise is a poignant place, recalling one November morning in 1978 when I was hitchhiking from the Cape back to New Haven to make classes after a sad weekend with my father. I stood in the breakdown lane across from the crematorium in the Fairhaven Cemetary, flapping my arms in my thin denim jacket, singing “Black Throated Wind” and swigging from a pint of blackberry brandy to keep my spirits up. Years later,  over coffee at Farley’s on Potrero Hill, I told John Perry Barlow, the writer of that song, about that morning, and how a capella I had managed to make BTW my favorite Grateful Dead song, even if it had first appeared on Bob Weir’s Ace album. He was, I think, flattered.

Then I was picked up by some teenagers in a fast TransAm and had to endure some head banging music which destroyed the mood until they were pulled over for speeding in Stonington.

In Fall River, as the car crests the eternally repainted Braga Bridge, I take advantage of Narragansett Bay and the strong signal beaming up from the south from the University of Rhode Island’s station, WRIU, 90.3, where on Thursday morning the DJ played a solid hour of Les Paul’s work, delving into interesting digressions about how Les Paul did not design the famous Gibson guitar bearing his name, but lent his name to it. That was awesome, listening to Les Paul and Fred Waring, and other stalwarts of popular radio from the late 30s, 40s, and 50s, the signal getting stronger as I plowed through Providence and down the long scrubby stretch of West and East Greenwich, Exeter and South Kingstown, site of the infamous massacre of the Narragansetts in 1675 by the combined forces of the colonia militias in what is known as the Great Swamp Fight.

WRIU can be my favorite station on the entire four hour trip, but it dies in New London where a huge void opens up in the dial space as there seems to be no great station there. I need to tune into WCNI, Connecticut College’s 2000 watt transmitter on the next trip, but haven’t dialed into it as of yet.

Coming out of New London, in the space between the Thames and the Connecticut Rivers — near Lyme, famous for the tick and the disease it carries — I tune to WPKN, 89.5, the University of Bridgeport station, which is one of the oldest and most progressive public radio stations on the coast. Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to hear Jim Motavelli, on the air as the DJ. He interviewed me in the late 90s when I was at Forbes.com in a book he wrote about the impact of new media on the traditional press: Bamboozled at the Revolution and described my “droll, preppy demeanor.” PKN was in the middle of its fall fundraiser — usually a sure repellent that has me hitting the buttons for the next non-mendicancy station.

By Stamford, with NYC just a few dozen miles away, I switch to the final station of the trip, Fordham University’s WFUV, which is another NPR affiliate that plays a ton of good music. FUV, which is based in the Bronx and has a strong transmitter, stays with me down the FDR and into whatever mid-town garage is going to take me down for $50 in parking.

I’m sure my next car will have XM radio and stay tuned to the Grateful Dead station most of the time — a predictable shame given the delights of college radio.

Whereabouts week of 9/7

Cotuit: Tuesday-Wednesay 9/7-9/8

NYC : Thursday 9/10

Philadelphia: Friday 9/11

Short week due to yesterday’s holiday. It’s like a switch has been thrown on Main Street here in the village. Even though summer seems to end in mid-August the number of cars swooshing past has dropped to crawl of contractors and tradesmen and the occasional school bus filled with sad students. Off to NYC for more job interviews, then perhaps Philly before returning late Friday night.

Naked clammer arrested in Hyannis: Is This Wrong?

From the Cape Cod Times:

HYANNIS – A man forgot to wear more than his waders when he went out clamming Friday afternoon off Harbor Bluff Road.

Police arrested Savery Antone, 38, of Falmouth, for open and gross lewdness, after he was seen clamming in 2 feet of water completely in the buff around 4:30 p.m. Friday, said Sgt. Sean Sweeney.

A neighbor called the police to say Antone was offending residents and beachgoers alike.

When police arrived they saw Antone and a male friend about 35 feet offshore in the shallow water.

Antone had a bucket to collect shellfish. His genitals were above water and in full view, Sweeney said.

When police called him on shore, they noticed his slurred speech, and placed him in protective custody, and charged him with open and gross lewdness.

via Naked clammer arrested in Hyannis | CapeCodOnline.com.

Here Comes the Story of the Hurricane

Fizzled. Non-starter. Lots of rain, some puffy gusts, then off it went, falling apart to the north. We never lost power, the chainsaws aren’t singing their september song, and now to resume our regularly scheduled late summer activities.

Since alcohol and tropical depressions fit hand in glove, we sat on my cousin’s porch dressed like crab fishermen in orange Grundens, drinking dark and stormy’s (dark rum and ginger beer) watching the gusts blow bursts of rain down Main Street. An expedition to the town dock to stand on the end and face into the howling northeast breeze, and back to the porch to tell stories of storms past and grouse about how Earl was such a dud. One of the sure signs of approaching senescence is my happiness over non-storms. People too young to have lived through a week of coffee brewed on the weber grill and 19th century lifestyle options (you go to bed when it is dark, bathe in cold water, smell bad), tend to miss the big display of nature’s special effects the most.

Now to put the boat back in the water, return the big boat to its normal mooring, and figure out how to get in three Skiff races before Monday’s prize ceremony. And I have a heck of a hangover ….

Ironically recorded in 1938, the September that saw the Great Hurricane of ’38 totally trash Long Island and New England.

The Dock Pull

The yacht club dock was pulled on Friday morning — a big group effort marshaled by Conrad Geyser, the yacht club’s wharfinger. The grounds were cleared of any potential flying debris, the doors locked and the place put to bed until tomorrow when we’ll probably start returning the skiffs to the water for the final Labor Day series. The dock had  been scheduled to come out on Saturday, so the timing was right.


I made a final check on my sailboat, riding pretty on its hurricane mooring off of Cordwood Landing. 2,000 pounds and some chafing gear and winds out of the northeast and I should be copacetic.

The first winds are hitting us now at 8 pm, and should escalate up to 40 or 50 mph. No rain yet, the first bands are just crossing Nantucket. Earl is still a category 1 hurricane, but it has tracked far enough east of the outer Cape that we should see tropical storm conditions and nothing apocalyptic. I’m betting we lose lights around midnight when some limbs come down on the wires, but other than that. Shouldn’t be too terrible.

24 Hours to Earl

Today was a ballbuster – starting with the purchase of a new chainsaw, two gallons of gas, some files,  more flashlight batteries. But otherwise a sunny, hot day, finding me glued to the National Weather Service for the 8 am advisory, then out to the big boat for one last round of worrying and fiddling. As I was ready to leave my phone flashed a voice mail from a friend who said to call him, he had another alternative for me to ride out the maelstrom.  As his boat is in Rhode Island his 2,000 pound hurricane buoy was vacant and I was welcome to it. I jumped into the motorboat, headed up harbor to check it out, phoned his wife, went ashore to pick up a mooring bridle, and an hour later was riding on a massive mooring with a mooring float the size of half-submerged Volkswagen.

That was the morning. As soon as I got ashore I scarfed a lunch and headed back out with my son to start bringing the Cotuit Skiff fleet ashore for the planned 5 pm pulling of the boats. The Cotuit version of a barn raising only somewhat in reverse. We pulled the boats ashore with the motorboat two at a time, lining them up along the yacht club beach — back and forth for two hours until some reserves arrived and another boat was pressed into service. I turned to the yacht club’s motorboats and other equipment and at 5 the pulling began to accelerate, with four trucks and trailers in constant circulation between the boat ramp and the beach and the Ropes Field at the top of the hill, a big four acre pasture near the ballpark where the fleet has always sought refuge during big blows.

The field filled up over the span of two hours, and just as the sun set and the boat ramp was clogged with panicked boat owners trying to get their boasts out before darkness, I made one last run for a friend, got his catboat into the field, then locked things up and waited for another friend to return from a hurricane hole in Popponesset Bay where he was stashing his antique catboat for the duration.

The Cape and Islands are operating under a hurricane warning. The current track has it passing sixty miles east of Chatham — that’s eighty miles from me, but it seems pretty certain that we’re going to be under hurricane conditions from 8 pm Friday until dawn Saturday, with three to six inches of rain, sustained winds of 50 knots, and gusts into the 70s.

I’ll make one last run out to the big boat in the morning, check the chafing gear, then help pull the yacht club pier out of the water.  My motorboat will get hauled, then a late trip for a ton of ice since we’re certain to lose power and the refrigerators will fail, then settle in for an increasingly wild afternoon, culminating with a full hit at nightfall.

Counting down the hours until Earl

Seventy years ago I’d be oblivious to what was coming. Now I know too much and what I know sucks. Starting Sunday I started keeping an eye on Hurricane Earl, a category 4 storm that is now forecasted to pass extremely close offshore of Cape Cod. Very close.

The last forecast from the National Weather Service put Cape Cod on a hurricane watch — meteorological speak that it’s time to consider the options and possibilities. With a 33′ sloop sitting on a 500 pound mooring less than half a mile away, I am definitely considering the options and none of them, with 48 hours to go, are great. So this morning I went to the firehouse and asked the chief for some old firehose, grateful when he cut me off a couple sections of 2″ hose so I could split them and wrap them around the mooring pennants where they rub in the boat’s chocks. My son and I brought the boat into the town down and took down the sails and the bimini awning, anything to reduce the windage and prevent the wind from picking open the sails and causing definite mayhem. I’ll return tomorrow to lash things down and fret some more.

My options now are:

  1. Stay on the mooring, hope the forecast holds, go to bed and pray the mooring holds for eight hours of 50 knot winds and some gusts over 60 miles per hour.  The tackle is only two years old, I’m on the outside edge of the mooring field, and right now the wind direction is out of the north, over land, so I will get some protection in the lee, but not a lot. The worst direction, if we were in the northeastern quadrant of the cyclone, would be south or southeast, then the entire length or fetch of the harbor would kick up some very big waves.  The other fear is the storm surge, but thankfully low tide is at 2 am, so the peak of the winds will come as the water is falling, not rising.
  2. Stay on the mooring but also stay on the boat. This means actually sitting out the storm with a lifeline wrapped around me, tied to the helm, with a pair of swim goggles to keep the driving rain from blinding me, and then using the diesel and the throttle to keep the boat into the wind and the pressure off of the mooring. This is the crazy man option.
  3. Try to get it pulled tomorrow morning, but that is not a sure thing — the hauler has to be in the mood and he is sure to have an extremely hectic day. That entails a trip to the dock, a visit by the crane truck to pull the mast, then a trip up into Prince’s Cove to be hauled and then parked in the back yard by the trees on four jackstands. Hurricane Bob in 1991 did some massive tree damage and who knows if the jackstands would keep the boat upright anyway. Hauling means no fall sailing – once out, then the boat is out and the season is over.
  4. If it comes ashore — well, it comes ashore and the damage will be bad. Nothing to do but shrug and hope it doesn’t.

I’ve got a 18′ motorboat to pull — that will come out right at the last minute on Friday afternoon. A friend needs to borrow it to get his catboat tucked away into a hurricane hole inside of Shoestring Bay on the west side of town in the next series of bays. To make things more interesting I just became president of the association of the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club, and tomorrow is going to be spent making sure the yacht club’s launches are taken care, of the dock is pulled, the kid’s boats are stowed, and then 50 Cotuit skiffs hauled and stored in the Ropes Field to ride things out.  Hurricane boat pulls are the Cotuit version of an old fashioned barn raising. Several cars with trailers, a couple crews on the beach to de-rig and pull masts, another team on the water in motorboats hauling in the boats, then another crew with 4″ x 4″s to lift the boats on the trailers and another in the field to lift them off. Tomorrow ought to be busy, especially if this heavy heat persists.

The phone has been ringing all day, and everywhere you go the question is the same: “Do you think it will hit?” Smart money says it goes east off of Chatham, putting us in the northwest quadrant where the counter-clockwise spin means the winds will come in from the landside.  Forecast has it 30 miles southeast of Nantucket . That’s 50 miles from where I sit. Way too close. Way, way too close. Let’s hope it stays out there. A short jog to the west and complete devasation is a sure thing if it comes ashore. Bob was barely a hurricane and we were without lights for nearly a week, the tree damage was incredible, every pissed off homeless yellow jacket on the Cape was out for revenge …. and nearly every boat in the harbor was trashed and thrown onto the beach. If Earl does the same it will not be a very good September. All the food will spoil. People will snarl at each other in the gas lines at the gas station. I guess i need to go buy a chainsaw and a new power washer. The first lesson learned from Bob is wash the house as soon as possible given that every green leaf in the neighborhood gets shredded to confetti and pasted to the paint with salt spray. Lawn furniture to stow away … badminton nets, hummingbird feeders ….. tomorrow is going to be a long, long day.

Here’s the wind profile: The little flags point in the direction the wind will come from and the small bars indicate the wind velocity. Sustained winds over 70 mph make for a hurricane. The forecast has us gusting with peaks around 65 mph. Sunset to 3 am … it’s going to be a long nasty night. And if the power goes — well, no blogging for a long time to say the least.

Think I’m over-reacting? Napatree Point – 1938

Exit mobile version