Christmas in Cotuit

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By Eric Michelsen

 

No, it didn’t snow on the Cape recently. This picture of my house was shot by local photographer Eric Michelsen in the 1990s judging from the size of the village Christmas tree which is now three times the size, and the existence of arborvitae along the white fence in front of my house before they were wiped out by some nasty fungus.

This shot was sold — both  framed and on note cards which some Cotusions used for Christmas cards — but I wasn’t aware of its existence until a friend stopped by yesterday during the annual tree lighting in the park when Santa Claus arrives by boat the town doc and flips the switch on the lights.  I still hang white lights off the fence, but nothing like the way  my wife lit the place up back when the kiddos were little.

Frozen Harbor

I’ve had to do this and it is not fun. The way it works is this: you leave the boat in the water through January expecting to do some clamming, then one night the temperatures dip into the teens and you realize your beloved watercraft is about to get locked into the ice. So what to do but don those waders and find some friends and do a little ice breaking?

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Sucker for an aerial photo

Cousin Tom from Maine was in Cotuit for Thanksgiving and brought over his quadcopter drone for a demo flight on Friday afternoon. After some calibration and set-up he lifted it off the ground and drove it around the neighborhood, using the onboard camera and a Nexus 7″ tablet to provide some thrills.  Here’s a shot of the Chatfield compound in the center of the village with the all-but-boatless harbor in the background, the barrier island of Dead Neck.Sampson’s and Nantucket Sound beyond (double-click the picture for a full view).

wpid-cotuitair.jpgHe has the DJI Phantom 2 drone with GPS and a first-person view camera mounted on under-belly gimbals  It’s good to an altitude of 5,000 feet and a range of 3/4 of a mile. The tablet view works best if you stand in the shade. This is his second rig in as many months, the first suffering a “sudden loss of altitude” and a splashdown in Damariscotta Bay. At $1,000 and change, that is an expensive rowboat anchor, and having myself once turned a huge radio-controlled, gas-powered Piper Cub with a seven-foot wingspan into an expensive lawn dart thanks to not remembering to fully extend the controller’s radio antenna, I know the anguish and expense of airborne disaster.

I want one. I really want one. Yet I also realize it would turn me into that guy: the paste-eating weenie freaking out the neighbors with his eye-in-the-sky. While an aerial movie of a Cotuit Skiff race would be very cool, I think the fun would wear off after the sixth flight or first disaster. Cousin Tom is a realtor, so he gets some benefits in displaying the houses he’s listing.

Here’s a shot of the Cotuit Kettleers’ home field, Lowell Park, taken by Tom on Thanksgiving with the leaves all blown down by the recent rain storms. All those woods from right field to the lower left corner of the picture are for sale and the Barnstable Land Trust needs to raise $560,000 in the next four weeks to save them from the invasion of the Starter Castles. Dig deep people. I’m going to give twice (and don’t forget to throw some $$$ at the Cotuit Athletic Association to keep the Kettleers and Lowell Park the best they can be.

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Sean Kelly

I learned last week from my friend Elizabeth Gould that the “Voice of Cotuit,” Sean Kelly, has passed away. I met Sean in June of this year (2014) at the Cotuit Library after I gave a talk on Colonial Barnstable as part of the town’s 375th birthday celebration. Sean sat right in front and afterwards complimented me with an awesome baritone voice right out of radio. I had no idea about his career as a broadcast journalist, but a few weeks later heard the voice again when I watched the Barnstable Land Trust’s video about the campaign to save the woods around Lowell Park, the baseball field of the Cotuit Kettleers. Sean narrated that piece by Maryjo Wheatley, giving it an impact that only a great narrator can.

From his memoir, this biography:

“Sean Kelly covered rebel conflicts in Africa, civil wars in Indochina, peace talks in the Middle East and the downfall of the President of the United States in Washington.He was ambushed in Zimbabwe and death-listed in El Salvador. But not all of his career was spent chasing chaos. He also went to the Seychelles Islands to report on the first flight of the Space Shuttle and to South Africa for the presidential campaign and election of Nelson Mandela.

Between deadlines, there was time for humor, compassion, good food and wine, even romance along the way.

Born and raised in California, Kelly reported for the Voice of America, the Associated Press and several other new organizations during a forty-year professional career in journalism. He worked in print, radio and television. His books include “Access Denied: the Politics of Press Censorship’, and “America’s Tyrant: the CIA and Mobutu of Zaire”.

He and his wife Helen Picard divide the year between Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Cape Town, South Africa.”

Here’s the Cotuit video which Sean narrated for the Barnstable Land Trust:

Dead Neck Dredging Update: ConCom approves reduced plan

The long standing proposal to cut off the western tip of Sampson’s Island and pipe the sand east to the Osterville end of the barrier beach moved forward last week (Oct. 30, 2014), when the Barnstable Conservation Commission approved the revised application by the owners of the island, Massachusetts Audubon and Three Bays Preservation. The approved plan reduces the amount of dredging from the original request to shave off 800 feet (or 233,000 cubic yards) from the Cotuit end of the spit, in half to 400 feet and 133,600 feet.

Lindsay Counsell, the executive director of Three Bays told the Cape Cod Times the reduction means another permit will need to be filed in six years in order to keep up with the constant drift of sand from the eastern, Wianno Cut end to the Cotuit end. The point of Sampson’s has changed dramatically in recent years, with shoaling reducing the width of the channel and forming a “bulb” on the Nantucket Sound side of the spit, revealing an interesting bank of clay-like material. Public opinion has been mixed — according to the Times article, the ConCom received an equal number of letters and statements for and against the proposal.

I’ve been for the plan from the beginning based on the historical configuration of the beach, the fact it was last cut back in the late 60s, and that the “natural” evolution of the spit is in fact man-made due to the decision to break Dead Neck in the early 1900s with the Wianno Cut — the breakwaters effectively blocking the natural littoral drift of the sand and forcing, a hundred years later, dredging to restore some semblance of equilibrium. A breach of Dead Neck would imperil navigation through the Seapuit River; the spoils will build up the beach and create more nesting habitat for piping plovers and terns; and widening the Cotuit entrance will dissuade fools from swimming the channel, ease navigation, and slightly improve tidal flushing.

I empathize with those who love to sit on the point of the island in the summer months, but trust they will still find a sandy stretch on the cut back island. I disagree with the environmental argument that this is messing with mother nature — historical charts indicate a far different configuration before man-made interference and man-made steps are required to get the place back to some semblance of its natural state. This is private property, a long standing bird refuge for endangered species, and not a public beach. The caretakers are within their rights to expect regulations will be followed.

I have no idea if this is the final step in the long process or even when if ever the dredge will arrive and begin work.

Cape Cod Times Article