Saturday, November 10, 2012

NW Cape Cod Bay Launches

Fall is my favorite season for windsurfing in New England. A typical storm brings 3 days in a row of winds in the upper 20s to low 30s which shift from NE to NW, with some rain in the middle. The storm we just had this week followed this pattern, except that it was stronger, with wind averages around 40-50 mph for two days. We had missed the first day and opted for now sailing on the second (rainy) day, but when the sun finally returned on day 2, we needed to get some.

The winds had turned to NNW, which presents the challenge of finding a good launch. Corporation Beach in West Dennis would be great for wave sailing - but since we are complete beginners in the waves, and winds were still in the low 30s in the morning, that was not an option. Skaket Beach in Orleans would have been great, except for the tides: like Chapin in West Dennis, Skaket is sailable about 2 hours before and after high tide; at lower tides, the walk back to the beach is half a mile (almost 1 km) long. Yesterday's low tide was at 1:20 pm, so that was not an option.

Looking at Google Earth and nautical charts, I noticed another launch just 2 miles further west that seemed looked like it had a much shorter walk at low tide, Ellis Landing in Brewster:
There's a channel with deeper water that lines up nicely with NW winds going almost all the way to Ellis Landing, so we decided to check it out. But when we arrived there, we saw a bunch of trucks and bulldozers moving sand around. It seems Hurricane Sandy and the Nor'easter the week after had changed the shore line a bit, and they were busy moving sand from the next beach over to this one.

We ended up sailing from the next beach over, Linnell Landing. Just as we got ready, the wind dropped from 28 to 21. The forecast and other wind meters in the area indicated that it would drop even further, so we rigged big - 6.5 for me and 5.0 for Nina. As soon as I carried my gear a few hundred meters to the water, though, the wind picked back up, gusting into the low 30s. We had an hour of overpowered sailing before the wind dropped again. Our friend Dani, who had to spend some time to get the zipper on his dry suit working again, unfortunately missed the best winds, and ended up with just a few marginally powered runs.

When we stopped after a couple of hours, the walk back had gotten a bit longer - about 1/4 mile. Here's a picture of the beach at low tide:
On the way home, we drove by Ellis Landing to check it out. Indeed, the walk here would have been a lot shorter:
What looked even more interesting was the sand bar that formed a little protected bay, and a possible speed strip for NW winds. In the nautical maps, the water depth in this area was shown as too low for windsurfing at low tides; but it seems that the recent storms may have moved just enough sand to create a half-mile flat water strip. Definitely worth exploring the depths with a SUP sometime soon! From reading session reports on the GPS Team Challenge, I got the impression that a lot of the speed areas in Australia are also very tide dependent, with the best sailing usually confined to a small tidal range when the sand bars and water depth are just right. Maybe we will be able to find a similar spot around here, after all.

So it was a bit chilly at the start; the wind played games with us; and the water surface was not perfect: swell too small to play with, but to big for real speed - but we had a great day sailing at a beautiful spot on a sunny day.

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