Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hardings Beach

Sunshine. Lots of white caps. A deserted beach. It must be November!

The forecast had called for wind all day long, but it took almost until noon before the air had warmed up enough to let the wind get down to the surface. Optimistically, I had planned on a morning speed session at the Kennedy Slicks, and an afternoon session at Kalmus. But the wind came more westerly than predicted, and was stronger in Chatham than in Hyannis, so off to Hardings Beach I went. Nina had to take care of some things and could not join me; Martin had to work; and Hardy, who certainly would have joined me if he had been around, is currently not on Cape Cod.

I ended up sailing alone. Not a big deal, since the wind was side-onshore, and air and water temperatures were a bit reasonable; but being alone on the water made me sail a bit more cautiously. Here is a little video from my 90 minute session that shows the conditions:

I was perfectly powered on 5.5, a welcome change from 6.5 or larger that I had to sailed most days this fall so far. The wind was steady all afternoon, with averages near 25 mph - 5 mph more than in Kalmus, which also looked a lot gustier on the wind meter graphs. Here are a few things I love about Hardings:

  • Friendly little waves, perfect for a non-wave sailor like me (although they are good enough to occasionally attract "real" wave sailors like JE & PK).
  • Very safe - safer than Kalmus, since there is no shipping lane with active ferry traffic nearby. A sand beach extends for about a mile from the launch for those who have to practice the "walk of the conquered hero" (renamed from the "walk of shame" by Coach Ned).
  • Long reaches - I like to sail longer on one reach than many windsurfers, and Hardings allows runs of about 2 miles in WSW. 
  • Waves and lanes on the inside, big orderly swell on the outside. Fun to sail in!
The next day, I went to sail Kalmus in 16-18 mph winds on my big slalom board and 8.5 m sail. Also fun, although quite different. But it made me appreciate the absence of ferry traffic in Hardings even more. Again, I was the only one on the water; with relatively light winds, the water was pretty smooth. That is, until the high speed ferry came steaming through. Even 10-15 minutes after the ferry had passed, the water surface anywhere close to the shipping lane could only be characterized as "voodoo chop". 

This time of the year, it is quite common that the forecast predicts much higher winds further out on the Cape. Wind meter reading often confirm that this really happens. Even after correcting for known biases (Hatch Beach reads 3 mph high in most directions; Kalmus reads low in S and SW, Chapin reads low in many directions), beaches in Orleans (Skaket) and Chatham (Hardings) often get 5 mph stronger winds than Hyannis (Kalmus) or Dennis (Chapin). That's especially the case at the beaches with the clearest fetch for the given wind direction - Hardings for W and WSW, and Skaket for W to NW (and possibly even N, but that's just speculation). It's definitely worth driving an extra 20 minutes (relative to Kalmus) on such days! 

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