Finally! The third time’s the charm!
Let me explain. We have tried two times in the past to make it to Provincetown on our boat. The first time was in 2012 and some rolling bands of thunderstorms kept us from going. Last year we had reservations for the 4th of July weekend but Hurricane Arthur decided to go within a few miles of Provincetown on that same weekend so we bailed then too.
Since this is our last year to make this trip happen we were pretty determined to get there. We were again trying for the 4th of July weekend. The group for this year was a mix of people we know from Hingham and from our winter marina, Constitution Marina. From Hingham there were three sailboats, Pam & Chris on Windchaser, Paul and Jane on Provenance and us, and one powerboat, Steve and Sara on Excessive Behavior. From Constitution Marina there were 6-8 boats planning on going.
So as this year’s attempt approach we were all watching the weather with an unhealthy level of obsession. There were texts going back and forth, sidebar conversations, group texts, emails. The plan was for Windchaser and Smitty to buddy boat down to Scituate on Tuesday night and then cross from Scituate to Provincetown. This would theoretically allow us to sail to Provincetown. Otherwise you are going directly into the prevailing winds if you try to go from Hingham to Provincetown. The other boats were planning to follow on Thursday or Friday. The only blemish in a perfect forecast for the entire trip was Wednesday around mid-day.
Tuesday afternoon comes, we are provisioned up and waiting for Chris to fight his way through the traffic. Chris gets there, the motors are running and we getting ready to drop the dock lines. Nope. Chris calls and he has a technical problem. After starting the engine, Pam noticed a thumping sound coming from the engine area. Their waterlift muffler had come loose and was moving around while the exhaust was being pushed through the muffler. It took us about 45 minutes and we had it temporarily fixed enough to be able to make the trip. We left for Scituate around 5 PM. The winds were light and out of the southeast, so no sailing. We motor-sailed with the mainsail up. The seas were a little lumpy but nothing more than 4 footer. We made it into Scituate Harbor around 8:30 PM.
First order of business once we were secured to the mooring was to check the weather for tomorrow. Actually, Stacey and I started looking at the weather when we were about 45 minutes outside of Scituate Harbor. All of the major weather sources (Weather Underground, Weather.com, NECN Weather, Passage Weather and NOAA Marine Forecast) we use were in agreement: thunderstorms in the Scituate/Hingham/Boston area starting at 10AM but only rain in Provincetown and the Cape starting at 10-11AM. My initial thought was to not go into Scituate, take a left and sail through the night to Provincetown. No one else really wanted to do this but we agreed to cast off by 3:45 AM. So we ate dinner, walked the dog and got to bed early.
We woke up at 3AM and put on a pot of coffee. While the water was boiling, we looked at weather again. The Scituate/Hingham/Boston area thunderstorms had moved up to 9AM but otherwise not major changes. Night ops on! We lead the way out of the harbor with Windchaser closely behind. We picked our way through the lobster pot markers using our spotlight. By 5:30 AM we were past the majority of the pots, on our way to Ptown. The winds were a little higher than predicted at 10-15 kts, but they were from the east-southeast to southeast. This means we were directly into them. So again it was a mostly motoring kind of day. We had a nice sunrise, the seas weren’t too bad, we were making about 5 kts and we should arrive in Provincetown Harbor around 10 AM. Windchaser tried to motor-sail for a little while with their genny out but the wind direction was pulling them too far north and they would have missed Provincetown on their tack. So they furled in their sails and we were both back to motoring.
One of the interesting things about the passage from Scituate to Provincetown is that while you spend most of the 30 nautical mile route kind of heading straight out towards the Atlantic, you never loose sight of land. By the time Scituate starts to fall past the horizon, the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown is visible. First you just see the tower stretching above the horizon and then the duns of Provincetown start to appear. When you are out in the middle of Cape Cod Bay like this you still have a cell phone signal. Its not enough to use data to check the weather or post on Facebook, but you could send a small text or make a call. All of these things give you a nice sense of safety are you make this passage.
We had this nice passage going until around 9AM. The Pilgrim Monument and the dunes of Provincetown started fading from sight. This indicated there was a fog bank ahead. The mainland behind us had turned into a solid wall of grey. We still didn’t have enough of a cell signal to check the weather. We turn our VHF to a weather station and I panned out with the radar to see if I could see any storms approaching. Still nothing to indicate a change in the forecast.
Another 10 minutes passed and we lost sight of Windchaser. We were in the middle of the fog bank and had about quarter to half mile visibility. We called Windchaser on the VHF and slowed down to allow them to catch up. With the fog the safest thing was to buddy boat into the harbor so that we could see if any boats are approaching on our radar. We didn’t see any boats in the immediate area but we did see a squall line. After watching it for a few minutes it was apparent that the squall would pass behind us. But it was time to rock the foul weather gear just in case. The lightening hitting the water around us and the sound of the thunder made it seem a lot closer.
While this squall line was passing a second squall line showed up on our radar. This one was much larger. And heading right for us. I called Windchaser on the VHF and told them to prepare for weather.
When the rain hit the winds kicked up slightly, going from around 15 kts to just under 30 kts. The rain was coming down hard in bands but we were mostly able duck below the dodger and the bimini. The lightening was coming down every few minutes now. We were able to watch many of the bolts hit the water. Not a great feeling when you are on that water with a giant metal pole sticking up from your deck.
Just as we were getting into the second squall line, we were close enough to the cell towers in Provincetown to get a weather update. The first thing we saw was “Tornado Warning In Your Area”. What? Tornado warnings in Provincetown? That’s a far cry from just some rain! We looked at the radar on our weather apps and it didn’t look good. Yellows, reds and purples all southwest of us making a track right for us. The Tornado warning was in affect until 10:30AM.
Luckily we never saw much worse conditions. The max wind gust we had was in the low 40 kts. Eventually the shoreline of Provincetown came into view and the visibility improved to about a mile. We rounded Long Point and headed for the safety behind the breakwater. The storm decided to give us one more good down pour just as we were trying up to our moorings at Provincetown Marina.
We waited out the rain and headed for shore when it eventually let up. The first thing on the agenda was a cocktail and some lunch. And after the morning passage we had what better cocktail then a Dark ‘n Stormy! A few rounds of those, some Mermaid Orgasms at the Purple Feather, some espresso martinis and various other cocktails mixed in and we were all ready for an early night.
The next day our friends Steve and Sara joined us on Steve’s power boat. We spent the next couple of days having some good meals, drinking and eating too much. We spent some time out at Long Point Beach. There were Nature Ops (i.e. chasing seals around in dinghies). We met up with the others who had come to Provincetown for the holiday weekend at various points but the group was too big to do anything all together. We mostly split up into smaller groups. One evening, after far too many Maker’s Mark bourbons straight up, our friends Steve decided to debut the “Clutch Dance”.
This all led to a slow and lazy 4th of July morning. By the time we made it to shore it was almost time for the parade. We walked down the main street where the parade would happen to get an ice coffee from the Wired Puppy. Ice coffee in hand we found a spot to watch the parade.
After the parade we spent some time checking out the local art galleries. Provincetown has some of the best local artist we have found anywhere. We made the trek down to the west side of Provincetown to a restaurant Chris and Pam insisted would be one of our favorites. Victor’s opens for raw bar happy hour from 3-5 PM but you need to line up there by 2:30 PM or you might not get in. But for those two wonderful hours you can eat all of the raw oysters, little necks and jumbo shrimp cocktail at 99 cents each. They make some dam good cocktails too. After an hour here our group had consumed 10 dozen oysters, 2 dozen little necks, 3 dozen jumbo shrimps, 2 hot appetizers and who knows how many cocktails. We were primed to make our way to the Tea Dance Party. The Tea Dance Party happens every day from 4-7 PM at the Boat Slip Club. There is a pool on a deck over looking the harbor and the place gets packed with people drinking rum punches and dancing. You need to be open minded to go but it’s a lot of fun. The most popular outfit of the day seemed to be a very small speedo with a leather harness. We met up with our friends Dena and Lee there and had some great times dancing and people watching.
After the Tea Dance we headed back to our boat where we had a prime seat for the fireworks. We were less than 200 feet from the barge from where they were launching. We drank some more, eventually grilled some food and played Cards Against Humanity until sometime in the early morning of July 5th.
Pam and Chris were up early on July 5th and left by 8 AM to head back to Hingham. With now wind and a long power in front of us we slept in a little bit. We didn’t drop our mooring until close to 10:30. Once we made it around Long Point we set a course for Hingham. There was less than 5 knots of wind, it was sunny and the seas were dead calm. I set the autopilot and started working on little projects while my Bride alternated between sleeping and reading. I was able to finish changing out the running rigging with the new line, I changed our flag halyards with some 550 paracord, tried to fix some solar LED lights that I eventually trashed and did some cleaning and organizing. It was a productive day for me but no sailing to be had.