Thursday, January 24, 2008

All you ever wanted to know about wavesailing on the outer Cape.

Today is probably the best day this month for weekend wind, (the cut has relatively warm 37 temp, incoming tide, east wind, gale warning!), and I have social plans. Sometimes having a life gets in the way of living.

The following is from an IWindsurf forum discussion. It is a detailed break down of outer Cape wave sites and conditions, including the cut, from local waterman Peter Kimball. I'm posting it here so I can refer back to it more easily. Thanks to Peter for generously sharing his hard earned, inside knowledge! This will probably be of interest to local wave wannabes only, although the description of the cut is colorful.

10/7/07, IWindsurf forum, Peter Kimball writes;
Background; I think I have over 200 sessions at the cut in the last 4 years in all seasons and all conditions. I live in Dennis and have sailed the north side beaches for over 15 years Here is a general outline of wave spots: There are no south side wave locations on the cape. There may be waves that you can jump and sort of ride but they are minor.

Corporation; Best direction wnw-nw. nnw and N are dead onshore and sailable but not really fun. Waves are really wind swells, with a short period. Can be knee high to over head high. Work for all tides although out going tide gives good pitch to the wave Port out starboard riding. Very little current.

Chapin/Mayflower; Best direction ene-ne. Similar to Corporation with wind waves. Big walk at low tide. I think that barnstable-Brewster N beaches are all similar to Chapin/Mayflower.

The cut or Chatham light; A bunch of ground rules- You must be comfortable in all of the following conditions, sometimes all on one tack. If you are not you will suffer until you are good in all of the following. Most windsurfers do not come often enough to get there. Sailing over powered mandatory. Sailing with nearly no wind. There are strong currents Current due to the tidal flow, current due to the wind and wave flow. These currents can make it seem like there is no wind or too much. Be aware of the tides. It is sailable at all tides but the flow is important. The tide can make the wave shape or hurt it, help you out by pulling you up wind or be your worst nightmare sending you to the rocks or out to sea. There can be insane chop. Be able to launch in shore break. The wind can die very quickly, and you will get a good swim. Fog can come and blind you. You must be aware of your location at all times. Sea life: At least 1000 seals and the critters (sharks) that eat them are around, some times whales. Stay away from the seals if they are on the beach. Go near them and you will have hundreds in the water around you. Parking: There is a small parking lot. You can not park there in the summer season June-labor day. Always go with a sailing buddy. Always check your gear. A break down can be a long swim and or walk. The best waves are far away from the launch and can be very isolated. North wave locations are now off an island. South wave locations are at least a 1 mile walk. Right in front sucks. Wind direction: It works clock wise for N-SW There are no wind meters to tell you it is good or not. Only faith and experience works. Do not go if it is WSW to NNW. The wind is off shore and with an out going tide it could be a one way trip. Also there is a high bluff that blocks the wind. Waves- every thing from true ground swell waves to wind chop. Waves can be knee high to over mast high depending on conditions. The waves are best on a variety of sand bars. These bars move all of the time. The conditions change with the tides. Best conditions SW with a ground swell ie off shore storm (happens maybe once a year) N-NE drive by off shore storms. In SW go south. In N go north. ENE-S can be good but very onshore for the wind. Some of the biggest waves though. Recommended gear- A board with volume – to half you weight in lbs. 150 lbs= 75 liters etc. Rig bigger than you think you need. I use a 5.3 or 4.7 and the JP FSW85. The best wave riding is up wind and up current. So be prepared to travel.

Other outer cape locations; All of the cut conditions apply to the beaches from Chatham to Ptown. The change is the wind directions that work. All have strong currents and rip tide when the waves have any size. Most will not work for side off winds as the high coastal bank blocks the wind where the waves are. Go only if it is side shore at that location and with a good swell and you may get lucky. Side off is no wind, side on is broken gear in the shore break. Most locations are beach breaks.