Sails on Vineyard Sound and an Icy Digression

Vineyard Sound lies between two thrust moraines created by the most recent ice age. The two moraines which delineate this body of water were formed as though by a bulldozer. An ice bulldozer thousands of feet high.

The Vineyard moraines mark the southernmost extent of the glaciers, and the Elizabeth Islands moraine come from a temporary advance during the cycles of  advance-and-retreat that occurred as our planet warmed.  The ice eventually fled north. The ice ontinues to flee today. The ocean rose again, and  to this day it sometimes nibbles, sometime chows down, on the periphery of the Cape and Islands. Billingsgate Island in Cape Cod Bay, once a thriving little community,  is no more. In the 17th century, there were sixty acres of Billingsgate. Today there is no Billingsgate. The rising waters have taken it away.

Because of  rising of water and a warming world, the fabled “Northwest Passage”, so long sought by sixteenth and seventeenth century european explorers, has become a summer reality. The business and geopolitical effects of this change have already begun. Canada is establishing a military presence in the artic. Commercial shipping use of this route could become a reality in five years or less.

Why? The trip from Tokyo to London by the Northwest Passage is over 4,000 miles shorter than the same trip via the Panama Canal. And, if you take the northern route, there are no tolls to pay. Although the canal passage in your fifty foot yacht will cost you a relatively reasonable $500.00 or so, the toll for a large container ship can approach $250,000.00.

Back to home waters. In the 19th century, Vineyard Sound was one of the busiest bodies of water in the world. In the days before the building of the Cape Cod Canal, almost all east coast water transport passed through the Sound. From the Cuttyhunk Historical Society, we learn that: “the complexity of the currents and the intensity of the commercial traffic led the young George Eldridge, Jr. to create charts in the 1870s showing the direction and speed of the tidal currents in Vineyard Sound.”

The ferry trip between Here and the Mainland offers moments of maritime beauty. There is timeless beauty to the sound. There are also moments of ephemeral beauty.  Keeping the “weather eye” out for these moments is always worth the while.

Sun. Shadow. Fog. Ferry. Sail.

Motor overtaking sail.

A crossing on the ferry costs less than going to a movie theater.

It’s a great show.

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