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Old 15-10-2020, 04:39   #1
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Cape Cod Canal

Getting ready to head South from Maine, and thinking of taking the Cape Cod Canal this time instead of going out and around like I did on the way North. A couple of questions about it:

First: On my way up North, I thought I looked at this route on the chart and saw a ~60' bridge that was in ~6' water that made me nervous. (I draw 5.5 and air draft is 58). But when I looked again yesterday I didn't see this. In fact, it looks like it's a nice big, wide canal used by freighters. So my first question is just to double-check that I'm not crazy. I can't find the bridge I remembered seeing anymore, so I'm not sure where I got confused.

Second: It looks like a massive current through there - 5 knots maybe? Does anyone have clever tips on how to time that right? Is there danger associated with such a strong current possibly reducing my ability to navigate safely even if I'm travelling with it? I did the Chesapeake-Delaware canal on my way up, and the East River in NY, but this looks like maybe the strongest current I've seen yet.

Third: Related to timing things right, does anyone have tips about anchorages/moorings on each end of the canal? I'm imagining either Provincetown or Plymouth on the North end. Provincetown is easy, but maybe a bit far from the entrance to the canal? Plymouth looks like a lot of narrow, shallow channels on the chart. Plus no anchorages I've spotted on Active Captain, so unsure how suitable that would be. Anyone have a better idea? The South end looks easier to find a place, but recommendations are certainly welcome. Trying to keep travel to daylight hours since I'll have guests who aren't used to sailing.
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Old 15-10-2020, 04:53   #2
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

I have come through with 63’ mast height.

AquaMap shows 5 knots current. There are various apps that show current, AquaMap is a good one. But there also online sources.

Just sort of move through the area and cant comment on anchoring.
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Old 15-10-2020, 05:04   #3
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

You have it all figured out.

There is no bridge of any concern and it’s a lot deeper than 6ft. You must have looked at the wrong thing. There is a little passage inside cape Ann in Massachusetts you may have been looking at. Behind Gloucester. Similar type of cutoff so maybe that was it.

Rely on the anchorages south of the canal, not north. As in... come from wherever you’re coming from (might include Provincetown) and end your day south of the canal.

We overnighted from Maine to the canal at the end of the summer this year, stopping south of the canal to rest.


The one thing to watch out for is a strong southerly wind coming up Buzzards Bay to the canal. It gets very uncomfortable when that happens. Especially when the current is moving south too, aiding your canal transit.


Try not to get caught in that mess.
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Old 15-10-2020, 05:14   #4
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

Quote:
Originally Posted by JebLostInSpace View Post
Getting ready to head South from Maine, and thinking of taking the Cape Cod Canal this time instead of going out and around like I did on the way North. A couple of questions about it:

First: On my way up North, I thought I looked at this route on the chart and saw a ~60' bridge that was in ~6' water that made me nervous. (I draw 5.5 and air draft is 58). But when I looked again yesterday I didn't see this. In fact, it looks like it's a nice big, wide canal used by freighters. So my first question is just to double-check that I'm not crazy. I can't find the bridge I remembered seeing anymore, so I'm not sure where I got confused.

Second: It looks like a massive current through there - 5 knots maybe? Does anyone have clever tips on how to time that right? Is there danger associated with such a strong current possibly reducing my ability to navigate safely even if I'm travelling with it? I did the Chesapeake-Delaware canal on my way up, and the East River in NY, but this looks like maybe the strongest current I've seen yet.

Third: Related to timing things right, does anyone have tips about anchorages/moorings on each end of the canal? I'm imagining either Provincetown or Plymouth on the North end. Provincetown is easy, but maybe a bit far from the entrance to the canal? Plymouth looks like a lot of narrow, shallow channels on the chart. Plus no anchorages I've spotted on Active Captain, so unsure how suitable that would be. Anyone have a better idea? The South end looks easier to find a place, but recommendations are certainly welcome. Trying to keep travel to daylight hours since I'll have guests who aren't used to sailing.
I have traveled that route many times, you will not have any problem with your draft or height. I have anchored many times on the North side of the canal on the outside of the breakwater, sometimes overnight, sometimes just to wait for the current. This is assuming the wind is SW, which is the prevailing wind.
You can get the current info on google or other sources, if you don't have internet access, you might get an eldridge which are available at west marine.
Plymouth looks intimidating, but a lot of large whale watch boat go in and out daily, and there is no problem, it is well marked, and there are lots of municipal moorings with launch service, and also a marina if you wish to be dockside. It is a great place to visit.
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Old 15-10-2020, 05:16   #5
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

I tried sending a PM; if you didn't get it let me know, but below are two invaluable resources to better understanding timing a fair current.

https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Porta...TideTables.pdf

https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/no...hresholdvalue=
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Old 15-10-2020, 05:17   #6
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

I have traveled that route many times, you will not have any problem with your draft or height. I have anchored many times on the North side of the canal on the outside of the breakwater, sometimes overnight, sometimes just to wait for the current. This is assuming the wind is SW, which is the prevailing wind.
You can get the current info on google or other sources, if you don't have internet access, you might get an eldridge which are available at west marine.
Plymouth looks intimidating, but a lot of large whale watch boat go in and out daily, and there is no problem, it is well marked, and there are lots of municipal moorings with launch service, and also a marina if you wish to be dockside. It is a great place to visit.
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Old 15-10-2020, 05:38   #7
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

We did the canal with 8.5 ft draft and a 76 ft mast.
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Old 15-10-2020, 06:30   #8
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

Sandwich Marina is a nice overnight stop at the north end of the canal. There is fuel, pumpout, water and two restaurants within walking distance. Weve stayed over night, no problem with 69 draft..

https://sandwichmarina.com/
The marina site also has tide and current charts.

As others have said, no problem transiting the canal with the current and be aware if the Southwesterly wind is up, it can be sporty coming out the south end into Buzzards Bay.
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Old 15-10-2020, 06:38   #9
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

Been through several times and pretty much the same comments.

Anchoring. You can anchor or pick up a mooring in Provincetown but if the usual SW winds you can anchor off the north entrance as noted by 72harley1000. BUT if doing so overnight watch the weather as this would not be a good spot if a nor'easter blows in during the night.

There are several places to anchor around the south end of the canal. Check Active Captain for details.

It could bear repeating, coming out of the southern end with a strong SW and opposing current from the canal it WILL be rough entering Buzzards Bay. If you plan on heading south and the winds continue SW it will be a rough, wet beat to windward but then headed south from Maine that's to be expected.

Current. Yes it can hit 5 kts at times but there are several sites online that will give you tide and current details for the canal and you can just time it for a slack or favorable current. In a strong SW wind it would be ideal to plan for a favorable current entering from the north end but slack at the exit to minimize the waves at the exit.
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Old 15-10-2020, 07:16   #10
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

It’s an easy and short passage

Minimium bridge clearance is 135’

Tide table. You want a west current https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Porta...TideTables.pdf

At the East end there is a good marina at the “harbor of refuge” . No anchoring. At this time of year you’ll have no trouble getting a slip. A couple of nice fish restaurants and even visit the Canal museum..

At the West end Onset is very nice. Pay close attention as you turn into the Onset channel from the canal channel that the canal current doesn’t sweep you into the well marked rocks.

A West current into a typical 20 knot Buzzards Bay SouthWest wind can build 5ft waves at the Buzzards Bay entrance. Be sure your forward hatches are closed or you may sleep on wet cushions

Monitor VHF 13 for Army Corp of Engineers instructions and ship traffic. Also highly desirable to have an AIS transponder.

Less likely in the Fall but there can be dense fog at either end
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Old 15-10-2020, 07:39   #11
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

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Monitor VHF 13 for Army Corp of Engineers instructions and ship traffic. Also highly desirable to have an AIS transponder.
Good suggestion. For those that don't know they monitor the entire canal with radar AND video cameras. Not a concern for most sailboats but they enforce a strict speed limit in the canal. Also if I recall, no sailing allowed, power only.
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Old 15-10-2020, 07:54   #12
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

One point that hasn't been mentioned yet - the RR bridge at the southern end of the canal. It used to block passage only once a week, for a train carrying garbage off the Cape, but they added passenger service so it is lowered more frequently. Not sure of the schedule, but there are warning lights and an Army Corps boat to alert canal users. We were stopped by it going both up to Maine and coming back last time. If you're transiting with the current (as you should) you will want to make sure your engine is up to holding you in place if necessary.
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Old 15-10-2020, 07:55   #13
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

Yep, no sailing allowed, I know this from personal experience. They will send out a boat to tell you that.

All excellent comments above. We have transited many times in an underpowered sailboat, never found the current to be an issue, even when going with it.
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Old 15-10-2020, 17:59   #14
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Cape Cod Canal

Ive done the passage through the canal many times. All good advice above.
I will say that I find Plymouth nice when Im there but a nuisance to get all the way in and out. And on summer weekends that channel has a very high idiot factor.
There is a nice spot just north of Clarks Island that does not have too much current and seems to have good holding.

Scituate is not too far from the canal either.

Definitely time the current. Its fun when its with you and you exit before a southwesterly sea breeze kicks up. Less fun when the current and wind oppose.
The railroad bridge goes up and down several times a day.
Canal control on channel 13 is your friend. Listen as you approach and youll get the flow. You can call and ask about the bridge.

South of the canal pocasset is nice. I Anchor East of Bassetts Island. Excellent black mud. Bit of a narrow channel but marked. 6.5 and low tide is a bit of a pucker factor. 6 and its ok. You should be fine. Follow the marks, the channel moves a bit. I use the south channel. You can also anchor north west of Bassets.

Onset is nice too. Well protected. And if you dont like the weather as you exit the canal its a quick bail out. The turn can look scary when the current is running hard, but once you take that turn the world calms right down. Just watch the marks.

Its a nice passage.
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Old 15-10-2020, 19:13   #15
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Re: Cape Cod Canal

Good advice from previous posts. The RR bridge could be a problem if you find yourself at maximum current on your way south (west in the canal). We once were delayed leaving Provincetown and passed the west end of the canal in a 7kt current—good thing for us the RR bridge was up!

Provincetown is wide open and you can anchor, pick up a mooring or a slip. Plymouth requires you To mind the chart and your depth sounder. Onset requires you pay attention to the turn out of the channel and you may find anchoring limited, but there are moorings at the marina and yacht club next door.

There are other options if you continue into Buzzards Bay, such as Padanarum, where a mooring at the New Bedford YC is suggested, or Cuttyhunk, where you could anchor outside or take a mooring inside. Can’t speak to shoreside facilities, as I’ve never been there this late in the boating season.
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