Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

July 4th Weekend on Cape Cod

July 4, 2011

(The photos in this post are not ours)
We spent this July 4th weekend on the Cape with Steph's extended family, at the summer house her grandparents have had in West Yarmouth for decades, the base for clan gatherings.

The weather was beautiful on Saturday, and we spent the afternoon on the beach, then kayaked across Lewis Bay to another beach. I underestimated the intensity of the sun - thinking, after Barcelona and Israel, that my skin had acclimated for the season - and turned painfully red.

We slept in our tent in the backyard Saturday night, opening up the front rain flap in the morning to let the cool breeze compensate for the sun.

Early Sunday morning we went clamming, a tradition in Steph's family that I had never experienced. We went to a nearby marsh, designated by the environmental authorities as the legal clamming site for the season, with a laminated card allowing us to fill one bucket. The water was salty and mostly calf-deep, and we joined hundreds of Cape Codders trodding around barefoot in the mud, feeling for hard clam shells burrowed vertically under the surface, and trying to avoid crabs. In a short time we had filled the bucket.

At the beach on Saturday, I watched the sailboats cruise and anchor nearby with longing. So after clamming on Sunday, I searched for a place to rent a sailboat. (I've had trouble in the past finding businesses that rent small sailboats, presumably because of fear of liability and inability to verify people's experience.) I found a list of a dozen boating shops in the area and called them, all either out of business or not in the sailboat business. Finally I called the Hyannis Yacht Club and was referred to Iggy's Boat Rentals, which had one sunfish available and could deliver it to a beach nearby for a reasonable price.

While the chefs were busy making clams casino and linguini with clam sauce for dinner, Steph and I spent the afternoon sailing around Lewis Bay. The sky was overcast and the wind was strong, with thunderstorms forecasted for 4pm (which never hit). I had never sailed a Sunfish (though my dad's Jetwind, which we sailed on the Mediterranean, was a similar design), and was surprised how difficult it was. The boat is a Lateen rig, with no shrouds (the cables tied from the top of the mast to the sides and bow of the boat) - so the boom can swing 180° forward - and no boom vang, so the only way to keep the boom down for full power upwind is to muscle against the incredible tension on the mainsheet. (Wikipedia explains that vangs normally include a pulley system because this tension is so great.) In heavy wind, if I loosened the sheet to relax my arms (and the wet rope's friction on my hands), the boat de-powered and the waves washed over us.

Downwind was also tricky, because if I relaxed the sheet too much, the boom had a tendency to swing all the way forward. This made the boat very stable - in any situation, releasing the sheet would completely de-power the boat (whereas in Bermuda rig boats like the Mercuries I've been sailing at CB on the Charles, de-powering downwind requires a wide turn into the wind) - but hard to jibe and control.

The challenge was fun, however, and we had a great time. (I won't be buying a Sunfish anytime soon, but I'd gladly rent one there again next time we visit.) Steph got much better at handling the tiller (with its double-negative directional logic and triple-negative for the tiller extension), and I learned that, like on any vehicle, it is lack of control over the steering that causes unease. So with Steph at the tiller and me on the sheet, we could heel hard and sail very fast.

Now we're back in Cambridge, rubbing aloe onto burns and massaging aching muscles. Tonight we're going to a BBQ and then watching the fireworks over the Charles.


  1. I think the chefs should be mentioned by name!

    (PS not really sure when I created the name bookangel but it was my only sign in option)

  2. I'll name the chefs if Bookangel reveals his/her identity.


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