April Nor’easter: The New Inlet at Cape Cod, Massachuetts Nauset Beach
One saying along the New England Massachusetts coast is to always be wary of the spring nor’easter. Winter is over, the snow has melted, ice-out on many of the region’s lakes and ponds are complete, and the turn of the sun shows that the days are getting longer. Then the nor’easter, spawned in the northwest Atlantic, hits. The fury is immense, likewise the waves. The usual suspect areas off Massachusetts get pounded: Winthrop, Scituate, Plum Island, Cape Cod’s outer beaches. One of the more dramatic recent storms blew a hole in Nauset Beach, on Cape Cod, about five miles south of the Cape Cod National Seashore and three miles or so north of the Monomoy Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The inlet opens up new possibilities for anyone interested in sea kayaking, kayak surfing or kayak fishing the lower half of outer Cape Cod. One can now, if conditions are calm and the tide is slack, gain access to the open ocean from Pleasant Bay in Chatham. There are new sandbars to land on in Pleasant Bay, new surfcasting fishing areas to explore, and a new island: South Beach Island off Chatham, with its desolate row of now more remote summer shacks and modest houses tucked in amongst the dunes.
Don Perry, a kayak fishing enthusiast and sea kayaker who frequently uses ESRI’s ArcView to plan and evaluate his frequent sea kayaking expeditions around and about Cape Cod, recently took his sea kayak to the new inlet at Nauset Beach, Cape Cod. A frequent kayak fishing visitor to Cape Cod, Don likes to fish the area between Chatham and Monomoy Island for striped bass, bluefish and bonito.
Don launched his sea kayak early one weekend afternoon from Cow Yard Lane in Chatham and paddling east, with the rising tide which swept him north, toward Orleans and the new break in Nauset Beach off Pleasant Bay’s Strong Island.
The power of the nor’easter and the subsequent consistent erosion of the incoming and outgoing tides through the breach had widened the gap to over three hundred yards, claimed three more beach shacks and, with incoming waves percussive insistence, had cut down through the layers of accumulated sand to reveal the ancient marsh layers.
The new gap is at times sometimes navigable, and is periodically marked, here and there, with unofficial channel markers. Oceanside of the gap lies several large and wide sandbars on which kayak surfers set up to tide the breaking waves when the incoming swell rises and collects on the sandbars.
During the course of his trip, Don paddled south, towards the entrance to Chatham Harbor just off Chatham Light and the Coast Guard station and discovered, not to his surprise, that a colony of grey seals, likely related to that at Monomoy, had taken up residence in the area, with another group of seals in the shorebreak. At the southernmost tip of the beach, where Don camped from his sea kayak a scant six months before, the berm and dunes had been washed away.
The new South Beach Island formed by the break in Nauset Beach is a tenuous scrape of barrier beach, an elongated, steep sided mound of sand about two miles long. At one end, the strong currents which pour in and out of the entrance to Chatham Harbor. At the other, the equally strong currents, bolder sandbars, and vast, widespread shallows of the new breach itself.
On the nature of the currents there, Don had this to report:
On the way back the outward rip was against me but a strong southwesterly wind helped the paddling along the west side. Back at the new break the outgoing current had to be around three knots or more. Crossing without getting swept back through it was a major chore. It’s a very interesting spot.