Introduction

Looking at Nobska Light through Woods Hole
Geoff Rand
The light on Nobska Point.

I guess my quintessential memory of Woods Hole is sailing through in a southwester gusting over 20, crabbing hard into the crosscurrent, inadvertently helped every time our diminutive helmswoman lost her footing in a puff and we rounded up a little further away from the rocks. Meanwhile out in Vineyard Sound, a sailboat lay a-hull, uncomfortably broadside to wind and chop, with a big Coast Guard helicopter close overhead.

Or maybe it's the time an inexperienced navigator spent a little too long down below with the chart, missed a couple of buoys, and wound up thoroughly disoriented. Our hint that something was wrong came when the helmsman, with rising apprehension in his voice, started calling out soundings that were remarkably similar to the depth of our keel. We got through unscathed, but frankly it was luck.

Or the time a very experienced skipper got fooled by the red/green junction buoy pulled half under by the current and obscured by an east-driven rain. We mistook it for just another green-side channel mark, then executed a quick full-throttle pirouette in front of Red Ledge to regain the channel.

On the other hand, we've just as often motored through at slack water with no wind, sodas and sandwiches in the cockpit.

Woods Hole is the Jekyll & Hyde of Massachusetts waterways -- sometimes a placid and well-marked maritime thoroughfare, sometimes the most dramatic and dangerous mile of water on the coast.

more on Woods Hole. . .