Quisset Harbor (Cape Cod) to Vineyard Haven (Martha's Vineyard) via Wood's Hole

July 31, 1999

Start of ebb at Pollock Rip Channel - 5:44am
Start of flood - 12:28pm
22 miles round trip.

Bruce Taterka in the Current Designs Extreme 19' and David Leshan in the Romany 16'.
We left calm, quiet Quisset Harbor at 9:00 am, about 3 hours after the start of ebb at Pollock Rip channel. (This trip is like paddling around Manhattan -- you have to time it with the currents or you'll never make it through Wood's Hole and across Vineyard Sound).

We had smooth paddling down Buzzard's Bay and arrived at Wood's Hole passage with a 3 knot current pushing us toward Vineyard Sound. The water in the Hole was rough and cross-choppy with lots of boat traffic, but we kept out of the main channel and had a great ride into the Sound.

The Vineyard was shrouded in haze and there was a 2 to 3 knot current running east in the Sound, so we ferry glided on a heading of about 145 toward West Chop. Closer to the Vineyard we encountered wild, chaotic chop that we later learned was from the treacherous Middle Ground shoal, which runs paralell to the north coast of the Vineyard. We enjoyed a wild paddle through the shoal, and as we got closer to the Vineyard we saw that the edge of the shoal was a razor-sharp boundary where the rough water of the shoal immediately gave way to perfectly flat, fast-moving water along the shore of the Vineyard. As I approached the edge of the rough water of the shoal and tried to paddle onto the flat water, I was stuck. Paddling as hard as I could, I couldn't escape the pull of the shoal, and the next thing I knew my boat was spinning back into the shoal and I was being dumped into the Sound. I tried a roll, got 3/4 of the way up and was dumped back again. I did a wet exit and held onto my boat and paddle in the swirling currents of the shoal in the middle of the Sound, helpless. Luckily, the edge of the shoal is also good fishing, so a nearby fisherman in a powerboat towed me out with his water ski rope. Once on the flat water, I was able to paddle a few hundred feet to the shore of the Vineyard. Then the fisherman went to help Dave in his Romany 16', who also got stuck and dumped in the shoal.

We paddled the rest of the way into Vineyard Haven without incident, hung out for a while, then headed back to Quisset 2 hours after the start of ebb at Pollock Rip Channel. We steered well away from Middle Ground, but still hit big cross-chop and swells in the Sound. We paddled back through Wood's Hole in a raging 3.6 knot current, with ferries and power boats zooming past us, and had a nice, calm paddle back up Buzzard's Bay to Quisett, returning at 5:30 pm.

A wild trip. Beware the shoals!

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