If you're planning on going out on the waters of Chatham Harbor, Pleasant Bay, Nantucket Sound or Stage Harbor in the coming weeks, do yourself a favor. Attend Saturday's harbor update session sponsored by the Monomoy Yacht Club.
This winter was not kind to east-facing beaches, the outer beaches and the above-mentioned waterways. Four nor'easters ripped sand from the shores, rearranged inlets and shuffled shoals throughout area navigable waterways, making some of them difficult or nearly impossible to navigate. In Chatham Harbor, the changes can be readily seen from shore. The 1987 inlet across from Lighthouse Beach is narrow and treacherous, and sand washed over from North Beach Island makes the area resemble Cape Cod Bay at low tide. The north inlet, meanwhile, is wider and deeper – but only in places. There are still shoals on the inside that can be difficult to traverse, and the town is working on getting the Barnstable County dredge in to clear away some of that sand. Shoals have also overspread Pleasant Bay in places they didn't exist last summer.
The Fool's Cut south of Lighthouse Beach is wider, but the washing away of South Beach has also clogged the inner shoreline with sand. Especially problematic, according to town maritime officials, is around the corner between Morris Island and Monomoy, where the channel has basically disappeared and there can be only inches of clearance at low water.
All of these changes mean, as Chatham Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon said recently, that last year's GPS settings are no longer reliable. Local knowledge is critical for safe boating. To get a head start, Saturday's session will include harbormasters from Chatham and Harwich, U.S. Coast Guard officials and others who will fill mariners in on the changes, what to watch out for and where to avoid. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. at the Chatham Community center. If you've got a boat and plan on using it in local waters this season, plan on attending, for your own safety and that of the public service folks who will have to respond to an emergency.