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Muskeget Channel or Vineyard Sound?


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Hi all,

My brother and are planning a cruise from eastern Long Island to Nantucket the first week of April.  I'm looking for some insight into entering Nantucket Sound via Muskeget Channel.  Here's the NOAA chart

We'd like to stay out in the ocean and come up through the channel but Coast Pilot says that, "strangers should never attempt it."  We will be strangers to the area but who am I to listen to an informed opinion? lol

Our boat is a C&C 33 drawing 7 feet of water.  Should we just stick to Vineyard Sound?

Thanks in advance!

 

Here's the text from Coast Pilot on Muskeget Channel:

(261) Muskeget Channel is an opening 6 miles wide on the south side of Nantucket Sound between Muskeget and Chappaquiddick Islands. The channel is subject to numerous shifting shoals. Although this channel is partly buoyed, strangers should never attempt it as tidal currents with velocities of 2 to 5 knots make navigation dangerous. The currents through the channel are strong, having a velocity of 3.8 knots on the flood and 3.3 knots on the ebb about 1.5 miles east of Wasque Point. The flood sets north-northeastward and ebbs south-southwestward.

 

 

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I’ve been to Edgartown several times but I always entered via Vineyard Sound. When they say shifting shoals they mean it. The last thing you want to do is run aground drawing 7 feet that early in the season. The water is damn cold so launching a dinghy to kedge off could be deadly. The first week of April is typically associated with very strong winds, thus very choppy, especially if the wind is against the current. 
I’ve singlehanded to Bermuda several times but I always wait for a lull in the boisterous spring winds which usually occurs in the third week of April. One year I was driven up to the south of the George’s Bank before the damn wind moderated enough for me to head southeast. I would advise against “fair weather” shortcuts that early in the season. 

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1 hour ago, Sutton Hoo said:

Hi all,

My brother and are planning a cruise from eastern Long Island to Nantucket the first week of April.  I'm looking for some insight into entering Nantucket Sound via Muskeget Channel.  Here's the NOAA chart

We'd like to stay out in the ocean and come up through the channel but Coast Pilot says that, "strangers should never attempt it."  We will be strangers to the area but who am I to listen to an informed opinion? lol

Our boat is a C&C 33 drawing 7 feet of water.  Should we just stick to Vineyard Sound?

Thanks in advance!

 

Here's the text from Coast Pilot on Muskeget Channel:

(261) Muskeget Channel is an opening 6 miles wide on the south side of Nantucket Sound between Muskeget and Chappaquiddick Islands. The channel is subject to numerous shifting shoals. Although this channel is partly buoyed, strangers should never attempt it as tidal currents with velocities of 2 to 5 knots make navigation dangerous. The currents through the channel are strong, having a velocity of 3.8 knots on the flood and 3.3 knots on the ebb about 1.5 miles east of Wasque Point. The flood sets north-northeastward and ebbs south-southwestward.

 

 

I've never come up Muskeget, but looking at it, it's not really the way I'd choose to go. But I've always been coming from Narragansett Bay when headed to Nantucket, or from Hyannis. So I was coming from north of where you are, and Muskeget never made sense to consider.

But I have sailed in the area enough to be REALLY put off by both the coast pilot notice and a glance at the charts. Reports of shoaling to 8' in places the charts read 20-30 make me nervous.

image.png.4b522a0d92e0fbf2d865034f8978cd47.png

There's a lot of current in those areas, and even in Vineyard and Nantucket sounds you can run into some nasty, steep chop if the wind is against the current and tide. I'm not sure how accurate the Eldridge's data is for there, or if it's part of the published data because I've never looked for it. But if you head down that way and you find yourself with the current headed south into a southerly it could be unpleasant and dangerous. Heading into five knots of current against 20+ knots of breeze can give you some big and nasty standing waves.

The other problem I see with that route is there's nowhere to bail to if the conditions make it impassable. There's no place to pull into on the south sides of the Vineyard or Nantucket. So if it's too shitty to get through, you're either standing off and heaving to to wait for conditions to settle, or sailing back around Martha's Vineyard anyway.

Timing the currents in those sounds has always been important on the north side of the islands - trying to get around East and/or West Chop in the teeth of bad current can be a pain in the ass even without adverse wind and tides when the tide is pushing you back by 3.5+ knots. Five knots through there could get hairy.

Even on the northern route you'll find shifting bottom conditions and shoals. The waters off Nantucket are known for this, and I've touched in places that were supposed to be deeper. Coming through there you'll still have to pick your way through the shoals on the west side of Nantucket. Not impossible, but added stress and can be trickier if things get choppy. Twelve feet of water on the charts doesn't do you any good in a 7' draft at low tide with five foot chop, a lesson I learned the first time I took an 7'9" draft to Hyannis.

 

The other way is longer, but you also have a number of fantastic stopping off points along the way to spend the night or even a lay day. Block Island, Cuttyhunk (that may be too far out of the way if you're in hurry), Menemsha, Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs are all nice places, though Menemsha is untenable in a northerly and Vineyard Haven can be unpleasant in a northerly unless you get a rare spot inside the seawall.

I'm sure one of my stalkers will be along shortly to call me a giant pussy who doesn't know how to sail or something, but that's my take. I do tend to be conservative in my approaches, and this isn't one I'd be likely to make when the other way is not that much longer and presents considerably less risk and many more safe options.

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Thank you both for the thoughtful replies.  I think I needed someone to talk me off the cliff.

44 minutes ago, B.J. Porter said:

I'm sure one of my stalkers will be along shortly to call me a giant pussy who doesn't know how to sail or something, but that's my take. I do tend to be conservative in my approaches,

Similar situation - it's my brother who's stalking me :)

Thanks again!

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I know that area fairly well, but not well enough to feel comfortable. I’d be very cautious in something that draws 8 feet and personally wouldn’t do it. I only do it in my powerboat which draws 3 feet, and if I haven’t done it in a while I’m completely paranoid about sandbars. I always keep a close eye on my depth and a lookout for light water. I’ve been in 5 feet of water in places marked 30 feet on the chart. Not to mention the rips can be nasty since there’s just so much water moving through. 
If you don’t know the area I’d definitely recommend the vineyard sound route, especially that early in the year. 

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This chart is more readable.  Be safe and leave the Vineyard to starboard (take Vineyard Sound).

Muskeget Channel.png

link to image (then click to magnify)

I went through there once sailing the 50' Newick trimaran Moxie.  Daggerboard was completely retracted!  We were so close to the beach that some fishermen ashore were startled.  We waved as we sped by.
http://dicknewickboats.com/moxie/speed_record_sailing_around_vineyard.html

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14 hours ago, Sutton Hoo said:

Thank you both for the thoughtful replies.  I think I needed someone to talk me off the cliff.

Similar situation - it's my brother who's stalking me :)

Thanks again!

I missed that you were talking first week of April.

When I lived in RI we got more than a foot of snow one April fool's day. Most people don't have their boats in that early, it's still pretty cold.  I launched my old boat early to practice with the crew, and I got pulled over by the coasties for practice because I was the only boat on the water.

Offshore it will be chilly, though the water is still a big heat sink so the islands don't get super cold. But they also don't get super warm, even in the peak of summer. I've been out to Nantucket a few times for Figawi over Memorial Day weekend, it's still not really warmed up then though it's pleasant.

I'd stick with the sound, and make sure you bring a thermal layer, just in case.

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5 hours ago, B.J. Porter said:

I launched my old boat early to practice with the crew, and I got pulled over by the coasties for practice because I was the only boat on the water

I am very glad to live in a county where we don't have heavily-armed maritime cops hassling us to justify their expensive existence

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2 hours ago, B.J. Porter said:
4 hours ago, TwoLegged said:

I am very glad to live in a county where we don't have heavily-armed maritime cops hassling us to justify their expensive existence

I think they were training some newbs. There were a lot of them on the boat.

Pity your tax dollars are wasted on such intrusive nonsense.  Those people could be gainfully employed fixing bridges or feeding the hungry or a squillion-and-one other things

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5 minutes ago, TwoLegged said:

Pity your tax dollars are wasted on such intrusive nonsense.  Those people could be gainfully employed fixing bridges or feeding the hungry or a squillion-and-one other things

I don't know, I'm OK with our rescue services not having to hold bake sales and raffles to stay afloat.

I don't begrudge the coasties their training time, because they will be there if I need them.

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1 hour ago, B.J. Porter said:

I don't know, I'm OK with our rescue services not having to hold bake sales and raffles to stay afloat.

I don't begrudge the coasties their training time, because they will be there if I need them.

Sorry, but that's very poor reasoning.  The RNLI, which does sea rescue in the UK an Ireland, manages to do plenty of practice and provide an excellent service ... without any statutory powers, let alone the right to carry guns and do forced boardings for checks.

The reason your coasties behave like they do is noting to with rescue.  It's because as usual, the USA prefers armed enforcers to freedom, so the rescue service is combined with a policing and military role.  American politics rewards politicians who wave the flag and boost the military, so the coasties know they have almost free rein to harass people.

People may like or dislike this hyper-militarisation.   À Chacun Son Goût.  But this is a political choice, not a by-product of a rescue service

 

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12 minutes ago, TwoLegged said:

Sorry, but that's very poor reasoning.  The RNLI, which does sea rescue in the UK an Ireland, manages to do plenty of practice and provide an excellent service ... without any statutory powers, let alone the right to carry guns and do forced boardings for checks.

The reason your coasties behave like they do is noting to with rescue.  It's because as usual, the USA prefers armed enforcers to freedom, so the rescue service is combined with a policing and military role.  American politics rewards politicians who wave the flag and boost the military, so the coasties know they have almost free rein to harass people.

People may like or dislike this hyper-militarisation.   À Chacun Son Goût.  But this is a political choice, not a by-product of a rescue service

 

The USCG is charged with multiple agendas - primarily border protection and coastal safety, include SAR and maintaining bouyage. It means yes, they are in essence water cops (or paramilitary), but it also means they are extremely well equipped and well trained. I'm sure the RNLI does fine, and to some extent that model does follow a true Libertarian approach, in that only the people who may need the services are tasked with paying it. The USCG approach is more of a flavor of Democratic socialism...everyone kicks in.

Every single country has water police of some form out there who CAN force boardings and do checks and searches, so you can come off your supercilious high horse about that one just because ours also will send a jumper in the water to rescue you, too. You can and will get boarded in the UK by gun-toting coastal patrols as well, even while the peaceable RNLI is holding hands and singing kumbaya together in the next harbor over.

Just because some countries choose not to fund sea rescue doesn't really give you a super high and sound ledge to be a condescending twat about it. The U.S. also has a hell of a lot more territorial waters to cover, and a lot more people inland who wouldn't be willing to have a bake sale to support keeping people safe along it.

The reasoning is fine. If I'm in trouble in USCG jurisdiction, they have serious hardware to help find me. And they don't need to sell raffle tickets or beg for subscribers and donations to do it, the USCG takes care of all mariners as a matter of public responsibility.

Those Severn class lifeboats look like doughty little things, but a USCG cutters are a different class of ship and the USCG seems considerably better equipped to handle SAR responsibilities out to the extreme range or territorial waters and beyond. As someone who sails Out There, I am OK with that.

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USCG is the only (?) government agency where the 4th amendment doesn't apply due to its original inception in the Revenue Service Act of 1790.  

The USCG is one of the few services with true offshore SAR capabilities in part because of its offshore security requirements. 

 

 

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41 minutes ago, B.J. Porter said:

The USCG is charged with multiple agendas - primarily border protection and coastal safety, include SAR and maintaining bouyage. It means yes, they are in essence water cops (or paramilitary), but it also means they are extremely well equipped and well trained. I'm sure the RNLI does fine, and to some extent that model does follow a true Libertarian approach, in that only the people who may need the services are tasked with paying it. The USCG approach is more of a flavor of Democratic socialism...everyone kicks in..

No, the RNLI is not funded by people who may need the services.  It is funded by voluntary donations, and most the people from whom my Mum raised money as an RNLI fundraiser were diehard landlubbers from costal areas.  Same with the French SNSM.

The UCG approach is in no way "a flavor of Democratic socialism".  It's a coercive model, both in funding and in operation (that's what the guns are for), which makes it more like Stalinism.  Democratic approaches don't check your safety gear at gunpoint.

If you want a Democratic socialist approach to maritime safety, take a look at the Irish or British approach to helicopter rescue.  In both jurisdictions, it is provided as a taxpayer-funded civilian service, free at point of use.  Their crews are unarmed, because their job is save life not take lives.

41 minutes ago, B.J. Porter said:

Every single country has water police of some form out there who CAN force boardings and do checks and searches, so you can come off your supercilious high horse about that one just because ours also will send a jumper in the water to rescue you, too. You can and will get boarded in the UK by gun-toting coastal patrols as well, even while the peaceable RNLI is holding hands and singing kumbaya together in the next harbor over.

Projection, I'm afraid. None of my friends has ever been boarded by any form of coastal police in UK and Irish waters.  It does happen occasionally, but the use of force or boarding against leisure boats is very rare: I am aware of it only as part of intelligence-led drug or gun-related operations, and none of my friends has ever had that happen to them.

In the USA you are used to a high level of militarised policing, which we don't have in these islands (apart from in Northern Ireland where there was a 30-year civil war in my lifetime).  When we achieved independence, we got rid of armed police. The first Garda commissioner said "the Garda Síochána will succeed not by force of arms or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people."  Hassling people at gunpoint while they are at leisure on the water is no part of our understanding of moral authority.

Feel free to choose a different value system, but "supercilious high horse" is an odd way to respond to noting the difference.

1 hour ago, B.J. Porter said:

The U.S. also has a hell of a lot more territorial waters to cover

Any country's territorial sea extends 12 miles from its coast.  The United States has much less coastline per area of land than a country such as Ireland because the US has a huge non-coastal area, and about half of its border is land border rather than coast.

The USA's choice to militarise this zone is a political choice, not a function of geography or economics — it's a damn sight more expensive to flood the sea with military hardware than to run a lifeboat service and helicopters, and all those goons-with-guns who board leisure craft aren't free.

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5 minutes ago, Elegua said:

The USCG is one of the few services with true offshore SAR capabilities in part because of its offshore security requirements. 

"offshore security requirements" is one way of describing it.  "Militarising the seas" is a more neutral description.  

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The Irish and English situation is markedly different from the US, where anyone can have concealed weapons, militarising police and coast guard is an OH&S requirement.

Just because they carry weapons doesn’t mean they use them in an unprovoked manner.

Not sure I agree about the benevolence of British police either, they are the most prominent, nosy and officious cops I have met anywhere in the world...

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22 minutes ago, Elegua said:

You mean like the Cod Wars? 

That was a particularly futile bit of British aggression.  Thankfully, the Brits eventually went home with their tails between their legs.

But the US Coastguard doesn't have much as fisheries duty as the UK or Ireland, because most US waters are a long way from Canada or Mexico.

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3 hours ago, olaf hart said:

The Irish and English situation is markedly different from the US, where anyone can have concealed weapons, militarising police and coast guard is an OH&S requirement.

Just because they carry weapons doesn’t mean they use them in an unprovoked manner.

Where I am from, carrying a weapon is highly aggressive conduct, no matter who is doing it.   And the idea that US armed officials don't use weapons without provocation is an interestingly novel one.

But even in a gun-toting country, the militarisation is needed only for the policing function of coastguard, not for rescue.  It's the 1915 merger of the two functions, and the later 2003 placement of them under the DHS which led to militarised rescue services.

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30 minutes ago, TwoLegged said:

That was a particularly futile bit of British aggression.  Thankfully, the Brits eventually went home with their tails between their legs.

But the US Coastguard doesn't have much as fisheries duty as the UK or Ireland, because most US waters are a long way from Canada or Mexico.

Actually they do.  Taiwanese, Russian, Korean and now Chinese trawlers have been problems in US waters on the west coast and Alaska.  They also work in the Pacific in the Marianas and Marshals as for example the last time I was there Vietnamese boats have been a problem in places like Palau. Canadians are mostly better behaved and generally they fight their battles in the courtroom.  Mostly. 

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27 minutes ago, Elegua said:

Actually they do.  Taiwanese, Russian, Korean and now Chinese trawlers have been problems in US waters on the west coast and Alaska.  They also work in the Pacific in the Marianas and Marshals as for example the last time I was there Vietnamese boats have been a problem in places like Palau. Canadians are mostly better behaved and generally they fight their battles in the courtroom.  Mostly. 

The collection of overseas colonies brings its own headaches. I have no more sympathy with the difficulties of the American overseas empire than the Spanish or British or French moans about the white man's burden.  

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12 minutes ago, TwoLegged said:

The collection of overseas colonies brings its own headaches. I have no more sympathy with the difficulties of the American overseas empire than the Spanish or British or French moans about the white man's burden.  

 No one was moaning. Just explaining. 

I usually assume it’s the ‘muricans that are ignorant of history and geography. Here is a short primer on the American “Empire”. 

 

 

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23 hours ago, Elegua said:

USCG is the only (?) government agency where the 4th amendment doesn't apply due to its original inception in the Revenue Service Act of 1790.  

The USCG is one of the few services with true offshore SAR capabilities in part because of its offshore security requirements. 

 

 

More correctly - the 4th doesn't apply to stops for regulatory inspections. Since USCG can always do a safety inspection,  they can always board. Some restrictions apply once they're on board. Same is true for state police truck inspections, eg

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2 hours ago, Ishmael said:

Very interesting. When does he breathe?

I hope that this a massively-speeded-up recording.   If not, he will have a queue of anatomists wanting to dissect him to find out what sort of machine he is

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I have been thru Muskeget channel many times doing the Around the Island race. My advise is to go thru Vineyard Sound. Pay attention to the current tables. The current turns every 6 hours or so. You want to time it so you ride the fair current as long as possible. The current can run as high as 3 1/2 or 4 knots. The Eldridge Tide book explains this very well. Buy or borrow a copy. Duck into Cuttyhunk or Menemsha and wait for it to turn in your direction.

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2 hours ago, sailman said:

At 7 foot draft Menemsha would be difficult.  Plan you trip with the current or plan on it taking that much longer and possibly much rougher if it is wind against tide.

Been in there many times with a 7' draft. I would not venture up into the pond though. The Harbormaster is probably not up and running in April so I just would pull up to the dock tie up. Just stay out of the fishing boats boat way.

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13 hours ago, sailman said:

At 7 foot draft Menemsha would be difficult.  Plan you trip with the current or plan on it taking that much longer and possibly much rougher if it is wind against tide.

I wouldn't suggest going in there, no. I've anchored off the bight, if conditions are right it's quite pleasant. That's what I was referring to, which is why it's untenable in a northerly. Heck, the whole NYYC Club Cruise parked off there one night the year I did it.

If you can get inside, it seems like that would be quite protected but getting in looks like a tricky piece of work with limited anchoring options for that kind of draft.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh wow - the prodigal thread has come home!

Thank you for the insights on Menemsha and the Sound.  We were actually in Menemsha two years ago with Hannah (a C&C 33 Mkii).  That trip inspired this Nantucket effort.

We entered Menemsha basin on the ebb which enabled us to crab in sideways (the basin entrance is at a 90º angle to the channel).  Entering on the flood would be interesting as you'd risk getting slammed into the bulkhead or shot past the basin and up towards the pond.

Anyway - thanks again.

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