Catboats were built for this area. Photos/New England Boating, Tom Richardson.

Catboats were built for this area. Photos/New England Boating, Tom Richardson.

How can you beat this great fall weather? Yesterday (October 2) found videographer Tarah Llewelyn and I—along with a handful of other lucky boaters—in Orleans, Massachusetts, where we met up with Willy Case of Nauset East Marina. Case is well known in these waters, having boated here for the last 35 years, so he was the ideal guide for our video assignment—a boater’s tour of Pleasant Bay, Little Pleasant Bay and Chatham Harbor, which comprise a unique estuary on Outer Cape Cod.

Chart: Pleasant Bay and Chatham Harbor.

Chart: Pleasant Bay and Chatham Harbor.

We started by hopping aboard Nauset Marine‘s venerable Boston Whaler work skiff and heading out of Meeting House Pond, in the upper reaches of Little Pleasant Bay. As the morning sun lit the marsh grass, we made our way south along “The River” toward Little Pleasant Bay, Case pointing out the various landings, islands, side creeks and hidden coves along the way. It became immediately clear that this is a paddler’s and small-boater’s paradise, especially in the fall, when you’re more likely to find available parking at the local launches.

After a fly-by of the Wequasset Inn (eerily quiet in the off-season) and Ryders Cove Marina, we paused to consider the “new” inlet, created by a storm some 6 years ago. The channel is marked by the harbormaster, but can be confusing and even dangerous for novice and visiting boaters to navigate. Case advised a different route—Chatham Harbor Inlet—to and from the open ocean.

A paddler's paradise.

A paddler’s paradise.

Next we checked on the local seal herd inside North Beach then shot across the harbor to Aunt Lydia’s Cove, where we found more of the pinipeds waiting for free handouts in front of the Chatham Fish Pier. Case explained that the area’s exploding seal population has taken a toll on the availability of striped bass, especially inside the bay and along the outer beaches.

With seals popping up left and right, we idled past Lighthouse Beach and out Chatham inlet, while Case gave us tips on navigating the shifting channel and the conditions to avoid when running the inlet (large easterly swells opposing an outgoing tide can set up steep breaking waves along the infamous bar).

Nauset Marine East on Meeting House Pond.

Nauset Marine East on Meeting House Pond.

With no fishing rods onboard (what was I thinking?) we returned to the harbor, where Case soon nosed the Whaler onto the sand behind North Beach (now an island). We hopped out to get a closer look at the surf-pounded Atlantic side of the island, as well as the remaining private cottages.

We wrapped up our tour by cruising deep into the marshes and through the labyrinth of shoals and channels comprising the eastern portion of Pleasant Bay—not to be attempted without local knowledge. On our way back to the marina we made a brief stop on Sampson Island, so I could collect some horseshoe crab shells for my kids (the place is filthy with them!).

Stay tuned for more of our Pleasant Bay experience in the form of a short video and article to air on this website. And if you still have the chance, I recommend bringing your boat or kayak here as soon as possible.

Tom Richardson
Editor/Host, New England Boating


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