Summer Cruise to Cuttyhunk: Beaches, Ponds, and Coyotes

If I could cleat a line onto an island and tow it home to Maine, Cuttyhunk might be my first choice. I can’t have too many islands within easy sailing distance of our home harbor.

Despite its popularity, there’s still a comfortable remoteness to Cuttyhunk Island. The island is the final link in the beautiful Elizabeth Island chain that stretches far out to sea. This lovely island string, along with the Massachusetts mainland, contains famous Buzzards Bay.

The inner pond itself is one reason we’ve returned again and again to Cuttyhunk. Well-protected from the crashing surf often just outside, the pond is what a sailor looks for in an anchorage. Snug, as we like to say.

This year was our first visit in September. While we expected things to slow down, similar to our home waters in Maine, it’s as if someone throws a light switch after Labor Day, and the hordes of boats disappear.

Safely moored or anchored inside, you can relax. We’ve spent days swimming off the boat here, rowing or sailing our dinghy to the many beaches and public shores to walk or else just combing the beach. (Having sailed up and down the entire East Coast more than once, I give the Cape Cod area the highest marks for public shore access.)

While we enjoy the moorings, we prefer the less crowded anchorage to the north. Our old yawl has a centerboard and has allowed us to find space in the small anchorage over the years. We know it well, and you need to — it’s very shoal.

Our last visit this year in September was beyond our expectations. We had the entire pond nearly to ourselves. The water was still warm enough to swim in (we’re from Maine, remember) in the hot midday sun, and the nights were cool and quiet in the protected pond. On this visit, we especially enjoyed dinghy sailing for hours around the entire pond and inlet area and exploring beaches along the way.

After many visits, Cuttyhunk still enchants me. On this past late season visit, at about 3 a.m., I was awakened by a familiar sound coming from tiny Copicut Neck just a stone’s throw off the stern of our anchored yawl. In the wee hours, a lone coyote began its primeval song.

The leader’s cry began crisply and built quickly to a higher pitch. Halfway through its solo, the rest of a small pack joined in and, as a chorus, built to a crescendo with their high-pitched howling calls. It’s an eerie, unforgettable sound, and remarkably, not our first time to be treated to this event on Cuttyhunk Island.

Suddenly, looking up at the stars through the hatch over our berth, the night was silent again and, judging by the pink in the sky to the east, soon coming to an end. As quickly as they had fractured the quiet night, the little pack went silent, and quietly made their way back to wherever it is that coyotes hide during the long, sunny days on Cuttyhunk Island.