Sailing inland salt ponds

I learned to sail on Martha’s Vineyard in Edgartown’s two great waterways: the outer harbor and Katama Bay. At the height and hustle of summer, this is my place of refuge. Sailing is fun and for me as a child it offered youthful adventure. As kids there were a few times we sailed across Katama Bay and anchored at Norton Point, a narrow barrier beach that separates the bay from the more turbulent ocean. I remember, we’d go ashore, walk across the beach to where the rolling waves were pounding, settle down and have a picnic lunch.

I am not so familiar with our island’s other bays, but I think those who love to sail shallow inshore places do so for the same reason. It is quiet, easy and from start to finish a treasured trip.

We like the way a sailboat feels skimming along, the wind off our quarter, and no obstacles ahead. This is not like sailing deep and more exposed waters. The bay is almost tepid fragrant and not as cold as the open ocean. Inshore waters offer far less congestion even at the height of summer.

Shallow water sailing isn’t for every one. No one sailing Katama Bay with a fixed keel can relax.
The bay possesses hidden and changing sandbars which will always be the worry for those operating a propeller driven craft.

My craft has a centerboard which can be raised when I see or feel bottom. Thus my crew and I have a sense of exclusivity.
In Katama Bay, we are not troubled by high seas kicked up by the large wake of boats.
We know Katama Bay is alive above and below the surface and so we seldom feel alone. Overhead, there are osprey and other avian wildlife paying close attention to our whereabouts. When common terns feast on bait, we know there are bigger fish below. If big fish are alive and finning, they are here pursuing a meal in the bay.
The vitality of the oyster farmers add to its character and every day their bounty carries the wonder that lies below.
Katama Bay and its varying parts also offers us challenges. Wind is always lighter at The Narrows, a narrow channel that separates the harbor from Katama Bay, and is shadowed by a tall hill late in the afternoon.  The wind jumps back up to a roar on either side.

To the boater, Katama Bay is a floating sanctuary, no less important nor less notable than some of our more popular inland places. There just aren’t any walking paths or ticks. And you can’t go out there with your car. Some aspects are kept a secret. Don’t ask me where to find steamers and quahaugs.

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