Piling, Parking Lot and Tank Improvements At Saquatucket Harbor

HARWICH - (6/01/06) Saquatucket Harbor was an epicenter of activity leading into the Memorial Day weekend, with finishing touches placed on the new east side parking lot and a barge toiling among the slips, driving new pilings to replace those that gave way this winter due to metal fatigue. Harbormaster Thomas Leach said he hoped to have the parking lot done for the initial weekend of the busy boating season. The piling replacements are costly, but necessary for boaters to be able to access their slips.

Along the boat ramp, haulers were lined up to place vessels in the water and crane trucks were stepping masts. The tanks at the town-owned fuel dock have been cleaned, Leach said, and they will live with the aging tanks into the fall. Town meeting voted $101,000 for their replacement. There needs to be some serious discussion, Leach said, on whether the town should put in new underground fiberglass tanks or go with the above-ground tanks. The people who install tanks are recommending above-ground tanks, he said, but town engineer Joseph Borgesi is recommending underground tanks. Fire Chief Wil Remillard is getting the same message as the harbormaster that the above-ground tanks are the way to go, Leach said. But the town will have to take into consideration the viewscape of nearby residents with above-ground tanks, he said.

Last Thursday, the harbormaster’s focus was on AGM Marine, Inc. of Sandwich, which was working on the east side docks, removing and replacing a piling. Two additional pilings on the west side had to be removed and replaced. A fourth piling at the Golden Eagle slip in Wychmere Harbor was also scheduled for replacement, Leach said. The cost of the piling work is $19,000, the harbormaster said. He said they needed equipment with a vibrating hammer to drive the pilings, and the work had to be done before the boating season because the pilings secure the dock system, people leasing slips would not be able to gain access with submerged pilings clogging the waters.

The harbor department is scheduled in the capital plan to replace the 60 metal pilings in the harbor in 2012, Leach said. But metal fatigue is causing some problems. He said they are returning to installation of wood pilings. When the metal pilings were put in place, they were cheaper than the “Green Heart” wood pilings often used in harbors. Now, with the price of steel, Leach said, the wood pilings have become cheaper. The “Green Heart” wood comes from South America, the harbormaster said, and is so hard a nail can’t be driven into it. Wood pilings often fall victim to worms, which eat into the wood and weaken the piling, but the South America is too hard for the worms to eat, Leach said.

The flurry of work, Leach said, should have Saquatucket Harbor shipshape for the boating season. By the start of the weekend, the new paving was lined and awaiting the busy traffic that accompanies the unofficial opening of boating season. Chronicle 6/1/06)

Chatham Harbormaster establishes two white lights at the Point

CHATHAM - (6/02/06) In an effort to reduce groundings at Monomoy Point the Chatham Harbormaster has established two new lighted aids to navigation. The eastern most light at the south tip of the island is located at N41 32.997, W 070 00.060 and has a flashing sequence as a white light flashing every 15 seconds. The western light is in position N41 32.410, W 070 00.586 and it is also a white light flashing every 10 seconds.

These new lights are at a height of 20 feet above sea level and should assist mariners going around the tip of Chatham's Monomoy Island since passage though the Southway channel is now nearly closed.

How sweet they are when you have dug them yourselves from the Boston Globe

HARWICH - (06/04/06) Danny Gaspar of Yarmouth had only about a dozen littlenecks in his bucket when he started musing about the clam boil that he was going to make for dinner.

``You put the clams in a pot with potatoes, onions, linguica, chorizo, hot dogs, and breakfast sausages," he said as he paused to check a haul of littleneck clams against a metal shellfish gauge. If they slid through the 1-inch measure, he tossed them back . The rest went into his bucket. ``You can add corn on the cob. Some people add fish fillets or crabs." Danny and his brother Manny are out on the clam flats every weekend, year round. ``You really work up an appetite," Danny said. ``We're lucky to have such good eating here on the Cape."

We have devoured our fair share of clams on Cape Cod on lazy summer days, but we have always let someone else do the work. Yet even the best clam shack dinner short-circuits the ritual of a clam boil. So on a sunny May day when summer seemed imminent, we elected to take it slow and to gather, prepare, and then finally dine on our first clams of the season. Located at the elbow of Cape Cod, Harwich ranks among the most visitor-friendly places to muck for clams. (A nonresident family shellfish permit costs only $15 per day -- or $30 for the year.) With ``three harbors and one port" (as the road signs put it) Harwich's most productive flats are pocket-sized areas at river mouths and saltwater ponds, where diggers can harvest both hard-shell (littlenecks, cherrystones, and quahogs) and soft-shell (``steamer") clams.

Moreover, the town's Department of Natural Resources runs an aggressive propagation program, replenishing the flats with about 2 million baby clams a year raised in its Shellfish Lab at Wychmere Harbor. (It takes them another two years to reach minimal harvest size.)

Small trawlers and lobster boats were bobbing at their moorings when we arrived at Wychmere, where the town pier serves the Harwich commercial fishing fleet. The Shellfish Lab sits just above the tide line, and the main clam flats stretch out behind it. We got there a half-hour before dead low tide. We had begun checking the shallows with a basket rake, hauling up a few undersized littlenecks and a lot of gooey mud, when Gaspar arrived, slogging down the beach in his rubber waders. ``Dead low tide is the best because you can go out farther," he said, wading into knee-deep water. ``You can feel 'em with your feet." He reached out with his rake and drew back, scraping the bottom. ``You'll hear a different sound when your rake hits a shell. If it sounds like a chalkboard, you're hitting quahogs." We followed his lead, raking back and forth in straight lines, keeping a tacit three-rake-handle distance. The water cooled our legs while the sun warmed our backs. Reach, pull, turn, lift -- we soon fell into the easy rhythm of recreational clamming. Three out of every four hard-shell clams slid through the gauge, and back they went. When we hit on soft-shell clam beds, we passed the word to Danny. For our meal, we wanted littlenecks, which ``clam up" when they're touched and don't need to be swished clear of sand when steamed.

By dead low tide, Manny and his family had arrived and were working the flats with toilet plungers to coax out soft shell clams from their burrows. (It's an odd technique, but it works, and diggers are less likely to puncture the fragile shells.) A half dozen of us were working over the shallows when Natural Resources officer Heinz Proft, Harwich's assistant harbormaster and manager of the shellfish nursery, arrived to see how we were doing. He checked every permit and casually hinted at possible hot spots by alluding to the recent shellfish survey undertaken by a property owner . Despite the town's work to keep shellfishing viable, he said fewer people are doing it. ``The number of recreational permits is down," Proft said. ``It's not so much a matter of grandfather taking grandson. Digging clams is work -- not like playing Nintendo."

But handling a clam rake is far more satisfying than manipulating a joystick. ``My wife does it for therapy," said Jim Coyle , who often volunteers to check permits . On this spectacular Saturday, though, he was on the flats to dig. He made quick work of it, maneuvering through sticky mud that yielded a bucket of steamer clams. ``People share recipes," he said, as he advised us to keep the clams in saltwater until we cooked them, ``or they talk about the Red Sox."

In an hour we had collected enough littlenecks to make a fine dinner for two. Adding seawater and rockweed to our bucket, we drove east on Route 28 to a market just across the Chatham line to forage for potatoes, onions, and some hot and sweet Italian sausages. It was too early for fresh corn. Since a traditional clambake is a big undertaking (gathering rocks, digging a pit, getting a permit for an open fire), we opted for a clam boil instead. We continued east a few miles to Chatham's Harding Beach , where gas and charcoal grills are allowed, and the dune-rippled strand is bracketed by Stage Harbor Light in one direction and a western exposure to the sun in the other.

A red fox peeked out of the tall grass on a low dune as we lighted our hardwood charcoal with a chimney starter and began to layer an enameled steel steamer pot. With about an inch of seawater in the bottom, we put in a cushion of rockweed, the potatoes and onions, more rockweed, the sausages, and then more rockweed. The pot began to steam in about five minutes, and after another 10 minutes, we removed the sausages to the edges of the grill and added the clams to the pot. Ten minutes later, the littlenecks were wide open, the sausages were browned, and dinner was ready .

We had worked up an appetite and our hard-won clams tasted just like the sea. Contact Patricia Harris and David Lyon, the authors of ``Cape Cod" in the Compass American Guides series, at harris.lyon@verizon.net.