Still time for fun in the sun before summer fades away

Wait, was that really Labor Day weekend fading away in my rear-view mirror?

Sadly, yes. And while September begins the inexorable march toward winter, summer won’t truly be gone until 3:20 p.m. on Sept. 22.

That leaves another two weeks to binge on fun things to do before we all start wearing sweaters and counting the days until Memorial Day of 2022. Let’s get started with eight great adventures.

Skedaddle and paddle: Get out of the house and explore Yarmouth’s beautiful inlets, rivers, and open waterways in a quiet, easy-to-maneuver kayak. Yarmouth has some terrific places for kayaking, from sheltered wooded ponds to the open waters on Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay. The water temperature is still warm through September, so kayaking is actually safer than it is during May and early June. And boat landings aren’t as busy after Labor Day. Find out more about kayaking safety and some of the great options available in Yarmouth in one of our earlier blogposts about kayaking.

Nantucket day trip: When was the last time you visited Nantucket? The post-Labor Day season is considered prime time for exploring the island, which is quieter and less crowded in September, but still boasts all the beauty of summer. The Steamship Authority’s fast ferry M/V Iyanough can make the 26-mile trip from Hyannis to Nantucket in one hour, leaving lots of time for walking the cobblestone streets and browsing through shops. Check the ferry schedule, rates and more information on the Steamship Authority website.

Reel in a whopper: Fishing Cape Cod’s waters during late summer and early fall are as good as it gets, with striped bass and bluefish blitzing at any time, and bottom-dwellers like tautog and scup fattening up before moving to warmer waters. It’s also time to chase the thrill of hooking into an albie or bonito. Albies (short for false albacores) are prized for their fighting ability, hitting hard and taking long, line-stripping runs. They’re not a prize for the dinner table, though, with oily, unappetizing meat. A better bet for the grill would be a bonito if you’re lucky enough to catch one. Find out more about albies, bonito, bass, and blues – which tackle to use, where they’re biting, and which lures or baits are most successful – at Riverview Bait and Tackle in South Yarmouth. Find out more about Yarmouth’s artificial fishing reef and its piers and public landings in a recent blogpost on fall fishing destinations. And if you’re interested in a deep-sea excursion to haul in some pelagic monsters, you’ll find options with the Helen H out of Hyannis. Choose from in-shore areas, two-day tuna trips, or cod and haddock adventures on Georges Bank.

Get down on the farm: Check out Henry, George, and Dusty, (three friendly Nubian goats), along with Chloe the Scottish Highland cow, Jasper the Rooster, the donkeys, Navajo Churro sheep, plus chickens and bees at the bucolic Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouth Port. The nonprofit farm is a historical treasure, first settled in 1639. The property is now owned by the Town of Yarmouth, and it’s maintained by an association. The farm is open to visitors from dawn to dusk (year-round). In addition to the animals, there are picnic tables and short walking trails offering views of Black Flats Marsh. Check out the Taylor-Bray Farm website for more information.

Stand-up for fun: If you’ve never tried it, make now the time to SUP. What’s SUP? It’s stand-up paddleboarding, which is a great way to explore the calm inlets and waterways around town. Board rentals are available at Bass River Kayaks and Paddle Boards, 118 Main St., West Dennis, with changing rooms and access to Bass River (near Sundancer’s Restaurant). Rates range from $27 for 90 minutes to $62 for the whole day. The best bargain might be $37 for four hours – long enough to get the hang of it and still have time to explore the beauty of Bass River. The shop is open through Sept. 12, and then for the weekend of Sept. 17-19. Find more information about renting kayaks and paddleboards, along with instructional videos and advice for first-timers, at the shop’s website:

Bike the Rail Trail: Pedaling the Cape Cod Rail Trail is an easy way to get back into the thrill of human-powered two-wheeling. The course is flat, motor traffic is limited to the well-marked crossings and the bike trail was recently expanded to Homer Park in Yarmouth. If you need a bicycle, no problem. Bike Zone in Yarmouth, conveniently located right off the bike path at 484 Station Ave., in South Yarmouth, offers road bikes, mountain bikes, and hybrids. All rentals include a helmet, lock, and tips on local riding spots. Yes, the rail trail is beautiful, but there are plenty of other biking options around the Cape. And if you fall in love with riding, you can put the cost of your rental toward the purchase price of your very own bicycle.

Dig and dine: There’s nothing better than holding a clam bake (or clam boil) with shellfish that you just plucked from the wild. And gathering fresh quahogs is a Sunday tradition in Yarmouth. All you need is a shellfish permit, a swimsuit, and a pair of water socks or old tennis shoes. Just wade out to your waist at low tide and feel for the quahogs with your feet, then dip down to pull them up with your hands. (Wear a pair of lightweight gloves if you’re skittish about crabs.) For greater efficiency, invest in a quahog rake, which has long tines that pull the shellfish out of the mud, and a basket behind the tines to catch the mollusks. Find out more about gathering your own quahogs, soft-shell clams (steamers), scallops, and oysters on the Yarmouth Department of Natural Resources website.

Take a hike: Follow any of Yarmouth’s easy walking trails through marshlands, woods, near ponds, and old cranberry bogs. Or just gather your thoughts with one of those “long walks along the beach.” After Labor Day, you can walk your dogs on public beaches, too — as long as you keep them leashed and pick up their messes. Find maps and more information about hiking trails in Yarmouth at the Department of Natural Resources website.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.

Ferry service moving closer to full steam ahead in 2021

After a devastating pandemic that resulted in the lowest ridership in 13 years, the Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority is banking on a strong rebound this summer, with a return to normal business by fall.

There’s a pent-up demand for travel, said Steamship Authority Marketing Director Kimberlee McHugh, who added that the fervor was evident on Jan. 12 – the first day of online bookings for the 2021 season. “People were flocking to the website to book summer reservations to the islands,” she said.

For trips between Hyannis and Nantucket, the Authority processed 5,151 transactions during the first day of advance internet sales this year, representing $2.8 million in revenue. That’s 434 more trips than customers had booked during the first day of internet sales in January of 2020 – at a time when most people were still unaware of COVID-19.

“Things are looking up,” she said. “We’re obviously not where we were in 2019, but we are definitely on an upswing. And our thought is that by the fall, we are optimistic that we will be back to normal ridership levels.”

McHugh cautions that the Steamship Authority still has pandemic-related restrictions in place, but some of them are likely to be lifted as the state eases limitations on businesses and social gatherings. Gov. Charlie Baker announced earlier this month that the state’s COVID-19 restrictions will all be lifted as of May 29 but masks are still required when using public transportation.

  • You need to wear a mask on the ferry, she said – both indoors and on deck. The Authority keeps a supply of disposable masks available for ferry customers and shuttle-bus riders who do not have a face covering with them.
  • While masks are mandatory, prepackaged food and beverages will be available on several of the Steamship Authority’s passenger/vehicle ferries.
  • The ferry service is still operating at partial capacity, allowing for safe social distancing.  

Across the U.S., the novel coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the travel industry during 2020, resulting in a loss of $1.1 trillion, according to a report released in March by the U.S. Travel Association. The pain was felt in jobs as well, with travel-supported employment losing 5.6 million jobs in 2020, the travel industry trade group said.

The drop in business for the Steamship Authority was significant. Combined ridership on the Hyannis to Nantucket ferries and the Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard ferries had been tracking between 2.8 million to 3 million in recent years, McHugh said. But in 2020, the Authority only reported 2,067,301 passengers.

McHugh speculated that ridership numbers will begin climbing above pre-pandemic levels during the 2022 season.

The Steamship Authority, established by the state Legislature in 1960, runs multiple trips from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard Island and back, as well as a fast and slow ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket. The schedule, which changes throughout the year and ramps up during the busy summer months, can be found at the Steamship Authority’s website.

The fast ferry, M/V Iyanough, is a great option for day trips, covering the 26-mile ride across Nantucket Sound in one hour, which allows more time for exploring the island, McHugh said. The 154-foot aluminum catamaran normally carries up to 400 people, including passengers and crew, but it’s operating at lower capacity to allow safe social distancing. There’s also room for luggage and up to 30 bicycles. The Iyanough features wi-fi service and flat screen TVs. This year, travelers can take advantage of a special $55 day-trip fare, which allows them to travel on the same day, round-trip, Monday through Thursday.

For a more leisurely trip – roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes for the 26-mile ride – choose the M/V Eagle, which carries up to 768 passengers and crew members, along with 52 vehicles. The Eagle allows lots of space on deck and indoors, and also features wi-fi access.

Whether traveling between Hyannis and Nantucket or Woods Hole and Falmouth, the Steamship Authority has recently implemented eFerry Ticketing, a contactless e-ticket system that makes it easier for walk-on passengers. You can buy a ticket online, load it onto your mobile device and scan the device when boarding. The e-ticket systems vary slightly for traditional and high-speed ferries. Find more information on the Steamship Authority’s website.

The Authority is also purchasing new electric buses to shuttle riders from remote parking lots to the ferry. Two environmentally friendly vehicles should be in operation for the 2022 season, McHugh said.

Find general information about parking, remote lots, trips to both islands, and safety requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Steamship Authority’s website.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.