First there was one opening and now there are two at Norton Point Beach.
The second, closer to the Chappaquiddick side, occurred on the weekend of March 8 and 9 during the height of a windy storm.
Between the two openings, there is a 150-yard little island. It already has the name Charlie’s Island.
“You’ve heard of Gilligan’s Island. This is Charlie’s Island,” said Chris Kennedy of The Trustees of Reservations.
The island is named after Charlie Blair, the Edgartown harbor master. Mr. Blair saw indications of the new island being formed weeks ago. There have been some strong ocean storms and there has been beach overwash. The island is 100 feet wide and about 450 feet long.
Mr. Blair said he thought the new island would be whisked away by the fast-moving currents.
Mr. Kennedy described the new breach at the eastern end of Norton Point, closest to Chappaquiddick, as about 25 yards wide at low tide and about six feet deep in the middle.
The older opening, the one that formed almost a year ago, is to the west. That opening is close to the center of the Norton Point Beach, which used to be 2 1/2 miles long.
Mr. Kennedy said the older opening, formed last April, has varied in width from 500 yards wide at the opening to as as much as 900 yards. “The depth in the opening is 12 feet,” Mr. Kennedy said.
“I don’t know how long it will last. We’ve had double breaches in the rec-ords,” Mr. Kennedy said. “It is such a brand-new breach I am not sure whether it will last a week. But the fact that it is 25 yards wide suggests that it is a legitimate breach.”
Winter has been unkind to the Chappaquiddick side of Norton Point Beach. “The Chappy side has been beaten,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We’ve lost . . . the majority of the dunes.
“There are several spots all along the barrier beach where the sand is low. We may see another breach or two before we are done,” Mr. Kennedy said.
For those who have a memory of past openings between Katama Bay and the ocean, what sets this apart is the fragility of Norton Point as a barrier beach. The beach is only 100 feet wide where, 40 years ago, it was as much as twice or more than twice its current width. The barrier beach has lost many of its large dunes and it has also gotten thinner.
Mr. Blair said this week he is struck by the turbidity of the water rushing through the harbor. He believes there is a lot of sand moving around as a result of the two openings. He is uncertain whether the new opening means faster water at the other end of the harbor.
“One of the places where the sand is building seems to be at the Chappaquiddick Point, where the ferry comes in,” Mr. Blair said. “Peter Wells is concerned.”
Mr. Wells, a long-time operator aboard the Chappaquiddick ferries, is its new owner. Mr. Wells acquired the ferry from Roy Hayes in January.
“The sand is building on the north side of the ferry slip, on the Chappaquiddick side,” Mr. Wells said. “One day when the tide was low, I walked out on the mud flat. I was standing in the sand beyond the ferry slip bulkhead.
“It is hard to tell how quickly it is growing. I’ve only been watching it for the last four months,” he said.
If the sand builds out too far, Mr. Blair said, the town dredge will be called in to do some emergency dredging. “It is a vital link. We are going to watch it,” Mr. Blair said.
Other islands that have come and gone nearby. Skiff’s Island has made an appearance off Wasque. There is Porky’s Island which years ago made an appearance south of Skiff’s Island and was named after Everett (Porky) Francis.
So why shouldn’t there be, at least for this month, a Charlie’s Island?
Mr. Blair, however, said he didn’t think the little island would last. Through the centuries, he said, the openings at Norton Point have always moved from west to east.