Guest Columnist

My mother spent her childhood summers on the Chappaquiddick shore of Edgartown harbor in a house that was washed away in the hurricane of 1938. The house was on pilings right on the beach at the base of the bluff just below the last house on Caleb’s Pond Road. The remains of the pilings were still there 10 years ago. The twin to that beach house still exists halfway back along the shoreline to the ferry point.

She lives in New Jersey now and will turn 90 on April 26. Every summer she gets to Chappy for a few weeks. For her, Chappy is where you want to be. Every week she looks forward to getting the Gazette. I try to get my name in the paper as a present to my mother. So far I’ve been able to accomplish this almost weekly. I’ve even been on the front page a couple of times. My favorite spot in the Gazette to get my name was in Phyllis Meras’s Christmas Poem. But getting a turn at the Chappy column is pretty much the pinnacle for me.

After I committed to writing this week’s column, Margaret asked if I had any news. I’m ashamed to say that I denied knowing anything new, but in truth I was just keeping the news to myself to save it for my guest appearance.

So here we go. Let’s start with a question.

What do we do for excitement during the long winters over here? Well, last winter we were all driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid the big potholes from the electric wire burial project. It was quite daring for some of us. That was pretty much as wild as it gets. But the road is smoothly patched now.

So what about this winter? Here’s what I’ve come up with — and I’m not saying that you should do it, too. When I go to check on the breach, I drive in the out road when I enter the Wasque Reservation. It’s not really that daring since there’s plenty of time to see oncoming traffic and pull over. But for a safety nut like myself it’s about as rebellious as I get.

Speaking of the breach. If you’ve seen it lately, I think you’ll agree with me that it really is no longer the Katama breach, it’s now the Wasque breach. Most discussions about the breach now revolve around whether it will be five months or five years before closing up. The opening is quite narrow now, relatively speaking. The offshore sandbar changes daily. On calm days it appears that most of the water running through the breach gets channeled eastward along the Wasque shore right into Muskeget Channel.

The currents at the ferry crossing have moderated. The tides are getting back to their pre-breach range and heights. Right after the breach occurred it seemed that we just didn’t get our normal low tides. The people who publish Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book came down for a visit a little while after the breach to see how the Edgartown tides were affected. We told them what we had seen. The most obvious change was that the rising tide now came in through Katama Bay from the south rather than the north from Nantucket Sound. The harbor flowed like a river with back eddys and standing waves. Instead of a period of slack water at high and low tide, the current would swirl around and reverse on one side of the channel and work its way across. The current was even reversing as the tide continued to rise. They interviewed lots of waterfront folks. We each explained how we had figured out how to make new predictions according to our own interests. In the end, with no new NOAA scientific data collection expected here, Eldridge had to be satisfied with adding a warning to the Edgartown entry.

The big worry around the waterfront was that boats unfamiliar with the new conditions would get into big trouble. We did see a lot of interesting attempted landings at Memorial Wharf. With the current gushing in the opposite direction expected, boats often careened by their goal or spun around dramatically after getting one line on the dock. But on the whole, looking back, things went pretty well. The boats racing in with the current were gone in a few moments’ time and the boats stemming the current had much better steerage. I look forward to a return of the quieter conditions. My bet is on the breach closing in five months rather than five years. We’ll see. I should start thinking about bringing back the One Way ferry tickets.

The Trustees of Reservations beach cleanup has been scheduled for Saturday, Feb 25. Bring gloves and meet at the Dike Bridge gatehouse at 9 a.m. Work will be done by noon.

Peter Wells joins us this week as the guest columnist. Margaret Knight will return next week.