Stranded in Cape Cod

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The Cape Cod Canal is known for its mighty sea current. It can rip as fast as 6 knots, and it’s strong enough to distress small watercraft that get caught in the standing waves.

It’s not always predictable, but about every six hours the current reverses direction. In between tidal shifts, the current slows and the water is dead calm for about 30 minutes. They call it “slack tide.” Then the torrent surges again.

The radar and and patrol boats monitoring the weather and boat traffic today in Buzzard’s Bay help ensure safe passage through the canal.

Docked at Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne, the Morgan provides the perfect observation deck for watching boats bash through the waves. I decided to film the canal for a day and the results felt as dramatic as an opera. The lighted parade of boats in honor of the Cape Cod Canal’s Centennial made a nice finale (don’t worry, I’ll spare you the pain of hearing me sing):

The National Marine Life Center

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Boaters aren’t the only ones that can get stranded in Cape Cod Bay. Every winter a slew of sea animals are rescued from the frigid waters. Seals, sea turtles, dolphins, and whales sometimes seize up from the cold and wash ashore before reaching warmer climates.

The National Marine Life Center is an education and science center in Buzzard’s Bay, MA. It is also a temporary home to four friendly seals and a loggerhead sea turtle.

This weekend, the Morgan crew members “adopted” one of the young harbor seal pups named Barclay. You can read more about Barclay (and the other animals and activities at the NMLC) on their blog.

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The donation money helps pay for food and medicines for the seals. As soon as they return to health, the seals are released back into the wild.

I got to tour the facilities and film the seals in action. The NMLC facility is currently expanding to bigger tanks that will soon house dolphins and small whales. It’s hard not to adore a smiling seal pup, even when it’s splashing water down my entire front side.

Like NOAA’s Office of Marine Sanctuaries and the whales of Stellwagen Bank, it’s comforting to see conservation and education programs running strong.

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NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries exhibiting alongside the Charles W. Morgan in New London. Photo courtesy of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary’s facebook page.

It’s also fascinating how our perceptions change.

The Charles W. Morgan spans such a significant turning point in our maritime history. In the last 173 years, the Morgan has seen the rise and fall of the American whaling industry, the mechanization of marine vessels, and the advancement of modern science and technology. If the Morgan could speak she would have many a story to tell.

But it’s far from over.

Whether it’s sailing with the whales or visiting the historic ports of New England, the 38th Voyage is another chapter in the Morgan’s long long journey. I’m happy to say I’ve been a part of it.

Tomorrow, we set sail for a long transit through Buzzard’s Bay, The Race, and Fisher’s Island Sound, back to our stomping grounds of New London, CT.

Stay tuned!