P-town is known for art galleries, beaches, restaurants, landmarks, and museums. And hold on to your BHC ferry ticket, it allows you free admission (normally $7) to the Whydah Pirate Museum at MacMillan Wharf in P-town, right where you disembark from BHC.
I took the fascinating tour of the Whydah SeaLab and Learning Center, home of the world's only pirate shipwreck treasure ever raised from the ocean floor. Commanded by "Black Sam" Bellamy, the pirate ship Whydah was wrecked on a stormy night off Marconi Beach, Wellfleet in 1717. The flagship Whydah and priceless treasure looted from more than 50 ships were lost in the shifting sands. Of course it was not called Marconi Beach until Marconi set up the first wireless station for transatlantic communications from Cape Cod to Europe. Be thankful for our wireless world today!
In 1984, a team led by explorer Barry Clifford located this fabled wreck. The most imposing ship's bell I have ever seen came from the mast of the Whydah, which dated and authenticated the wreck. Designated as a National Geographic Society special TV event, the on-going archeological mission recovered artifacts from the Whydah, now displayed for the tourist trade.
Some of the treasures are spectacular, others are mundane, but all are exciting. This was a real working pirate ship. See how a falling cannon jammed a teapot into the shoulder bone of a pirate. Other objects of interest include eyeglasses, doubloons, personal items, loot, and an enormous cannon still immersed in protective seawater. The cannon was plugged up by the pirates and the reason piqued the present day explorers' imagination. I remember seeing the live TV event that probed the cannon with microfiber cameras. The scientists found mud, muck, and fabulous . . . ! You can see the reenactment on video at the museum.
You touch history right in P-town. A monumental monument to our earlier settlers is the Pilgrim Monument and Museum. Climb to the top of the tallest granite tower in the United States, atop High Pole Hill.
The museum has several special exhibit galleries. The MacMillan Room (remember the pier of the same name where the BHC ferry docked?) is the scene of objects brought back from the Arctic by Provincetown hometown hero and explorer, Donald MacMillan. See rare Arctic artifacts, clothing, and expedition equipment from the man that explored the polar region with Commodore Perry. There is also a trophy exhibit area and a view of an authentic Whaling Captain's Quarter from a real P-Town whaling ship.
The monument was built from 1907-1910 to commemorate the first landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in Provincetown on November 21, 1620. The tower is 252 feet, 7.5 inches or 77 meters tall and rises 350 feet above sea level; climbing the 116 steps and 60 ramps takes about ten minutes. The granite came from Stonington, Maine, brought down by coaster schooners, and each stone is the thickness of the wall. Read about Maine Schooners in a future Jetsetters Magazine feature.
The tower design is patterned after the Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy. During the climb you will see many interior stones donated by cities and towns and organizations from around the U.S. Look for your city in the engravings. The monument is Cape Cod's oldest non-profit and cultural institution.
The tower museum also features an American theater exhibit, an old postcard exhibit, and an entire room dedicated to understanding of AIDS (P-Town has a considerable and activist gay community).
In the Pilgrim Wing, learn about the Mayflower Pilgrims in a 45-minute video. They only stayed in the P-town area five weeks before moving down the Cape Cod "hook" to establish Plymouth, where they found potable water. They were blown off course, from their original destination - the Virginia colony.
From the top of the tower you can see Highland Lighthouse, Pilgrim Lake, the Atlantic Ocean, MacMillan Wharf, Town Hall, Heritage Museum, the National Seashore, Race Point Lighthouse, Cape Cod Bay, Woods End, Civil War Forts, Coast Guard Pier, First Landing place of the pilgrims, and the Unitarian/Univeralist Meeting houses that look like church spires. The point of Cape Cod juts out into Massachusetts Bay across from Boston, 42 miles away. For more information call 508/487-1310 www.pilgrim-monument.org.
I took a cab from the MacMillan Wharf (near the P-Town Chamber of Commerce) to the Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster, home of schooner sea captain mansions; the cab ride ended costing me over $80, with the tip. Cape Cod distances are deceiving. On the return trip the bellman drove me to the small down of Orleans, five miles away, to catch the bus back to P-Town; the bus tab ran $6. The Plymouth and Brockton bus line serves Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, Harwich, Hyannis, Barnstable, Sagamore, Plymouth, Rockland, Boston, and Logan airport. . The route was established in 1888 as an electric trolley line. The 48-passenger buses are punctual and clean and can also be chartered for private functions. For more information: www.p-b.com or www.logandirect.com, or in Boston: 617/773-9401. On the Cape call them at 508/746-0411.
What was I doing on Cape Cod? Sailing the Cape Cod Elbow, but of course!
The luxurious Autumn Voyager is a fast, contemporary 42-foot sloop owned by USCG-rated Captains Bob and Judy Powell, owners of Chatham Sailing Voyages. They have been sailing since youngsters and now have over 100 years of sailing experience between them. Judy picked me up at the hotel in Brewster on the Cape Cod Bay side for a scenic drive across the Cape to Chatham on Nantucket Sound. From Stage Harbor we were tendered out to the sloop for superb blue water cruising.
Judy suggested that I sail the following day, but I insisted this was the only day I had available. The weather cooperated with the first full day of blue sky in months - not a cloud in the sky. We were the only boat out on the Sound, and the next day the weather closed back up with gray skies. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Bob was spread-eagle on the fantail catching some welcoming rays; Judy was below whipping up hors d' oeuvres. I gleefully steered the boat around Nantucket Sound toward the pristine and lengthy Monomoy Island, the end of our outbound journey. "There are deer on the island, and fresh water," states Bob. "You can camp out here. We often anchor here and go swimming." Monomoy is a National Wildlife Sanctuary, the only one in New England.
The helm was an ease to use, very responsive, and the Autumn Voyager tacked beautifully under full and automated sails. The wind was strong and we zipped along with roller feeding Genoa jib adding extra wind muscle, but the boat also has a spinnaker. Want to race?
Judy and Bob offer half-day or full-day sailing charters, or special excursions and sunset sails, and even live-aboard sailing vacations. They have sailed guests from children to those in their late 80s. This is a great introduction to bareboat yachting. There is a main salon below deck. The large cushioned cockpit has a bimini and large dodger and full cockpit enclosure when desired. The spacious interior includes A/C, heat, full galley with refrigerator, freezer, microwave, coffee maker, gas stove, and oven, three showers with lots of hot water, two beds (and a pull-out sofa), stereo system, TV/VCR, and 8 KW generator. Full electronics include GPS, chart plotter, radar, autopilot, wind/speed/depth, and VHF radio, life raft, EPIRB, and all required safety equipment.
You can opt for the seven hour full day or a three hour sunset sail. The full day excursions include Saquatucket Harbor for lunch, or anchoring off Monomoy Island. The live-aboard voyages take you to Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, or other Cape Cod anchorages where you spend the night in a slip or at a mooring or at anchor. Judy and Bob customize their voyages to your desires; I want to customize my next voyage with them to Barbados, but only if Bob let's me command the helm. They are fun couple, they love the life at sea, and you will be jealous of the Autumn Voyager as well.
Contact Bob and Judy at 508/221-1815 or email: email@example.com
Jetsetters Magazine's Boston correspondent will bring back even more travel destination features on Chatham and beautiful Cape Cod in the future.
Other info: Chatham Chamber of Commerce www.chathaminfo.com Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival 800/229-5739. - By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.