5 of us decided to explore the Essex River Basin in Essex, Mass one chilly March afternoon this past weekend.
Cap 163 and crew
The Essex Basin is a gorgeous shallow sandy semi- protected estuarine bay bounded by large sandy necks to the northeast and southwest and is the drainage for the Essex River.The Essex basin is famous for tasty clams, warm water and lots of marine and avian wildlife. It is also famous for a notoriously cranky and mobile river entrance with strong current, wandering sandbars and shallow spots. Makes for great surfing and nerve wracking powerboating! Rumor was that the river mouth had changed dramatically in the winter storms, and so we were tasked by the USCG Auxiliary to investigate.
We set off from Conomo Point, our launch and landing site into the ebb current and run with it down the main channel. Almost immediately we find misbehaving sandbars squatting in the channel and we get pin balled back and forth as the current bounces around. Great fun; the wind is at our backs and we are flying out towards the mouth. We are joined by a lone harbor seal and black guillemots hunching in groups to avoid the cold wind.
As we approach the mouth, the current speeds up a bit and we begin our slog crossing to avoid the worst of the current. This is sometimes hard as the basin is so shallow; 12″ of water seems luxurious. We slowly make way across to what appears to be the far northeastern edge of the basin; a sandy neck called Crane’s Beach. Well, it may well be part of Crane’s Beach, but it is now in the middle of the river mouth. Now there are 2 fairly narrow channels with fast moving current bisected by a great big sand flat.
new sandflat in Essex River mouth
The Essex River mouth will now be even more challenging for powerboaters and probably better surfing for paddlers. Yeehah!
We land to take a break and a look around. I take some pictures and Rick checks out his GPS track which he will present to the USCG Auxiliary.
GPS track of day
The current we got a free ride out on has now begun to ease, and we start heading back westward to the landing site. The sun is lowering, and as we land, the melon and pink backdrop of clouds provides a gorgeous closure to a fun March afternnon exploration.