Although most boaters pull their vessels out of the water shortly after Labor Day, once you move to Cape Cod, there’s really no rush to get your boat winterized. That way, you can take advantage of some of the outstanding fall weather on the Cape and enjoy the peace and serenity of its waterways when seasonal residents return to their other homes.
At the same time, being prepared for the subtle differences of boating in the fall is important because you won’t have the same levels of support that are available throughout the summer. As you get more used to fall boating, you’ll come to value this season as one of the best times to get out there and enjoy the water all around Cape Cod.
Have the Right Equipment
There aren't as many boats on the water in the fall and, therefore, if you run into trouble, it could take longer for help to arrive. You could actually go all day without seeing another boat, depending on where you travel, and there won't be as many patrol boats in the water either. Having a VHF radio on your boat is vital in the fall because it allows you to communicate directly with the Coast Guard on channel 16, and you can contact nearby vessels in the case of an emergency. The fact that the water gets a bit rougher in the fall is also reason to make the necessary safety precautions.
You'll also want to have your boat’s other safety devices in working order and make sure you know how to operate them. It gets dark earlier in the fall and, therefore, having navigational lights is necessary. Other items you should have on board include some flashlights and emergency flares. There is an increased chance of running into fog, as well, so having radar or using a chart plotter is a good idea, even if you're sailing in familiar waters.
Finally, keep your life jacket on at all times in the fall because the water gets very cold. The colder the water, the more likely it becomes that you'll run into problems if you accidentally fall in and having a life vest on gives you a much higher chance of survival.
Bring Warm Clothes
Even if you're only taking a quick day trip into the ocean, packing an extra layer of clothing is a good idea. You might think that it feels just like a summer's day when you depart in the morning, but the weather can change quickly in the fall, leaving you cold if the temperature suddenly drops.
Another thing you'll want to prepare for is rain since storms can blow in quickly. By packing some warm clothes and rain gear, you can make sure you're outfitted for the worst that fall on Cape Cod can throw at you.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
As was mentioned before, the weather can change quickly on Cape Cod during the fall. While we do get some rain in the summer, November and December are the rainiest months of the year, and the average daily high plummets from 77°F in August all the way to 53°F in November. With more rain and lower temperatures, it can quickly become uncomfortable if you're trapped on your boat in a storm.
The first thing you should do is check the weather before you leave. Don't just rely on the forecast, but also have a look at satellite imagery to see is any potential storms are in the area. The weather can always shift, and if there is a storm forecast for a neighboring region, you should monitor it.
You'll also want to keep an eye out for approaching fronts while on your boat and see if you have enough service on your smartphone or radio to keep track of the weather. There's nothing worse than being hammered by an unexpected storm, especially if you aren't prepared.
Fill Up Your Tank
If you've ever been out boating in the summer on Cape Cod, you know that there are marinas everywhere and most of them have a fueling station. In the fall, however, you'll quickly see that many of the smaller marinas and docks close or, at the very least, scale back their services.
Therefore, unless you know specifically what's open, you'll want to make sure your fuel tank is fully stocked before heading out. You can't just assume that you can refill the vessel on your way home in the fall because there's a chance that there won't be anyone at the dock you had planned to use.
Take a Fall Charter
Much like everything else on Cape Cod, charter cruises slow down a bit as the weather cools, but you can still find a voyage to take into late October if you know where to look.
Barnstable Harbor Ecotours has boats heading out almost every day of the week until October 21, while Blue Claw Boat Tours operates private charters and custom cruises in Pleasant Bay through Columbus Day weekend. Other tour companies working through the long weekend include Cape Cod Duckmobiles, which provides land and sea tours out of Hyannis, and Bay Spirit Tours, which has lighthouse harbor, sunset, and music cruises from which to choose.
If you want to get out on the water this fall without having to take your own boat, you’ll definitely have options, especially early in the season.
Make the Most of Your Fall
Autumn is a great time to hit the ocean because you’ll have so much open water to yourself. On a calm fall day, the brisk temperatures and empty waterways make for one of the most relaxing boating experiences anywhere on the east coast, and after you buy property on Cape Cod, you’ll have constant access to it.
There are many reasons to buy a home on Cape Cod, but the fact that boating season lasts well into the autumn is something that is sure to help you fall completely in love with this place.