Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hunting For Sea Glass In Massachusetts

Who doesn't love Sea Glass?

Sea Glass is made when regular glass gets into the ocean. While finding a whole bottle may be preferable, one generally works with shards of broken glass. They wash into the sea, bang around for a few decades, and gradually 1) get the edges rounded off, and 2) acquire a frosted appearance.

Voila! Sea Glass!

The hunter/gatherer of Sea Glass is someone who finds use for a Cape Cod beach in February. Other than aesthetics, beaches aren't really good for much between October and May. You can surf, but that requires the acquisition of a skill, a wetsuit and a car big enough to carry a surfboard. Even then, you have to wait for days where the waves are large, and- even more then- a shark might eat you. Funk that.

You can still saddle up a surfboard, but you can also walk along the shore for free and keep your eyes looking down. You'll eventually gather up a nice pile of colored, frosted glass, which can be used for various artistic projects.

Don't be intimidated by Artistry. I'm pretty much a complete moron with Art (when I was starting out as a teacher, the inescapable chalkboard artwork which I had to perform was of such a low level that one of my students- her name was something like Hillary Aronson, in case you know her- came up to me after a class and said "Mr. B, next time, just tell me what you want drawn on the board and I'll get up and do it for you. Art isn't your strong point."), but even I can buy a jar and put Sea Glass in it. Leave the jar on a windowsill where it can catch some sunlight... boom, Art.

The hunt can be as nice as the meal with Sea Glass, as- even if you strike out- you still get in a nice beach walk. Other than a greatly-increased risk of toe-stubbing, there's really no downside to Sea Glass Collecting.

This is stuff that you probably knew before reading this article, so what I need to do is some lengthy thinkin' on how sea glass is made, and where someone would be best sent to gather some.

As we noted before, the short answer to the How Is Sea Glass Made question is "glass falls in the ocean, et cetera." However, there are a few things that you should know beyond that.

One, there is some snobbery in the game. "Beach Glass" sounds just like sea glass, but it is not the same, and people will clown on you if you think that it is. Beach Glass is either made in rivers or- for the love of Mary- factories. This stuff is the Fat Girl/Poor Man of the artsy glass movement, and a resident of (or a resident with access to) coastal Massachusetts need not worry about it.

Two, sea glass takes 20-30 years to round into shape. You can't smash a bottle today, walk down the beach a few hundred yards tomorrow, and find a frosted version of the bottle you broke. Nope. You have to wait, for decades in some cases. Certain kinds of sea glass (I'm not sure what kinds, I'm assuming thick glass or something) take up to 50 years before they're display-worthy.

In the 1980s or so, they passed numerous Bottle Bill laws, and those empties are worth a nickel each now... nothing to sneeze at when you drink to the degree that I drink, player. People started returning bottles rather than chucking them, and poor folks would eventually gather up any leftover cold-soldiers to make a nickel per. Right around the same time, those tree-huggin' liberals forced many industries to move away from glass bottles towards the non-sea-glass-makin' plastic bottling. While the beer companies held out, even the drinkers picked up some love-thy-planet stuff from the more conscientious people, and are presently less likely to smash bottles when drinking outdoors.

All of the stuff in the previous two paragraphs means that there is less glass being dumped in the ocean, which means that the sea glass talent pool has thinned out substantially. Population growth cancels it out somewhat, but not nearly enough. The person saying "There was more and better seaglass when I was a kid," is correct, not fooled by nostalgia.

Three, the motion of the ocean is important not only for making the glass, but for moving it about. If glass stayed where you broke it, my local pharmacy would have no Noxema, and I'd have a lamp full of cool blue sea glass culled from my just-offshore stash spot. If you're serious about collecting sea glass- and your author is, at least this morning- you have to research where the currents run, where the rivers empty, where the population centers are, seabed sediment redistribution... and numerous other factors, trust me.

Fourth, know that one piece of glass is not of the same value as others. Typical colors include white, brown and green, the colors of the beer and soda bottles. Lesser-known colors include yellow and blue. Experts can look at a piece of glass and tell you what kind of bottle it came from, and from which era.

Basically, clear = beer, faint green = Coca-Cola, darker green = Sprite, and blue means that not only did someone drink Milk Of Magnesia at a beach, but that they enjoyed it so much that they smashed the bottle in celebration when they finished, like Gronk.

Fifth, you need a combination of timing and luck. Sea glass doesn't weigh much, but it weighs a lot more than sand does. Sand washes around more, and eventually will cover up sea glass. There are some tricks you can do to up your odds, but "needle in a haystack" is actually too conservative a measure for what a glass hunter is doing.

If you can go hunting after a storm, do so. Everything gets turned over, and new stuff is cast forth from the sea.

Finally, much like a mating leopard, you have to pick your spots. Location is everything. You need to identify and exploit certain natural features which are distinct to the local geography. That's where we're headed now.

I was just kidding about Gronk smashing Vap-O-Rub bottles at the beach. Most of our sea glass comes from inland flooding. Rivers rise up, find bottles, wash them downstream, smash them up a bit, and send them out of their mouth into open ocean. The lucky pieces make it back to the beach. The coastal people smash bottles too, but their numbers don't match up with everyone inland.

So, your search should start with a river mouth that empties into Cape Cod Bay or the open Atlantic. The North River, the Taunton River, the the Charles River, the Mystic River, the Green Harbor River, and even the Hudson River will spit out glass that you can eventually collect. Glass can wash a long way from where it started.

Once you have that part done, you have to look at currents. Currents wash the glass to wherever it is going to end up... well, currents and waves, of course. You need to imagine the glass washing into the sea and being directed somewhere by the local currents... currents which, thanks to this handy map, you are now familiar with.

So, you have a glass source, the general direction from the source where the glass went, and now you need to guess where it ended up. This is where I have to invent a geographical term. A "basin beach" is something that sticks out into the sea a bit and collects whatever floatsam and jetsam the sea has to offer. Think of the basin beach as being a big first baseman's mitt, working the current.

Once you're on that beach, look for the area where everything washes up. If a beach has a sandy part and a rocky part, go to the rocky part. Work the fringes of the pile, or go All In and start digging in the rockpile itself.

I actually suck at the collecting, myself. I'm a tall man, and I have terrible eyesight. That's a bad combo to call in on a job where you are looking for tiny bits of glass on a beach, and that's before you factor in the ADHD and the often copious drug usage. What I am good for is helping you skip some of those steps I listed by pointing out local beaches which fit the criteria for a sea glass hot-spot.

Horse Neck Beach, Westport

The Gulf Stream current pushes right up into the body of water known as Buzzards Bay. America's east coast most certainly coughs up a lot of sea glass. Most of it goes out to sea, some of it ends up on Lon-Guy-Land, Rhodey takes her share, but that still leaves a lot of Niceness washing into Bee Bay.

Horse Neck Beach (do not buy into rumors that it was named that because a harlot was lynched there) is well-positioned to get a cut of that action. I suppose that a lot of New York glass washes over here, which should help your numbers out some with ol' Lady Luck.

HNB is also close enough and yet far enough to/from the Taunton River to guarantee a nice flow of glass.

More glass probably goes to the Elizabeth Islands, but mining that involves you getting a boat and stuff. Remember, you're putting broken glass in a jar... let's not ring up any silly expenses.

Speaking of which, the two best spots to capitalize on the Gulf Stream current- Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard- are also eliminated for needs-a-boat reasons.

Old Silver Beach, Falmouth MA

On the other side of Buzzards Bay, we have the town of Falmouth. In the town of Falmouth, we have Old Silver Beach.

I like more rocks on a beach when I hunt, but OSB is very well positioned to get washashore sea glass. If you can get up by Crow Point, do so. It's rockier there.

You may end up in someone's front yard, so be careful. I grew up on a beach and live on one now, so I tend to be a bit unaware of beach restrictions in other towns.

If you find some silver there, even better. Just don't be, like, taking it out of people's beach houses or anything, friends.

Craigville Beach, Centerville MA

Cape Cod, which is a barrier beach for Massachusetts, is also protected by a pair of barrier islands known as Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, as well as the Elizabeth Islands. These islands, and the multitude of jetties and groynes along the coast (Dennis Port has so many groynes and jetties along the shoreline, it looks like a zipper when viewed from space) interfere with the glass gathering process.

The islands, at a sharp corner of the Gulf Stream, also have odd currents. They sink ships, which is why they dug the Cape Cod Canal. It also messes with the sea glass distribution.

Even if they don't stop the flow of sea glass entirely, the process becomes somewhat unpredictable. We'll give you a southern Cape location to check, but don't say that we didn't warn you.

Craigville sits in a gap between Martha and ACK, and is a nice base from which to operate. She is also basin-shaped, which should act like a catcher's mitt and trap seaglass.

Remember, since you aren't too far from the Kennedy Compound, you might get some high-pedigree glass. I know a guy who lives near Chappaquidick who claims to have red sea glass from Ted Kennedy's brake lights.

Friggin' sweet stopper!

Coast Guard Beach, Eastham, MA

Cape Cod is several different beasts as far as sea glass collecting goes. Buzzards Bay is well-positioned, while the south-facing Cape isn't. Once you turn the corner at Chatham, however, it's a whole new ball game.

I like east-facing Atlantic beaches. A very determined piece of European or African sea glass may have fought her way to America against the Gulf Stream. Who knows? It may have once been Queen Isabella's compact, or Napoleon's Courvoisier bottle, or John Bonham's headlights, or Idi Amin's coke mirror. You never know, stuff like that gets tossed around all the time.

Park and walk north (left) once you hit the beach, to get yourself past the sandbars.

Race Point, Provincetown, MA

RP is one of those gold mine spots. She's also the first beach on our list that isn't getting Gulf Stream in her mix. Most of her sea glass is coming from the north.

People who study currents are already saying "By George! The West Maine Coastal Current aims right at Race Point!" You can't sneak anything up on those people. RP gets stuff from Maine and New Hampshire all the time, including sea glass.Throw in whatever Boston glass washes out that far, and you have a hot spot.

Stellwagen Bank also channels stuff towards Race Point. Note that the Bank, and Cape Cod to a greater extent, slow down waves. This slows down sea glass migration.

Skaket Beach, Orleans, MA

I knew that my kung-fu was superb when my research on which beaches to hit led to a list which matched up with the Sea Glass Ninja Lady from Cape Cast. She admitted that she had no idea why one beach or another yielded better results, but our conclusions match up well.

Inner Cape Cod Bay is a tremendous place to go. It acts as a catch basin for the runoff from the Western Maine Coastal Current. This current is the engine that drives Cape Cod Bay's sea glass movement. Water is pushed along the shore from Maine, past Boston, and into Cape Cod Bay. The fish-hook shape of Cape Cod helps catch the glass as it moves down the line.

Sandy Neck Beach, Barnstable MA

Sandy Neck Beach is a rather long beach, so if you strike out here, you might want to look for easier-spotted things as your next hobby. I'd recommend Lighthouses, it's tough to miss those.

Sandy Neck Beach is a 4700 acre barrier beach, and she is what everything that washes down from Boston eventually bumps into.

You can double up on Sandy Neck Beach. It's where the sand that washes down from Sandwich ends up. Added bonus... when they dredge the Canal, they dump the fill on a beach just west of SNB, and it washes East during storms. Go to Sandy Neck after a full-moon storm, you'll get a lot of Sandwich's sea glass as well.

Scusset Beach, Sandwich MA

The South Shore ends with a THUD as you hit the Scusset Beach jetty. They made the jetty to protect the Canal, but they may as well have made it to catch sea glass.

If Sandwich is being robbed of sea glass, that means someone else is getting extra! Ironically as Hell, I think that this was Mr. Glass' motivation in Unbreakable.

If you want to throw some sand over the jetty towards Sandwich, they'd appreciate it.

Manomet Point, Plymouth MA

P-Diddy is somewhat sheltered by Duxbury Beach, and Manomet Point is the part of Plymouth that sticks out the most into the sea. If you follow the current down the South Shore, MP is what you'll eventually run into.

You're not too far downstream from an oceanfront nuclear reactor here, which in theory would make it possible to look for glowing, irradiated sea glass at night.

If you want to be up the river from the plutonium, try the perfect-for-the-job Long Beach part of town.

Duxbury Beach, Duxbury MA

Duxbury Beach is pretty much the exact shape of the Western Maine Coastal Current, and the current repays the favor by giving Duxbury 5 miles of sea glass hunting territory. Nothing on the South Shore sticks further out into the current than Duxbury Beach does.

You get another 5 miles on the bayside, but the big scores are on the oceanside.

Once you commit, you may as well walk down to the uninhabited part. Less people have worked the territory, upping your chances of scoring big.

If you feel really ambitious, dig into one of the huge rockpiles around the crossovers The good stuff is under the rockpile.

Since I am a former Mayor of Duxbury Beach, you have to give me 10% of your haul, or half of any blue glass.

Egypt Beach, Scituate MA

You'll feel like King Tut after you pillage Egypt Beach, wocka wocka wocka...

Scituate has several beach styles, including rocky, sandy, and marshy. Egypt Beach is what Goldilocks would settle on after dissing the other beaches in town for one sea glass-huntin' reason or another.

You can dig in the rockpiles, or you can walk along the perimeter and pick off the strays. It's Scituariffic!

Nantasket Beach, Hull MA

We saved the best for last!

Nantasket represents two things here. She is the end of the South Shore gold mine, and she is where the WMCC loses her power. That's the bad news. Everything else is good news.

Nanny may hold the title for the region, as she is perfectly positioned to get Boston's glass. She also gets the inland glass, when the Charles and Mystic Rivers spit their bounty out into the sea.

Point Allerton is probably a better spot, but Nantasket is more accessible. The area around the high school is productive, as well.

Much love to Julie Nightingale for the sea glass pics. Sara Flynn gave us the Duxbury Beach shot with the stairs. Jessica Allen was nice enough to shoot Hull for us.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Marsh Madness: The South Shore Coastal Flooding Championship

Our aim today is to rank the beaches of Southeastern Massachusetts for Coastal Flooding Vulnerability.

There are several things that you should know before you dive into this pool. For starters, this is the second time that I have written this article. The first time I wrote it, just explaining the rubric I'll be using took about 15000 words, and that was before I even started ranking the towns. Jessica had the fine idea of working the rubric into the town descriptions as I rank them, and that seems like a pretty good space-saver.

Secondlyish, remember that our major flood risk on the South Shore comes from nor'easters. If you add hurricanes to the list, it suddenly becomes Cape Cod and South Coast-dominated.

Also, know that there is no clear winner for this. Duxbury, Scituate and Marshfield can all make a legitimate claim on the top spot. Duxbury Beach, parts of which are severed from the rest of Massachusetts now and then, has the worst conditions (we'll explain in a minute), but the other two towns have heavily populated shorelines.

Because of that, we're going to sort of group towns of varying threat levels. More on that in a sec...

We're not claiming the title for the state. The North Shore is also a stormy place. We're just gonna leave those beaches for some North Shore blogger. While we plan to annex Bourne and Sandwich for this discussion, they'll go back to the Cape for the Barnstable County version of this article.

Finally, know that we are using town-by-town rankings. There are many good reasons to break things up neighborhood-by-neighborhood. Great and potentially dangerous differences exist between how Duxbury Beach suffers in a storm and how Duxbury's Powder Point neighborhood fares.

However, going by neighborhood would give us a boring Top 10 of Duxbury Beach, 4 Marshfield neighborhoods and 5 Scituate ones. Also, if you think this article is long, imagine one where I have to differentiate between maybe 35 different beaches in a dozen towns.

Ranking-by-town takes the onus off of your author, who grew up on one beach and is an expert on that one beach, and instead will let residents of various neighborhoods fight it out in the comments section about whether Peggotty Beach gets it worse than Minot does.


Again, the rubric I use would take all day to explain.

Highlights include beach length/width, population, past damage, loss of life, barrier beaches, behind-the-beach wetlands, orientation, development, wind direction, storm strength, latitude, longitude, offshore rock formations, jetties, groynes, currents, dual frontage, property values, media coverage, breaching, erosion, sand dunes... you know, the whole nine.

I've put as much thought into this as anyone has, and it seems like you can break the beaches up along three threat levels. Major, Moderate and Minor.

They go a little something like this:

- If your waterfront house doesn't need a seawall, you're Minor.

- If your waterfront house has some flooding issues, you're Moderate.

- If you stand a chance of being killed in your waterfront house (during a storm, of course)... Major.

I'm resisting the urge to try some Foxworthian "If a live fish has ever washed into your house, you might be in a Major coastal flooding community" jokes. You're welcome.

We realize that Minor, Moderate and Major are boring, so feel free to use some other more amusing trinity if it pleases you. Parish/Bird/McHale, Original/Extra Crispy/Grilled, Stink/Stank/Stunk... whatever you're into, people.



Kingston enjoys a cushy spot on the South Shore, tucked into a cove and sheltered by three barrier beaches. Two of these barrier beaches- Duxbury Beach and Long Beach- are small. The other one- Cape Cod- is not.

Kingston can suffer storm damage, but it will always be exponentially smaller than damage suffered by her barrier beaches.

Kingston is by far the southernmost town on the Mild list. Almost all of the other Mild towns are sheltered by Hull. Kingston stands alone here.

To be fair to Kingston, part of the decision to have her be last in the rankings is that she is the Mild town for which I have the coolest picture.


Weymouth has an itty-bitty shoreline, hidden behind the blind side protector that is Hull.

She may even hold the very bottom ranking, except that she has the Fore River,and that can amplify flooding a bit.

One wonders if the Fore River was named by a golfer. If the Blues Brothers movie was set in Massachusetts, Elwood would have almost certainly jumped the Fore River drawbridge while Jake was throwing the cigarette lighter out the window.

Via the Fore River, she exemplifies the vibe you'll see several times on the Mild list... she doesn't have much trouble, but when she has trouble, it's Big trouble.


Weymouth stands behind Hull. Hingham, on the other hand, is literally hiding in Hull's skirt. Aliens viewing Massachusetts from space would think that Hull was built to protect Hingham.

Hingham is on a bay, so there is some flood risk, but it is minor when compared to what would happen to a Brant Rock or Town Neck Beach during the same storm. She's far enough north that some storms miss her entirely.

Hingham looks very much like a t-shirt when viewed on a roughly-drawn political map. I just wanted that on the Internet somewhere.

Hingham's flood risk is low enough that, as you can tell, I shot my Hingham photograph while zipping through Hingham at 45 MPH on my way to Nantasket or somethin'.

Not Quincy (it's Green Harbor), but Quincy has shoreline, trust me)

Quincy is a unique fish, in that if you draw straight line X from Weymouth's coastal border with Quincy to Boston's coastal border with Quincy, you'd use about one third of the ink that you'd need to use to draw the actual X-times-three twisted shoreline that Quincy claims between Boston and Weymouth

Quincy has a pincer-shaped coastline that funnels water towards the middle, a much milder version of Bangladesh. The pincers are made of heavily-populated areas.

Why aren't they in the Moderate group?

Quincy is a sheltered bay town. She has Hull and, to a lesser extent, Winthrop blocking for her. She also has Boston Harbor islands which break up the surf somewhat. She's the northernmost town on this list, which means that storms which clip the South Shore with their northern fringe may not touch Quincy.

Quincy also came up on the losing end of the "Should densely-populated Quincy be scored more for moderate storm damage than southern Duxbury Beach (population: zero) is for worse damage?" argument that the authors had while constructing our rubric.


Cohasset is the least likely town to be on the Mild list when you're looking at a map. She has plenty of shoreline, has no barrier beach in front of it, and claims coastal-flooding heavyweight Scituate as her next-door neighbor.

Cohasset "loses" on intangibles. She has a rocky shoreline ("Cohasset" is bad Algonquian for "long rocky place"), Ledges and rocks/rockpiles lay offshore, breaking up waves. Although she's considered South Shore, her northern border lays about on the same longitude as Boston. That keeps her off the fringes of a lot of storms.

Cohasset even sits higher than her neighbors do, usually on a bunch of rocks. She has a more Northerly bearing than Scituate does, which means that she is most vulnerable to the lesser storm winds.

Cohasset comes up with the short straw when arguing about "Should a town where some 5th generation slacker who is barely holding on to his damaged Humarock cottage be scored worse than a wealthier town where homeowners who suffer damage just go to one of their other houses?"



Bourne and Sandwich are being borrowed from Cape Cod for this article, because they each have unique coastal flooding characteristics that will come in handy when describing Massachusetts coastal flooding scenarios.

For starters, Bourne is the only town which has Canal Flooding as a factor in her own personal rubric. Canal flooding seems silly, until you talk to people who were alive in 1938 and recall houses washing down the Cape Cod Canal with families inside trying to claw their way out of the attic ceiling.

Bourne, which doesn't suffer major nor'easter damage when compared to a place like Duxbury Beach, does have the unique distinction of being the only town in Massachusetts which touches both Cape Cod Bay and (the body of water) Buzzards Bay. That exposes them to both nor'easter damage and hurricane damage.

Remember, a two-front war is what did Hitler in. Bourne has been Poseidon's punching bag many times before. Heavyweights on this list like Duxbury and Scituate were barely touched by Hurricane Bob, while Bourne was torn to shreds.

When we start mixing hurricane damage vulnerability into the rubric, Bourne jumps up from Moderate to Major and shoves aside Duxbury and Scituate to claim the top ranking. In that regard, they may even be in a class by themselves.

However, the mojo of these rankings is more Nor'easter, and this drops Bourne down a weight class.


Sammich also has a problem with coastal flooding that could, eventually, push her into the top part of the rankings.

The Cape Cod Canal, which helps everyone out, requires a huge jetty at the Cape Cod Bay end to keep sand from washing into the Canal and beaching ships. The idea works so well that Sandwich beaches are suffering Sand Depletion. This occurs when sand that would normally wash down the South Shore and replenish Sandwich beaches instead fails to get around the jetty and subsequently makes Scusset Beach very nice.

The problem is compounded when ol' Mr. Storm comes along and washes the Sand out of Sandwich. I don't even know where it ends up, but it's never good when your Sandwich gets smaller every high tide.

The process works in such a manner that even simple logic- use the sand that you dig out of the Canal when you dredge it to replenish Sandwich beaches- is foiled when the storms wash all of the new (to them, anyhow) sand away.

The Scusset jetty also takes away the ability to build jetties in Sandwich... you can't trap sand that isn't coming, even if you have Sand in your name. I'm told that this is why the Sandman lives inland.

This is a Major list sort of problem, but Sandwich is also has Cape Cod blocking her NE wind waves. She does get pounded by nor'easters, but generally it is the latter, north-wind sections of them. Much like Bourne, this knocks them down a letter grade.

To be fair to Sammich, note that they fit my listed condition (no seawall) for Minor status, but their unique problem with shifting sands moves them up a tax bracket. It is tough to keep them out of Major, but Moderate is where they stand.


H-U-Double-Hockeysticks has it all on paper. They are the barrier beach for Hingham, Weymouth, Quincy and even Boston. They are thrust out into the sea like some strange and sandy phallus. They take big hits from the ocean, and are close enough to Boston to possibly enjoy a bigger storm reputation.

I give them extra points for having one road out of town, and even more points for the ability of that road out to be flooded over in spots.

Hull appears very much like God wanted this section of the Massachusetts coast to have bookends, as Hull looks sort of like an inverted version of coastal flooding heavyweight Duxbury Beach.

Hull has three factors keeping them in Moderate status.

First, they are very rocky.

Second, they enjoy relatively high elevation above sea level in some of the more vulnerable spots.

Third, they are far enough north that they miss some of the fringe coastal storm action.

They do have, to my knowledge, the best football field in Massachusetts (and, therefore, probably the world) to watch a game at during a nor'easter.


America's Hometown is huge, and has a shipload of coastline. It was large enough in 1620 that the Pilgrims managed to hit it sailing from Europe.

They have Cape Cod blocking for it, and that saves them a lot of storm damage. That's why they're in the Moderate category, player. If you want to know how much wind and wave damage you gain or lose by having Cape Cod between you and an ocean storm, the difference is about Scituate vs. Plymouth.

A good section of town (and a major business district) is protected by a lengthy barrier beach and an intricately designed jetty. The rest of the town is guarded by more jetties, groynes and so forth.

They do have some problems.  I spent most of my Physics class in high school looking at legs, but I did face the chalkboard enough to pick up that Potential vs Kinetic energy stuff. Cedarville has a few dozen houses perched on sand cliffs 100 feet above the ocean. The ocean, even with a Hawaii 5-0-style tsunami wave that would kill 100000 Indonesians, can't touch these houses... yet.

Storms only damage sand and beach grass right now on Cedarville, but I would be very, very remiss if I failed to gauge the "sand cliffs slowly erode, and houses set on them will some day plunge 100 feet straight down into the ocean" factor into my judgement.

Plymouth is also the only town in the region with a "I wonder if the coastal flooding will reach our oceanfront nuclear reactor?" problem.

Note that Gurnet Point/Saquish are part of Plymouth politically, but they are geographically part of Duxbury Beach. This classification by the editor (Hi!) lowers Plymouth's rating while not raising Duxbury's.



Marsh Vegas, Deluxbury and Skitchate are sort of 1A 1B and 1C in our rankings. You can make an argument about top rank for any of them, and against any of them. If you demand a numerical ranking, I'd give Marshfield #3. The gap between #3 and #4 is substantial, however. The gap between #3 and #1? Not so huge.

You may have seen Marshfield in action on the TV set during last year's blizzard(s), which tore through the seawall and wrecked a few houses. That's the kind of action that breaks apart the Moderates and the Majors.

Marshfield has 5 miles of coastline, some of which (Rexhame) serves as a barrier beach for other parts of the town. Sexy Rexy is also one of two Moraines (glacial deposits of sand and stone laid out in a straight line or something) on the East Coast that serve as a barrier beach. Marshfield, which deserves it, has the most Jetty action on the South Shore, to my knowledge... although I think that Plymouth has the biggest individual jetty down by Issac's.

Marshfield has it all, a perfect town with which to lead off the Major part of the rankings. Direct northeast frontage? Check. Far enough north that Cape Cod doesn't block for it, but far enough south that storms hit it? Check. Heavily populated immediate shoreline? Marsh Vegas is jammed along the coast.

Every beach in town (Rexhame, Fieldston, Sunrise, Ocean Bluff, Brant Rock, Blackman's Point, Blue Fish Cove, Burke's and Green Harbor... if Wikipedia missed one, let me know in the comments) has been smashed by surf. They are even drawing TV news crews away from Scituate, which is important because Media Swagger matters to me when I do the rankings.

What keeps them from owning the top spot outright? For one, the worst flooding you see in Vegas (the Esplanade area, home to the former Arthur & Pat's) is splashover. Up until last winter, I had 40+ years of living in that area where seeing a house get wrecked was a rare event.

The shifting of the sands (Marshfield beaches are fed by the erosion of Scituate's sand cliffs, and replenishment has been blocked somewhat by the storm-breaking jetty system Marsh Vegas employs) has left Marshfield with higher-than-average seawalls. This helps, in that it takes larger waves to get over it, and hurts, in that the base of the seawall can be exposed. This leads to- as we saw last winter- catastrophic seawall failure.

Still, Vegas is nothing but Major. Don't you worry... anyone who says otherwise has to fight me first. Unfortunately, the "don't you worry" part also is intended for whoever has to fight me. I'm a big softy.


"Scituate" would be almost everyone's immediate answer for the "Who gets the worst coastal flooding conditions?" question.

Scituate owns the news coverage for nor'easters. I bet that Shelby Scott still has nightmares based in Scituate. The sea screams out of every picture you take along the coastline. The town name even looks nautical, dog. To the seasoned observer, however, this coverage is why the Scitty By The Sea doesn't have the top spot... the news crews can get to Scituate in a storm.

More than one person (or maybe it was just me doing it more than once) has noted that only the Irish and Italians have the Catholic tendency for self-punishment necessary to build their Irish Riviera right smack in the middle of Nor'easter Alley. I'm as Mick as a Sinn Fein holiday party, and I actually look forward to these storms.

Scituate (and Marshfield to a lesser extent) was never even considered for anything but Major status. People have- allow me the use of the double adverb relatively recently- died in Scituate during coastal storms. If you buy a house in Scituate, and if a storm wrecks it, people will look at you like you're a damned fool if you complain about it. "Seriously, guy... what did you think was gonna happen?"

I actually went to Scituate's Facebook page to try to get the residents fighting each other over which beach in town gets beaten up the worst in storms, but I posted at a bad news time and got little action on the matter.

Scituate has a lot of coastline, and much of it precarious. Humarock, which  lot of people think is part of Marshfield, is actually a part of Scituate that was split off from Scin Scity by the Portland Gale of 1898, a storm which actually shifted the mouth of the North River.

Other parts of town (Minot, Peggotty Beach, etc...) may ring a bell with you, mostly from local news nor'easter coverage. They all get punished during even minor nor'easters like they were kids from an Adrian Peterson/Joan Crawford tryst.

Either way, if you make your own list and have Scituate at the top, I really wouldn't argue that much with you. She has earned every one of her stripes.

Photo from the girl who used to own The Fairview, I forget her name...
Duxbury owns the #1 spot. The short answer as to "Why?" would be "Look at it on Google Maps."

However, if a Scituate or even Marshfield supporter came to me and said "I think that the rankings should be more biased towards towns with heavily populated shorelines," I'd tell them that "You would then need to put Scituate or Marshfield at #1 and maybe drop Duxbury down to Moderate."

Duxbury has several factors that otherwise make her the worst spot in Massachusetts for coastal flooding.

- Duxbury Beach gets torn from the mainland a lot. She is presently attached to the mainland only because a convoy of about 100 trucks a day for 6 months dumped sand to fill in the beach breach that went down during the Halloween Gale.

- Duxbury has a 6 mile barrier beach which suffers ridiculous damage, but much of the remainder of the town is also exposed to coastal flooding... albeit of a far lesser ferocity. Duxbury's coastline after/inside of the barrier beach suffers Hingham-style storm damage. Shes the only town on the South Shore to get interior coastal flooding a mile or more back from the barrier beach.

- There is about one (1) patch of trees on Duxbury Beach with which to moderate storm winds.

- Duxbury has a very short seawall when compared to Marshfield. Duxbury gets all the sand that washes out from under Green Harbor's seawall. You can step off of Duxbury's seawall without breaking stride now and then, and even the highest height that the seawall gets from the beach is about half of the lowest height that you'll see in Marsh Vegas.

- Duxbury Beach has a giant marsh behind it. Since many storms hit during a full or new moon tide, this means that Duxbury Beach lays between a mile of flooded marsh and the fury of the angry Atlantic. Duxbury Beach neighborhoods often flood during full moon tides even without storms.

- Because of that marsh, Duxbury Beach becomes an island with a height of about 3-5 feet above sea level before the storms hit it during full moon tides. Water pushes in on the narrow beach from both front and back. This island, again because of the marsh flooding, is about a mile out to sea.

- The roads in and out of Duxbury Beach wash over from the marsh well before high tide, with or without storms. If you're not out of Duxbury Beach by an hour before high tide, you're pretty much there for the day.

- Waves break on houses during storms, something you don't see (those shots of Scituate on the news are spray) a lot in non-hurricane communities.

- Duxbury is the first town on the South Shore (as well as the first town of the Big Three) to not enjoy protection from Cape Cod as a barrier beach. The wind seems to both sense and resent this status, and it hits Duxbury with monster truck force. This status is such that, if the wind is more southeast than east, the title shifts to Marshfield.

- Duxbury Beach has 6 miles of shoreline (plus, since she's a peninsula, 6 more of almost open-ocean bayside coast). About a third of a mile of that oceanfront has any sort of seawall in front of it. As we said, that seawall is about as low as they get on the South Shore, at least of the Army Corps Of Engineers variety. Even the section of the beach with the seawall gets catastrophic damage during storms. When you go beyond the seawall, it gets worse.

- Because of this tendency towards damage, they stopped trying to build any sort of cottages out there a long time ago. Duxbury Beach is prone to Galveston-style overwash in strong storms. Only a fool would build beyond the seawall.

- Because of that, Duxbury Beach has a limbo-under-a-schnauzer low population. I was one of four (4) kids in a 5 mile stretch of land when I was growing up there.

- That Peggotty Beach cottage (the one on stilts) picture I used for the Scituate section of this article? That house wouldn't be standing on Duxbury Beach. Duxbury lost their last no-seawall-in-front-of-them cottages in the Blizzard of '78, and they were already husks for decades by that point. Scituate, if you drive through it, is full of that 1950s cottage style that has long since been destroyed and rebuilt differently in Duxbury.

- This author puts Gurnet Point and Saquish into the Duxbury category, even though they are part of Plymouth. If you ever get a chance to view Gurnet Point, know that this terribly exposed area is actually the high ground on Duxbury Beach... and by a large margin. Saquish was most likely an island when the Pilgrims arrived.

- The reason you don't see Duxbury on the news during storms is because it is impossible to get a news van in and out of Duxbury Beach for a half dozen hours or so during a storm events. You almost have to wait for low tide to leave in some instances. A morning news crew sent to Duxbury Beach for a storm wouldn't get back to Boston until the evening news broadcast was happening.

- My brother used to manage Avalon, and we had a piece of Avalon's old dance floor in my Ocean Road North cellar prior to the Halloween Gale. It actually washed out of the house during the Gale, and we later found it 5 miles across Duxbury Bay, by Sweetser's.

- No one less than the National Guard will prevent you from entering Duxbury Beach during bad storms. They will also intercept, buy and eat any pizzas you try to get delivered into Duxbury Beach during a storm, as we found out during the Halloween Gale.

Anyhow, those are the rankings. Questions? Appreciation? Hate? Differing opinions? That's what the Comments feature is for. Use it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Coastal Flooding In Green Harbor And Duxbury Beach

Waves breaking on houses, Ocean Road North, Duxbury...
We went off-Cape to see what sort of action that the South Shore was getting from Momma Ocean. A blizzard had just blown through town, and we were getting reports of wild surf on Duxbury Beach. We were on our way up the moment we got Logo on the bus (2 hour delay). We made it just in time for high tide.

Surf photography is often easier if you go the day after the storm. The storm is usually just offshore a bit, and it is slow-rolling waves back to the coast. Unlike waves on the day of the blizzard, you can go outside and shoot waves without getting soaked by rain or blown around by the wind.

The Great Salt Marsh, Duxbury
The plan was to go to Duxbury Beach, hook up with some friends, and watch the storm from their house. That plan came to a stop when we were unable to get down Gurnet Road.

Duxbury Beach often floods backwards, as in "via the marsh." This happens before high tide, which brings the waves and their splashover water into the mix as well.

We made it through the first puddle easily enough, but we saw an SUV struggling with the next puddle. We called "No Mas" like Roberto Duran.

We tried the Bay Street/Bay Avenue turn where Marshfield meets Duxbury Beach, that wasn't happening, either.

We were in a Dodge Stratus, and she sits about 4 inches from the ground. She is not built for plowing through street flooding, especially where it's 11 AM in Duxbury and we have to get a kid off the bus at 3:30 PM in Buzzards Bay. It's tough to keep that schedule with a dead car.

We took pictures of the flooded roads, and they came out so well that we decided to double up on flooded-marsh pictures.

We finally made it to the beach around where the Green Harbor General Store is. We didn't make it by much, as the bridge by the Green Harbor Lobster Pound was almost washed over... as you can tell.

We were running the risk of getting trapped, but I liked our chances of escaping.

This was my favorite jump-off bridge as a kid, although I think I'd break both legs if I even stepped off of it now.

I parked down where that SUV is in the upper right, and this gave me access to the Burke's Beach section of town for my camera work.

Burke's benefits from having a jetty, which keeps the water off the houses.

OK, it does so when it's above water.

Small print, kills you every time.

The risk was worth it, because I ended up being behind the waves that were breaking on the houses along Green Harbor and Duxbury's seawall. You can do that due to the wave-blocking presence of Brant Rock, and due to the curvature of the seawall.

I only got my feet wet, and that was because I let my attention wander.

This is bad, but not as bad as it looks. The spray is the water hitting the seawall. This throws up spray, which catches the wind and gives me cool shots.

Brant Rock got it as badly as Green Harbor did, if not worse. BR, remember, is the part of town that got beaten down last winter.

I would have headed over, but I didn't want to go through the Esplanade splashover puddle... which, the last time I checked, encompasses all of the BR business district.

These are good-sized waves for the Duxbury Beach/Green Harbor region.

I saw at least one scientist paper claiming that the maximum height that waves can reach on this strip goes around 5 feet, but I saw much bigger waves during the Halloween Gale and the Blizzard of 78.

My camera actually has color and everything, it just was a grey day.

These shots are mostly Green Harbor, but some Duxbury Beach can be seen on the left end of any given pic.

Not these ones below, I zoomed in on Vegas. Duxbury starts about where the giant break in the seawall is.. you know, the one you can't see in these pics.

"The impact will blow trees back and crack statues."

Thanks to our host for the day, Green Harbor!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Post-Super Bowl Blizzard Pics From Around Cranberry County

When in doubt, get behind the plow and never give up the spot.

Brant Rock, via Sara Flynn

More from Sara, of the Duxbury marsh, the Powder Point Bridge is obscured.

Road to Duxbury Beach blocked off.... (Sara again)

Snow trees in Bourne....

Minor-moderate coastal flooding, Duxbury Beach (via Libby Carr)...

Jack-knifed big rig on the Rte 25 on-ramp in Bourne (cleared as of 11:25, courtesy of the BPD)

There's a good 150-200 yards of visibility in Hyannis (via Scott Rodrigues)

Bourne, MA, this may be from Saturday's atmospheric entertainment....

The camera skills go downhill fast like Ramadan when I shiver....

A bit at a time, can't over-exert...