Showing posts with label green harbor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label green harbor. Show all posts

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dealing With The Ocean On Duxbury Beach

Living on the coast is pretty much the peak human condition. You can walk around barefoot. The beach is within hollering distance. You have a zillion trillion gallon outdoor pool. If you can convince a girl to visit you, she's a good bet to show up wearing a bikini... something that I took for granted growing up on a beach, and something that I was slow to realize didn't happen everywhere when I went to school in Worcester.

Yup, life on the beach is pretty nice. There are costs, however. That gorgeous ocean can become stormy, and stormy seas can push ashore and inflict catastrophic damage on the houses there. While giant waves can smash houses to splinters, even little waves eat away bites of the shoreline in an endless war of attrition.

You can't beat the inexorable Mother Nature, but you can hold her off for a little while. In fact, if you either A) don't care if the house falls into the sea on the great-grandchildren's watch, long after you've gone to your reward, or B) have faith that the science people will solve the problem in the future, you really have to keep the sea at bay for only 20-75 years or so. After that... SEP.

We're going to tour a few beaches before the weather gets too bad and going to the beach becomes something akin to work. As we go to these beaches, we'll have a look at methods people use to fight Poseidon. 

There is no consensus on protecting beaches. You can see different methods on different beaches, something you'll notice as you read the articles we write about different beaches. You can also see different methods on the same beach, something you'll notice today as we start our series off in Duxbury.

Duxbury Beach has a mix of inhabited, uninhabited and semi-inhabited coastline.

You can see several methods of erosion control at work here. We have a dune, some snow fencing, some rocks, some beach grass, some scrub pine... we could use some beach plum bushes, but this will do.

Shoot, the whole of Duxbury Beach itself is an erosion control machine, as it serves as a barrier beach for Duxbury Proper across the bay.

The house that you can sort of see in the picture above is the last residence on Duxbury Beach. South of that, it's all sand dunes and snow fencing until you get to High Pines.

Beaches tend to get onshore winds, and those winds blow sand across the beach. Any sort of obstruction, be it a plant or a flower or a stone, slows down the wind and allows the sand and grass to accumulate. As the sea grass spreads, the sand is nourished, and other plants begin to appear. These plants block more and more sand. Over time, a dune forms.

If the ocean doesn't interfere, the dune grows and grows. However, that's a big If.

The snow fencing probably performs some erosion control purpose, but the main one I can think of is that it keeps people from walking on the fragile beach grass.

If you need to know how well it works, here's a picture of how the dunes looked when the Trans-Atlantic cable came ashore a little bit after the Civil War ended.... which is why everyone looks like General Sickles.

Duxbury-savvy folks will recognize that this is the area where Ocean Road North and Cable Hill meet. Prior to the cable coming ashore, this area was known as Rouse's Hummock.... after some guy named Rouse.

Most of the present beach south of the Blakeman's pavillion/bath house works along this model, but the dune in this picture is more impressive than anything seen on the beach today.

The dunes are lower because Duxbury Beach suffers from vicious nor'easters. Nor'easters seem to be elementally offended by dunes, because they wash over them regularly.

If that picture of the cable guys doesn't give you an idea how close to the water the dune is, worry you not! My house on Duxbury Beach was right about where the dude in the dark suit is standing off by himself on the top of the dune.

Here's a view from where he was standing 150 years later. There's a house there now, and a seawall in front of it, but those waves have been hitting the area like that once a year or so ever since time began.

There isn't much beach behind the dunes. Duxbury Beach is barely 100 meters wide at her fat points. The picture below is taken after a storm, and it is aimed at what is by far the fattest part of the beach. It turns to marsh just after the houses and trees.

Here is a picture out the back door (Duxbury Beach residents almost universally refer to the door facing the ocean as the front door, and the street-side door as the back door), showing how much slack the marsh is giving you. Much of Duxbury Beach becomes a series of small islands if the storm gets bad enough.

Post-storm, too...

Notice the shark fin in the water to the left of the telephone pole and above the hay bales? Ah, just kidding, that's not a shark.

That flood will take some time to go away, as the water table is maxed out and it's the lowest point in the neighborhood. The marsh will drain itself as the tide goes out, but the meadow is on her own.

They did lay some pipe under the road after this 2007 storm, and all but the final inches of water will flow back into the marsh through them.

Here are said pipes:

There are corresponding pipe holes on the other side of Gurnet Road. The pipes take care of the meadow and the marsh water. The waves are a whole other problem.

I went with the picture below because it was the best one I have that illustrates both the height of the seawall and the erosion of the sand.

The sand depth at the foot of the seawall varies greatly, and can be augmented by seaweed and rocks. It can make a great difference in wave damage.

The seawall/sand ratio is important, as the sand is what the seawall is based in. If there isn't enough sand supporting the wall, the wall can topple forward into the sea.

The seawall blocks waves for a gang o' houses that pay a pile o' taxes into the town coffers. Many are summer residences which pump no revenue-consuming brats into the town's school systems. Hence, the armored seawall.

Here's another blurry shot, showing how the Duxbury/Marshfield line has to use boulders to help shore up the wall. OK, "shore up" is probably the wrong term here.

I'd have gone closer to the boulders to try to get a shot that showed them better, but I wasn't trying to get wet.

The seawall is the central defense for the residential area of Duxbury Beach.

It's about 15 feet tall, with maybe half of it buried in sand. It's about two feet thick. It can withstand powerful surf without breaking, although they do break now and then.

It runs in two big lines, one extending from Green Harbor to the Duxbury line, and one from 100 yards past the other one down to the end of Ocean Road South.

The gap in the middle isn't a town vs town thing, as I thought it was until I talked to some old-timers. Now, I know that the gap in between the walls exists because the homeowners there, secure on a small bluff, declined to pay the $500 fee for the wall.

Their houses are still standing, so they currently are having the last laugh. Others are doing for self:

If you go there just after a storm, you get the virgin snowfall-looking sand cover.

It costs a pretty penny to put up your own seawall.

Q) Reason?

A) It's worth it.

This sort of DIY seawall, while very fine-looking, makes up about 1% of Duxbury's seawall shield.

Seawalls can only do so much. A powerful storm surge can make the ocean level with the seawall, and then the waves are rolling straight into the houses.

Some houses still have cellars, but they are a dying breed. You need sump pumps to get the ocean water out of them (I had a beach cellar, and the water came in through the windows, through the floor, and through the walls in the Blizzard of '78 and the 1991 Halloween Gale), and I neither have any pictures of sump pumps nor any desire to look for a Sump Pump video. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Any modern housing constructed on the shores need to be on pilings. This lets the water rush under the house rather than through it, which provides some comfort for the house and saves the lives of the homeowners.

This is a pretty good strategy, as I was trapped in my house on Duxbury Beach for the Perfect Storm in 1991, and I saw houses get torn apart by the surf. I also saw houses get lifted up by the surf and washed back into the road.

Stilt housing came into vogue shortly after that, and none of them have been knocked over yet. They have worked their way into the front line of housing along the coast.

There is some debate, mostly among people who were living on the beach for the peak storm activity of the Halloween Gale and the Blizzard of '78, as to whether the stilt housing will hold up against a 100 Year Storm.

Much like the Blizzard of '78 finished off the dune houses on Duxbury Beach, the next hurricane-force storm might finish off traditional-foundation style housing. Again, only time will tell.

Breakaway stairs are also useful.

They are made light enough to either

A) pull them up onto the wall by hand,


B) drag them back to your house with a Jeep if you got lazy or sloppy and forgot to do option A.

There is an option C, but that involves building the stairs out of mortar and cast iron. You don't have to pull these stairs up if a storm comes.

Pic by Sara Flynn

Be sure to check out our Plymouth version of this article.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Hermine Surf Check: Plymouth, Duxbury and Marshfield

We went to Duxbury and Marshfield Tuesday to check out what Hermine was doing up there. As it turns out, she wasn't doing much to Green Harbor.

Brant Rock was serving barrier beach duty for this storm. I was shooting from where Charlie's used to be.

The waves did hit the wall in Duxbury, but they barely hit it.

These rocks were placed here long ago to mark where the Trans-Atlantic cable came ashore. It's still there, buried under a ton of sand.

The former Gurnet Inn, now a rich person house.

Duxbury did get some nice waves... just nothing that made me happy to have skipped out on Westport or Truro.

Green Harbor had some wall-splashing. I would have moved forward and got out of that shadow, but I didn't want to get soaked.

The seas yield a treasure here and there. Wire traps wash up less than wooden ones used to.

I'm not sure if these waves are the work of Hermine...

... or maybe even Gaston, throwing waves at Duxbury from way out to sea...

... or just a strong East wind.

If you're missing your Tiki Torch Beach Stairs, hit me up in the comments and we can talk reward money.

I need to remember this vantage point for a day when I have a better camera or bigger waves.

... like in Plymouth the day before.

See you next storm!

Friday, June 24, 2016

So Many Nature Shots, You May Turn Against Nature And Kick A Puppy


We're emptying our Photobucket onto this website in a blizzard of archives articles. Today, we're doing Nature. This is from the Cape Cod Canal.

Plus-size lobster, courtesy of my friend Tornado up in Maine.

 A baby coyote, from Widow's Walk golf course in Scituate.

Second pic in a row from my man Ghost, this is what I believe is a New London, NH snapping turtle.

A bear paw print (next to the author's size 15 Reebok footprint), White Cliffs Country Club, Cedarville MA, courtesy of Hacksaw and his baby sidekick, Roo.

A couple of ducks or something, Barnstable MA

Buzzards Bay Bluejay

5 rescue cats I took in, Mom (#6) not included. I'm no cat lady, I was doing an Adopt A Pet column for a Cape Cod newspaper, and they had new homes quickly enough. They were all given political names when I had them... Republicat is off to the right, as she's supposed to be. On the left, from bottom to top, are Democat, Romneycat, Obamacat (facing left, of course) and Puffy Cat. Puffy Cat was very puffy, so no other name was going to work. My neighbor, who is conservative, took Obamacat (so named because he has a big O in his flank fur) and renamed it something. Puffy Cat went to my friend's girlfriend, and Democat went to some high school girl that the guy who used to sell me my weed knew. I kept Republicat and her Mom, and Republicat was then renamed Bay Bay Cat.

Bruschi the Bulldog, who hails from Wareham.

Grazing Fields Farm, Bournedale MA

My good ol' Border Collie, the late Sloppy Dogg.

Mid-flight seagull, somewhere on Cape Cod

Powder Point, Duxbury MA

Ten year old picture of a seal sunning himself on Duxbury Beach... just in case the shark stories make you think that the seals are new arrivals.

The author and a Mako Shark he caught.... OK, the author and a Mako Shark that his more manly friend caught and brought into Green Harbor. I'd have slapped the shark once and let him go, personally.  I think the shark was sold to a company in Japan, they got like $500 for him.

I did almost catch these gooses, but they gave me the slip. One of the quirks of this website is that the proprietor prefers to say "gooses" rather than the less-cute "geese." 

If you shot them with a potato launcher, you'd have the makings of a pretty good meal here...

"Snake in the grass, I see ya comin'..... from a mile away, I start gunnin'....."

Having a Weymouth black cat cross your path on Halloween is about as bad luck as you can get...

...unless, of course, you end up having a black cat cross your path that same day while you are at the Lizzie Borden house. You people should appreciate the risks that I take to bring you this column.

Once Thanksgiving passes, the turkeys get all cocky and strut around in your yard.

A seagull fighting a nor'easter, Duxbury Beach MA

Horsing around, Middleboro MA

Plimoth Plantation