Cape Cod Canal 100th Anniversary

Shanachie sailboat

July, 25 through August, 03  all of Cape Cod will be celebrating the completion Cape Cod Canal’s 100th Anniversary

The canal made our fair peninsular into an island.  The actual day of the completion was July 29, 1914. That was the day when the waterway officially opened to boat traffic. On July 29, 2014, dignitaries, local politicians and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be at the canal. Also, the Cape Cod Symphony Youth Orchestra will be performing an original piece that was written especially for the event.

Shanachie sailed the Cape Cod Canal 100th Anniversary
The catch, Shanachie.

The official Cape Cod Canal 100th Anniversary ceremony will take place from 2:00 to 4:00 pm and will include the unveiling of a ten foot tall statue. The bronze statue is of a fisherman and is designed to honor the significance that the fishing industry has had on the Cape Cod economy. It also pays homage to fishermen who have devoted their lives to the profession.

After the ceremony there will be a parade of tug boats. The tug boats will sail along the canal from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. The conclusion of the day’s festivities will be a fireworks display in Buzzards Bay. The fireworks will begin at 9:00 pm.

The canal was built because prior to its construction, all shipping had to sail around the eastern most shore, (known as the backside) of the Cape, past Chatham and Provincetown. Those waters are treacherous and have sunk hundreds of ships and claimed the lives of many brave sailors. In a storm a ship could be blown onto the beach or otherwise destroyed. Today’s modern ships have GPS, radar and the advantages of weather forecasting techniques, therefore the trip around the Cape is not as dangerous as it was one hundred years ago.

When the canal first opened, ships had to pay, the equivalent of $1,000 in today’s money, to use the canal. It sounds like a high toll, however, when one considers the cost of loosing  a ship and valuable cargo, I am sure that the shipping companies considered the toll well worth the price. Now the canal is free and is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Shanachie sailboat
Shanachie sailboat

Before becoming innkeepers Bill and I were sailors. We owned a beautiful Mason catch rigged sailboat. Her hull was white, the stripe at the waterline was red and she had a gold stripe just below the toe rail. She had been built in Taiwan and had hundreds of yards of teak trim. We took great care to keep the teak in top condition. On the dock, I was known as the “teak lady”. I had my tools neatly arranged in our dock box, ready to go at a moment’s notice. The boat’s name was “Shanichie” which is the Irish word meaning, story-teller.

Over the years she provided us with many wonderful stories. One such story is the time that we sailed through the Cape Cod Canal on our way to explore the coast of Maine. The trip north was made during the daylight, however, the return passage was made at night. Visibility was good but as we approached the north shore of the Cape and the entrance to the canal, all that the untrained eye could see was a mass of lights along the shore.  The entrance to the canal is so small when you are out in the bay. How did we find it? Well, that is when I was relieved to know that we had a top-notch navigator, spotter and helmsman on duty.

Bill, the navigator was at the navigation station below, with the radar and instruments. During that approach, he must have made fifty trips up and down the companionway. The spotter was our middle daughter Lauren, who stood on the cockpit seat and steadied her binoculars on the dodger roof. She kept us right on course as we went from one navigational marker to the next. The key bit of knowledge is that although there were hundreds of lights on the shore, only two of the lights were green. Those green lights are called “range lights”. They are positioned on towers that are a few hundred yards apart.  The first is on a short tower and the second is on a taller tower that is located directly behind the first. The towers are lined up beside the entrance to the canal. If the helmsman positions the boat so that the two range lights are one above the other, he knows that he is on course to enter the canal. That brings us to the third essential crew member.  The helmsman was Lauren’s husband Steve. He is a U.S. Marine and is as steady and dependable as they come. He kept us right on course and never wavered.

Pat in the dingy photograph
Pat in the dingy next to Shanachie.

We were traveling with friends who were following us in their boat. When we pulled into a quiet cove to anchor, raft-up and get some sleep, the question was, “How did you do that?” To them it had seemed like magic.

Now you ask, “What were you doing, Pat?” Well, I am the utility member of the crew. I would stand in for anyone who needed a break and I kept them supplied with hot chocolate and sandwiches.  That is a very important function. It keeps moral up and relieves tension. It was a great trip, filled with wonderful memories.


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod’s Roosevelt Room, B

While all of the bedchambers at the Palmer House have their own seafaring charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of adventures on the Cape Cod Canal and waterways, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs for a relaxing stay before and after your day.

Cape Cod Sailing on the Liberte

Cape Cod Sailing with Reefed Jibs of the Liberte

Cape Cod Sailing with the Captain and Crew of the Liberte

Cape Cod Sailing with Reefed Jibs of the Liberte
Reefed Jibs of the Liberte
Cape Cod Sailing Liberte's Bow
Liberte’s Bow

The seventy-four foot, three-masted schooner Liberte’ is docked in Falmouth Harbor each year from the fourth of July until Labor Day Weekend. On the very last day of her stay in Cape Cod last year, I decided to go out for a wonderful bit of Cape Cod sailing. The sky was blue and the wind was up. When I arrived on the dock, Captain Chris was working rapidly reefing the sails. He said that it was the best sailing day of the season. Sailing is a fantastic activity to do on Cape Cod.

As we dropped the lines and headed out of the harbor, the sails filled and we were off for an afternoon of splash and dash. I was glad that my hat was securely fastened under my chin.

Hoisting the Sails
Hoisting the Sails

When Liberte’ leaves the dock the captain quickly makes sail depending upon the wind and tide. They may sail west to Woods Hole, on the way they sail past Nobska Lighthouse. Woods Hole has some wonderful old houses that can only be seen from the water. Beyond that are the Elizabeth Islands, the undeveloped emeralds of the New England coast line. If the wind takes them east they sail past the bluffs of Falmouth Heights and the beaches and nature sanctuary of Waquoit Bay. On the day of my sail we headed south in the direction of the waters near Oak bluffs and Martha’s Vineyard.

Captain Chris was born and raised in Woods Hole. He started sailing as a boy on a small pond. Later, he served as a deck hand on the New York Yacht Club summer cruises. He also sailed his families Cape Cod Knockabout in the Woods Hole channels. At the age of eighteen he earned his USCG captain’s license and the rest is history.

History of the Liberte and Cape Cod Sailing

Captain of the Liberte
Captain of the Liberte

The Liberte’ is a custom-built steel hulled schooner that was designed for sailing comfort and fun. The hull was constructed at Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia. She has a spoon-shaped bow and the interior, deck arrangements and sails were designed by Captain Chris and his wife Jane. The overall length is seventy-seven feet from the tip of the bow sprit to the stern, and the beam is eighteen feet.  There are three aluminum masts and the tallest is the one in the center and it is 64 feet in height. The booms are made of pine. The engine is a 135 horsepower diesel and the boat’s top speed is 8.5 knots. Captain Chris proudly boasts that they can carry enough fuel to reach Bermuda.

During the design process one of the most important requirements, was that they wanted a boat that was rigged so the schooner could be sailed by one person. Below decks there is over six feet of head room and the main salon is seventeen by seventeen feet. There is a large well equipped galley. There are two split cabins under the foredeck, a crew’s quarters forward and a large master stateroom aft. Liberte’ is United States Coast Guard certified for forty-five passengers.

The deck has plenty of open space. There are over sixty seats on the deck yet a wheelchair can easily be accommodated. In addition to offering sails on Cape Cod, this beautiful schooner can serve large buffets and intimate sit-down dinners for suitable for celebrations, corporate outings and numerous private outings.


The Liberte’ is docked in Falmouth Harbor each year from the fourth of July until Labor Day Weekend. During the fall, winter and spring months Liberte’ is docked on Spa creek in Annapolis, Maryland. For more information on sailing with this beautiful Cape Cod schooner visit their website at

The Palmer House is located a short distance from Falmouth Harbor and the Liberte. If you are choosing a sailing themed holiday, we suggest staying in the Richard Henry Dana Room with its model sailing ship, the Herman Melville Room to peruse a copy of Moby Dick while admiring original artwork of New England sea-side towns, or the Emily Dickinson Room just because it has a jacuzzi-style tub and romantic fireplace.


Cape Cod Sailing Adventure Charters on “Bounder”

Falmouth’s own Bob Barker and his beautiful 26′ sloop “Bounder” will be available for carter starting in May.

Their sailing season will continue sailing into October this year.  He will offer full day, half day, sunset, and overnight cruises. Bob is a professional captain/master mariner with over 40 years experience. We have had a number of our guests sail with Bob in past years. They have returned eager to report on their sail and happy to show their photos to us. All Palmer House guests and given a 10% discount and free pick-up and delivery. It is wise to book early because Bob’s calendar fills up fast. For more information: