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 Canal Visitor’s Center

The center is open from June 23-Oct. 24 from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily.Tours are held daily at 2:00 PM. The Center is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. The reception areas surrounding the canal include picnic areas, a herring run and two bicycle trails. Visitors can watch large vessels navigate the canal waters. Summer programs include guided walks and bicycle tours.There are also exhibits about the history and running of the canal. For more information: