Lynx overnight trips
Occasionally, overnight harbor trips with the Lynx 16 catboats are run to camp on one of the Boston Harbor Islands. To run such a trip requires a higher level of preparation and skill than an ordinary harbor trip. Be sure you have one or more experienced sailors as crew.
Where to Camp
There are four islands where camping is allowed: Lovells Island, Peddocks Island, Grape Island, and Bumkin Island. The first two are significantly closer than the other two (though still a quite a bit longer sail than to Spectacle Island), which are all the way down in Quincy Bay. During the official season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), campsites must be reserved through the Reserve America online system. It can be hard to find an opening as people reserve long in advance. However, it appears that there are a large fraction of no-shows that do not cancel, so you can try just turning up and asking the ranger for a spot, which is likely to be successful according to anecdote. During the off-season, such as May and September, you can obtain a camping permit by contacting the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. Lovells Island is undeveloped, and has small campsites on the north end of the island, as well as a large group campsite on the south end. Peddocks Island has a visitors center with bathrooms, a church, and many military buildings, as well as a large colony of squatters in ramshackle off-grid houses. There are tent campsites as well as yurts available. There is some ferry service to each of the islands, which may be useful if some people need to arrive or leave early or late. Check the schedule carefully. Lovells Island is very close to Georges Island which has much more ferry service.
Securing the Boat
Lovells Island has a dock where you can land. It is designed for ferries, not for small boats such as ours. Beware of the large tires hung along it as fenders: they are just the right height to break the wooden rubrail along the Lynx's gunwale when the boat is jostled by a big wake from a ferry going by in the channel between Lovells Island Georges Island. You can briefly stay at the dock to drop off or pick up people and gear. Then you need to anchor the boat in the area off the beach to the northwest. The bottom is sand and mud, good for holding; the anchorage is quite protected from wind-driven waves by the islands, though it is exposed to wakes from the nearby Narrows. Be careful of the large rocks in the middle of the beach, which are submerged at high tide but visible at low tide. Consider carefully the tide at the time you anchor, as well as the current and likely future wind direction. Setting a stern anchor is a good idea. There may be a small rowing dinghy available to use to get to the dock after anchoring. It is probably better if possible not to use the dock at all, and just come up to the beach with the boats to unload and reload, as the beach is nice and sandy, with a shallow slope. In this case, you can try to anchor so close to the beach that you can just walk (or swim) out to the boat. Be careful to put the centerboard up before or as soon as it touches the bottom when you are approaching to anchor, and be especially careful not to let the outboard motor's propeller hit the bottom. Check repeatedly on the boat during your time on the island, especially in the first hour, or when there is a change in wind direction or increase in strength, to be sure the anchor is not dragging. Check at least once in the night, bringing a bright light to shine at the boat to see the situation. Bring notes on the tides and currents for reference in anchoring, as well as for piloting during your sail out and back. Boston Light is the closest tide height station. There are also current stations in the Lovells Island Narrows.
You will need to bring proper anchors. The usual ones kept in the boats are inadequate for any serious anchoring, although they can be useful as a backup stern anchor. Bring the largest ones you can find at the pavilion, in consultation with dock staff, along with a rode of a reasonable length. Think carefully about where to stow heavy gear in terms of the resulting hull trim: putting the anchor at the stern is a good idea so you don't put the bow too low, which is a problem with waves in the harbor. The water you bring with you is also significant for hull trim. Bring extra fenders for use on docks. Bail the boat as much as possible beforehand, from the cockpit as well as the internal space under the cockpit, which will help the boat's performance when heavily laden with gear, and help avoid getting your gear wet. Bring a hand pump, a sponge, and a plastic bailer as used on Techs. Have garbage bags to put your gear (e.g. food, backpacks) in, so it does not get wet from water in the cockpit, as well as for your trash. Be sure you have batteries installed and the lights are working -- it is unwise to plan to sail at night in the harbor but it could be needed if something goes wrong! Needed camping gear can be rented from the MIT Outing Club. Bringing extra navigational equipment such as a compass and a GPS is a good idea. Check the Boston Harbor marine forecast periodically, particularly the next morning, by listening to the local WX channel on your VHF radio or checking it on a smartphone (3G signal should be fine through the harbor). Bring a spare battery for your phone or turn it off for a while if necessary, to be sure you still have battery later. Check the condition of your boat carefully before leaving, in particular that you will be able to reef properly if required.
Food and Water
There is no running water on Lovells island. Bring at least 1 gallon of water per person. There are two barbecue grills available at the group campsite, as well as a couple on the beach, at the picnic spot on the hill, and some (but not all) of the small campsites. Bring grill implements (cleaning brush, spatula, tongs), charcoal, a lighter or matches, and lighter fluid or a firestarter chimney and newspaper. Bring a cooler with ice to keep your food cold until dinner. You could freeze meat solid to be sure it stays cold. For a second day on the island, you should probably rely on non-perishable items. Camping stoves are good for breakfast, for boiling water for coffee, oatmeal, etc. Little containers of milk or cream that don't need refrigeration are convenient for coffee or tea.
Fires are allowed below the high tide line. You may not bring your own firewood. You are actually expected to gather your own wood, which of course should be dead wood that has fallen. You may not cut anything down! A hatchet or small saw could be convenient to cut up wood you find there.
There is a small pavilion near the ferry dock. There is a yurt that a ranger lives in during the summer. There are two composting toilets: one at the group campsite, and one near the ranger's yurt.
The beach where you anchor, on the northwest side of the dock, is good for swimming, nice and sandy. There is also a rocky designated swimming beach on the east (ocean) side of the island, which has a nice view for sunrise out to sea, with the two lighthouses in view. There are sometimes ranger-led tours of the island in the summer. It is interesting to walk around, which you can definitely spend a couple of hours doing. There is a map with info for a self-guided tour online. The group campsite is a big field, which is a good venue for morning yoga on sleeping pads, a game of frisbee, etc.
Past Camping Trips
- September 2015, Lovells Island (David Strubbe, Bill Herrington)
- August 2014, Lovells Island (David Strubbe)