• A Truly Great Marsh

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    The Great Marsh in Barnstable Really is Great

    Recently, this Luxx Concierge accompanied friends from Albany on the Barnstable Harbor Eco-Tour. Here’s a confession: I frequently take my boat from Sesuit Harbor into Dennis, dock for lunch at the Mattachese Wharf and then head back out into Cape Cod Bay.

    I always turned right, never left toward the Great Marsh.  I actually never think of it.

    But this glorious fall Saturday afternoon, I turned the navigating over to Joe Nastasi, owner of the pontoon boat Horseshow Crab for a two-hour trip by Sandy Neck and then deep into the Great Marsh to view more bird life at one time than I ever have experienced on the Cape.

    Not so much the variety of birds than the quantity of them. At certain times along the trip, all four of us were needed to scan east, west, north and south to count the number of egrets and great blue herons populating the marsh.

    Nastase moved to Barnstable in the late 1980s and took a boat ride with a friend. He was hooked. He decided he not only wanted to own his own boat, but saw a unique opportunity to build an eco-tour business.

    His pontoon boat was custom built to accommodate up to 28 passengers along with himself and a naturalist guide, who this day was Andrea Higgins, who exuded passion along with expertise as she so capably orchestrated narration along with the silence appreciated to just take in the sights and subtle sounds of the marsh.

    Because the pontoon boat draws so little water, you get the opportunity afforded only by kayak to drift ever so slowly through the tall grass, putt-putting so as not to disturb the wildlife. This day, there were about 15 others who had paid $25 each for the two-hour tour.

    There were common terns and least terns diving for fish. Elegant Great Blues stretching their necks from the deep grass. Recently, Nastasi reported he had seek not one black skimmer, but more than a dozen. A very unusual sighting.

    With our cameras, we could focus on several osprey nests, wondering if they all had departed for the southern migration.

    What made this eco-trip so compelling was how both our visitors to the Cape and us full-timers related to the marsh so similarly. I kept asking myself, ‘How did I never come this way. I always turned right out of the harbor, never left.’

    Not so again, thanks to Nastasi’s very special pontoon boat.

    Whether you manage to take a trip before the season ends, or make plans to welcome next spring, please click here for more information. Note that there is no parking at the Mattachese landing where the Horseshoe Crab docks. You will make arrangements to be picked up usually in the parking lot behind the county courthouse off Route 6A in Barnstable Village for a five-minute shuttle.

    To prepare for your trip, here are some tips compliments of Nastasi:

    First, check the local weather!There’s an old saying, attributed to Mark Twain: “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a minute”

    Our Ecotour boat, The Horseshoe Crab, is equipped with a roof, mosquito netting, and a head (toilet). That being said, we recommend that all passengers bring the following items:

    • A Hat or other headgear to protect you from the sun.
    • Sunscreen
    • A camera
    • Insect repellant. Please be respectful of your fellow passengers when applying insect repellant: please do not spray aerosol or pump products on the boat. Please review the Center for Disease Control’s guide to Using Insect Repellents Properly.
    • Water.
    • Sunglasses
    • Weather appropriate clothing – hot or cool, dry or wet (again, check the weather). You will not regret bringing an extra layer of clothing, but you may regret not bringing it. The temperature is almost always five to ten degrees cooler on the water than it is on land. Prepare for up to ten degrees less than is indicated on the local weather. Finally, we are on the water, so it is possible that you and your clothes may get wet. Please dress accordingly!

    Your ecotour experience will be even better if you can bring a decent pair of binoculars. The harbor is beautiful all the time at any distance, but viewing the scenery and the wildlife through binoculars will greatly enhance your experience.

    Items you should NOT bring:

    • Glass containers of any kind.
    • Awkward shoes – e.g., high heels or dress shoes.
    • Green or blue clothing – green and blue attract the Greenhead Fly. You don’t want to do this.
    • Extra stuff in general – space is limited and we want all our passengers to be comfortable. Further, we cannot guarantee that items won’t get wet or slide around the boat, so please limit your carry-ons to a backpack, purse, small cooler etc.
    October 05, 2014