I did a lot of googling when we were headed to Cape Cod – I wanted to get an open water swim in, and even thought about bringing my wetsuit, but ultimately didn’t have space in my carry on. I think I just missed a Cape Cod tri, too! Next time…
I got some good tidbits of advice from my excessive googling, including that tides could be bad in a lot of places and that some harbors were ok for swimming but beware for boats. When we pulled up to Nauset Light Beach, the first thing I thought was–man, I should have brought my wetsuit! There were no breakers and barely a white cap in sight. Now…it did appear like there were possibly some pretty good riptides. But it was super calm. And…then…I…looked….closer…
There was something in the water. Lots of them! SEALS. Ok, I think sea lions are cute and nice and we swam with them in the Galapagos. But SEALS are enormous and sort of terrifying. I don’t think I’d just duck in the water and join them for a swim, and many were very close to shore. Then, as we are at the top of the stairs leading to the beach, I see the signs. Many signs.
It was my first time in Cape Cod, and what I clearly missed in all my searches, was the fact that Cape Cod had become a stomping ground for great whites, who like to feed on the very large seal population off the coast. Um, what? I was considering swimming where the seals were? No. So many no’s. I had even told this entire open-water swim plan to my mother, who seemed supportive and had asked again if I packed my wetsuit. Now I’m beginning to wonder if she thought I was just shark bait, and was excited to see a great white. Um, mom?
In any case, there was only one questionable great white sighting in 2017 when we visited (though there have been more sightings since), but let me tell you–I hate open water swimming under great conditions. And I am a swimmer. You couldn’t pay me enough to get in that water. I know some people have less self-preservation than I, so if that is you: 1) go with a local who knows the current and tide situation, 2) do not go where the seals are or swim close to them, 3) choose a protected harbor area if possible, 4) heed posted warnings. There, that’s my PSA. And if you are terrified of open water swimming (my fear is due to my irrational fear of sea snakes…but let’s move past that); I have a solution for you.
And it’s a pretty good solution, at that. Head over to one of the inland ponds! My recommendation is Great Pond, though people swim in Herring Pond as well. Great Pond has 2 beaches and plenty of space. You do need a parking sticker there in the high season, but they are sold at one of the entrances. It was pretty much empty when we were there, which was the week before high season started (June 4th ish).
Great Pond does have a roped off swimming area that is quite large. I stuck to that area as I didn’t have that long to swim and I didn’t have a bouy to alert boats, which I think is critical when you are swimming in an area where boats do not expect to see swimmers. It is really, really clear. Now, I know clear doesn’t mean clean, but I swam through mud last week where it was pitch black when you put your head in, so clear is good in my book. In addition, it is warm. I’m the girl that gets cold in the Seychelles, and I didn’t start shivering while swimming–I’d ping it at 77 degrees or so. Much better than the chilly Atlantic!
Great Pond does have its downsides–it is a popular family spot, and can be filled with kids who probably aren’t concerned with your workout. So go early if this bothers you. The parking lot can also fill up quickly. The water may almost get too hot in the summer, but since Cape Cod never gets as sweltering as DC, the water should not be unsafe for a workout even if it feels like a bathtub. Obviously, individual judgment is always a good thing!
Long story short, if I head back to Cape Cod I know where to go to get my open water swim in. And it will not be in the ocean. I like my limbs a little too much…seeing a great white would be pretty sharking. Get it? Sharking? A jawful experience?
….I may need more sleep.