Surf Check: Brant Rock and Duxbury

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Poseidon was tryin’, but the South Shore wasn’t buyin’.

 

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Grey Morning In Duxbury

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A little foul weather doesn’t keep me from my morning stroll.

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Poseidon was trying to give us an ocean storm, but his heart wasn’t in it.

 

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At the foot of the Powder Point Bridge, aiming at Duxbury Proper.

 

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Looking for the distance limit on my camera phone… yup, it’s right about there.

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If I zoom in enough, I do OK…

 

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The Powder Point Bridge, as much as I love it, looks like a fishing pier that they got the measurement wrong on to the extent that it reached the other end of the bay.

 

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I am more punk than gangsta, which is the reason why I did not steal this unattended police vehicle for my own personal use. I know my limits.

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See what I mean about it being a really big fishing pier?

 

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Lobsters do not walk upright, but the horizontal lobster wouldn’t be as effective as an advertising tool.

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I should have led off with this…

…or this.

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Alicia Fox, in the house… OK, under it.

 

Provincetown Shipwreck

WRECK OF THE ARTEMIS

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If you know a guy who misplaced his F/V Artemis, they may have it out in P-Town.

 

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The Artemis broke free from her mooring last month, washed across the harbor and came to rest on this breakwater.

 

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The town contacted the owner, who has yet to comply with their demands that he remove the vessel from the the breakwater.

 

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She’s a bit of a fixer upper, as they say down in the scrap yard. She is no pollution threat, and has been stripped of everything except her engine and her winch.

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My people told me that he was planning on fixing it up, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  It may also be safe to assume that he hadn’t gotten around to securing the mooring.

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Race Point Light couldn’t do anything for the Artemis before she crashed, and right now isn’t looking too good, either.

 

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Few articles are lessened by the sudden, needless introduction of a purple/pink boulder.

 

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There’s another ship up on a different jetty somewhere else in town, but checking out two shipwrecks on one road trip is sort of like what World War One guys felt regarding lighting three cigarettes off of one match… a sensible man just doesn’t do it.

Are Duxbury Seawall Repairs Worth It?

Duxbury Beach suffered through a series of gales last March, and the strain was too much for her protective seawall. Sections of it collapsed, and emergency repairs had to be made in advance of a follow-up storm.

These repairs are of the temporary sort, and the seawall as it stands now won’t stand long. A new wall will eventually have to be put in.

The repairs will be expensive, and the replacement will be more expensive. If they don’t occur, houses will fall into the sea and the coastline will erode away to a memory.

Who pays for the wall, how much they pay and who is responsible for repairs… that remains to be seen. It will most likely involve some court-type activity.

Hanging over the whole issue are the questions of whether people should live so close to the sea, whether 15,000 people should have to build a wall to protect 190 houses, whether rising sea levels make a wall useless and whether delaying seawall repairs until the wall collapses frees the town from their mandated repair work.

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Duxbury Beach, partially pictured above, is a residential area of 191 houses. I grew up there, still have family there, just so you know.

Many people from Duxbury Proper mistakenly think it is a part of Marshfield. Nope. From where the seawall in question begins, Duxbury runs about a half-mile to the Marshfield line.

It is lagely populated by seasonal folk, although many of the former cottages are gentrifying away from their Irish Riviera roots. It is by far Duxbury’s emptiest neighborhood from Labor Day until July (and most likely all year), and to my knowledge is Duxbury’s only seasonal neighborhood.

While the houses are not King Caesar-style mansions, the Atlantic frontage drives up the property values. The neighborhood kicks almost 2 million smackers back to Duxbury in property taxes.

Residents consume town services mostly for 2 months a year, and there is barely a need to send a school bus there. For the most part, they are invisible cash cows… but when they get attention, it tends to be Destruction Porn coverage from the local news of a bad nor’easter.

Habitation there would not be possible without the seawall. Memories of people and property being swept into the sea by the 1938 Great New England Hurricane were fresh on the mind as the sea walls of Massachusetts were being built in the 1940s and 1950s.

Duxbury finished their wall in 1954, and it runs from the south end of Ocean Road South to a small gap (the gap is from people who declined the $500 buy-in back in 1954) before the sea wall in Green Harbor. Before the US Army Corps of Engineers concrete seawall went in (busy work for WWII vets, an old schooler tells me), there was a wooden seawall made of telephone poles. Aside from that, Duxbury Beach relies on dunes.

The seawall held up well enough for 64 years, doing her repel-the-waves/stop-the-erosion thing… but the same thing that took down the walls of Constantinople took down the wall at Duxbury.

Attrition.

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The Turks didn’t use one big shot from a cannon to take down the walls of Constantinople, they instead used repeated, focused shots.

Likewise, the walls in Duxbury didn’t collapse under the pressure of a single Hawaii Five-O type wave, they were knocked down over 64 years of inexorable 3 to 8 foot surf.

Much like when you pile straw upon a camel or when you nag at a soon-to-be ex-spouse long enough, the end usually comes via what would otherwise seem to be an innocuous incident.

That piece of straw shouldn’t have broken the camel’s back, but it did. Similarly, the seawall in Duxbury has stood up to far worse surf than it saw in the storms of 2018, but when last March turned stormy… sha-doobie, Shattered.

Neither the Turks nor Duxbury thought to put rebar in their walls, but that’s something we can circle back to in a little while.

Rebar was first used in the 1500s, so the Byzantines have an excuse for the walls of Constantinople (which was Turkish by 1453). Duxbury, almost exactly 500 years later, just threw up a shoddy wall.

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Duxbury will pay 5 million and change to repair 750 feet of damaged seawall, and eventually around $6000 a foot for about a half mile of replacement seawall.

It should be high-end stuff. If a crumbly seawall lasts 64 years, a good one-even with rising sea levels and more frequent storms figured in- should last longer.

While it is never fun to ante up for a costly piece of infrastructure, the wall they put in next should still be standing when Ivanka Trump’s great-great-grandchildren are thinking about entering politics, if it is built properly.

That the town may still be paying off the wall while these future Trumps are running around is the basis of the anti-wall arguments. If that argument is accepted, the question becomes “Are those payments going to be worth it?”

“Worth it” is a broad area that ranges from “Will the wall hold up?” to “How will the wall benefit the town?” to ” No one should be living there anyway?” to “Neighbors should help neighbors” to whether Duxbury could or should disincorporate the troublesome beach neighborhood.

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I will leave questions of the wall’s durability to people more skilled in engineering than myself. I spent most of my high school physics class looking at legs, and it was all downhill after that.

“No one should be living there” is cancelled out by “Too late. Someone is living there,” while the helpful neighbor idea can easily be viewed as “Here’s some help, neighbor… Move somewhere else.”

Disincorporation is the concept of Duxbury washing their hands of the beach neighborhood. They no longer accept taxes and no longer offer town services. It would be similar to what the Chinese did with the Walled City of Kowloon.

It would be a complicated legal matter, as not one inch of Massachusetts territory is unincorporated. Everything here is bound to some sort of Municipal Corporation.

One of my people tells me that a town or even a village could be disincorporated only in Vermont, but it would have to involve either:

A) some sort of Roanoke/Salem’s Lot-style disaster that suddenly depopulates the area, or

B) a Centralia/Silent Hill town-toxifying chemical situation, or

C) a Quabbin Reservoir situation where people will die of thirst if the towns are not taken by the state and flooded.

I should add that the man who told me this is in prison, but his logic is sound.

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Washing their hands of a soggy beach neighborhood would establish Duxbury’s northern beach border at the gates of Duxbury Beach Park. Everything between that and Marshfield would be no man’s land… unless Duxbury Beach could go free agent and perhaps sign with Marshfield.

Otherwise, Duxbury Beach would quickly devolve into a Road Warrior sort of lawless chaos until the houses fell into the sea.

“Houses falling into the sea” is why Duxbury can’t disincorporate. Imagine, as the barrier beach decays, telling millionaires on Powder Point and Washington Street that construction debris will be washing into their yards for the next 700 years… should go well, yeah.

Avoiding that means disincorporating the people instead of the land. That means buying out 191 prime oceanfront properties.

This isn’t 1950, when you could buy 50 of the shanties for $25,000. Those visions of a Summer of ’42 cottage neighborhood are no longer valid. It’s why the ability of a single entity to buy and sell entire towns is limited to the bank in Monopoly.

Buying out the residents would cripple the town for a generation, and that would only be after 191 costly legal battles and before 191 costly demolitions.

You’d also be saying au revoir to two million a year in taxes, but it gets worse.

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Duxbury Beach is a barrier beach. Her job is not just to support the houses of her residents, but to protect the houses of the residents of Duxbury Proper.

If the residents are forced out and their homes are demolished due to a desire to avoid building a seawall, you now have a flat beach- below sea level in some places- with 100 yards of eroding hill and no dunes.

Dunes are fine protection from storm waves, to a point. They work, with ever-ongoing maintenance and restoration, at the central and southern parts of Duxbury Beach. Even then, they get washed over and the beach is breached during bad enough storms.

Keep in mind, Duxbury Beach is divided by a line that only true storm geeks recognize. If you look across Cape Cod Bay from Duxbury on a clear day, you can see the tip of Provincetown. It almost looks like a mirage, but it’s real enough.

From the Duxbury vantage point, storm waves coming in from the Atlantic either come from the right or the left of Provincetown. From the right, any wave began after Cape Cod, which is Duxbury Beach’s barrier beach. From the left, they are coming in from the open ocean, unobstructed, and they hit the beach with the force, like Obi. We’re talking monster truck force, perhaps double what is hitting at the other end of the beach.

Guess where the cutoff point is? Right around where the seawall starts on Duxbury Beach. Northern Duxbury Beach gets far worse surf than southern Duxbury Beach, which is odd because they are the same beach. A good nor’easter would make quick work of any dune laid down on the northern end of Duxbury Beach.

The part of Duxbury Beach that has an armored seawall is the part of Duxbury Beach that needs an armored seawall.

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The anti-wall people quickly find themselves in a Catch 22 situation.

They seek to avoid paying for a wall, so they bankrupt the town to buy out and demolish the houses on the beach.

Dunes don’t protect the town well enough. Dune depletion kicks in, as sand that would normally be washed down southward into the dunes after hitting the seawall is instead pushed ashore onto Ocean Road North, Ocean Road South and Gurnet Road.

The annual dune reparations would have to be preceded by annual repairs on the road leading out to the dune. Meanwhile, the barrier beach erodes.

Houses of more influential town residents in Duxbury Proper begin to get direct ocean effects as the barrier beach erodes away. The multi-million dollar high school complex is imperiled.

Duxbury is then left with one choice, the one they passed on before they got into this mess… build a wall. Only this time, they are doing it without $2 million a year in tax money.

If the disincorporation people are listened to and the town Pontius Pilates their hands of the beach village, they may not even have a viable beach to build the wall on once the disincorporated beach starts eroding… meaning that they spend a decade securing easements and operating heavy equipment in the wealthy people’s yards on Powder Point Road/King Casear Road and off Washington Street.

I don’t see that going well.

 

 

Simply put, Duxbury needs to build this wall. It sucks, but every other option they have sucks harder.

Disincorporating the beach neighborhood would be a penny-wise, pound-foolish act of financial masochism. It would be the equivalent of punching the gift horse in the mouth.

There is no way that Duxbury avoids building a new seawall. The only other options leave them bankrupt… or bailing out Washington Street every full moon high tide.

They should not only build a wall, they should build a really nice one. They should even look into an artificial reef offshore, but one thing at a time.

The whole seawall cost quandary is very much like that old joke about why divorce costs so much…

Because it’s worth it.

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Surf Check, 4/16/18

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We went to Duxbury and Marshfield to check out the waves from a mini nor’easter.
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Technically, it was some spelling of sou’easter, as winds came from the Southeast.
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You could call it “Southeast winds from a nor’easter way offshore,” because I have been writing this column long enough to know that some people get touchy about these designations.
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It wasn’t a bad storm, maybe a C or a C-.

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We got to Fieldston, Ocean Bluff, Brant Rock, Green Harbor and Duxbury Beach.  That’s our author in the picture above, and Fieldston  (featuring Hardcore Logo) in the video below.

 

 

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Two paths to Burke’s Beach above, and Ocean Bluff below.

 

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This storm was a minor test for the seawall repairs.
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The strong SE wind put the waves into SE-facing Green Harbor, and made life a bit easier for NE-facing Duxbury Beach.
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Duxbury residents had no choice but to fill in their yards after the major erosion of the March storms, violating the “don’t do yard repairs until late April” guideline.
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They seemed to hold up OK.
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You can see the value of a good seawall down in Green Harbor, in the background, or Brant Rock, below…

 

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As you can see, big boulders will be the order of the day until they replace the seawall.
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End of an era… the infamous Public Stairs have been destroyed.
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Homeboy had better get his Flag Game together.
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My assistants running away… Burke’s Beach/Green Harbor below

 

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Green Harbior has a sort of curve to it that makes it an optimal photo platform no matter where the storm winds are blowing in from…
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The storm was impressive enough to overwash the jetty at Green Harbor.
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The Brant Rock side of the channel took some shots, too.
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I go to the Green Harbor well more than once, but never too often. We also have more Brant Rock, below…

 

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Sometimes, you get a soaking on this job.
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Seagulls were doing some air-surfing over the waves.
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Brant Rock, I believe… and we finish at Duxbury Beach, below…

 

 

 

Surf Check: Brant Rock And Duxbury Beach

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A large ocean storm just missed us this week, but it was strong enough to send surf back our way for a few days. I got there a day late, as someone else took that shot of the wave breaking on the house at the top.
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Had it shifted towards new England a bit more, it would have been the 5th in 24 days. As it was, it still sent heavy surf at the South Shore and Cape Cod.
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They also had an 11 foot tide, which you can see where the Cut River meets Green Harbor. Our photographer gets soaked at the end of the video below, filmed in Brant Rock.

 

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I bet, in 1960 or so, there were two guys who are very old now, and they argued about wherever they thought the weak point of the seawall was. Whoever had that area above, and he may be dead now, was correct.
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Brant Rock was named after Brant Geese, which nested on these rocks and probably some others. Ocean Bluff used to be called Hewitt’s Point, named after Jennifer Love Hewitt some guy named Hewitt. Hewitt got the land from a guy named Winter, who had taken to calling it Winter’s Island. However, Winter got tried for fathering his own grandchild, and that was all she wrote for Winter’s Island on the ol’ map. I think Hewitt may have even been that grandchild. “Ocean Bluff” sounds better, anyhow.
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One can follow the Cut River into Duxbury’s Great Salt Marsh. The tide, as you might guess, was also high over here.
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This is all old storm damage or old repairs, it wasn’t that bad when I was there, I should have gone to Eastham.
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The poor public stairs lose by TKO to Mother Ocean.
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Duxbury’s seawall was absolutely torn apart in March. The replacement wall is estimated to cost $4.5 million. 
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Or, you can just buy some iron plates and roll a few boulders around…
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There is work to be done beyond the wall, as well.
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Crikey! As you can imagine, with seawall damage like that, sump pumps are working overtime… see video below:
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Watch that first step…
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That was a lawn, once…
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The surf came over the wall a bit, but nothing like earlier in the month.
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Buoys always get in the mix if we see them.
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Looks worse than it was, and that is Duxbury in the video below…

 

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Duxbury’s marsh in Saturation mode.
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Powder Point (Bridge and Road) in the background.
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The beach is level with the seawall in some parts of Duxbury.
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Onward through the fog, to Clark’s Island.
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Duxbury Beach, residential area, pre-storm, from above.

North Atlantic Right Whales Now More Endangered Than Usual

We’re coming up on the time where North Atlantic Right Whales visit Cape Cod Bay. They were here last year in early April, or at least that’s when one of us ran out and wrote about it.

They come up here to get some plankton. Our waters in April are the right temperature for plankton, which means it is the right temperature for a NARW buffet. You can post up anywhere on the South Shore and see one, although “see one” means “800 yards away, a piece of blubber sticks up out of the water for a second.” If you’re really lucky, you can see him spout or whatever the verb is for that.

However, as meh as that may be, it is still a remarkable thing. There are only 450 NARWs left in the world. Elephants may seem like a rare thing, but there are 2500 of them for every NARW left in the sea.

Those numbers may decrease, because specialists are reporting that NARWs produced no new calves during the last breeding season. CNN reports that there is an even greater extinction trend than before.

We had 71 of the 450 total in our waters last year. The two pictures we have show all of the NARWs born this year.

Therefore, when the NARWs turn up here soon, boaters have to be even more careful about not running them over or even going nowhere close to one.

NARWs are very rare. Boats are required by law to keep a few hundred yards between them and any righty. A collision between a whale and a boat could take an endangered species off of the charts.

It’s also good sense for the mariner. Look at how things ended for Captain Ahab, Quint, Jonah, Samuel L. Jackson… you don’t want to mess with anything that can fit you in their mouth.

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Coastal Massachusetts Storm Shots

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We have a pile o’ pics from last week’s storm, so here ya go…
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Both ends of Little Sandy Pond Road had trees across them last Friday night.
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Duxbury scored a surplus military vehicle for flood rescues.
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Never let it be said that Ocean Road North does not live up to her name
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These waves eventually took down the seawall.
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Duxbury storm damage that isn’t on the beach.

 

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Seawall damage is more the result of attrition than one big wave.
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The ocean can bend metal, it seems.

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Duxbury got pummeled… but check the dude below out… I eventually splashed out there and woke the guy up.

 

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Duxbury must have lost a poker game to Poseidon and then failed to pay off the bet.
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Sagamore Beach sneaks into the mix..

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More to come…

Duxbury Seawall Suffers Multiple Collapses

A bad situation got much, much worse in Duxbury as a series of nor’easter storm tides took down large portions of the seawall.

Now, a race against time is on, as the town scrambles to patch up the seawall before a new coastal storm goes all Johnstown Flood on the good people of Duxbury Beach.

Don’t expect federal help… President Trump, who has yet to declare Massachusetts as a disaster area, is only interested in one wall. Don’t expect Mexico to pay for the Duxbury wall, either…

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This photo is from the Duxbury Fire Department, and the others are from Dan Rollins or Deborah Deady.

The seawall has been in place since 1954, when it replaced a wooden seawall put up (your author presumes) after the 1938 hurricane. You can see “TONY 9/4/54” carved into the wall near the Ocean Road North boat ramp opening. I have to ask Chrissy Carroll’s dad to find out exactly, as Duxbury’s historians care not a whit for the beach north of the bridge.

Most seawalls in Massachusetts were done before the 1950s, many in the 1930s as Great Depression busy work.

The wall was also a work of necessity, as Hurricanes Carol and Edna came in 1954.

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“They blew the horn, and the walls came down… they’d all been warned, but the walls came down…. they’d stood there laughing… they’re not laughing anymore… and the walls came down.”

The seawall is of vital importance to both the neighborhood and the town. They are the only protection Duxbury Beach gets from coastal storms.

If the wall goes, the village goes, and when the village goes, Duxbury’s tony Powder Point/King Caesar neighborhoods become the new barrier beach.

I don’t think that the people there will tolerate much of that.

The ground by the seawall used to be level with the path… now, notice how deep in the hole we find that cameraman.

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“And when they’ve given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it’s not easy
Banging your head against some mad bugger’s wall”

The town just came out on the short end of a Who Is Responsible For Seawall Repairs dispute with the neighborhood residents. They then did next to nothing, other than piling some boulders in front of the former Gurnet Inn.

Now, they pay for that laziness with some costly emergency repairs.

When the wall collapsed yesterday, local residents got their hands on a Bobcat and tried to fix the wall themselves.

The town stepped in, ordered the work stopped, and then…. did nothing decided to formulate a plan. They piled material at the end of a street, and plan to start Tuesday at 3 AM with the front end loaders.

Keep in mind, high tide is about 2:30 PM, and the waves are still fierce. Duxbury has already dumped a piece of heavy machinery into the bay by the bridge a few years ago, but that was child’s play compared to direct ocean.

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“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that…. oh, never mind, nature beat you to it.”

These collapses were a shock to the experts, who recently declared the walls to be in very good shape. See here…

A storm is coming Wednesday. It won’t be like last weekend’s storm, but it will still be a nor’easter of Tropical Storm force.

That normally isn’t a problem, but “normally” involves having a seawall. Waves have great power, enough to smash four feet of concrete. Without the wall, that great power will be unleashed upon yards and- eventually- houses.

I shudder to think of what will happen.

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