Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cliffwood Beach and Sea Gull Island

While sailing on the bay many of us have seen the small island protrude from the water near Cliffwood Beach.  This little island is not an island, but a reef.  The name came from seeing Gulls always sitting there when the tide came down enough to give them a dry spot to sit.  For years this was one of the places where Captain Kidd was thought to have hid his treasure or at least stopped there and carried it in to hide in Treasure Lake.  These are just some of the tales that give the Bay some interest and excitement.  During the past several years we had gotten as close as we could and tried to investigate this small island but getting out in three feet of water and walking through that slimmy mud was a real negative.  This year was the year we were actually stuck there. Yes, I mean stuck, what level headed person would take their sailboat into the shallows of Cliffwood Beach?  Yes, I am that individual.  It was a higher than normal high tide and we came closer to shore slowly with an eye on the depth finder.  There was four feet of water under the boat and that gave us a little more than a foot of clearance.  I knew there were old pilings along the old waterfront and made an effort to not go so close to them as I didn't want to find the one pointed piling hidden under the water.  We dropped the sails and started up the motor so we could react faster if needed.  Cruising a about 2 to 3 knots we came to Sea Gull Island on our port side.  This means we are between the shore and Sea Gull Island headed East which is known for shallows and old pilings.  The tide was so high that the island was under water this day and there appeared to be rapids atop the island.  We did get a little too close and got stuck in the mass of rock that makes up the reef.  The depth finder went from four feet to zero feet in the blink of an eye.  With the moving tide we knew we could not wait to try to drift off, I turned to starboard and gassed the engine in reverse which pulled us back until we were stopped by more rock.  Back and forth we went and finally backed us off of the reef.  I wasn't worried about any damage as we did not hit anything too hard.  But I was really glad to get off it.  A powerboat of weekend warriors came flying by pointing and laughing.  I guess we deserved it.  I now knew that this wasn't a sand pile or mud pile, but a rock and it goes much further than what you can see on the surface.  If you look at the picture below you can see rocks coming out of the water a good ways away from this obstruction.

 This area is littered with rocky outcrops with most below the water.  Keeping a good distance between this reef is a good idea.  In fact, make sure you stay on the North side of it as the water depth is not deep enough for a keeled boat during normal tides.

This picture was taken from Cliffwood Beach shore. You can just look out an imagine how shallow this water is.

To think this was once an exciting boardwalk with thousands of people visiting each year.  Cliffwood Beach had a great boardwalk, large swimming pool, a few simple amusement rides, places to eat, beach cabanas, and the area inland was filled with small cottages.  Back in the 40's and 50's the bay was very polluted and only a brave few would swim in the wicked water.  This was why they built a large pool along the bay.    In 1960 Hurricane Donna destroyed the entire boardwalk area and the only thing remaining today is many pilings sticking out of the sand or mud and the remains of the swimming pool can still be found.

But why didn't Cliffwood Beach rebuild this great tourist area.  Just a glance tells you this was the place to go in the 40's and 50's. There has been almost nothing done since the hurricane in 1960. Yes they have put in a few walking trails along the bay, but there is nothing going on from a town level to induce more tourism.

Maybe one day we will see the bay shore developed, but for now it is void of construction or attractions.  The walkway along the bay is a nice place to take a walk, but this is about all that Aberdeen and Cliffwood Beach offer today.


  1. There is another name for the reef and that is Money Island as this is where Captain Kidd alleged buried treasure.

  2. For a number of years we have investigated the tail oh Captain Kidd. You can follow some of this on www.ashworthdive.com where we go over each year