Cape Cod Tin Boat Mafia Stomping Grounds EP. 1

From the bayou to the Rocky Mountains, and the depths of the Pacific to the sandbars of New England, our Stomping Grounds video series showcases boaters across America explaining why they love their boat and what features make it the perfect vessel for their neck of the woods.

In this episode we travel to the outer reaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts to visit a tight-knit, family-oriented group of aluminum boat owners dubbed the “Tin Boat Mafia”. These boaters reflect on the merits of turning to their beloved waterways as a means of staying socially connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. From fishing and surfing to sun bathing and building driftwood masterpieces, this episode chronicles the gang’s passion for the water and demonstrates why light-weight, easy-to-handle, shallow-water, aluminum fishing boats are their vessels of choice for reaching their favorite boat destinations.

Above: Stomping Grounds Episode One: The Tin Boat Mafia. Full length version – subscribe to YouTube.com/BoatTrader to follow the series.

The Tin Boat Mafia: A Motley Crew

Stomping Grounds host Ryan McVinney talks to some of the laid-back Tin Boat Mafia members, who are the ‘Salt of the Earth’ type of characters that Steinbeck wrote about in many of his books. Dawn is irresistibly warm and defiant. Charles is the type of man who doesn’t walk down the street without a head nod of acknowledgement from passers-by – and then there’s Jol and his wife Sue who are the glue that holds this group together.

As Ryan talks to the crew- you get the sense they enjoy seizing the moment, and yet they yearn to stretch the day out, savoring small changes in nature. This beautiful, peaceful place has a culture of its own, and locals have a deep appreciation for simple things: boats, family, community and nature.

On the weekends, they can be found at the bars – not the kind of bar you may be thinking of – but the charming sandbars of Cape Cod’s outer barrier beaches.

Untouched Beauty. From The Great Marsh To The Barrier Beaches

Wild and natural marshes spread out into the sea. The raw, ruggedness of nature here is a haven for biodiversity. The marshland scenery evokes a desire to be somewhere just as peaceful and serene. The marshes and ponds provide habitats that are home to a diverse variety of wildlife. A prominent feature of the outer cape is these great marshlands that stretch for miles, broken only by shifting sands and natural canals that carve the tall grasses into a maze of green and blue.

From the Cape Cod National Seashore to the Barrier beaches beyond, this area is stunningly beautiful. In 1961, President Kennedy signed the Cape Cod National Seashore bill setting aside roughly 44,000 acres and nearly 40 miles of pristine natural coastline along the Cape’s Atlantic-facing eastern coastline. In Cape Cod, boating isn’t completely straightforward, at least that is unless you are a local. Knowledge of the local tides is integral to getting around Cape Cod’s marshes and over the many shallow bars and shoals by boat.

Tin Boats: The Preferred Choice Of Locals

Tin boats (aka aluminum boats) are the boat of choice around here. They are designed to deal with the shallow sandbars and skinny waters around the barrier beaches, marshes and sandbars of outer Cape Cod. These boats are primarily all-welded hulls, so they are super sturdy and can take a beating. They are also relatively small (averaging around 16 feet) and lightweight, which means that they are easy to maneuver, quite nippy, and easy to tow. Some of the outer shoals in Cape Cod can only be accessed by a tin boat.

Another reason that aluminum boats are the boat of choice around here is that they are renowned for holding their value; aluminum doesn’t rust or deteriorate over time (it can corrode but if maintained properly they will last a lifetime). And they are also tend to merely sip fuel as well, as opposed to many other gas guzzlers out there. These characteristics make this type of boat a great, sustainable option with a low environmental impact. They are also incredibly strong, durable and easy to fix. If they do become dented, the costs to repair them are relatively low.

The Tin Boat Mafia uses aluminum fishing boats for their overall efficiency because they are incredibly lightweight, weighing a third less than steel boats. Their lightweight structure means that they glide through the water and they use less fuel making them incredibly economic and more fuel efficient. This means that they perform better on the water, as well as offering a more shallow draft (how much water a boat needs to float) which means that they are particularly well suited to shallow waters.

Aluminum vs. Fiberglass Boats

Aluminum and fiberglass boats each have their advantages and disadvantages and which one is best for your personal needs depends on your priorities. Dawn, one of the members of the Tin Boat Mafia, enjoys having a lightweight boat that suits her because she regularly shifts her craft in and out of the water for day trips, with her daughter launching it every weekend.

Boaters who regularly cruise through open, choppy seas may opt for a fiberglass boat as they are renowned for their seakeeping skills. Whereas boaters who often ply the waters of boulder-strewn rivers, for example, commonly opt for lightweight aluminum boats since hull damage could be a perpetual issue with a fiberglass boat.

“Local Knowledge Is Best” When Navigating Shoals And Sandbars

If you’re not a local you will probably find navigating the cuts and narrow channels in the outer marshes tricky. The tides ebb and flow, constantly changing the underwater landscape. Deep water often gives away suddenly to near three-inch deep sandbars. Strong currents to and fro and the captain has to constantly adjust to keep the boat on course and avoid the boat running aground. Every year, there’s a different way to do it. And if you’re lucky, there’s some marks laid out that are usually not out there early. The locals look at the colour of the water- a darker blue is a sign that they are in deeper water.

Dawn comments on navigating her way through the shallow marshes out to the Barrier beach, “It’s a challenge, to say the least, we don’t have the flow of water we used to have because when the tides come over with the storms, it’s bringing all the sand. Dave had a plane so we would fly over early with the plane at low tide and check out where the sandbars are, and I would take pictures and so forth. In storm fixtures, everything is different.”
“Every year there’s a different way to do it,” Jol continues. “If you’re lucky, there’s some markers laid out…and sometimes they’re wrong. So you really have to look at the color of water – darke blue is usually deeper water.”

Hanging Around: Herds of Seals

If you come out to the Barrier beach by boat, you are bound to run into a lot of seals. Their heads come out of the water one by one. The seals are one of the primary reasons why great white sharks frequent the area. There have been some issues with great white sharks colliding with swimmers and surfers. As a result, swimmers are warned to remain in waist-deep water where possible and avoid areas where sharks have been previously spotted.

Ebb and Flow: Timing and Adventure!

When the tide goes away, you can reach the outer shoals where they come up, and they’re great places to walk and sit in the sun and talk and have lunch. You have to get out in time to pick a sandbar. When the tide comes up, and the sandbars disappear, nature’s cue that it is time for everybody to cruise back home.

Stomping Grounds: From Our Homelands And Beyond By Boat

Ryan McVinney, a presenter for household boat brands in the industry, talks about his homeland in a way that we all should wish to strive to feel about our home. Proud. Reflective. But most importantly- his eyes are wide open to the world around him.

Tracker® Boats Featured: 2021 SUPER GUIDE™ V-16 SC

Tracker Boats is highlighted as a manufacturer of outstanding aluminum fishing boats, with a 2021 SUPER GUIDE™ V-16 SC fishing boat featured throughout the episode. This shallow draft aluminum boat comes equipped with two fishing chairs that can be moved to any of 5 pedestals onboard for easy casting and versatile capabilities. Equipped with a 50 HP Mercury outboard, she is fast and nimble on the water, not to mention lightweight, which is valuable on the sandbars and shoals of Cape Cod.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Stomping Grounds. You can guarantee to learn about new cultures, unique ecosystems, tight-knit boating communities, and local history.

Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and boats.com. She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.

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