On My Way: Walking with Becham on South Beach

The reports of new beach erosion are very real.


Becham dug excitedly, and when he had a hole large enough, he stuffed his nose in, not minding the sand all over his face and in his nostrils. No voles were present.

We were on South Beach, walking out to Norton Point to see where the cut had progressed from one year ago. I also wanted to see the devastation wrought by the southerly storms of the past few months.

More so, I wanted to mark some closure to the recent storm that had howled in our lives. I wanted to see Becham running on the beach and chasing the waves, as alive as the crashing surf.

Becham is my little buddy. He is nearly 9, and is a terrier mix of some 26 pounds. He was a rescue from Arkansas, and has been in the family since he was about 3 months old. He has been my walking companion all those years.

We had a bad scare a month ago. Fluid had bled and filled his heart chamber and his abdomen. His stomach was a water balloon. He could hardly breathe, and his eyes were rolled back in his head. A cancer beyond treatment was suspected. He could die any hour or any day. Our job was to give him love and comfort in the final days of his life.

And then four days later, he began to rebound. His eyes showed some spark, and his abdomen seemed to have emptied. A picture the following week showed his heart chamber had drained. The wonderful veterinarian said she had never seen anything like it in 26 years. It was a miracle.

We came onto the beach at Left Fork. The road was blocked, and a large sign read Do Not Enter. I called the Edgartown Police to confirm the sign did not refer to the beach.

An excavator sat amid an open square of large piles of sand. Great piles of sand lined the road toward Right Fork. Other earthmoving equipment was parked nearby. Becham and I set out.

The erosion was no joke. A section the length of football fields was flattened. The beach, with a slight rise in the center, ran from the ocean all the way across to the shore of Katama Bay. The dunes were gone.

The day was gorgeous, a sunny blue sky and only a 5- to 10-knot wind. The surf rolled and crashed on the shore lazily. What an escape to be on the beach on this day! Becham raced along the waves. The west wind chilled the left side of my face. The right side of my face was warm in the sun.

Sections of dunes further up the beach clung to life. They looked funny for a dune — devoid of most of their sand. They ran up the beach in the shape of a wall with an overhang. The dense beach grass nearly exposed to its roots made its last stand to the ocean.

We made our way for the cut. We passed a dredging pipe from the bay, surrounded by spoils. Becham was in high spirits. I called him back every so often to keep him close.

The beachscape was scraped and smoothed by the wind. Not a single grain of sand was out of place in the rounded mounds. The exquisite shapes flowed one to the other.

The surf washed the shore. The sand clattered and the white foam crackled. The soft crash was melodious. The sea smiled with rows of silver crystal. The ocean never fails.

I turned up to walk along the shores of the bay. The beach ahead was too narrow on the ocean side. I was anxious for Becham. I wanted more of a buffer to the surf.

The beach transformed into more of a Marsscape without the red. Small rocks littered the surface. No beach grass grew. Great quantities of sand had been deposited since last year. A wide, vast plateau swept the barrier of Norton Point.

I looked for the cut. I could see the furthermost end of Katama Bay. This was where the cut should be. I saw no sign. I walked further. I looked some more. The cut was nowhere to be found. I did a double take. I felt sure I was in the right place. Last year, this time, a channel of 30-plus yards width churned, deep with deadly current. The cut had filled.

We kept on. We went beyond the end of the bay. Becham ran ahead to say hello to a woman coming from the Chappy end of the beach. She was gracious, as most folks are when they meet Becham.

A short bluff with some sort of scrub was above the shore. I was convinced my bearings were correct. The cut was not someplace ahead. We went a bit further and then turned back.

The amount of sand moved by the ocean was mind-numbing. Hundreds, if not thousands, of tons of sand seemed to have been deposited in and around where the cut had been. The beach was wider and higher. No heavy earthmoving equipment was required. The construction was all done by the ocean. All of that sand had just floated in the water.

We walked nearly the entire way back along the shores of the bay. The surface of the shore along the water’s edge was blissfully hard where damp sand had frozen. There was a small sea.

Becham took delight on our return. He sniffed clumps of beach grass. He peed where he wanted. He trotted along and stayed near.

The wind was behind us. Long since, I had warmed up and doffed hat and gloves. I opened my vest to let in some of the cool air. I tired on the walk back. My legs burned. My feet were sore.

We crossed over the dredge pipe. Ice froze to the tube that ran into the bay. The dredging was not in current operation. In the distance was Edgartown Harbor. I could almost see boats at mooring.

The last few hundred yards were thick sand. Tire tracks made by heavy trucks or machinery were imprinted. Becham made easy work of the terrain. I trudged step by step, always looking for firmer surface. The end of a terrific walk was in sight.

We came out where we started. A couple of other folks were coming to the beach to view and take pictures. A nice man took a picture of me with my little buddy.