Monday, September 27, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
There are thin slices in the year when everything seems to come together. The winds pick up, the skies are clear, the crowds disappear, and the world is yours. It's as if someone left you the keys to paradise since they won't be needing it any longer. It's a time of year I feel most comfortable in and around Long Island Sound. A moment in time when even a place like East Hampton becomes my long-lost hometown.
If I were a film director, I might very well have situated a coming of age movie in Sag Harbor and Shelter Island Sound. I spent many summers here working aboard a 53' Hatteras and calling these waters my own. Along with Norwalk in my high school years, it is where everything, good or bad seemed to happen to me between ages 18 and 24.
But time rolls over everything, and I no longer have the attachments I once had to Sag Harbor. The docks in town are terribly expensive, and much of the atmosphere has changed too. The little bar I used to visit is now an upscale restaurant with a name I can't pronounce. The bookstore is gone; so too is the hardware store ; and few seem to remember any of the names of people I once knew here.
While the towns have changed, the waters never do!
Just east of Shelter Island and northeast of Sag Harbor is an anchorage I refer to as Cedar Point. Cruising guides rarely mention it, and when they do, it is just a line or two. The charts call it Northwest Harbor, but I have yet to meet someone who uses this name. While never crowded, the anchorage can be uncomfortable in the summer months from the wash of passing mega-yachts circumventing Shelter Island. When the late summer winds are not too strong however, from the south or west, it becomes an ideal location for a night on the hook.
The surrounding land is part of Suffolk County's 600 acre Cedar Point Park. Much like Napatree Point, it is a narrow sand spit dividing the calmer waters on one side from the more exposed. And just like Napatree, the land here was altered by the Hurricane of 1938. Prior to that storm, the 1860 lighthouse and western half of the point had been an island.
Rowing ashore, we had the beach all to ourselves. While the south shoreline was hot and windless, the northern side had enough breeze to remind us that these warm days were numbered. We managed to walk a good portion of the peninsula, catching the view of a fishing boat passing every now and then.. By late afternoon, with the sun already low in the sky, we were back aboard for an early dinner.
The shorter days make it seem much later aboard than it actually is. It's as if I enter a different time-zone and need to set my watch forward, the moment I cast the lines. There was no activity on the water and only a few stray lights could be seen in the distance. Surrounded by darkness and silence, along with the warmth of an extra blanket, I was asleep before 9 p.m..
Why is it that a 50 degree September morning feels colder than 30 degrees in January? It is one of the mysteries of the world to me. It was not yet dawn when I awoke, but I had no desire to climb out of my bunk to check the time. After unsuccessfully trying to sleep a bit more, I soon noticed the skies through the cabin portholes, slowly changing from black to pale. In no good humor, I abandoned my bunk and faced the chill of early day.
I lit the stove and lingered alongside it, embracing the traces of heat while the coffee brewed. The wind was calm, with just the sound of water slapping lightly against the hull. Sliding back the companionway hatch, I was greeted by the sunrise of another spectacular day. I climbed on deck, easily reminded of why I loved it here so much. It was good to be back.
Soundbounder: Cedar Point Lighthouse
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I see this often: an appealing waterfront park is overshadowed by a grander, more famous one nearby. That seems to be the case with Five Islands Park in New Rochelle. Tucked away at the end of a narrow road lined with municipal garages and a water treatment plant, is this 15 acre city park of small islands connected by a series of bridges.
While many are familiar with nearby Glen Island, this unique space along Echo Bay remains somewhat obscure. Five Islands doesn't have the Jazz-Age design or manicured feel of Glen Island, but instead has a more natural, even rugged landscape. Pathways wander through wooded areas skirting an untamed shoreline of exposed bedrock and glacial erratics. It is easy to imagine this is what Glen Island looked like a century ago.
As with many shoreline parks, the big drawback here is that Five Islands is restricted to city residents. But on a recent September visit, I had no trouble entering the park and enjoying the beauty of a sunny, late summer afternoon.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Play music, walk on the beach. I won't be far from reach.
There are a large number of memorials honoring the September 11th victims in the shoreline towns bordering Long Island Sound. East of New Haven and Port Jefferson however, they become less frequent as the grip of Manhattan begins to loosen, and the loss from that day is more indirect.
An exception to this is the Josh Piver Memorial located at Stonington Point. It is a simple, stone bench with a few words inscribed, quietly looking out on the water towards Sandy Point and Little Narragansett Bay.
I did not know this young man, but I often feel as if I did. We had many things in common: like me, he loved the water; he spent his summer vacations working in boatyards; and he attended the University Of Vermont.
Josh was working in One World Trade Center (north tower) on the morning of September 11, 2001. He was just 24 years old.
The Josh Piver Foundation was established by his friends to honor his memory.
One Mom's Lifesong: Honoring Josh Piver
Cantor Fitzgerald Tribute: Joshua Piver
New York Times: Portraits In Grief
Soundbounder: Looking West (September 11, 2009)
New York Times: September 11, Yet Nothing Stops The Tides
CT Coastal Access Guide: Stonington Point
Thursday, September 9, 2010
The Norwalk Seaport Association will hold its 33rd annual Oyster Festival this weekend, September 10,11 and 12th. Located in Veterans Park, the event will feature arts and crafts booths, live music, children's activities, and lots of food.
What started out as a moderately-sized event in 1978 to raise funds and awareness for Norwalk's maritime heritage, has grown into a large, late summer ritual in Fairfield County.
Unfortunately, there were years when the Oyster Festival had become a victim of its own success. As the event grew in size, it seemed to turn its back on the original purpose. Large tents packed with hucksters selling miracle cleaners, Catskill real estate, and singing bass had replaced the harbor tours and other nautical attractions. There were plenty of booths selling fried dough and beef-on-a-stick, but very few oysters. For a while, it had become just another street fair.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one turned off by this. The festival this year will include the return of an oyster pavilion, harbor tours, as well as the Schooners Quinnipiack, and Soundwater. Larry Flynn of Long Tails will also be on hand to give presentations on the wildlife of the Norwalk Islands. I welcome this decision with enthusiasm.
The Norwalk Seaport Association has played a vital role in the rehabilitation of Norwalk Harbor. Their work includes the restoration of Sheffield Island Lighthouse; the preservation of the Norwalk Islands; as well as many environmental and educational programs and projects.
Their purpose is:
"to foster public awareness of our maritime resources, environment and heritage through research, education and preservation; and also to foster the preservation and rehabilitation of the area of historical value in Norwalk Harbor and Long Island Sound."
This weekend's festival serves as the primary fundraising source for the invaluable work they do.
Tickets can be purchased at the gate, or online on their website.
Soundbounder: Norwalk Winter Oystering
Soundbounder: Peck Ledge Lighthouse
Soundbounder: Sheffield Island Ruins
Soundbounder: Norwalk Oyster Plant
CT Plus: Putting The Pearl Back In The Oyster
photo credit: (top) Norwalk Seaport; (bottom) Quinnipiack: SchoonerInc
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tom Richardson of Boating Local paid a visit to Noank recently, and spent a few hours aboard Carina for a tour of the local waters. We visited some obvious landmarks such as the local lighthouses, along with West Harbor on Fishers Island, and a few small islands that dot the charts.
For those of you not familiar with Boating Local, it was started by Tom and several others who previously worked for the now defunct Offshore Magazine (aka Northeast Boating). Based out of Buzzards Bay, the site covers boating and fishing for the entire New England coast. Along with marine-related news, they have done some excellent work profiling the harbors and towns from Connecticut to Maine.
I haven't spent much time in front of a camera and I must admit to being a bit nervous. Maybe not nervous, but certainly aware of the camera at all times and self conscious about it. I'm sure there were entire segments he couldn't use because of my constant slurring and tripping over words.
I did however gain a new appreciation for video work. It is not easy being on a rocking boat and putting together a film segment in a relatively small cockpit with the wind blowing. The camera itself was small, but there were tripods, battery packs, and an assortment of equipment needed to put this together.
One of the nice features about Boating Local is that along with the stories, there are often video segments accompanying them. It is a nice touch that bridges the gap between periodicals and generic, stock footage.
I'll be contributing some stories to Boating Local, and I am glad to be aboard.
Here are some recent profiles of New England harbors:
BoatingLocal Meets Soundbounder: Companion Story To Video
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Recollections of my September visits to Block Island are mostly rose-colored, but in 2008 I spent several days there fearing the force and path of Hurricane Kyle. I am not in Block Island presently, but I have been thinking about that trip quite a bit today.
Much like this week, there were several days of spectacular, late summer weather. In the forecasts however, were the rumblings of a storm one thousand miles to the south. The weather remained golden, but by the fourth day, the forecast grew dimmer and there were slight signs of the approaching storm.
Walking around in Old Harbor, the roar of the surf could be heard smashing ashore. There was still sunshine and mild breezes, but the seas were building. I walked out on the breakwater admiring the surf, but in typical Soundbounder fashion, I went too far. Somewhere beyond the halfway point, I was hit hard by the spray and drenched thoroughly. Is it any wonder my camera has condensation issues?
By evening, the winds arrived and blew for two straight days, reaching a high of 62 mph at 4 AM on the second night. Kyle passed Block Island several hundred miles to the east, eventually reaching landfall in Nova Scotia. Funny, I still regard that vacation as one of my best ever.
I've been thinking about that trip today as Hurricane Earl approaches, and this time it doesn't seem so fun. I have removed Carina's dodger, along with her mainsail to reduce windage. I also added some chafing protection to her mooring lines. Hurricanes can obviously change direction, but at this moment, the path appears to be further east. That means the strongest winds will be from the east and north, which gives Carina better protection in her mooring field. I am off the boat, and will not return until Saturday. Still, I can't help but worry and wonder what else I should have done.
Yes, I look back at Hurricane Kyle with rose-colored glasses, but Hurricane Earle remains an open book.
The Faulkner's Island Light Brigade in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Coast Guard, will hold their annual open house on the weekend of September 11th & 12th. Located about 3 miles from the Guilford shoreline, Faulkner's is part of the Stewart McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. The open house provides visitors a once-a-year opportunity to visit the island along with the 1802 lighthouse.
Ferry service is provided from the Guilford Town Marina, but visitors can also arrive by private boat and anchor, or paddle the 3 mile passage by kayak. Space is limited aboard the ferry and reservations are required.
I attended this for the first time last year, and I highly recommend it. The open house is well organized, and the staff does an excellent job of providing an informative and entertaining visit. This is Connecticut's second oldest lighthouse, and the remote location provides a perspective of Long Island Sound that you otherwise won't get to see.
Faulkner's Island Light Brigade
Soundbounder: Faulkner's Island
New York Times: The "U" In Falkner