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