Wednesday, June 30, 2010


There is always something interesting to see on the Mystic River. Grayling is a 65' sardine carrier that was built in East Boothbay, Maine in 1915. Converted and restored in the 1990's,  she is often  seen on her mooring east of Noank.
Heading out for a recent sunset sail, I swung wide through the mooring field to catch a closer view.

Soundings: A Lifetime Of Boats
Page Traditional Boats: Specifications & Photos (scroll down)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Power Crazy: Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant

The Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant has been in the news my entire life. When I was 3 months old, plans were announced in 1965 for three nuclear power plants to be built on Long Island: Lloyd Harbor, Jamesport, and Shoreham.  While the Lloyd Harbor plan was killed in 1970, and Jamesport never left the drafting table,  construction began on the Shoreham plant in 1973. Today, it remains the only completed nuclear power plant to never generate electricity.
This is not a No-Nukes post; I personally believe nuclear power should play a vital role in our domestic energy policy. Instead, this is a post against Bad Ideas. Shoreham was riddled with them .

  1. The plant was to be situated near the path of airplanes landing at MacArthur Airport and the New Haven Airport.

  2. It was to be built in an area that the U.S. Air Force had designated as "high hazard" due to its proximity to the Calverton Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant, where Grumman military fighter planes were tested, which was five miles from the Shoreham site

  3. Evacuation plans called for the 3 million residents of Long Island to seek safety by automobile transportation, westward via New York City bridges.
I am certainly no expert on nuclear safety and evacuation procedures, but #3 hangs out there like a big matzo ball. Doesn't sound like much of a plan. Long Island has one way in, and one way out. Building a nuclear power plant there made about as much sense as building one in Wellfleet or Key West.
My day in Shoreham was not all a loss. I eventually made it back to Rocky Point and had a wonderful dinner with Marianna and Ralph. She is from Italy via Japan, while he is from Berlin. They are in Long Island For A Year while Ralph works at Brookhaven National Labratory. Good food, good company, great conversation!

One must wait for the sundown to see how splendid the day has been
— Sophocles

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Power Crazy: Shoreham Breakwater

At the eastern end of Shoreham Beach, the ill fated Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant comes into view.  It sits about a thousand feet inland along the Wading River, which serves as the border between the towns of Riverhead and Brookhaven. A hundred feet south of the beach there are fences with signs warning people to "keep out". With no intention of trespassing, I stayed close to the waterline as I continued eastward. There was a jetty ahead with a dozen or so people on it, and I decided to take a closer look.

It is a relatively safe jetty that was easy to walk, and there were no signs stating that it was private property. There was a couple sharing a boxed lunch while the others all appeared to be fishing. Halfway out, I heard a horn being blasted from the beach area behind me. Turning around, I saw a security-type SUV with two large men approaching the breakwater.
I would never succeed as a tabloid reporter. My camera is able to record video, but at that moment, it never occured to me. Instead of filming what was taking place, I slipped the camera back into my pocket as the two men approached.
The only thing he said to me was "You're under arrest, stand over there" as he pointed to the beach area adjacent to the jetty. They never identified themselves, and there was no logo on their shirts, but I knew they were not cops. I assumed they were from the power plant, but I was not completely sure.
I really wanted to explain to them that I was scheduled to be in Rocky Point for dinner at 6 pm. But, rather than dig myself into a bigger hole, I followed orders and walked back to the beach. They proceeded to round everyone up as they made their way out the jetty. Some sort of confusion developed with one group, and at that moment, I made the decision to run. Sweaty and out of breath, I reached the car and got the hell out of Dodge.
Soundbounder the fugitive!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Power Crazy: Shoreham Beach

I had never heard of a beach being closed on Fathers Day weekend before. There have been threats of closings that were fortunately avoided, but I have never arrived at a beach on a summer weekend and found it padlocked. That all changed when I arrived at Shoreham Beach on Saturday.
Winding along North Country Road,  I spotted 7 or 8 cars parked near the entrance to this beach, operated by the town of Brookhaven. My initial reaction was that the parking lot was full, and the overflow resorted to using the shoulder of the road. Perfect weather on a Saturday in June; "the beach is packed" I thought to myself. But as I neared the entrance, I realized the gates were closed. No problemo; I grabbed my bag and began the half mile trek up the access road that leads to the beach.
It was an easy walk, but I was by myself and traveling light. If I had children with me and several items to carry, it would not have been feasible. I found myself brainstorming different scenarios as to why the beach was closed: was the road ahead washed out; maybe there was some sort of contamination from the nearby Shoreham plant; or perhaps there was another entrance I was unaware of.
While there are many stretches of  Long Island Sound I am quite familiar with, the 25 miles dividing Port Jefferson from Mattituck remain mostly a mystery to me. With no harbors, the towns along this uninterupted shoreline were never a place to visit by boat. Other than a few scenic-route drives returning from Greenport, my only exposure to this area has been from several miles offshore.
It is a long, lonely, shoreline that is mostly deserted, except for the occasional shore club or town beach, spread out at the bottom of a ravine. Atop the bluffs, a water tower and random house are all that break the horizon and allow one to mark their progress. A dune buggy, or a fisherman in an old jeep might be the only welcome distractions. 

Arriving at the beach, I found just a handful of people scattered across the endless sand. I wanted to find out why the beach was closed. Near the pathway that descends the bluff, I asked a couple who were leaving, but they only responded by shouting "What?", before continuing on their way. Another group of 5 made sure to look away as I approached. Maybe I looked like a town constable, I don't know.
But as I started walking eastward along the beach, I noticed a girl about my age (alright, a middle aged woman), with way too much makeup and too small a bathing suit, staring at me. She yelled something out to me, that I didn't comprehend.  JACKPOT!!!!
Her name was Michelle and she wanted to know if the gates were still closed.  I told her they were, and she proceeded to tell me the different theories as to why the beach was closed. Lying on her back and moving her legs in a windshield-wiper motion, she said she had heard several stories. One story claimed Brookhaven was overrun with illegal immigrants using the beach. Another involved late night parties and vandalism. The third was that the town was broke and could not afford to open the beach.
She asked me if I wanted to hang around, but I told her I had plans to meet some friends in Rocky Point later in the day. "Oh you are meeting friends" she responded. Rather than waste the next hour convincing her I was straight, I bid farewell and wandered eastward. In retrospect, I really should have taken a picture of her; she was a piece of work.
I continued on, meeting a college couple with a kayak and fishing pole, who were just waking up, and two ederly men with their grandchildren in a beached dory loaded with the summer essentials. They all told me  variations of the same stories. I found it odd that the reasons a beach was closed on a June weekend was still left to speculation and rumour. Why was there no community outrage? Was there a community? Had these small agricultural and weekend towns sold their soul to CVS and Home Depot long ago? Were the hungover college lovers, the two grandpas, Ms Cameltoe, and myself, the only people determined to visit a beach instead of spending a summer day at the mall?

Personally, I don't buy any of the reasons for closing Shoreham Beach! If there has been vandalism or trouble after-hours, restricting access to everyone does nothing to resolve the issue. Turning the beach into an abandoned park solves nothing. It only punishes those who are not a problem. As for the budget issues, in the broad sweep of things, beaches and parks are not the reason towns are broke. Also, it would be interesting to see how many corporations in the town of Brookhaven are screaming about socialism, yet also receive taxpayer subsidies.
There is more to this story, but it will take me 3 posts to complete. About a year ago, I wrote a post stating that if I was using a grading system, Caumsett State Park would receive an A, maybe an A+. I never chose to implement that grading system, but if I did, Shoreham Beach, despite its beauty, would receive an F, maybe an F-.

To be continued

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clouds In The Sound

Clouds In The Sound  by Del-Bourree Bach

Mystic Seaport: Artist Biography

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Ocean House

A landmark is one of those words that has a different meaning ashore than it does at sea. On land, it is mostly used to describe a historic or signature building that is often a popular attraction. When navigating however, the word still maintains its traditional usage: a structure or geographic feature that is easily recognized; a reference point. The Ocean House in Watch Hill fits both definitions.
On the 20-plus mile, harborless passage from Point Judith, it is this building I first spot as I make my way west towards Long Island Sound. There is a lighthouse nearby, but it is no match for the large yellow victorian with the mansard roof, rising high above the bluff.
Built in 1868, the Ocean House was one of many grand hotels that dotted the shoreline. While Block Island still boasts several of these grand old ladies, most others have been lost to fire, redevelopement, and plain old decay. In the past few decades, it seemed as if the Ocean House would meet a similar fate. Each time I saw her, she looked a little more rundown, and by the late 1990's large portions of the building were no longer in use. Unable to meet the fire-code, she closed in 2003. A new owner drew up plans to build 5 McMansions on the site.
Efforts were made to save the hotel, but it was not until New York investor Charles M Royce stepped in that it became a possibility. Hoping to restore the building, it was soon determined that the structure was too far gone and would need to be replaced. Rather than  restore, Royce would replicate. Thousand of items including fireplaces and moldings were salvaged before the original Ocean House met the wrecking ball in 2005.
The rebuilt Ocean House is now open, though after looking at their rates ($1700/weekend for 2-meals not included) I won't be staying there tonight. Yet when I am in Watch Hill, I will often walk  by and take a look. And when I am 7 miles from shore, I will be looking for her too. As with all good landmarks, I just like knowing she is there.

Art In Ruins: Original Ocean House (photos)
Hartford Courant: New Ocean House Opens
Centerbrook: To Save It We Had To Destroy It

References: Summer By The Seaside: New England Coastal Resorts
photo credit: original Ocean House (bottom) Art In Ruins

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thomas Oyster House

On the grounds of Mystic Seaport, sits the former building of the Thomas Oyster Company. Constructed circa 1874, this house stood in the City Point (aka Oyster Pt) section of New Haven. According to the museum, New Haven was once the largest oyster distribution center in New England.
I haven't visited City Point in years, and a post about this unique neighborhood is long overdue. In the meantime, the links below provide some photos and history of the former oyster capital.

Mystic Seaport: Thomas Oyster House
City Point: Historic Photos
New Haven Preservation Trust: City Point 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hometown Huntington

Trustee Park, Cold Spring Harbor, April 2010

To me, Huntington has always meant Huntington Harbor and nearby Huntington Station. The town of Huntington however, also includes Cold Spring Harbor, Centerport, Northport, along with Eatons and Lloyds Neck. The town is a diverse and attractive collection of harbors and villages that creates one of the more appealing stretches of Long Island Sound. It also has a large number of parks and beaches.
On Monday, June 7, WLIW will premier Hometown Huntington at 8 pm. The program looks at the town's maritime past, as well as the people who live there today. WLIW asked me to put this post together, and although I have not seen the program, I agreed without hesitation. Their Shoreline Sonata and Leisurama programs were both excellent pieces of work. If Hometown Huntington was made with the same quality and detail, then it is certainly worth viewing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Morgan Point Lighthouse

Morgan Point Lighthouse, Noank
First Lit: 1868
Decommissioned: 1919

Lighthouse Friends (map included)
Soundbounder: Sandra & Michelle
Soundbounder: Morgan Point

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sara Elizabeth

Sarah Elizabeth departs Stonington in heavy fog. May 2010

Soundbounder: Fog Happens
CT Coastal Access Guide: Stonington Town Dock & Memorial