Friday, September 30, 2011

Old Harbor

Sometime around Labor Day the light begins to noticeably change. It's subtle at first; only recognizable in the hours surrounding dawn and dusk. By the middle of September, however, it becomes obvious even to those not paying attention. Gone is the haze, the glare, the short shadows, and the long summer days.

Block Island in the summer sometimes feels like a spring break inspired theme park for the middle-aged. Old Harbor, with its ferry-terminal, and tipsy balance of Victorian architecture, bars and moped rentals grows too crowded, expensive, and commercialized. The views can be spectacular here, but they often go unnoticed as you weave your way between the taxicabs and foot traffic along Water Street.

In September, the tempo around Old Harbor begins to change. The ferries still run regularly, but the traffic, while steady, is no longer overwhelming. The carnival atmosphere gives way to a working waterfront which reappears from the shadows of waffle cones and Bacardi umbrellas.

Old Harbor once had a sizable commercial fleet, but the Great Depression, combined with the Hurricane of '38 provided a knockout blow. Now, the logistics of an island fishing industry are no longer economically feasible on a large scale. Seafood not sold to local restaurants and inns, needs to be transported again to distribution centers on the mainland. Today the fleet is more modest and specialized.

As the crowds thin however, the island's past image as an outpost in the Atlantic comes back into view. Commercial boats chased away by the limited summer space, will once again use the docks as a convenient layover port. Transoms which read Point Judith, Montauk, and Stonington lie berthed alongside the native fleet.

The light is different this time of year, the boats in the harbor are different too.

Boating Local: Destination Block Island
Providence Journal: Saving Block Island
Boating Local: Old Harbor Bulkhead Repair
Providence Library: Old Harbor Fleet 1930's
Soundbounder: Block Island North Light

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Cos Cob Pelican

Mianus River, Greenwich, September 26

Friday, September 16, 2011


My days in Greenport often include numerous visits to the commercial fishing dock. I never plan it that way, but after an early morning walk up Front Street for coffee and a newspaper, a short detour along the waterfront usually seems like a good idea. 

Many of the boats have already left for the day, but a few remain behind to work on their gear. One boat appears to have a never-ending problem with her starboard engine. I keep a low profile and linger for only a short time. Making my way to the end of the pier, I gaze across to Shelter Island and her approaching ferry reflecting in the sunrise.
Later in the day, I often walk this pier again; creating a matching bookend to my day on the North Fork. Many of the boats have now returned, leaving the docks wet and slippery, with the smell of fish filling the air. I make a conscious effort to stay out of their way.

Every so often, I'm recognized by a fisherman who saw me here previous times. They give me a strange look, and I am never quite sure if they think I am an inspector, or just some bored tourist who doesn't know what to do with his time.
I really should tell him that I'm just someone who likes old boats and fresh fish!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Phragmites Park

At the southern tip of Northport Harbor is the eleven-acre Phragmites Park. Wedged between some residential neighborhoods, the entrance to the preserve is easy to miss when traveling along Route 25A. Like many coastal access spaces, this nature area is known by several names, including Twin Ponds Park and most recently, Betty Allen Preserve-North.

Once used as a dumping site for the dredged spoils from nearby bays, this stretch of shoreline began an extensive wetlands restoration project in 2002. While I'm certainly not an authority on the subject, the results appear to be a notable success.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Northport area. It's a pretty harbor with an attractive and walkable waterfront, populated by a citizenry which appears committed to maintaining it. My afternoon spent at Phragmites Preserve only reinforced this belief.

Pbase: Northport Photos
Wikimapia: Betty Allen Preserve
NYNJCT Botany: Hiking Betty Allen/Twin Ponds
Note: I didn't visit the area south of Rte 25A. That will have to be done another time

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Beached Sailboat

Beached Sailboat; Early Street, City Island

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Summer House At City Island Yacht Club

Much of the destruction from Tropical Storm Irene has been well documented this week, but some damage  has gone largely unreported. The pier at the City Island Yacht Club is one such example.

Extending out over the waters of this century-old club, the pier, or Summer House, was more than just a launch-dock for boat owners; it served as a focal point for socializing too. On hot summer evenings, the benches here were a popular spot to relax while enjoying the breezes off of Eastchester Bay. The racing team from Columbia University kept their sailboats here, as well.
Back in my City Island days, I spent many evenings on this dock, gazing out at the mooring field with the East River bridges and Manhattan skyline twinkling in the distance. Good times!    

 Fortunately, plans for rebuilding are already underway.

City Island Yacht Club
City Island Sailing: More Photos