Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stonington Fishing Fleet

"I was proud of my work. And the buildings went up. When they were finished the damnedest thing happened. It was like the buildings were too good for us. Nobody told us that, just felt uncomfortable, that's all."
Paul Dooley in Breaking Away, 1979

These are hard times for commercial fishermen. Depleted fishing stocks, regulations, expensive waterfront real estate, high fuel costs, and foreign competition have all made this a difficult way to earn a living. It is a way of life that is glorified in movies and cable television shows, but like the farms on Long Island's east end, and much of Main Street-America, it is dying a slow death.

In his book In The Village (1971), Anthony Bailey described Stonington as a place where "the old know the young, the rich know the poor, the year-rounders know the summer people---and the man you hoot at in town meeting might be your boss."

Stonington still has a Main Street, but the borough has been gentrified, and fishermen no longer live in the homes that line the narrow lanes. Sometimes, this is just a case of simple economics. But in other cases, there seems to be additional factors at work.

 It is the fishing that gave Stonington its unique appeal, and distinguished it from the other cute New England towns. It is that appeal that has drawn people here. The flip side is that fishing also brings large trucks rolling through town, foul odors, and early morning noise. People who were originally attracted to the charm, view these aspects as a nuisance. The fishing industry becomes secondary to the real estate and boutique industry.

To its credit, Stonington has worked hard to preserve the last remaining commercial fleet in Connecticut. The docks are publicly accessible, and a Blessing Of the Fleet is held every summer.
If you visit, it is important to be careful. This is a working waterfront and one needs to be aware of their surroundings. Be respectful, and stay out of their way. These men have a job to do, and they are not there as a tourist attraction.

Blessing Of The Fleet

Stonington Historical Society: Portuguese Fishermen
CT Coastal Access: Town Docks and Memorial
Mystic Seaport: Stonington Oral History Project
NY Times: And The Fleet Will Fish (1994)

credit: Breaking Away; Twentieth Century Fox, 1979
credit: In The Village; Anthony Bailey; Knopf, New York 1971

Long Island Sound

Long Island Sound
I see it as it looked one afternoon In August, 
by a fresh soft breeze o'erblown
The swiftness of the tide,
 the light thereon A far off sail,
 white as a crescent moon
The shining waters with pale currents strewn
The quiet fishing shacks, the Eastern cove
The semi-circle of its dark green cove
The luminous grasses,
 and the merry sun
In the grave sky, 
the sparkle far and wide
Laughter of unseen children,
 cheerful chirps Of crickets,
 and low lisp of rippling tide
Light summer clouds
 fantastical as sleep
Changing un-noted,
 while I gaze thereon
All these fair sounds and sights
 I made my own
Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Research Vessel Seawolf

Stony Brook University, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Research Vessel Sea Wolf, Port Jefferson Harbor, January 2009 RV Seawolf Stony Brook University: School of Atmospheric Sciences Seawolf: Specifications Flickr: Seawolf at Sunset

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pelham Cemetery , City Island

When I was about seven years old, my family and I went to visit my grandfather in Vermont one winter. I can't recall a lot of the details from the vacation, but there is something that happened during the trip that I remember to this day. Our green Buick station-wagon loaded down with kids, luggage and a dog, made its way through the depressed towns of upstate New York that straddle New England, until we reached Hoosick Falls. Just outside of town, a traffic jam had formed on a desolate stretch of abandoned farmhouses and shuttered Dairy-Queen type businesses. I don't know how long we sat in traffic, but we eventually crawled along and reached a bridge that spans the Hoosac River, where a cop directing traffic informed my father that two kids had fallen through the ice. The following day, the newspapers reported that the two young boys had drowned. There were photos of them on the front page. They were about my age. Thirty years later, I was spending a lot of time in City Island. I kept my boat there and had gotten to know many of the residents who inhabit this small island that is connected to the Bronx by a bridge and taxes. On a January night while I was flying to San Diego, four young men decided to row a small boat from City Island over to neighboring Hart Island, a potters field for the City of New York. Their boat took on water, and a 911 distress call was the last words heard from them. A day later, a guitar belonging to one of the teenagers was found in this cemetery. This made national news in a limited way. I remember reading a small story about it in the Los Angeles Times. My flight home approached LaGuardia Airport right above this small body of water that separates the two islands, and the two graveyards. As spring approached, a hovering helicopter was an indication that another body had been recovered. I did not know these young men, but I have heard many good things about them. They unfortunately made a stupid mistake, and it cost them their lives. Pelham Cemetery sits on the eastern shore of City Island, with Hart Island in the distance. A sort of morbid version of the Haves looking out at the Have-Nots. The Remembered looking out at The Forgotten. New York Times: Search Effort Fails To Find Four Teens Kingston Lounge: Hart Island (photos) The Hart Island Project Map

Stonington Lobster Boat

Stonington Harbor, March 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Long Neck Point From Contentment Island

Long Neck Point From Contentment Island John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872) Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Antiques & The Arts Online: John Kensett And the Connecticut Shore

Dredging The Nissequogue

Nissequogue River dredging project, Kings Park, January 2009 Map

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Napatree Point

It is hard to walk this shore without thinking of the Hurricane of 1938. Seventy years ago, the full force of that September storm hit Napatree Point, altering it's landscape severely. Thirty-nine summer homes, as well as several beach clubs were washed away, with fifteen lives lost on this narrow stretch alone. The land itself was transformed too, as Sandy Point was separated by water from Napatree and became (and remains) an island.
Napatree Point also represents the northeastern border to Long Island Sound. The glacial moraine that forms the North Fork of Long Island continues across the Sound, rising above sea level on several islands, before reaching the mainland in Watch Hill. From here I watched the open sea roll through the narrow stretch of water between Fishers Island and Napatree. The currents run strong here, although not as much as they do in the Race and Plum Gut. In the distance, several early season fisherman worked the tides of Sugar Reef Passage.
Napatree Point is managed by the Watch Hill Conservancy, and there are signs posted reminding visitors to avoid the sand dunes and nesting areas. I have read somewhere that this is a popular spot for viewing owls in the winter. I did not see any owls, but I did spot a seal sunning himself in the morning sun. In the past, I had only witnessed seals from a far distance, so it really made my morning to be able to view one close-up.
I walked the full length of the point, eventually reaching the ruins of Fort Mansfield (this will be a separate post). From here, I crossed over to the north side of the peninsula and worked my way back. North of me was the shallow waters of Little Narragansett Bay, a popular anchorage in the summer season. I took one last look at the island of Sandy Point, and tried to imagine what it looked like before 1938.
In the end, nature always wins.

Map Community Walk
YouTube: Kayak Surfing Off Napatree
Providence Journal: Napatree Point
Napatree 1938: Before & After Photo (scroll down)
New York Times: Remembering The Great Hurricane
SOUNDBOUNDER: September 21,1938

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Harbor Seal At Napatree

Full Tilt Sailing Blog: Harbor Seal In Milford (video) New York Times: Return Of The Seals Kings Point Waterfront: Harbor Seal At Kings Point

Friday, March 6, 2009

USCG Coastal Patrol Boat

United States Coast Guard Vessel SAILFISH, New London Harbor, February 2009 Home Port: Sandy Hook, New Jersey USCG:87' Coastal Patrol Boat Sailfish:New York Harbor Fleet Week 2007 USCG: Sector Long Island Sound USCG Academy, New London, CT Note: The Mystery Ship in my previous post has been identified. It is the Spirit Of Massachusetts and it was recognized by Steve at Shooting My Universe. Steve photographs the coastal towns on Cape Ann, MA, which include Gloucester and Rockport. He really is an excellent photographer. Be sure to visit his site.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mystery Ship

I took this photograph last June somewhere east of the Connecticut River. Under normal circumstances, I most likely would have taken the time to get a better look at her. But this was late in the afternoon of a hazy day, and thunderheads were rising in the murky sky to the west. A few rumbles could be heard in the distance.Rather than sail alongside her for some additional photos and a better view, I quickly dropped the sails and steered a direct course for port. Sure enough, the thunderstorm arrived shortly after, and I was fortunate to already be ashore with the boat fastened securely to her mooring. I never did find out what ship this was. My first guess was that it was one of the excursion or educational ships that sail out of Mystic. However, looking around online, and in person, I have not found any local ships that match her description.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sports Illustrated Cover Story, 1954

In an era when sports athletes are celebrities, and tabloids are sometimes indistinguishable from from the sports pages, it is hard to believe that a sailboat race on Long Island Sound would be the cover story for a national sports publication. This 1954 Sports Illustrated issue came long before advertisers and the board of directors played a major role in editing, and terms like target market were not so scientific and strict. Browsing through old issues of Sports Illustrated, I found stories on fishing, canoeing, and scuba diving, alongside stories about Willie Mays and Johnny Unitas. They wrote about all sorts of sporting activities, not just the big dollar spectator sports. This consolidation has been happening for at least 30 years in all forms of media and marketing. But targeting a specific demographic or niche has not provided a more in-depth result. Radio stations for example, have become less and less eclectic, while at the same time narrowing their play lists to a small sample of songs that we hear over and over again. Boating magazines seem to run the same generic articles every year about some tycoon in the Mediterranean. Skiing magazines often ignore the large numbers of skiers who do not board a jet to go skiing. Hiking magazines have taken a page from VH-1, and devote every issue to lists of the "Top Ten Boots" or the "Top Outdoor People On Twitter" (I kid you not). It wasn't my intention but this is starting to sound like a rant. Perhaps it is a sign of getting older, but I constantly feel as if nothing is targeting me. Even in pastimes that I am passionate about, I often feel as if the marketers are ignoring me. In the rare instances when they are not ignoring me, they are trying to convert, rather than cater to me. Does this happen to anyone else? Am I part of a demographic that Madison Avenue views as too much trouble? Maybe I should be careful about what I wish for. I may be disappointed with the role that target audiences play, but that doesn't mean I want to join them. There are benefits to not being targeted, and I think I would be uncomfortable if it were any other way. Sports Illustrated: Cover Archives photo credit: Richard Meek, Sports Illustrated, 9/6/1954

It's Not Spring Yet

How much of human life is lost in waiting?
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I like winter. I have never been one to complain about the cold, and I actually enjoy when it snows. I do not have any dreams of retiring in Phoenix, Arizona, or Orlando, Florida. In fact, the years when I did live in warmer climates, I often found myself missing the change in seasons. This winter has been fairly moderate, with some extreme cold temperatures in late December and January, followed by a rather mild February. Snowfall has been limited to just a few isolated storms. Regardless of how mild a winter may be, when March arrives, I am ready for spring. I may enjoy winter, but only for a few months. With the days getting longer and February behind us, I no longer enjoy thinking about the possibility of snow. Any progress I felt by turning a page on the calendar, was quickly offset by reading this weeks forecast. Spring weather will be here soon, but not soon enough. In the meantime, winter will drag on. MARCH: Quotations WEATHER: Execution Rocks Weather Buoy