Friday, March 26, 2010


I don't think I have seen this boat before.  While looking around online however, I sooned learned why that is. The Neptune is the sole vessel in the Stonington fleet that fishes for Royal Red Shrimp. Travelling hundreds of miles offshore, she is often at sea for several days at a time. Built in 1967 by Blount Marine of Warren, Rhode Island, the vessel is 76 feet long.
I recently finished reading The Last Fish Tale by Mark Kurlansky, which takes a rather somber look at the commercial fishing industry in Gloucester. While Stonington is not Gloucester, or even Pt Judith, it does surprise me to discover that there is a local boat fishing for shrimp.
A few days after our recent nor'easter, I saw her lying quiet and still along the south pier of the Stonington docks. Her outriggers and nets all shrouded in fog. The one and only shrimp boat in Connecticut's last remaining commercial fishing fleet.

UCONN Seagrant: Royal Red Shrimp- Stonington's Secret
Soundbounder: Stonington Fishing Fleet
CT Coastal Access Guide: Stonington Town Docks
New York Times: Stonington Red Is Catching On

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Memory Motel

In August of 1972, my grandfather on my father's side passed away. It was the first time I was old enough to  have a grasp of what death actually meant. My father, just 42 then, had lost both of his parents to the ravages of cancer. Only now that I am of a similar age can I comprehend how life-altering and difficult that must have been for him at that time.

In those waning days of August, with the school year fast approaching, my parents attempted to salvage something from that summer of loss by loading us all in our Buick station wagon and heading for Montauk Point. We only spent about four days there, but when I look back now, it seems like we spent a month.

We visited the lighthouse; we swam at the beach; my older brothers went bluefishing with my father; we walked the docks at sundown; played miniature golf; and ate lots of seafood and ice cream. Willie Mays was  on TV in a Mets uniform, and Saturday In The Park was played in heavy rotation on our transistor radio.

But what I remember most about that time is the Manorville Motel. It can only be described as a sort of third rate romance, low rent rendezvous kind of place. If not for it's location, it would have been considered a dive. Who am I kidding? It was a dive, plain and simple,.....even by Montauk, 1972 standards.

In the adjacent unit were a couple who never seemed to leave their apartment, or go to sleep. The two-inch walls that divided us from them were no match for the arguing and crashing that took place daily. Like an x-rated version of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolf, I learned all kinds of new phrases about sexual inadequacy, alcohol abuse, and dysfunctional relationships ( I misconstrued most of the words, but my friends back home were impressed nonetheless). On the final night of our stay, a police car arrived and the apartment next-door went silent.

As you might have suspected, we never went back to the Manorville Motel. In the 1990's, I went looking for it and discovered it was gone. The buildings have all been demolished, and no one seems to remember much about the roadside motel that still lives on inside me.

There is that old saying about how we die twice: once in our natural death; and again when there is no one left who remembers us. It happens with cheap motels too, in a much shorter span.  Time rolls over everything, and even I am beginning to forget many of the details from that infamous trip nearly 40 years ago. I am no longer too sure it was called the Manorville. There are times the name sounds right, only to be followed by second guessing and a feeling of doubt.  

If only there had been a song written about the Manorville.

A few miles down the road on the Atlantic Ocean side of town is the perennial dive Memory Motel, complete with curio lounge and live music on weekends. A few years after our visit, the Rolling Stones stayed at Andy Warhol's Montauk house and immortalized this cousin of the Manorville with their 7 minute song on the Black & Blue album. The motel has been able to capitalize on this fame for 35 years.  The Manorville was never that lucky. 

Today there are coffee table books and websites solely devoted to the "Roadside America" that many of us still remember fondly. In movies they have practically become a cliche. It's funny, how in photos and in film, they always look better than the actual buildings today. Built with the cheapest materials possible, and designed for a quick buck, theses tributes to aluminum, formica, and paneling, haven't aged very well. They always appear better through the filter of memory, or better yet,...the melody of song.

"It's on the ocean, I guess you know it well"

The American Motel: Vintage Photos
Trip Advisor: Memory Motel Reviews (you've been warned)
New York Times: Montauk Footnotes (scroll down to #2)

photo credit: Wikipedia (top), Lisa Carpenter, Rock & Roll Landmarks (bottom)

This is a first draft of an article which appeared in Boating Local

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shell Beach In Guilford

The stretch of Route 146 from Branford to Guilford is arguably the most rural section of the Connecticut shoreline. Farmhouses and barns still dot the landscape, and there are large portions of waterfront land that remain undeveloped. Along with the North Fork of Long Island, there is a sense of space here that can be hard to find in other regions of the Sound.
Despite the open landscape, coastal access here is very limited. Most roads leading to the shoreline are private, and there are many signs posted to remind you of this. There are exceptions however, and Shell Beach in Guilford is one of them. On the road leading to the beach community of the same name, is a small public space that borders the tidal flats along Island Bay.
It is really not much of a "beach". A more appropriate name would have been Sprained Ankle Beach. There are rocks, and lots of them.  But if you are like me, it is these passive, out-of-the-way places that are often the most appealing. It is a place to enjoy a quiet and unique view that is all too rare these days. 

CT Coastal Access Guide: Shell Beach

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Welcome New Haven Register

I would like to welcome the New Haven Register readers to Soundbounder. I started this blog in 2008 as I became frustrated with the lack of access to many coastal areas of Long Island Sound. Since then, I have broadened  the content to include everything from artists, to oystering. Despite spending many years along the Sound, there are constantly new things I learn, and places I discover. I hope to share them with you here.
So, welcome aboard! I hope you enjoy your visit as we drift and ramble along this ragged shore.

photo:Sunrise, Saybrook Point; March, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sad Day At Black Rock

I always hate stories like this. This weekend, someone went to St Mary's By The Sea in Black Rock and used a chainsaw to damage and destroy 15 sycamore trees that line the walkway of this attractive park. Some trees were toppled, while others received slices that circumvent the trunks and will eventually kill them.
Maybe I have watched too many detective shows over the years, but this doesn't seem like a random, teenage, vandalism act. Someone planned this, and when the nor'easter created a distraction, they made their move. 
While most of us were focused on the trees brought down by the storm, a more sinister destruction was taking place at the same time.

Black Rock Online: Vandals Target St Mary's
Tina Zappile Blog: Photos
Black Rock Garden Club: Reward Offered
CT Coastal Access Guide: St Mary's By The Sea
photo credit: Black Rock Garden Club 

Monday, March 15, 2010


It seems like many years since we have had a storm of this magnitude.While nor'easters are certainly common here between October and April, this weekend's storm appeared to carry an extra punch. Wind gusts as high as 74 MPH, combined with 5-plus inches of rain, knocked down trees and power lines across the northeast. Many low lying coastal areas are flooded, with the hardest hit regions being Fairfield and Nassau Counties.
The nor'easter I measure all others by, was one I did not witness personally. The 1992 storm combined severe wind and rain with high tides that flooded entire neighborhoods. Many harborside bars still display photos of one of their regulars rowing down the street or wading through water up to their waist. The high-water mark at the City Island Yacht Club remains visible on the clubhouse exterior. I have met numerous people who lost boats or had their homes damaged from that storm.
On Sunday during a break from the winds, I visited a boatyard in Old Saybrook. I had hoped to go out to some of the beach areas, but flooded streets and downed trees prevented me from doing so.The few boats  in the water were now tied to docks that were submerged. The hauled boats meanwhile, sat in a flooded yard. Hopefully that is the extent of the damage.  
While this weekend's storm was not as destructive as the 1992 nor'easter,  the effects of it will be visible for years. I am sure along many stretches of Long Island Sound,  there are  beaches that have been altered, homes damaged, piers destroyed,and lives lost.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Park City

Park City Ferry, Port Jefferson, August 2009

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fayerweather Island Lighthouse

Fayerweather Island Lighthouse (aka Black Rock), March, 2010
First Lit: 1823
Discontinued: 1933

Lighthouse Friends (map included)
CT Coastal Access Guide: Seaside Park
American Lighthouse Art: Black Rock Light

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Oyster Bar

Earlier I wrote how Norm Bloom receives the same price for oysters as he did 20 years ago. While operating costs have increased dramatically in the past 20 years, he is paid only 31 cents per oyster.  I thought I would end this series with a look at what the general public pays for oysters.
In an unscientific survey, I made some calls to regional restaurants to see what their oyster prices were. I contacted restaurants in Larchmont, Rowayton, New Haven, Noank, Oyster Bay, Greenport, and Port Washington. I also checked the menu of the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station.
A half dozen oysters on the half-shell ranged from $1.70 to about $2.15 per oyster. That is a 500 to 700% price increase since they left the dock. Now I realize that this is not unique to shellfish. A $12 dollar pasta dish may consist of  less than a dollars worth of ingredients. You are paying for the service, the table, etc, when you eat at a restaurant.
I followed this up by checking the prices at some seafood markets in the same areas. A dozen oysters ranged from $.50 to .89 each, with most of them in the $.60-.70 cents range. Transported down the street, they have doubled in price.
So what is my point to all this? It certainly is not to cry poverty for Norm Bloom. I am sure he is more than comfortable financially and  he certainly doesn't need our sympathy. It is the oyster industry as a whole, that I worry about. Eventually it becomes more lucrative to sell the property and boats, and pursue other income. Just as many farms are more valuable for their real estate than their farming income, an oyster operation faces a similar fate.

Grand Central Oyster Bar: Raw Bar Prices 

*Update: A big flaw with this survey is that it does not consider the source of the oysters. This seafood distributer's website boasts about his cheap oysters from Mexico, right alongside an article about the virtues of buying locally. If a restaurant or market is buying from a distributer such as this, they may very well be purchasing Mexican oysters, despite their proximity to the local oyster docks.