Monday, May 23, 2011

Tiles Of Time

Four days of heavy rain sure can disrupt the best of plans for spring commissioning. The sanding, painting, and polishing all get postponed as I try to find some chore to tackle below deck. I check the hoses and clamps on the diesel, tighten the loose handle on the ice-box, then organize the storage lockers. I even give the stove and head a good scrubbing.
Marine stoves and heads have a way of getting filthy whether they are used or not. I distinctly remember cleaning them thoroughly when I moved ashore last fall. For a moment, I suspect that Charlie Sheen had been partying aboard this winter, but the liquor cabinet is intact, and I move on to other theories.
There are plenty of other projects in the cabin, but they should wait for drier weather. Sanding the teak trim, along with some minor epoxy work both require the hatches and companionway to be open. Those jobs will be addressed another day. Besides, no matter how comfortable a cabin may be, it begins to feel claustrophobic when forced to spend the day below. By noon, I decided to call it a day, and head for the library.

I don't know how many others from the boatyard make use of the Acton Library on rainy days, but I suspect I am not the only one. When the librarian asked for a local address, I told her I was on a boat, and our conversation never missed a beat. Several people browsing the aisle of nautical books only strengthened my suspicions.
I spend an hour or so on the computer, check out the updated version of Don Casey's This Old Boat, and read several chapters from an out-of-print book chronicling the history of the Fall River Steamboat Line.
What really grabs my attention, however, is a 24-foot tile mural that lines the entryway. Sponsored by the Friends of Acton Library, and created by artist Marion Grebow, the "ceramic quilt" illustrates the history of Old Saybrook, as well as the maritime significance of the town's location at the mouth of the Connecticut River. It is an impressive, informative, and unique piece of work.

See,...rainy afternoons in May aren't always my least productive days.

Grebow Tiles: website

Thursday, May 19, 2011

State Parks

Sherwood Island State Park; April 2010

Unfortunately, this is the time of year when restrictions and fees go into effect at local beaches and parks on Long Island Sound. If you are not a town resident, chances are you will be denied entry to the park, or else, be  required to pay a much heftier admission fee.

The argument goes something like this:
Local taxes pay for the upkeep and operating costs, therefore, the beach should be restricted to town residents only.

Makes sense -- until you realize what would happen if every town behaved this way. Get injured in a car accident on your way to work? "Sorry, the ambulance and rescue squad are for local taxpayers only." Spend a weekend in New York or Boston?  "There's a $40 cover charge to use the sidewalks. We don't want nonresidents getting a free ride,...or a free walk!" Need to report a crime?  "Unfortunately, police protection is only for taxpayers who fund the department." Want to take a walk in Central Park? "Hit the road freeloader! You're from Great Neck and your date is from Greenwich!  No deadbeat outsiders allowed!"
The "we paid for it" argument rings hollow as well. While the beach may be operated and maintained with local tax dollars, it is similar to a college student bragging that they buy their own groceries. What they  fail to mention is that the tuition, rent, and car payments are being paid by someone else.
Coastal towns receive county, state and federal dollars  for sewage and water treatment plants. Try going to the beach without that! The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers assists with dredging, bulkheads and causeways; while the boardwalks and buildings are insured through a federally subsidized  program. Landlocked residents pay a significant share of the cost for  beaches they cannot use!

What's an inland boy to do?
There are some places like Huntington, and Compo Beach in Westport which charge more for non-residents, but are reasonable about it (last I checked).  Then there are jewels such as Manor Park in Larchmont which deserve a gold star; no beach, but no fees or residency requirements - just be respectful of the rules.
Another option would be the state parks. I've put together a list below which should provide a few options you were not aware of. I'm generalizing, but the Long Island parks are nicer than the Connecticut ones. With apologies to Hammonasset, Long Island is blessed with a prettier  natural shoreline, and a better understanding of the role state parks can play. 
But both sides of the Sound have their shortcomings. The state park list may seem extensive, but it is misleading, in the same way a lobbyist for Clear Channel  Communications will argue that radio today is more diverse and appealing as ever. Sure there are more radio- stations and genres, but they all play Phil Collins, Billy Joel, and Sting.
There are very few options west of the Northport-Norwalk  divide; and many state parks are not beaches, but simply state land which borders the shoreline. They are a great place to take a hike, but  they are not a public beach.  Only then, do the deficiencies begin to glare. 

Whenever I write about this issue, I am always reminded of my 5 years spent in Southern California. Yes, I had some gripes with that sun-splashed, sprawling McDonaldland, where funeral homes had drive-thru windows and one often needed a car just to cross the street. What I admired most was that beaches were public land; not just for local residents, but for everyone.
San Diego, you can keep the Padres and the Olive Garden, but your public beaches I truly miss!


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Long Island

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WILDWOOD*: website  Explore LI
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HALLOCK: website  
ORIENT POINT*: website
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HITHER HILLS*: website  Explore LI


* beach with lifeguards,concessions, restrooms, etc

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bon Voyage Empire State

Maritime education is not something generally associated with Long Island Sound, until you actually take the time to think about it. There is the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London; the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point; and SUNY Maritime College at Throgs Neck. Those colleges, combined with the oceanography programs at SUNY Stony Brook and UCONN Avery Point make the Sound one big nautical classroom
While students at more conventional schools are presently thinking about final exams and summer vacation, students here are instead preparing for a semester-at-sea. Hands-on experience, outside the classroom, aboard a ship.
Empire State VI, a converted 565 foot bulk cargo freighter, serves as the training ship for SUNY Maritime College. She and her crew depart this morning for the Mediterranean. Bon voyage...see you in September!

Wikipedia: TS Empire State
Kings Point Waterfront: Summerwind in DC

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Middle Beach, Westbrook

Middle Beach in Westbrook, and an island I do not know the name of.

CT Coastal Access Guide: Middle Beach