May 13, 2013
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April 26, 2013
Slice of Life: Wind, tide and an Island at starboard
Lucy likes to go around the island. In the kitchen. Our 13-month-old granddaughter spends quite a bit of time circumnavigating the five-by-nine-foot island, opening cabinet doors and checking out the recycling bin. The island is also where she eats and watches everyone cook. In the short time she’s been visiting, she’s learned all about the island by going around it dozens of time per day.
I read with interest the account of an Islander who recently completed a trip around our own Shelter Island on a paddle board. I have never had, do not presently have, nor will I ever have the stamina and physical requirements necessary to attempt such a feat. But I think I know why he did it. He did it for the same reason I recently took a solo sail clockwise from Shell Beach to Shell Beach: to remind myself of the beauty of this little chunk of paradise.
If you have never gone by water around Shelter Island, it is something that you need to do. Whether it’s by paddle board, jet ski, sunfish, kayak, canoe or as a passenger on a sailboat or motor yacht, to see the whole island in one day from the water gives a perspective like no other. On this particular sail, I listened to no music and had my cellphone along for use only in case of an emergency. I had a small outboard aboard also but vowed not to use it. I loaded up with water, a cooler with a sandwich and drinks and sailed off the mooring at 11:36 a.m.
I left Shell Beach point on my right as I headed toward Jessups Neck on a close reach into a steady southwest breeze, against the tide. I looked at the line of houses on Peconic Avenue and wondered what percentage of them were occupied year-round. There’s this house with Spanish tiles on the roof and a long dock with a gazebo at the end that I often use as a turning point on an afternoon sail, but not today. Now, with one hour elapsed, I headed off the wind a bit toward Crab Creek. I have taken and eaten bluefish and blue claws from there.
The tide was a little kinder to me now as I headed past the “green lawns,” a prime spring fluking spot. I saw a new house being constructed with steel beams where a friend of mine’s house once stood. It was his dock where my boat had spent its first night in the water in almost 10 years. I liked that house but now it was gone.
With both the tide and a freshening breeze behind me, I started to make real time. I headed toward another gazebo, this one at camp Quinipet. I thought about how wonderful it was that so many kids were learning to sail there. Our own kids used to climb on the giant rocks, until lawyers and insurance companies … well, you know. Now past the Pridwin, where this summer we listened to cool jazz on hot nights and people-watched at a barbecue.
I passed the spot where we sat and waited for the fireworks that didn’t and listened to the music from Sunset Beach. I grinned at the thought of several afternoons at Louis Beach, spinning Lulu in her little tube. We kayaked among the yachts and watched a “jet-packer” playing Buck Rogers. Moving quickly now, I glanced toward Greenport as I passed through North Ferry. Two months before, the same harbor had held a forest of masts during the Tall Ships Festival and I remember thinking how it might have looked during the 19th century, when sail power ruled.
Before I knew it I was at the breakwater, only two hours out. I rounded Hay Beach as the tide slackened and soon I was just opposite the Orient State Park beach, where I had witnessed my son being baptized only the day before. Now in the middle of the famous “Gardiner’s Bay chop,” I made for Ram Head on a reach. I watched the families on Menhaden Lane, where we swam several times this year, happily noting the almost total lack of jellyfish.
By 3:30 p.m., I was heading back into the wind off Reel Point and by this time the tide had turned. Things were getting messy. The “confused sea,” caused by the current and the wind running opposite, made for some rough going. I took a little water over the combing as I hiked out a little off the port gunwale. The clouds were moving in with the wind now steady at 12 knots and occasional gusts from 15 to 18. I was getting tired. The only signs of civilization as I reached Cedar Point were the boats I could barely see in Sag Harbor.
With the seemingly endless Mashomack beach finally behind me, South Ferry was in sight and the tide was slinging me home. I called a close friend in Greenport who’s been a bit under the weather lately. We’d sailed a bit together and I described the trip and the scene at the moment. “You’re going to have quite a ride going through the ferry slips. Be careful!” he warned. Soon I felt as if I was in a washing machine as I heaved through swells that were probably two to three feet but looked like six.
Around Gar’s and back into the harbor, I was beat but happy. Five hours and 10 minutes after leaving, I was back on the mooring. As I rowed the dingy in, I realized I had just reviewed my entire summer by circling the Island. And next year? I’m going to do it again!