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Just Saying: Another Island

It seemed like we had traveled overseas. It seemed like we had been gone for days.

We did neither.

All we did was take a boat from Montauk to Block Island and came back the same day. Which shows you how your mind can play around with reality. In a very good way, in this case.

We’d been there before over the years. One time we took our bikes and pedaled just about everywhere you could go. It’s a beautiful island and reminds me of Scotland, where we had done a bike trip long ago. An old girlfriend used to cover the island, officially known as New Shoreham, back when she worked at the Providence Journal. I don’t imagine it was a hectic beat. I first went there, on a lark, during my Navy days when I was stationed in Newport.

A few years later, when I was living in Vermont, my brother called me up to see if I was interested in joining him and his wife and another couple on a sailing trip. Being reared in the Midwest, neither my brother nor I had any sailing chops, but it sounded like a real adventure. I had no money and had to sell my motorcycle to come up with the cash, which was a pittance, but seemed astronomical back then.

I didn’t have to, but I decided to invite a companion to join me. I wasn’t involved with anyone at the time and after surveying my choices I went with good old Barbara York, a swell girl from Blue Hill, Maine, with excellent posture, pigtails and a sly wit who was a waitress in the dining room of the upscale inn where I was bellhop. To this day I am amazed she said yes. And how fortunate, for she was the only natural sailor among us.

We set sail out of Stonington, Conn., and plunged immediately into dense fog. I think we intended to make it to Cuttyhunk Island, near Martha’s Vineyard. But it became clear that no one had a clue how to navigate there. That we got anywhere during the days we were at sea was a miracle. But instead of Cuttyhunk, we ran into Block Island and anchored in the Great Salt Pond and had a fine grilled dinner.

By divine intervention, we actually made it to a couple of other ports and somehow got back to Stonington. It remains a huge mystery how we pulled this off. But Barbara’s nautical instincts are the only reason we lived to tell the tale. She was so cool I’m still baffled why I didn’t ask for Ms. York’s hand in marriage.

Our recent voyage to Block was on a Viking boat on a foggy day. We walked into town, about a mile away and headed to Ballard’s, a sprawling tourist trap for lunch. No Island resident would be caught dead in Ballard’s, but it is precisely the type of boisterous venue that visitors migrate to as if directed by some super power. We had lobster rolls and studied the handsome beachside crowd. A pretty good rock band was pounding away and all was well on Block Island. And yes, we’ll have another round.

A similar super power made me buy an Island belt and a ball cap at an adjacent shop, purchases so mindless that your head spins in recalling the moment.

We had a couple of hours to kill so we hired a cab to drive us around. A pleasant woman launched into a melodious dissertation on Island lore and we grew sleepy in the midst of such rolling beauty.

On the way home we stopped in at the Palm restaurant in East Hampton, a place we usually go to once a year in the fall. We prefer the bar area to the main dining room and ordered crab cakes, oysters on the half shell and some oysters Rockefeller.

From the South Ferry, Shelter Island looked its familiar self, but we both remarked that our Block Island ramble had seemed much longer than just a day. We were already marinating in fresh memories. Our bed was right up the road and maybe I could find the Red Sox on the tube. Block Island suddenly seemed a million miles away.

Turning in early seemed like the right call. I put my Block Island ball cap on and thought of Barbara York and Great Salt Pond.