I used to have a boat, but now I don’t. She was a 24-foot Irwin sloop that I found in an advert on a website during the early days of the internet. She was 30 years old and already no one wanted her. I’ve heard this happens to women too. Yikes.
I made a dirt cheap offer and days later was off to Jamestown, Rhode Island to claim my prize. I had never sailed before. When I got to the boatyard, the workers couldn’t believe they were being asked to put “that boat” in the water.
“It’s a project,” I insisted.
“It’s a death trap,” they said.
Anyhow, after eight years living and sailing on that boat, I’m still alive, but the boat is again in a back corner of a boatyard, where the yard manager insists it will stay until the keel bolts rot. He says he couldn’t live with himself if he sent me out to turn tortoise when the keel breaks loose in Block Island Sound. He probably saved my life.
So now it’s June, and it’s been a gorgeous weekend, and, like any sailor with no boat to varnish and a little time on their hands, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the third annual Greenport Boat Show, even though it’s sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and I’m afraid of Chambers of Commerce. They always seem to have weird rules like “You Can’t Live on a Boat Here. Be Normal.”
This boat show was pretty nice. It wasn’t a big Jacob Javitts “My Fish Finder is Better than Your Fish Finder” kind of event. There were a lot of people there from North Fork, most from family-owned marinas and the boat dealers seemed genuinely intent on helping people find the right boat for them. The problem is, the right boat for me isn’t a center console sport-fishing boat and it isn’t a Nordic Tug, although the Minor offshore 27, imported from Finland and brought to Greenport by Wilde Yacht Sales of Essex, Conn., was right up my alley in the stealth-design, no-one-else is gonna have this boat-kind of way. Of course, with a price tag more than a third greater than the cost of my house, I’m not going to be cruising the Peconic Bay in a Minor any time soon. But it is a beautiful, thoroughly practical boat. So are their other tugs. Sigh.
I got a chance to chat with Nancy Strong, from Strong’s Marine, for a little while about their expansion from one Mattituck location on James Creek to a second location at the former Matt-a-Mar Marina on Wickham Avenue (also on Mattituck Creek, depending on whether you’re getting there from the water or from land). That’s very cool and I wish them all the best.
A couple years ago, Strong’s launched a boat club and rental service, where would-be mariners (and former mariners who know just how costly and maintenance-intensive it is to own a boat) could jump in a Strong’s owned and maintained boat for a few days a week and enjoy paradise. I’d liken the service to a time share for boats.
But I’m a sailor. I hate outboard motors (primarily because they hate me) and I pass out at the smell of diesel fumes too. If I knew where the doormat fluke were hiding in those depths, I’d rent a boat for a day and go and find them. But I’ve never caught a fish in my life. Maybe I would if i had one of these:
Somewhere here, there had to be the right boat for me.
Under a big top tent in the middle of Mitchell Park, I met a nice young marine biologist from the Long Island Aquarium (That’s Atlantis Marine World’s new name, in case you don’t keep up on the way they keep renaming things in Riverhead).
She had a touch tank with a starfish and a spider crab and a horseshoe crab and some other slimy things in it.
I told her I missed horseshoe crabs, because you never see them around here anymore. They’re kind of like sailboats. She told me about all this horrible stuff that happens to horseshoe crabs, when they get smashed up as bait by fishermen or caught in huge nets by pharmaceutical companies, which drain their blood for use as a coagulant and then throw their empty carcasses in the ocean. Really.
My new marine biologist friend assured me I could still see a horseshoe crab in the wild if I went out to the beach during the full moon to watch them mate. Then she asked me if I wanted to feed the sharks at the aquarium and I high-tailed it to the only one of two sailboats I could see in the whole damn marina.
The boat in the distance in this photograph is called Surprise. The boat in the foreground is called Sea Tow. It was impossible to shoot one and not the other without falling off the end of the dock.
Surprise is a 57-foot ketch among the fleet of Pat Mundus’s “East End Charters” crewed charter service. Ms. Mundus was on board when a bunch of us boat-show gawkers came by to have a look, and she graciously welcomed us aboard. She said the boat was wood, and it was custom built in the 1960s for a family of very tall people, hence the headroom in the main saloon must have been at least seven feet. As someone who spent several years hunched over to one side after attempting to cook in the cabin of a 24-foot sloop, I can attest that that is a lot of headroom.
Anyway, a ketch is a boat with two masts in which the smaller mast is in the back, and in Surprise‘s case, it also had a separate berthing section behind the cockpit. The cockpit itself is really safe, with high walls that keep kids from falling out of the boat. That’s just what it was designed to do, said Ms. Mundus, who said the boat was built for a pair of grandparents who lived aboard with their grandchildren in the Bahamas for a year. Nowadays, though, the extra cabin has been turned into crews’ headquarters, while the guests sleep up front. That sounds like real damn fun. Some day I will have to take a bunch of rowdy kids out on that boat. But not today. Today I’m still holding out hope for my boat.
I think I might have found it in the fine print on some poster boards brought to the show by Brick Cove Marina in Southold. It’s funny, when I was a little kid, I lived in Brick Cove Marina…er…in an apartment above the restaurant next door to Brick Cove Marina. But we kids spent all our time in the boatyard.
Somewhere in the bowels of that boatyard is this 27-foot Catalina. The poster board said to make an offer. Which, I guess, is boatyard speak for “this thing’s been hanging out in the back corner of our yard for 20 years. Please take it off our hands.”
Wait a minute…Haven’t I already been down this road before?