A Party of Two

July 8th

After yesterday’s loss of ground tackle, I spent all morning shopping around for a replacement anchor and rode. Found a new 5-pound Danforth anchor and chain at Brewer’s but they were out of spliced rodes, so I had to journey to the big orange box, where I found what I needed. I had promised my sister I would take her out today to escape the heat and go swimming, but that meant I needed to have an anchor.  (Not a good idea to jump overboard while sailing).

We got underway at around 3pm just as the summer mid-day doldrums were giving way to a modest southwest breeze. The nearest boat-accessible beach is at a wildlife preserve at East Creek on Sands Point in Long Island. It’s a beautiful spot and while I’m not sure of its public/private status, I’ve been there many times in the kayak and the dory and nobody ever tried to chase me away. We headed there, about three and half nautical miles from Larchmont, under full sail. With the wind light and steady, I was able to get away with breaking that cardinal rule of dinghy sailing and tie down both the mainsheet and the tiller. Grey Fox practically sailed herself most of the way to Long Island, and I only took over to approach the beach.

Unlike “my” side of Long Island Sound, which is mostly rocky because it’s what’s left from when the last glaciers of the Ice Age scraped off everything not bolted down and carried it south to Long Island, the north shore of Long Island is a completely different picture. Here it’s all sandy or gravelly beaches, miles of them with only a few glacial erratics to provide the occasional hazard to navigation close to shore.

While there’s all that expanse of beach on the north shore, most of it is in front of zillion dollar waterfront houses. The preserve at East Creek is a sandy gem that’s almost within sight of the Manhattan skyline but could make you think you’re out in the Hamptons. A quarter mile of beach with no mansions, Mc or otherwise, to clutter the view and post “private beach –keep off” signs on the shoreline.

Grey Fox anchored off Sands Point

With the wind blowing gently offshore we dropped the hook in about 7 feet of water and swam the 75 yards ashore to walk the beach and stretch our legs. With the dory I would have just beached the boat, but Grey Fox is big and heavy enough that it’s easier to anchor and swim ashore than to have to wrestle the boat down to a water’s edge that will have moved with the falling tide while we are ashore.  That works well when it’s hot and the water is warm… in Maine I would be beaching the boat to get ashore with only frozen ankles.  But for today, in tropical New York, the whole point was to go for a swim and cool off… the beach is just a bonus.  Within two minutes of walking ashore, we’re already baking in the heat again.

Large banks of beach rose that line the extreme high tide line hum with the buzz of bumblebees and give off a beautiful fresh fragrance. I think of this plant as emblematic of the New England seashore, but it turns out that rosa rugosa is an invasive species… imported in the 1840s from Asia.  Well hey, Europeans are in invasive species in North America as well so I guess I’ll just enjoy the roses.

At the top and on the back side of the dune, scrub oaks prevail and the ground is covered in prickly pear cactus, replete with yellow blooms. Yes, cactus growing naturally on Long Island!  I guess the sandy environment drains all rainwater and resembles a desert.  Surely this is an alien invasion from Arizona or even Mexico.  Build the Wall!  Oops… turns out that this stuff (opuntia humifusa) is actually native to this region.  On the back side of the dune is a beautiful little salt marsh, and we take a quick walk in the heat to look for herons and cranes.

Unfortunately the beach suffers from its proximity to millions of people, with more than its fair share of flotsam and jetsam (which I believe are just two different flavors of waterborne trash).  In and among the seashells and driftwood are myriad soda bottles, potato chip wrappers, and all manner of plastic detritus.  It is amazing that we are so addicted to our plastic convenience even when we can see it choking every corner of our world.

Twenty minutes or so of walking around and we are ready to swim back to the boat (and cool off a bit in so doing).  We hoist the mainsail, pull up the anchor, and away we go. The wind has come up just a bit and the sail back to Larchmont is a delightful reach, with the late afternoon sun drying us off after our swim and putting a warm glow on the sails.

CIY sailing toward Sunset Aug2018
Heading home towards the sunset.  Oars stowed in the bow oarlocks for sailing

Author: Larchmont Jim

A 50-something investment banker from Larchmont, New York (about 15 miles from midtown Manhattan). Amateur small boat sailer, boatbuilder, kayaker, musician. I grew up spending summers sailing the New England coast on my grandfather’s beautiful 47’ 1952 Sparkman & Stevens wooden yawl. I’ve lived in Larchmont, a major and historic sailing center on Long Island Sound, for 25 years, but career and family obligations kept me off the water for all of my 30s and 40s, and only about 7 years ago did I get back on the water, first in sea kayaks, and then in small boats.

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