Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island

We had a few guests on board Synchronicity during our stay in Cold Spring Harbor, Stephen's friend Brian Pike and his wife Eileen (who were expecting their second baby), The Tomans (Mom & Dad, Michele and the kids), Bart and Alan (both sailors and friends of Stephen's parents). It's always fun entertaining on the boat. It's like an adventure of sorts for those who don't sail, and for those that do, it's an opportunity to compare notes, share experiences and lessons learned.

Some of the best times had were with Michele, Alyssa and Tommy. Tommy, our 8-year-old nephew, loves to navigate/steer the boat and is amazingly good at it given his age and lack of experience. He takes after his uncle Stephen in this department. Also like his uncle Stephen, he is always searching for adventure. Tommy likes to "go fast," and "faster," so when the wind died, we had to get creative before Tommy jumped ship. We anchored the boat off of a little beach and took the kids ashore. Mom and Dad Toman opted to stay behind, missing out on all the fun to be had with searching for shells, seaweed and "skipping" and throwing large rocks and other foreign objects as far as they would go into the water.  We watched a huge wake form as powerboats zipped around our boat at anchor. As the boat rocked up and down in the water, we wondered if Mom and Dad Toman regretted their decision to remain on the boat.

As we headed back to shore, the Tomans posed endlessly on the foredeck for family photos. I swear the Tomans go through more film than the photographers on the set of America's Top Model. I smiled to myself as I navigated us back to shore. Everyone agreed it was the perfect afternoon. No matter how slow your boat may be moving, time seems to fly on the water. Perhaps it's the freedom from distraction and quality of time shared with good company that makes it so enjoyable you never want it to end. One last photo op was had as Stephen loaded the whole family up on the dinghy for a ride back to shore. "Goodbye Aunt Taryn!" yelled the kids. Gretchen and I watched them as they drifted out of sight. Time to prepare the boat for our next guests!

Sailing into Long Island Sound, I immediately realized why many Northeastern sailors say "nothing compares." When I think of New York, I picture busy city streets jam packed with buildings, designer stores, delis, and yellow cabs. The Sound was a world removed, even from other parts of Long Island, with it's sleepy, quaint towns, old fashioned libraries and small shops. The Sound itself was gorgeous with deep blue water, scenic bluffs and large, colorful summer homes overlooking the water.

We pulled into a little cove in Cold Spring Harbor, just outside the town of Huntington. At first we pulled deep into this cove, we had about 10 feet of water to anchor in, but being unfamiliar with the tides, decided to move the boat to deeper water. It's a good thing we did, since the tide differential was 5 feet. With shallow spots all around us, we would have been grounded for sure. When the tide went out, it revealed this entire land mass in the middle of the harbor.

We soon came to learn New York port towns were less accomodating to newcomers on their sailboats, so we had to get creative with finding places to anchor and tie up our dinghy. One night we tied up on the inside of a dock, away from any signs that read, "Marina patrons only," and plenty of head room for us to float underneath the dock. When the tide came in, there was absolutely no space between the water and the pier. We came to realize this later, but fortunately before becoming stranded after a trip into town. We imagined ourselves returning late at night, faced with the choice of swimming to the boat or spending the night in the park.

Our first afternoon in town, we checked out the library on the hill, which gave us a very nice view of our boat anchored in the middle of the harbor. We would spend a few hours of our stay here, connecting to the Internet to check out weather patterns and update the blog. This was the second prettiest library I had ever spent time in, the first being the Enoch Pratt in Baltimore. On our way into town, we spotted a man filling up empty water jugs from the spring that literally flowed out of a pipe lodged in the guardrail along the side of the road. This didn't really phase us, but he was obviously self-conscious about it as he called out, "Hey, it's good water!"

His name was Joe Espisito, and the more we chatted with him, we came to learn he had lived here for over 20 years, and this was his first time drinking water from the spring. Like most people who meet us for the first time, he thought we were crazy but seemed to respect us. He gave us the once over and said, "Hey, I usually don't do this, but do you want a ride into to town? I'm headed that way." Steve and I both laughed, relieved that our appearance was non-threatening. He continued to laugh and shake his head in disbelief of us the whole way into town. Joe Espisito was a very nice man who not only saved us a mile of walking, but also made some good recommendations for dinner.

Hungtington was a really nice town with lots of posh restaurants with fronts that opened onto the sidewalks. We were searching high and low for oysters and found some very good ones served by a very cool bartender who grew up a couple of blocks from Stephen in Long Island. They had never known of each other before tonight, but seemed to know some of the same people from local schools and the old neighborhood. She was witty and very good at defending herself against the very aggressive and passive aggressive guys in suits who had too much to drink.

After oysters, we had tapas at an Argentinian restaurant and made one last stop to the cupcake shop (NY has turned me on to cupcakes) before walking the mile back to the boat. This cupcake shop was like a cupcake heaven with too many choices including my favorite flavor for any dessert, chocolate chip cookie dough...

The walk back to the boat at night was great. The last store on the way out of town was CVS, where we stopped to reload on milk, cereal and other goodies. The rest of the way was dark, lined with pretty, old houses with huge verandas. The way home was lit only by the single lamps inside the parlor windows and the occasional lamp post/streetlight. We passed the Whaling Museum where Stephen recalls visiting on an elementary school field trip and finally, the small park that overlooks the harbor and our single sailboat, separate from the moorings.  

I could have easily spent a few more days in Cold Spring Harbor running on the trails, spending time by the fireplace in the very cozy library, and taking walks into town in the evening. There were too many places we wanted to stop at and not enough time for all of them. Our next port of call was Port Jefferson, a busier and more popular boating town where we could do some provisioning, spend time with more friends before heading to New England. I was sad to leave, almost ready to call this place home (temporarily) but excited to see what lie ahead in these places I had never been.