Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On Freedom

We are currently back in Port Washington in Manhassat Bay where this excursion into Long Island started. This is a good spot as it has everything we need to prepare for the next leg of the journey back to NYC, Sandy Hook and the Jersey Coast to Delaware Bay.

From Chicago to NYC I was on a mission. I HAD to get out of the Great Lakes for fear of them freezing over. What the hell kind of night mare was that? Now that we have been and gone from NYC and it is still August (just beat the freeze in Lake Erie I think) we have the freedom to explore Long Island Sound (local pronunciation: Long GUY’ land). We’ve had the freedom to go far if there was wind or to go not far or even stay put if there was no wind. After all, this is a sailboat with an AUXILIARY engine. In the Great Lakes the next place is typically 40 or 50 miles along the shore so if you’re going you’re going to be going for awhile and/or you’re going to be grinding some diesel as we have become fond of putting it. Hey, the FREE in freedom does not include blowing diesel if one needn’t!

With all that in mind we have meandered back and forth along Long Island Sound. Down to Manhassat and up to Mamaronek. Down to Oyster Bay and up to Bridgeport only to go back down to Port Jefferson. Ah, Port Jefferson

We came to Port Jefferson today after a bit of an uncomfortable night in Bridgeport. Wind was out of the south and the anchorage and breakwater there did not provide the protection we were hoping for. Long way into a town which promises little according to the Embassey Guide (more on them later…). So we swung on the anchor and got rolled occasionally by passing power boats or the ferry taking people from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport to gamble apparently. We slept in the cockpit for awhile because when it is rolly the confines of the forward v-berth can be a little, well, sickening. It quieted later and we were fine. Port Jefferson sports a much more protected bay on the southern shore of the sound so it made sense to make the ~20 mile trip there today.

Wind in our face and choppy seas made for a motor and main day but what else is new. The embassy book speaks highly of Port Jefferson and it looks like the town is right near the marinas and so forth and that’s always good for us walkers. The Embassey guides are for cruisers but they are clearly paid by the towns and advertisers. Not too edgy in their descriptions of towns. Every history of a town starts out telling how the early settlers screwed the Indians out of their fishing grounds for a pile of beads, some fire water and two tickets to an Astros game. Nice. Not unlike looking for an apartment, you have to read between the lines. You know how when an apartment ad says, “charming”, you say “dump”? Some towns are described as

Really making great strides since the huge land fill by the chemical plant leaked into the sound. Don’t hardly even smell so fishy anymore. Note the quaint townspeople with their ever present twitch and third eye.

Stuff like that. Anyway, Port Jefferson sounded quaint and, “You can anchor anywhere off of the main channel in the big bay”. No you can’t.

Here’s the big discovery about sailing in Long Island Sound. Look at your charts and read your Embassey Guide. You’ll find lots of neat bays and inlets to anchor in. When you get there don’t be surprised if said bay or inlet has 300 mooring balls with boats attached filling it and you don’t get one! It’s not that you can’t anchor. It’s just that there is more to anchoring than just tossing the hook off of the bow of the boat. Location, location, location. The mooring balls have most of the ideal anchoring locations. Probably got them from the Indians come to think of it!

Bottom line is that you can anchor and we anchored in Port Jefferson ok but about a mile and a half from town. That’s a bit of a dingy ride but, ok, dingy rides are fun too. We have done this A LOT. You dingy in, look around, read signs, ask somebody and eventually find the little dingy dock where you can tie up to visit town. Towns like to do this because once they have you out of your dingy they can sell you stuff. We came into the dock area and didn’t see any obvious dingy dock. We pulled up to a gas dock for the town marina by grabbing onto a wooden ladder about 6 feet below the deck as it was low tide. I climbed up and asked if we could tie up somewhere and they looked at where I was and said, “Oh sure that’s fine there.” Great. A little scary on the ladder but the tide will be up when we leave. As we were tying up, the lady came back over and said. “Ok, that’s going to be $6 an hour.” What? To tie to this nasty wooden ladder?” I said, “No thanks”, and moved on. There was a harbor next door and when we pulled up there they guy said, “Oh sure just pull around there and there and then come up and register”.

“Register?”, I said. “Register what?”

“It’s $6 an hour.” Hmmm…sounds familiar. I said, “Isn’t there someplace where I can just tie up for free to go into town for a couple of hours?” He said he didn’t know of any.

We motored back to Enee. I guess our lives will be unfulfilled because we were denied the experience of downtown Port Jefferson (one of my favorite presidents!). Just think what THEY must have had to offer that all those free towns must not have had. I hope me and my $6 can sleep tonight. I think we will.

I think we will because part of the freedom is the NOT part. I’m NOT on vacation. Port Jefferson was NOT a planned stop for me. I’m now immensely enjoying Port Jefferson by NOT being there. Similarly, I’m immensely enjoying Maine East High School by NOT teaching there! Same with Des Plaines Illinois and NOT living there. There’s a lot ‘o NOT in this trip and I DO remember to enjoy that as much as I enjoy the positives: my boat, my exploring and navigating, my partner, and going places where my dingy can be parked for free!

Tomorrow? Somewhere else. Stay tuned!


LeahC said...


other words to watch out for

cute, artsey and vintage. I found an apartment listing that had all of these once....needless to say it was not good.

Glad to hear that the trip is going so well. I bet the first mate is happy to be taking it a little easy. And yes, there is almost ice here in the great lakes...wait wait..no it's in the 80's. :-)

Jerry said...

Six buck an hour? Making you pay so you can go shoping or whatever doesn't make sense. If Port Jefferson was smart they would have a big dingy dock with lights and a welcome sign.

I am enjoying your posts and particularly look forward to reading them when Lake Superior gets too stiff for sailing. By the way, what is the draft of your boat and have you found ample depth throughout your trip.

NeverAnonymous said...

If Jefferson were reading your blog about the dingy dock treatment in his Long Island port town of the same name, he'd probably wish to cause Congress to enact a free dingy docks on all coasts law. Sad to hear of the oppresive treatment in Port Jeff re: 6 bucks an hour. I have never, never ever been asked for money @ a dingy dock, although there have been places that would not let me tie up & 6 bucks an hour is just absurd! They cannot be serious!

I hope you find it much more free in every way (as well it should be) as you continue on your journey of a lifetime.

Smooth sailing in all things!