10 Oct - Long Island to Hell's Kitchen and back
Residents of Three Mile Harbor
Whilst we were keen to have a look at The Hamptons – a famous collection of neighbourhoods at the eastern tip of Long Island – we also needed to visit our daughter Anna in New York city before she went on holiday. We didn’t want to miss seeing her, and also had to pick up a couple of important packages waiting for us in her Hells Kitchen flat, so the morning after our arrival in Three Mile Harbor we moved onto a mooring buoy and caught the Long Island Rail Road train into the Big Apple. It’s the best part of a three hour journey (I hadn’t really focused much on the scale of things in this neck of the woods before) so we took the taxi driver’s recommendation and purchased two of the finest sandwiches we’ve ever had at the Villa Italian deli in East Hampton.
We’ve been re-watching the Godfather films in recent weeks, so knew that there’s a big Italian influence in New York and on Long Island, but the deli was a revelation: the all-Italian staff make their own mozzarella every day, the ‘ready meals’ reminded me of a really good French ‘traiteur’ and the selection of antipasti and other goodies was heavenly. Fortunately I wasn’t carrying much cash…
New York skyline near the Hudson River
The train was one of those double-decker affairs, with that rumbling horn sounding every few yards just as they do in the movies. Clean, on time, but pretty spartan. The journey gave us glimpses of inlets from the Atlantic and Peconic Bay sides of the train, passing well appointed but not blingy homes, orchards, dairy farms and the usual strung out commercial lots that line the outskirts of every American town we’ve seen. All interspersed with mixed woodland : quite low at the eastern end but gradually thicker and higher as we headed west. Not as much autumnal leaf colouration as you might expect. Closer to New York, we passed through suburbs with clear ethnic leanings – you could tell by the variety of alphabets in use on the shop fronts that this was not just an Anglo-Saxon or Italian locality!
The Empire State Building… looks a bit dated nowadays
That evening, some delicious Korean dumplings, a spot of literary retail therapy at the huge Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue and then a real treat – seats to see a preview of The Ferryman, Jez Butterworth’s recent play about Northern Ireland in the early 1980s which enjoyed rave reviews in London. The Broadway cast is largely unchanged and it’s a wonderfully poetic, politically astute and well observed work. I remember seeing Mark Rylance in Butterworth’s earlier ‘Jerusalem’ on Broadway several years ago and I honestly think that this playwright is the Shakespeare of this century. We had seats right at the back, but I heard every word, revelled at being re-immersed in Irish themes, language, characters and we all came away inspired.
The old reflected in the new on 9th Avenue
On the Monday we had a rather overdue Maintenance Day. Whilst Julie overhauled the medical supplies, I recommissioned the Iridium satellite phone, fixed a pesky loose connection on the cooker and reset the Automatic Identification of Ships (AIS) transceiver. AIS is a very useful tool for collision avoidance at sea and for monitoring the whereabouts of your friends from your armchair, as there are a number of Apps available on the Interweb which give you this information for free. Useful for pirates too… except that Escapade’s position had not updated for about three weeks. I couldn’t find anything wrong with the system onboard (Raymarine AIS650 with VHF splitter) and ran the software diagnostics tool, but sometimes these things just need a good old ‘Ferranti Reset’ (Jackspeak for ‘turn it off and turn it on again’ – a reference to the early automated Command Systems we struggled with in the 1970s and 80s). In parallel I had an interesting dialogue with the people at Marine Traffic, the market leader in providing AIS over the Web. Funnily enough, Escapade reappeared in the right place!
Shells and more shells on Long Island
The following day we slipped out of Three Mile Harbor and circumnavigated Shelter Island. The film of the same name scored a dramatic 6/100 on rottentomatoes.com when it came out, so you might have missed it! The island is a fairly exclusive getaway spot for the New York elite and looks lovely from seaward. It even has some beaches that have public access, scattered amongst the waterfront homes with their wooden docks and boat hoists. We anchored off one for lunch as we waited for the tide to turn; one of those locations you retreat to for a year to write that novel, but possibly not a top choice for a stag weekend?
Pound net off Orient, Long Island
We thought about anchoring off Greenport on the north side of the island, but it looked a tad industrial, so we pushed further east to Orient where we dropped the pick off a long, empty beach with a lighthouse at one end and a marshy lagoon at the other. We went exploring in the rubber boat. The beach had more shells (mainly clams) than any we’ve seen recently, but also some beautifully polished multicoloured granite pebbles and a good range of hardy plants holding the dunes in place. Nobody about, but one of those Pound Nets strung out on the inshore side of the sand spit looked well-kept, so perhaps it was just the fishermen’s day off. In the lagoon we came across paddleboarders and a birdwatcher’s paradise amongst the sea grasses, ancient groynes and sand dunes. It reminded us both of the tranquillity and natural beauty of Newtown Creek on the north shore of the Isle of Wight, but on a much bigger scale. The sleepy town of Orient was the usual filmset-ready New England Classical Revival Colonial collection of immaculate clapboard houses with perfect picket fences, gardens with not a leaf out of place and the consumer frenzy that is Halloween. I think Americans take this annual event extremely seriously – I wouldn’t dream of teasing anyone about it, but I can’t muster quite the same enthusiasm yet. There’re a few days to go, though!
Long Beach Bar Light, Orient, Long Island