Shinnecock and Hampton Bays

I don’t get to spend much time in the south fork of Long Island but yesterday was asked to bring a 30′ Tiara back from Ponquogue Marina in Hampton Bay. The drive over from Port Jeff was a long hour and change but the scenery is magnificent. Somewhere between Iowa farm land and the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. There are hundreds of small homes along the way each with a boat and trailers in the yard and ” back in the good ‘ol day’s businesses like ice cream and produce stands to stop and explore. But the real beauty is seeing the Peconic and bayside from the shore. While I have been out there on boats many times, I have never had the chance to see the neighborhoods that dot the shoreline before. When we arrived in Hampton Bay, the scenery went from rural to more of a SoNo or Greenport feel, lot’s of eateries and clubs. Many shops and stores waiting for the season to begin. The Ponquoque Marina is right next to station Shinnecock, I could hear the familiar PA calling for the Chief, “Now Chief Smith to the Radio Room”. When we arrived at the marina, my charter pointed out his boat (still on blocks) and I knew we had some time to kill. While he attended to the logistics of getting his boat launched, I took a hike over the dunes to see what was on the other side. The night before, I woke up around 2:00am to review the charts of the bays. The tidal range is about 2.5 feet and the inlet this marina is in only showed 3’ of water. It is a beautiful bay just to the west of Ponquoque Bridge and Shinnecock Inlet. I started asking around for some local knowledge knowing the channels and inlets to the creeks change almost on a daily basis. That is when I met George of Shinnecock Sea Tow, He explained to me that the channels and markers all needed to be reset but the general rule of the day was “Greens to the trees, Reds to the sea’s” Made sense to me but more on that later.

Meanwhile my charter was pacing the yard waiting for bottom work to be finished and the postman to arrive with the check he mailed to cover the service and storage which would help Mr. Stubelek feel better about putting this boat in the slings. A word of advise to anyone buying a boat from a distant yard with captain in tow, make sure you are ready to go, have personally examined the boat, done a test drive and have seen the survey papers and understand what the report reads… George and I and Hollie, the yard lab, were having a great time swapping stories of boats aground and the like. But my charter was learning real quick what it means to own a twin engine inboard. After paying for the storage and make ready, we were in the slings and floating. The broker was there to wish his client well. I wanted to check fluids, transmissions and engine room. Alas the house battery was dead, so we get ready to fire her up after half a dozen cold start attempts, the starboard motor fires then port. She was pumping water, good, panel showed the house was charging, good, gauges all report back properly, great. Now if the starboard motor would just settle down… Turns out the IAC sensor used to act as a electronic choke so to speak, was bad. Not good. It is a good 5+ hours back to Norwalk and were already 2 hours late. The weather was starting to pick up (of course) and we still needed to get through the bay’s and stop for fuel in the canal. After about another 15 minutes of looking at each other silence, a mobile tech arrived with part in hand. 20 minutes to replace and congrats all around. Lines in and off you go! Nice guy’s back there at Ponquoque but something told me it wouldn’t be the last time my charter would be talking with them. Anyhow, George, remember George? He and his wife and their brand new puppy just happened to be going over to pick up some fuel themselves and offered to take the lead. Great, if Sea Tow can’t do it, no one can. Well let’s just say he knew another way to get there, I don’t think we were in a marked channel the entire time we were running, hence the very important need for local knowledge before transiting uncharted (literally) waters. It was blowing about 18 when we turned into the bay, good thing we brought new wiper blades!

Jackson Marina is a large sport fisher marina located just at the entrance to the canal heading north into the Peconic. Valvetech fuel on the fixed docks, use their lines as there are no cleats. The entire gas dock is well fendered and that was good as they were on the east side of the canal and those easterlies were blowing pretty hard. Charlie runs the store, yard and shop. Great guy, lives in Northport but has never sailed across to Norwalk, imagine that? 168 gallons of texas tea and we were ready to go, unfortunately the starboard motor was not. Apparently, the survey missed the fact that the belt was worn down to the canvass. So it was another 90 minutes chatting with Charlie while a belt was sought out and delivered from some distant Carquest shop. This is where we met Dennis, a true marine tech pro. He showed up at the dock with tools and blankets to protect the gel coat he did his best under the gun to get that belt which was cross referenced to fit. It was very tight and made the install difficult along side the fact that he had to remove the raw water pump on the 5.7 Crusader to get it on. That is when he noticed the grove worn into the pressure side of the line. “That explains why the surveyor reported salt water spray exists in the engine room” I told the proud new boat owner. He was not happy but Dennis assured us that the condition had existed a year or more and he couldn’t fix it today in any event. I asked my charter to go take care of Charlie and Dennis and up the canal we went, we had taken so much time to get going, it was about 2:30 now that the gates were open and we breezed right through. The Shinnecock Canal was finished in 1919 but has been rebuilt many times since. It’s primary function is to keep the levels between the Peconic and the Shinnecok at a happy medium. Very simple transit and something to be considered if you are ever down that way. Another hour and 15 to Orient Point, a rather rude awakening once in Gardners Bay with the South Easterlies around twenty. I had the vent wind open to watch for the ferry but more water than air was coming in so that option closed. Our 4KW Raymarine proved it’s worth and we passed the ferry port to port in 1/2 mile visibility. A quick call to both the wives with a float plan (just in case) and on through the Gut, we turned 270 degrees for R24. With the wind and seas at our back the remainder of the 4 hour ride south of Middle Ground was great. Both motors running strong at 4000 turning 23 knots. We picked up the safe water buoy at Bridgeport right before the radar kicked off, about 3/4 mile visibility then, “When you are in the pathway, keep a look for fairy’s” i told my co pilot. Only 18 miles to go, Manressa ahead, R24, Peck Ledge Light, R14 and home to Rex. Another happy boater gets his wheels!