-- From Herman Melville's "Moby Dick"
I am no sailor. After nearly drowning several times in my life, I stay away from water be it a placid lake or a raging surf. However, I have great respect for the power of the sea and those who work it for a living. When the wind howls and one wrong step can cost you your life, you are doing a job I know is important and I could not do.
|Montauk sunset, Nov. 2017 (Margo D. Beller)|
My mother, who grew up on the flat plains of Alberta, liked to come to Plumb Beach to watch the waves. Listening to the water must have been a way to stay calm in an otherwise less-than-contented life. But my old neighborhood has changed and the fishing village has been replaced by high-end real estate, traffic and tall towers.
When MH and I started taking vacations in November around the time of the Veterans Day holiday, we chose shore areas because the tourists would not be there in the same numbers as in the summer. Our first November trip was to Stonington, Conn. We have since stayed along the Delmarva Peninsula; in Cape Cod and Cape Ann, both in Massachusetts; in New Jersey's own Cape May, and down along the North Carolina Outer Banks and on Atlantic Beach.
There are disadvantages to this. When the wind blows in the winter cold it can be numbing. Not as many restaurants are open and some areas of state or federal parks can be closed. If unexpected snow hits, it makes for treacherous travel.
|Male (L) and female long-tailed ducks|
(Margo D. Beller)
This year we decided to stay closer to home yet not in Cape May, and so ventured to Montauk, on the eastern end of New York's Long Island. We have visited the town on many day trips but wanted to do some exploring of the South Fork, where Montauk is at the very end, and the North Fork, where we had once visited Greenport and Orient, two of the towns where wineries have replaced the old potato farms.
The Long Island scenery is wonderful. We also saw some impressive birds including hundreds of them in the ocean off Camp Hero, an old military base now a state park. Winter is duck time. Among those in the ocean below a sheer drop were black, surf and white-winged scoters and common eiders. Gannets dove from on high for food while cormorants and common loons would pop up from the water before diving back down again. The ubiquitous herring gulls were joined by greater black-backed gulls and even a few ringbills.
In calmer waters we found more common eiders, a scoter or two as well as long-tailed ducks. All of these are usually seen in the ocean but when you are at Land's End and a storm is expected, shelter is a priority.
(Margo D. Beller)
If only we could've spent more time with the birds and less time trying to find an affordable place to eat and drive roads where the people who service the rich were in a hurry to either get to their next job or get home and drove one-lane roads at a high rate of speed. Even those who own property and live out there full time drive behemoths that fill your rear-view mirror when they tailgate.
All of this part of Long Island is New York City East. While the North Fork seemed more artsy, I did not like the South Fork much at all. The Hamptons have always been rich but now they are Super-Rich, with obscenely expensive megamansions crowding each other along any available waterway, screened from lesser beings in the road by tall, thick hedges of privet. Privet is everywhere. Once in a while I saw huge hollies placed in front for the same reason, which at least is interesting. Privet is not, and when it flowers it stinks. The mansions were of recent vintage - salt boxes are an endangered species where land is worth more than your life - and likely very empty, their owners back in their city penthouses.
(Margo D. Beller)
When I was a child I remember my family walking along the road from the old hotel - which later was bought by Imelda Marcos, the wife of the Philippine dictator - past a duck farm. Hundreds of white ducks, bred to become part of the famous Long Island duckling dinner. My sister and I weren't told that, of course.
The duck farm was gone, the land cut up into luxury housing. The old hotel I remembered had been fenced in (likely by Marcos) and re-sided (likely by the people who bought it from Marcos) in a thoroughly ugly way. I expected this but it was still sad to see. I doubt we'll be coming back to the South Fork ever again. Aside from the sea, it is not our kind of place.
You've got to walk and don't look back, as Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger once sang.