The Point at The End
By Linda Feldman
Like any fish tale worth its salt, this one likely has become handsomely embellished over the years. Just as the shore line changes each time the elements gently or not so gently carve and caress the water’s edge, so the lines between truth, love and zeal do blur and blend over time. One thing of which I am sure is that my family shares a wonderful, magical time each summer at Montauk. By that we are blessed more than I can ever fully capture, much less exaggerate.
From my early childhood, I can trace back to my paternal grandfather the first family stories of bold adventure, fraught with peril, on the open sea. After supper he sat with us kids in the backyard on a small homemade bench, just three little pieces of solid wood that hardly seemed able to hold him, my brother and me, but hold us it did for at least a few years. Our favorite account was The Storm and it didn’t take much persuasion for him to tell the story yet again, “The waves came over the deck and that wind was howling and, holy mackerel, I had to tie myself to the post to keep from going overboard!”, he gestured by raising his generous torso up and down on the little bench so we all rocked precariously to and fro. My grandmother, on the other hand, seemed to feel it was her duty to keep my grandfather grounded, figuratively and literally. As we cleared the table after dinner, still in her domain of the house, she gave accounts that were less dramatic and more humorous. “Just remember, I sank your boat. “, she ruefully laughed at her other half as she whisked the table clean. This sparked an immediate and impassioned round of interjections from each and every family member, which when pieced together, roughly explained what happened. Apparently my grandfather had a boat many years before I was born. Because my grandmother didn’t like his boat she prayed it would sink. Granted, her prayer was answered, but the sinking of a concrete boat hardly smacks of divine intervention. It sank at the dock, a true testament to the lack of seaworthiness of either the boat or my grandfather, or, quite possibly, both of them. The details became discordant at this point, but somehow the manner in which the boat was tied to the stationary dock and the calculations for how much rope was needed to accommodate the rise and fall of the boat due to the tides, seem to be key elements leading to the boat’s demise. In defense of my grandfather and his concrete boat, there were solid reasons to build boats of concrete, particularly back in those days. During both World War I and World War II materials such as metal and wood were scarce. Concrete was a plentiful and relatively low maintenance substance. Quite simply, as long as the amount of water displaced by the boat hull weighed more than the boat, it would float. Conversely, as my grandfather proved, when the amount of water displaced by the hull of the boat did not weigh more than the boat, (because the boat filled with water) the boat would sink.
Now, as if summoned again by the Sirens of Titan, the next generation of my family was drawn to the sea with the same misguided passion as the generation before. My father however, cast a larger net with his cousin and together they acquired one bigger, better and more glorious vessel. Between the two sets of parents and eight children all told, we filled the boat, aptly named The Dozen Cousins. We spent most summer weekends on the Long Island Sound, swimming, fishing, and water skiing. It seems hard to believe now, but without computers, cell phones or video games we were thoroughly amused and entertained.
I thought our joy was complete until we took our Dozen Cousins to Montauk for a two week vacation. My dad and uncle brought the boat by sea while the rest of us came by land. My brother and I peered out over gleaming bridges spanning glittering waterways as we drove there to meet the rest of our family. Passing the Shinnecock locks, my mother explained how and why they operate, allowing boats to navigate safely from one elevation to another. I made a mental note to relay this concept to my grandfather the next time I saw him. Onward to theHamptonsbig windmill, turn left at the long rectangular pond, and finally across the last stretch of road on that narrow strip of sandy land between the sound and the ocean.