Adventure on Montauk Lake

Written By: Marilyn London

Montauk Lake is particularly alluring. Years ago, we stayed at the Shepherd’s Neck Inn and played miniature golf within view of the peddle boats and condo’s. We admired the Lake as we drove from town to Gosman’s dock and talked about how we could be out on the water. It looked safe enough. What could possibly happen on a small lake surrounded by houses, condo’s and people having fun? In our quest for adventure, we rented a motor boat at Uihlein’s Marina. All four of us climbed on board, like Gilligan and his guests. Our training was limited to sailing but we guessed that we could figure it out. No sooner were we in the middle of the lake, still learning how to maneuver the boat, when strong winds stirred up white caps and dark clouds moved in. The rough waters pushed us to the far side of the lake as we realized that we had little control over where we were headed. To add to our concerns, we noticed a sailboat top-sided with its lone passenger in the water. The upside-down boat was tossed in the waves and the wind, and it was clear that the man, also at the water’s mercy, was in dire straits.
Our coordinated, knowledgeable, seafaring family got to work. Jared crawled to the bow, and crouched under the instrument panel, afraid that we’d also capsize. “We have to pull the man on board,” I called to Manny who was huddled over against the impending storm, rationalizing how doing this would be dangerous, both for us and the other boater. While we argued about what to do, we were blown further away from the rental office which had sent out a “rescue crew,” slowly making its way to us against the churning waves and winds.
Dave and I were able to grab ahold of the drenched boater who flopped over onto our deck, never letting go of the loose pieces of his sunfish which he still hoped to salvage. Somehow, we tethered parts of the small sailing craft to our boat and dragged it to a nearby dock. As we approached, the rescue crew came alongside and reprimanded us for the precarious situation we were creating by pulling a stranded boater onto a rental, and getting this close to a dock in rough waters.
As our confidence sank with the sunfish’s rudder, our passenger scooped up what he could and disappeared to shore. We were towed by the rescue crew back to town. In the end, it was an exciting family outing, but since then, we always cross the street and walk away from the boat rental window when we’re near Uihlein’s Marina. We’re pretty sure they’ve got our names and pictures on a never-rent-to-again list!
We still love the panoramic ocean views, swooping gulls, and colorful kites on Ditch Plains Beach. A sudden, heavy thunderstorm can fill the streets from curb to curb and have water swirling around your ankles in less time than it takes to open your umbrella. The smell of seaweed is intoxicating. Evening sputtering bonfires rekindle old friendships and a warm embrace. Water is all around, and the rhythmic smashing of the waves rocks you to sleep.
Now my sons are 38 and 35 years old. One lives in Patchogue and the other in Hampton Bays. Both have water views. When we visit, we look out at the water longingly, imagining our next trip to Montauk. Between the four of us, we have two canoes and a kayak. I accept that our dream of a large sailboat taking us from the Great South Bay, past Ditch Plains Beach around the Montauk Lighthouse for a romantic sunset is but a retirement fantasy—unless it’s on one of Captain Chris’ fishing charters. That said, for over thirty years, we have taken annual pictures of our sons in front of the anchor at Gosman’s dock. Before doing so, we greet the seagulls as they snatch our French Fries. We let soft ice cream drip down our sugar cones and fingers, as we walk past the colorful wooden sailboat in front of the toy store, toward Gosman’s fish-market where the anchor awaits. In town, we nostalgically check out the former Malibu Motel. When our kids were young, we spent many summer vacations there, barbecuing, hanging wet beach towels from the railings, petting the owner’s friendly black poodle, Brandi, and enjoying the sandy, beachy balconies overlooking the ocean. Our family may be the worst boating team, but we all agree that the East End owns our fondest memories and happiest times together. And, by the way,
For Sale: 16-foot Old Town canoe, green. Sorry, you’ll have to supply one of your own paddles.