Fishers Island to Orient Point in a day

Written By: Thelma  Hedge-Patrissi

Dawn broke with the promise of a glorious day for the tiny island. All one needs to be “island hooked” is a barefoot walk in the crisp turquoise blue waters surrounded by the wheeling, screeching gulls and the beat of the tides. The blast of a fog horn from the distant lighthouse completes the picture.

My journey this fine August morning started at the dock on Fishers Island. My father, Corbin Hedge was preparing his lobster boat for its yearly journey to Orient Point. I paced up and down the dock impatient to be on our way. My father was a man born and bred on Fishers Island into a family of 3rd generation fishermen. The family owned and operated a fish market that was a mainstay of the island during the summer months. Hurrying and rushing were foolish according to him, especially when you were embarking on a day long journey through a maze of moorings with bullseyes and weasels straining on their anchors, across the race. You were traveling past Flat Hammock, North and South Dumpling and into Orient Point on a Novia Scotia built wooden 40 ft., 30 year old Lobster boat.

After what seemed like hours, equipment had been double checked, life jackets examined, boat fueled and CB radio turned on, I was allowed to jump on board. With my life jacket and sunscreen on I would take my regular spot up on deck for our 2 hour trip over to Orient Point.

I had been thinking about the fact that my dad was getting old. Lobster hauling is a demanding and dangerous job. At the age of 65 my father had decided to stop making his own wooden pots and instead order them hand made from Mr. King. He made them to order in his wood shop in East Marion. My dad surmised that this would not only save money, but allow him some much needed time in the cold winter months to rest when he wasn’t out hauling pots.

Coming across the race on a lobster boat is a true test of skill and the knowledge and understanding of a man and his boat. No one who makes a living on the water takes her for granted. She is a force to be reckoned with.

The race on a calm day is rough; it beckons you with its churning waters, calling you to come in and ride its waves. Bell buoys moan their acceptance as the tide pulls them in one direction and pushes them in another. Seagulls are drawn there due to the high volume of fish in the water. Their cries seem deafening as you bounce and dip your way through the race into calmer waters. They seem to be either laughing at you for being foolish enough to enter the race or encouraging your journey and wishing you a successful passage.

After skillfully navigating the race, we head for the docks in Orient Point. Coming into Orient you notice the beauty of it as the sun glints off of the Orient Point Lighthouse. The beaches stretch for miles and miles, as my senses are bathed in the sights and sounds of red winged black birds cawing as they fly over the marshes, osprey circling and diving overhead as warm summer breezes caress my face. Every barren slope breaks forth in green and yellow from goldenrod ready to burst forth along with the beach roses dotting the landscape. We chug past the ferry dock with its long lines of cars waiting to be whisked across to New London, Connecticut. People young and old walk the shoreline at the terminal watching the ferry arrive. Perhaps they are looking for an occasional piece of beach glass, an interesting shell or just enjoying the salt air and the feeling of peace that washes over you when you are on the beach.

The Orient Point Ferry is coming into port, her waves gently bounce us up and down and we are dwarfed by her majestic size. Passengers look down upon us in our tiny yellow and green lobster boat in awe. One wonders what they must be thinking when they see a tall man, dressed in oil skins with a sheathed knife at his hip, hair to his shoulder and a red bandana tied around his forehead. Accompanying him is a young woman, dressed in cutoffs and tank top, long hair blowing freely in the wind and an old orange life jacket that has been in the cabin of this boat for eternity, mingled with an assortment of fish nets, knives, tackle and buoys.

We have arrived. We tie up at the Orient by the Sea marina in Orient Point and head down the dock toward the parking lot to be met by Mr. King. He would help my father and I load and secure 50 brand new lobster pots to the back of our boat. Mr. King would then drive us to Latham’s, the last farm stand on the North Fork where we would load up on fresh vegetables and buy a 50lb bag of LI potatoes. This would be completed in record time, money would exchange hands, and a quick lunch would be had at the Orient marina. Then we would cast off and head back home to Fishers, leaving the beauty and memories of Orient Point in the distance for another year.