Quinipet Camp and Retreat Center is located on Shelter Island. You get there by ferry and the short, peaceful 8-minute ride across sets the mood for your arrival on the 8,000 acre island. The guys who work on the ferry are friendly and joke around with the passengers as they deftly make change for the fares using the bills they have folded magically between their fingers. On the ferry you have a panoramic view of Gardiner’s Bay, Shelter Island Sound and the North and South Forks of Long Island. The waters are famous sailing grounds and you can spot colorful spinnakers and sailboats everywhere.
The camp itself sits on a bluff on the northwest shore of the island. You get a feeling of being in the woods and at the beach at the same time. The grounds are simple but pretty and from every vantage point there is a glimpse of water. When you first drive in, there are five big rocks in a row on the side of the driveway. Each has one word inscribed on it. Faith. Love. Courage. Honesty. Humility. You know right away you have come to a good place and those five words of welcome somehow say it all. There is an outdoor chapel with benches facing the water. A huge cross is set in a rock in front. A wonderful place for meditation. An inspirational view. A sunset view from the nearby gazebo is spectacular. Camp Quinipet is run by the Methodist Church. They offer retreats for families and a place to exchange marriage vows. They offer a day camp for children (the Love Bugs are the most adorable campers) as well as a “sleep-away” camp. Different programs for children of all age groups take place all summer long. You can learn how to sail, kayak, rock climb, play the guitar or simply run amok. Most kids already know how to do this (run amok) but at Camp Quinipet you can do it officially.
Many of the staff members come from countries in Europe to spend the summer in this beautiful place. They are happy to spend the summer here and always are reluctant to return home in late August. It’s not unusual to have a lifeguard from London or an art director from Munich.
There is a tiny camp store that has T-shirts, ice cream and soda, bandanas and post cards. Campers can go there during the week and pick stuff up and learn first-hand about how to manage a line of credit. Every day while at camp, there is something called FOB. This means “feet on bunk,” and it’s something I might instate at home. It’s an hour when you have to be quiet and keep your feet on your bunk. You can read, play cards, sleep or daydream during FOB. As long as your feet don’t touch the floor you’re legal! Can you imagine a cabin full of pre-teens doing this for an hour every day? (Oh, cell phones don’t come to camp and it’s kind- of a miracle in itself that there is no texting for a week). At night after dinner and evening vespers, feisty older campers sneak out of their cabins and play pranks on their friends while the younger ones listen to ghost stories and pretend they aren’t scared. Summer romances under the stars are not unusual. After all, it’s summer and there is something special in the summertime nighttime air. We’ve all been there. Remember?
Blue juice. No, it’s not the name of a rock band or a Tim Burton movie. It’s a famous drink at Quinipet made up of, well, no one really seems to know what’s in the sugary blue concoction. But campers consume it by the gallon and everyone walks around with blue lips and tongues.
The weeks fly by at Camp Quinipet. Some kids stay for several weeks at a time, returning home water-logged, sunburned and mosquito-bitten, but quite the sailors and swimmers. Most of the clothes they arrived at camp with are either wet or missing or are someone elses! Your children return home somehow happier, more mature, more independent and somehow, someway, you love them even more. There is a word for that. It’s called Grace.