The Lady Orpheus

Written By: Mary Latini


It’s another perfect day in the, once sleepy, fishing village of Montauk. After the long hazy drive through Southampton and Easthampton memorizing each landmark and counting the miles we finally turn, at last, onto Westlake Drive where we spend our summers on board our small, but just big enough, fishing boat.


The gravel in the makeshift parking area crunches under our tires as we pull in near the dock where we keep her ,The Orpheus, tied up securely. Cramped legs stretch out as the doors to our SUV fling open revealing half filled warm water bottles, empty bags of chips and stale coffee in cup holders. Fresh sea air fills our nostrils as we emerge from the stuffy Pathfinder. For just a fleeting moment there is a sense of peace and fulfillment. The hot sun and the clear, blue sky take hold of us just for a minute.


But alas, I am a boating mom and despite the serenity of the sea air and the soothing rhythmic lapping of water up against the side of the dock I am all at once ready at the quick. Instantly, like a trained soldier, bags are lined up. Coolers filled with food for the grill, juice boxes and clanking glass from bottles of beer are delegated for carrying to our small boat. “Who needs to use the bathroom? “ I shout with command. “ Where is your other shoe?” I demand of my 7 year old son, James, as I hunt through a cluttered steamy hot, back seat that was empty when we left the house 2 hours ago. “When are we eating?” My 12 year old, Kevin, wants to know.


I was never a boat person. Nor did I ever want to become one. So how did I get roped in to this unlikely scenario? It all started innocently enough. The thought of owning a small boat in a quaint fishing village at the end of Long Island was quite romantic to me. I envisioned lazy weekends with not a care in the world. My husband introduced me to this great idea. Back in the days before we married I would meet him at the dock. In the beginning we would take little cruises on the boat. He was quite a gentleman and The Orpheus was new and well maintained. Much like the boat, I dare say, so was I. Whenever we set out to sea he would forbid me to lift a finger. There was always a nice bottle of wine opened as we enjoyed the sunset over the harbor. We would walk hand in hand carelessly, flip flops snapping at a casual pace.


The boating life started to sink in and I quickly learned that flip flops did not make good boating shoes. Not long after that I learned how to grab onto a pylon to push off from the dock and how to tie a knot to secure her. It felt like a small adventure. Sometimes we would join with our dock neighbors for homemade dinners and chats that lasted well into the evening. We would glean with envy at the big yachts and wonder who could possibly own them? Often we would grab a night cap at Ben & Jerry’s before descending into the cozy small cabin of his 26 foot boat. In the mornings we would sit on the deck of our little craft and sip coffee fetched from Gaviola’s Market and awaken to the sound of seagulls fighting for scraps of bait nearby. I can remember passing by the occasional disheveled woman, hair thrown in a scrunchie, hauling toddlers and balancing bags of supplies thinking how she just did not know how to have fun. And further thinking; that would never happen to me.


Nevertheless, as we grew in our lives my role on the Orpheus changed significantly. I was drawn in by the seductive song of the sea and did not see the changes coming. Once we married the little cruises turned into fishing trips that involved hauling large quantities of bait, tackle and ice onto the boat and going out for hours at a time even if the sea was a bit scary or rough. Of course many of our catches got away. But on the good days we would emerge triumphantly with a keeper or two.  Despite my husband’s attempt to convince me that fishing was wonderful I was not entirely sold. After all, learning how to steady myself on the deck of the boat while trolling for bass in 4 -foot seas, seemed rather ridiculous when there were so many great restaurants in Montauk!


As our boys came into the picture my husband took great pride in teaching them the ways of the dock. Hours of meticulous instruction were spent on just how to cast your line. The click click and spin of the rod and reel became comforting sounds. At the end of a fishing day we all got to work scrubbing down the boat and spraying it off before we would head off to the common showers at the dock. On the days that we had fish he would clean them and find endlessly creative ways to prepare them.

I started to not mind lugging mountains of stuff out to the boat and started to rather enjoy the quiet life that Montauk offered. After all people go to even further lengths to climb mountains with lesser rewards.


Now it’s a mere 13 years later, The Orpheus, not much worse for the wear, still takes her place securely in the same finger slip that we have always had. I recently caught a glimpse of a young girl with her boyfriend as they pulled into a slip next to us and she insecurely grabbed for a pylon to pull them closer to the dock. I was busy gathering our bags for a trip to the shower. My hair was thrown disheveled into a scrunchie, I briefly looked up as the sound of the outboard boat engines grew louder and the familiar smell of fuel wafted through the breezy salt air. Instinctively my son jumped up on the dock to lend a hand.   Though busy at work, I smiled and waved. She looked over at me in with a wry gaze of pity.   I continued on and wished them a nice day. I knew what was in store for her.


I took my bags and lugging my two kids behind me headed for the showers. I was smiling because I realized that despite all the work, and all the effort to maintain her I was completely charmed and content with our lives on The Orpheus.