The Young Man and The Bay
The sun had no business shining so brightly on the Shinnecock Bay Club. It was early, too early in fact, but light was spilling through slits between the blinds in the dark room, and it seemed Mother Nature saw fit to rouse me from some much needed sleep. The night before was a long one, as summer nights in the Hamptons often are, and even though I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed and nurse the headache slowly forming somewhere deep behind my eyes, I begrudgingly rose to start my day.
Downstairs a crime scene waited; the whole house smelled of booze and bad decisions. Although those who created this chaos were long gone, their ghosts lingered on. Scattered everywhere were beer cans, wine bottles, cigarette butts, and small pools of unidentifiable liquids. The necessary cleaning would be extensive but could wait. It was time for my favorite ritual.
Stove on. Three eggs fried. Bacon. Toast. Butter. Daily New York Times. Hair of the Dog.
I settled on the couch with a dumb grin on my face, the kind that only comes after experiencing the sweet saving power of a greasy breakfast when facing a truly apocalyptic hangover.
A BRIEF INSERT:
I must emphasize how special hangovers are to me. I am a drinker. I have no problem admitting so. Like many twenty-one year olds, I am proud of my ability to down an inordinate amount of alcohol and rise the next morning no worse for wear. I’ve done it many times this summer: Boardy Barn, The Drift, John Scott’s, The Sloppy Tuna, et cetera. So on those rare days when I wake with blurry eyes, bad breath, and serious anxiety over what was said or done the night before, I relish the chance to just kind of wallow in a state of human inefficiency. Hangovers are a religious holiday- a free excuse to shrug off all responsibilities for the day, guilt-free. I know not all people feel the same. A company was recently started in the city for folks with lives that simply cannot be paused. Within forty-five minutes of placing an order, they will dispatch one registered nurse to any location, armed with one bag filled with goodies capable of combating any nausea, headache, or regret left from the night before. In an ideal world I will never require such service.
Sinking into my blissful post-food coma, staring out at the Shinnecock through glass doors, I saw a stranger walk onto my back porch, a concerned look writ on her face. With mere seconds to act I grabbed the nearest blanket and threw it over my head, praying she hadn’t seen me there stretched on the couch. I held my breath. Then, knocking. TapTapTap. TapTapBANG. Swingandamiss.
I walked to the door, cycling through expressions capable of scaring off any sane person- scowls, glares, intense eye rubs mixed with excessive yawns, heavy malaise complimented by bits of drool. No reaction; a foreboding omen. I opened the door.
“You’re Matt, right?”
I nodded- words required too much effort. We’d never formally met and I hoped this fact would help me avoid whatever followed our unwanted rendezvous.
“Awesome. I’m Diana. I live a few doors down. When I came outside this morning I noticed Vince’s boat wasn’t tied to his mooring, and then I noticed his mooring was actually gone.”
Vince is another neighbor of mine, an old bastard who knows very well he shouldn’t keep his boat floating unprotected in the middle of a bay.
“First I thought it was stolen. Then I saw down by the bulkhead…” She beckoned me to look down the shoreline. I followed her finger.
Beached towards the far end of the property was a small yellow Sea-Ray, seemingly innocuous. At some point last night this vile creature ripped free its mooring and let itself be carried by tides to slam, repeatedly, into the communal bulkhead, a bulkhead that once served as the lone protection between Hurricane Sandy and twenty-nine units of bay-front property. Inaction would sanction the slamming to occur ad-infinitum as the tide came back in. The bulkhead would crack and fail and the sea would rush up to claim the land it desired.
“I called Vince, already talked to him. He’d really appreciate it, and well, you’re kinda the only one who can do this so…”
I gave Diana a look meaning I knew exactly what she wanted me to do, but by God I’d be miserable doing it, all conversing from here on severely frowned upon, and dragged myself over to this fresh disaster to decide the best course of action. I had to move this godforsaken boat back into the middle of the bay.
The bow was still floating, so maybe with a strong enough push I could get the damned thing fully into water and settle this quick. I gathered all my strength, stepped behind the twenty-two-hundred pounds of pure evil, and shoved as hard as I could. I struggled long, struggled hard. I thought of Samson pulling down the Temple of Dagon. I thought of news reports I’d seen where mothers with adrenaline bursts lifted rolled cars off children through sheer force of will. The boat didn’t move an inch. Lazy clouds rolled overhead.
Defeated, I worked on getting the mooring back in place while waiting for more favorable tides. The mooring was a six-foot-long piece of iron with a helix at the bottom to sink it deep into any sand bed and a loop at the top for a rope attached to the buoy with the lead to tie off the boat. It was a heavy, and if not for low tide it would’ve been impossible to set. I waded out far enough in the bay so the boat wouldn’t touch ground when moored and started to drive the spike into the sand using a piece of rusted rebar as leverage.
It was tedious work but it was honest work. It was a job that needed to be done. There was a slow, hot breeze blowing from shore, and it felt good standing in the bay cranking away amidst the clear water, with the sun beating down on my back and the wind moving through my hair.
With the mooring in place I set off to find a shovel. I dug a trench around the back of the boat and down along the sides to let water pool underneath the hull, ideally allowing me to drag the boat offshore before the bay became too deep to stand in. Hurricane Sandy deposited a ton of sand in this area of the Shinnecock, meaning low tide was so low your calves were barely in the water four-hundred feet out. As the tides changed water rose fast and a nasty current developed. The locks connecting this bay and the Peconic were about thirteen-hundred feet from the end of the property, and if I had to swim the boat out to the mooring, well, I’d rather avoid that.
Digging the trench was easy compared to setting the mooring, and once I finished I had the rest of the afternoon to myself to wait and watch the tide creep back towards shore. When the breeze changed directions it carried the sweet smell of the sea with it.
High tide finally arrived, storms now forming in the distance. Great grey clouds raced in from the ocean and chased away the gentle afternoon waves.
My trench worked and I readied myself for the final stretch. The waves turned into swells. Murphy’s Law. I grit my teeth and charged headlong into the bay, carrying the beast upon my back and soon I was swimming. Every stroke brought fresh mouthfuls of water, and choking, sputtering, I pressed on towards the mooring set hours before.
I could bitch and moan like I’d done all day long about the mess I found myself in but I realized how pointless that would be. This was a perfect summer moment, the kind only the Hamptons were capable of providing. I grinned like a madman. My only concern was simplicity itself- tying a knot. There were no grades to fret over, no teachers to fight. No jobs or internships to wrestle with. No bosses, coworkers, clients or customers. No neighbors. No house to clean. No hangover. No headache.
For one moment during a quiet summer afternoon there was just me, a boat, and the bay.