Sailing To Essex

Over the weekend I sailed from East Hampton to Essex, Connecticut, because I had heard that Essex was a place that you should see before you die. I first stopped off the coast of Lyme and anchored for a rest, then continued on to Essex the following morning.

Heading up the Connecticut River, past Old Saybrook, I found Essex, which is quite possibly the quietest town I have ever visited.  It has one main street with all of the town’s important businesses, maybe ten stores and two coffee shops. Also, right out in front of the main port is the Mary E., an historic schooner that takes people out for rides for $30 a person. This is right in front of a small historical museum.

While walking through the town, I started to realize that it doesn’t get a ton of tourism. Most people who are there know everybody, and more than once while buying coffee or ice I was asked who I was since nobody had ever seen me before. This was a dramatic difference from living in the Hamptons year-round, where if nobody knows you, it’s perfectly okay. [expand]

The town itself is so quaint and cute, I couldn’t get over it. There were a lot of families with kids, and absolutely nothing was open in town on a Sunday until 11 a.m. or noon, except for the coffee shops and breakfast places.

After a coffee, a shave, ice, gasoline and a few bananas, I was once more out on Long Island Sound, heading back to Three Mile Harbor.

All I could think about while heading back was how world class the East End of Long Island is. Essex is adorable, don’t get me wrong, but compared to Montauk, Southampton or East Hampton, it just can’t match the incredible beauty of our resorts, homes, inlets, nature and ocean.

Passing through Plum Gut, where all the fishermen from Orient go, I caught a bluefish and, because I was a little tired, aimed my O’Day 25 directly south, anxious to get home.

And then I saw dolphins.

In the middle of Gardiners Bay, I saw a pod of dolphins jumping out of the water, right next to my sailboat. At first I didn’t believe it, as I’ve never seen dolphins in Gardiners Bay before, so I started to scan the water, waiting for them to jump out again for air. And that they did, this time about 50 yards from my boat.

I let go of the tiller, which sent the sailboat into a spin, and jumped into the cabin to grab my iPhone to use the camera. Then I jumped back into the cockpit and turned the engine on and kept looking for the dolphins.

The camera on the iPhone has a terrible zoom, but I was able to get a little video footage of the dolphins jumping out of the water. I think that the sound of the engine started to scare them, because they were now staying underwater longer than normal instead of jumping out over and over again like they were when I was under wind. I tried following them around, but would have to guess which direction they were headed, and at one point, I was heading west and they popped out of the water heading east.

The dolphin adventure was over.

It’s very rare to see dolphins in Gardiners Bay, and when I got back home and told the story to another boater, he told me that they were probably up here because the water has been warmer than usual for this time of year.

When I got home, I cooked up the bluefish. [/expand]

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