Dan Rattiner's Stories

Heatwave Weekend: Sharks, Yachts, Whales and Dan’s Taste of Summer

Here's what happened thanks to the record-breaking temps.

On Thursday, July 25, a bolt of lightning hit a crowd of beachgoers in Clearwater, Florida, injuring six and, with a direct hit, killing Garry Perks, 32, of New Port Richie, Florida. This was the weekend of the worst heatwave to hit the East Coast of America in many years, and here in the Hamptons we were to break several records, all of which included temperatures in the shade of over 102 and in the sun over 110.

My plan was to stay down at the beach if at all possible. I also did have an offer to take a ride on an outrageously beautiful 95-foot yacht that was docked in Sag Harbor and could cruise at 42 knots. I did figure that standing out in a wind of that magnitude with the ship underway must surely cool us down.

One hesitated about going to the beach after learning about the man killed by lightning, but what the hell. What do they say—it’s about as likely to get killed by (fill in unlikely way of getting killed) as getting killed by a bolt of lightning? God had already struck. We’d be safe. And we were.

On the other hand, a very rare connection between the species did occur down at the beach. We were among those sunbathing at Indian Wells on Friday when, around noon, everybody on the beach suddenly got up at the same time and began cheering. Just a hundred yards out from shore, a big whale at least 30 feet long breached the surface of the sea and for at least 10 minutes put on a show.

He’d blow water high in the air, then leap out up into the sky—well as much as a 30-ton whale could leap up—and then crash down onto the surface of water with a bang. Swimmers near him headed for shore the first time he did this. And when he did it again, everybody on shore ran down to the water’s edge to see more. When he did it again, the crowd cheered and shouted again. In the next 20 minutes he did this half a dozen more times, most of the time facing the shore and the bathers who he seemed to be trying to communicate with.

“Do it again, do it again,” was the shout, then, “He’s talking to us! He’s putting on a show!” The lifeguards didn’t seem to know what to do, except get everybody out of the water. It was pandemonium. Crazy. All this with an offshore wind blowing, the 110 degrees in the sun tolerable.

It seemed to me, however, that our interpretation of this might have been wildly inaccurate. He might have been saying its hot as hell here in the ocean, we’ve never been in water this warm, get us out of here.

In fact, over the weekend, there were more sightings of whales and other large fish putting on a show. Whales appeared off the beach in Hampton Bays and off the beach in Montauk. Also offering performances were schools of dolphins who showed off synchronized swimming and leaping along the shore at Two Mile Beach in East Hampton and later at Main Beach in town. There they were out there, chuckling, smiling and laughing—hey, get us out of here. And then there were the sharks. Fins appeared just beyond the wave line, and the lifeguards were blowing their whistles to announce the danger.

There are all kinds of sharks. There are nurse sharks and basking sharks and hammerhead sharks. Let me count the kinds. The great white sharks are the most notorious biters. And yes, they have killed or bitten people, a lot more this year than in prior years, I believe because human beings concerned with the environment have said we NEED these sharks—don’t kill them. Let them be.

I say, Nay, don’t do it. Are we nuts?

One of the concerns I had that morning while going out to the car to drive to the beach was this robin’s nest at eye level in a big bush right by the front door of our house. There were four little blue robin’s eggs in this nest. Three days earlier we had seen it, forcing us to tiptoe around while observing this, then quietly creeping into the house. On some occasions, while approaching the front door, the mama robin would flap off angrily until we crept back inside. Now it was over 100 degrees this day. A quick look. The eggs were still fine.

The boat ride was something else. The Pershing 9x is a $15 million giant luxury yacht glittering in chrome and shiny black surfaces that, when we climbed aboard, roared with an the earthshaking sound as down below the two aircraft engines of 3,000 horsepower came to life.

There were eight passengers onboard together with a crew of three out for a spin, and as we snarled and beat our way up to 40 knots leaving Sag Harbor heading toward Shelter Island, the expected huge wind felt so good. We held onto our hats. A great rooster tail of water churned up 20 feet behind us as we powered along. The ship is a combination of beauty, power and hospitality. We ate crudité and drank rosé wine while this great ship completed a full circle around Shelter Island in about half an hour. What a ride. We were told that six of the Pershing 9Xs, all built in Italy, have been finished and sold to the top one-percenters around the world. Popular music blasted from the speakers onboard when we got north of Shelter Island, and wow, was this a thrill.

One amusing caveat. The radar and communications stalk on the roof is too high for this ship to get under Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge connecting Sag Harbor with North Haven. The rig is supposed to dip down with the press of a button, but that hadn’t been installed properly on this particular boat yet, and so three crew members with wrenches had to lower it by hand. How embarrassing.

Back at home, on Sunday, we all went out to sit in the chaise lounges by the pool as the youngsters swam laps. At a particular time, I was in the kitchen adjacent to the pool and looked out the sliders to see everybody looking up into the sky, pointing. This was strange. I set down what I was doing and went outside for a moment. Up high was this majestic eagle making lazy circles. And I realized that one of our guests was sunning herself with a three-pound Pomeranian dog on a towel in the adjacent chair, who alternately behaved playfully, yappy, sleepy or happily with his tail wagging.

Looking at the eagle looking down at the little dog, I immediately concluded the eagle was looking down and observing a potential lunch and so walked out and threw a towel over the dog and instructed his mistress to keep the dog covered. Indeed when the towel went on, the eagle made one final circle then flew majestically off. There are other fish to fry, I think he was thinking, more tasty treats to consider. And that was that.

I attended two big Dan’s Hamptons Media events over that weekend, GrillHampton and Taste of Two Forks, each of them beginning about 7 p.m. when the heat had dissipated there, under an enormous tent on the waterfront by Mecox Bay. There, more than a thousand people enjoyed the wine, tacos, steaks, cheese, fish, pastas, burgers, hors d’oeuvres and other imaginative offerings, along with chocolates and cakes and ice cream, all prepared by 40 famous chefs from local restaurants and served happily by members of their staffs. The attendees milled around or danced to the DJ and live band, listened to some speeches, voted in the grilling competition, talked with friends and family, all while watching the blood-red sun set sideways and gloriously in the west. What great evenings these two events were.

Sunday morning, the heatwave broke and we heard cheeping outside of our front door. We broke into smiles. Would it be safe to go out and meet the new babies?

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