The Mast-Head: Flotsam, Perhaps

My old, red kayak floated away

High tide came late on Friday, late enough that no one was awake or on the beach when my old, red kayak floated away. It was my fault, really. 

The kids had dragged it up a way after paddling around in the bay the previous evening. I had been sleepily watching from a hammock and said that I would take it the rest of the way to the safety of dry sand. Hungry for dinner or addlebrained from a long, hard week, I simply forgot.

Ellis, who is 8, and I were on the beach the following morning messing around with a metal detector when I noticed the kayak was gone. Sentimental and possessive about such things, I made my son walk up and down with me, looking for a clue. Then, we hiked in on a new trail at Promised Land to scour the beach there. Nothing.

High tide had come around 10 p.m. on Friday. The  wind was variable and light then, from the south-southeast. Guessing where the kayak traveled was just that, guesswork, and, frankly, whoever happened upon it over the weekend most likely would have considered it a gift from the gods. At any rate, no one has yet phoned the town police, to whom I reported the loss as soon as I noticed it.

Then, on Sunday morning, an East Hampton police officer got in touch with me to say that his girlfriend’s father, who is a commercial fisherman, had picked up a red kayak floating in the bay and that I could stop by the house. It was in the driveway, he said. Heading over, I was excited, but it wasn’t to be. The thing was red all right, but it was not mine. 

Looking into replacements later that day, I was disappointed. The manufacturer, Hobie, has followed the trend of adding bells and whistles to everything and anything, all knurled surfaces and military action hero fantasies. Even flashlights are sold as “tactical” these days. Gone are the sleek and effective lines of my old boat, blown from a plastic rotomold before my eldest child was born.

Most of Sunday was spent circumnavigating Gardiner’s Island with Geoff Morris, a sharp-eyed friend since childhood. From the boat we scanned the shoreline through binoculars, arriving from Three Mile Harbor first at Cherry Hill Point, near where Captain Kidd buried treasure. Then, we went north around Bostwick Point, east to Whale Hill with a pause to land a couple of keeper porgies, then to Eastern Plains Point, into Tobaccolot Bay, south around Cartwright Shoal, then beating slowly against a hard chop into Cherry Harbor, and out over Crow Shoal and back to Three Mile. No kayak.

Studying the island so closely was a reward in and of itself, however. And, back on land, the sting of my relatively trivial loss dimmed. A man in New Jersey whose kids had all grown up and moved away from home had one to sell of the same model, albeit blue. I might go get it; I might not. I just hope that my red kayak’s new owner loves it as much as I did.