Nature's Breeze or Iron Wind?

Two distinct and different classes of yachtsmen
Frank Sabia of Amagansett held a codfish taken last week aboard the charter boat Blue Fin IV out of Montauk. Capt. Michael Potts

For those who enjoy being on the water, there are usually two distinct and different classes of yachtsmen. You are either one who enjoys being behind the wheel of a powerboat or one who would rather hoist the mainsail for a leisurely cruise that only a sailboat can offer. It’s rather rare to find people who stride to both starboard and port on this matter. But that’s not always a hard and fast rule.

My former neighbor, Jimmy Smythe, the longtime owner of the Corner Bar in Sag Harbor, had both a large sailboat he had inherited from his father and a rather small center console fishing boat. He loved both of them. Jimmy Buffett, the accomplished musician down the beach from me, has an armada of large and small motor and fishing boats, but also owns a beautiful Maine-built sailboat that he likes to take out on a late summer evening cruise, many times by himself. Sailing away to Margaritaville, perhaps?

For me, I’ve primarily landed with the powerboat alliance, but that has not been always the case. Growing up, in addition to a 21-foot Dyer powerboat, my family owned a small Sunfish sailboat that we kept on our beach. We sold the sailboat to a neighbor after my father passed away when I was 7 years old. About five years later, I clamored to my mother about wanting to get a new Sunfish to accompany my 12-foot Sears aluminum boat. It took a bit of persuasion, but she finally relented.

It was a sailboat that was also rather unmistakable in its outward appearance. It was bright orange and red, not exactly my favorite combination of colors, but my mother wanted to ensure she could easily spot me on the water at just about any distance. Being 12, I had very little leverage in the negotiations. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to have it. Ironically, on my very first trip, I unexpectedly caught a gust of wind and did not react quickly enough to let out the sail. The boat tipped over and I was in the water. It happened so fast. I was shocked, but immediately stood on the centerboard and righted the shallow-drafted craft in a few seconds. I never tipped the boat again after that. 

I kept the Sunfish for probably 15 years before I finally sold it on WLNG’s “Swap and Shop” weekly morning garage sale radio show. For the past few years, I look back and regret selling the sailboat. I miss it. While I love my regular fishing boat for multiple uses, I now have more time on my schedule to enjoy the solitude of letting the sail out and taking in the sights and sounds that only a sailboat can offer. 

Scouring the classifieds of various publications and websites, I’ve been keeping my eye out for a sailboat. What kind will it be? I’m not totally sure yet. It will be larger than my original Sunfish, but not so large that it takes more than one person to handle. Best to keep it simple. But I do look forward to one day re-establishing my love of sailing with my own boat. As long as you are on the water, it’s just fine to appreciate both sail and power. 

On the fishing front, the improved weather is bringing more anglers to the surf line and their respective boats. And with both porgy and fluke season opening this week, the activity along the docks will increase even more as anglers dig out their gear from a winter of hibernation.

“There was some good action earlier in the week on school-sized striped bass along the ocean beaches near East Hampton,” reported Ken Morse, proprietor of Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor. “There are now lots of bunker coming into all of the bays as well, but the water is still cold for this time of the year. I also got a report of some good winter flounder action near the Shinnecock Canal along with many throwbacks. That in itself was great to hear.”

Out at Montauk, many captains are getting their boats ready for the season. Porgies and fluke will be on the immediate menu, but a few codfish can still be found a bit farther offshore.

“We did a trip the other day and we had a few cod,” said Capt. Michael Potts of the Bluefin IV charter boat. “The waters are still cold and I did not see much life on the various pieces we fished, despite seeing a large number of whales in the area.” Potts noted that the warming waters should also help push striped bass closer to the rips off of Montauk Point. They have already been caught in rather good numbers toward the western part of Long Island. “The draggers are also getting fluke and porgies close to shore so there should be some good fishing on that front, too, when it opens.”

At the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, the owner, Harvey Bennett, continued to be enthused about the freshwater fishing scene. “The action has been really good in many ponds,” he said. “Fort Pond in Montauk continues to be a hot spot with a number of nice fish, including carp up to 30 pounds. Now that’s some kind of big fish.” Bennett also reported that school-size striped bass can be had from various ocean beaches, including Mecox and Ditch Plain, and from the shore near Rocky Point.

“Also, on Saturday, there was a huge school of bait, fish, and birds working off of Albert’s Landing out to the southern tip of Cartwright Shoal,” he added. “Given the timing, I think it must have been a bunch of early-runner bluefish. It’s about the right time for them to show up.”

“Some stripers are on the ocean beaches as well in the back bays and creeks,” said Sebastian Gorgone of Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton. “Given the warm weather on tap, the activity on several fronts should really pick up. Plus, we should also see some spring squid showing up in Three Mile Harbor and Fort Pond Bay any day.”