You can tell it’s spring. Gannets have been seen diving, probably on alewives, in Gardiner’s Bay, a striped bass has been caught in Three Mile Harbor, bait and tackle shops are opening their doors, the Montauk SurfMasters tournament is nigh, and the buzz of power tools can be heard just off Old Stone Highway in Amagansett where Dwayne Denton is finishing up a dory for two baymen, Dan and Paul Lester.
Last week Denton, who happens to be chief of the Amagansett Fire Department, emerged from a cocoon-like shelter where the Lester dory lay upside down in the final stages of construction with plywood skin covering fir framing and main supports of two-inch oak.
He stood beside another Lester dory that once served as one of the East Hampton Dory Rescue Squad’s boats. “This one was built by John Collins. I used it for the basic design of the new boat, but built more flare in it,” he said, going on to describe a dory’s rocker, that classic rise from the low profile amidships to its high wave-countering bow and stern.
The “flare,” or spread of the dory’s beam up and out from its narrow deck, was more pronounced than the rescue dory’s to make it a little more sea-kindly. “The ribs are tighter. It’s a heavily built boat. These boys ain’t easy on boats,” the shipwright said.
“I built my first boat when I was 14. I’m 53 now,” he said, the first few built alongside his father, with the woodworking skills passed down through at least four generations. He knows what fishermen require in a boat.
Denton is a Lester on his mother’s side, a grandson of Ted Lester, captain of one of area’s most productive haulseine crews in the days before the ocean seine was banned. His uncle was the late Capt. Stuart Lester.
He took a visitor into his shop where the last of the dory’s knees were being finished. He held one that would support the well where the outboard is mounted. The well is located just forward of the transom and just aft of where Dan or Paul Lester will steer the dory. The knee will have a space drilled into it. Some of Calvin Lester’s ashes will be sealed in the space so that Paul and Danny’s late father will remain by their side, as he was in life, as they tend their traps, set nets, or tow a scallop dredge.
“It will be painted on the weekend,” Denton said with a smile, “and christened with Budweiser.”
It’s time for surfcasters to sign up for the Montauk SurfMasters spring tournament for striped bass. The hard-fought contest will get under way on May 9 and run until June 28. Unlike the SurfMasters tournament that targets the fall run of bass, the spring version has no divisions.
Waders, wetsuiters, and adult men and women all compete against one another. An extra prize of $100 will be awarded for the first bass weighed in over 25 pounds. The entry fee is $100. The awards ceremony will be held on June 28 at Paulie’s Tackle in Montauk, breakfast compliments of Goldberg’s Famous. Paulie’s in now open on weekends.
Harvey Bennett, whose Tackle Shop in Amagansett is doing early spring business, said one customer kept coming in for night crawlers, which he reported were attracting walleye in Montauk’s Fort Pond.
Bennett has put great store in Monday’s Blood Moon to spur alewives into dreens for the spawn. A check at the dreen entering Little and Big Reed Ponds in Montauk on Monday found none entering the conduit under East Lake Drive, but Bennett said they were no doubt around. He could think of no other explanation for the gannets he’s seen diving near Devon in Gardiner’s Bay. It is early for gannets, and relatively rare to see them working in the bay.
No doubt seals keep their eyes peeled for alewives and any kind of herring. Twenty-nine seals were seen lounging on their favorite glacial erratics on Block Island Sound just west of Montauk Point on Sunday.