Too Hard and Too Soon

“the hard,”
First place in the SurfMasters wetsuit division still belonged to Nick Bocchino, left, who caught this 35.2-pounder on Oct. 3. As of Monday, Klever Oleas, right, remained in first place in the Montauk SurfMasters wader division for this 42.56-pound striper he caught on Oct. 4. Paulie’s Tackle Photos

I made the decision to haul the sloop Leilani, to bring her onto “the hard,” as the sailor calls the land, two weeks ago when one of the prognosticating computer models showed Hurricane Joaquin passing directly over Long Island.

With the help of Peter Spacek, Leilani slipped her mooring at the south end of Lake Montauk. She drove to Uihlein’s Marina at the head of the harbor under power from her 20-horsepower “iron wind,” sails furled but desperate for just one last breath from the pre-hurricane blow buffeting the East End. Leilani was not the only boat heading for the barn trailing fears that the hurricane would turn east, posing no threat to Montauk, which it did.

Fears because boaters were enjoying an exceptionally beautiful early autumn, a fall that seemed to promise weeks to come before the hard and its mothballs. A sad time.

The relationship between man (and woman) to boats is as complex as it is hard to put into words. For me, Leilani is an escape from the hard, especially when her sails fill and she heels — bows in obeisance — to the sea for its many gifts. Legend has it that boats are named for women because boats depend on (are at the mercy of) the sea like a child does its mother.

I think it goes deeper than that, but surely there’s a rocking-the-cradle aspect of a boat at her mooring, as well as punishment delved out when a wrongdecision is made, like leaving a boat in the water in the face of an approaching storm. No, I was glad I hauled. Too much at stake.

And, as it turned out, our boaters’ loss was our surfcasters’ gain. I believe the top three fish on the Montauk SurfMasters fall tournament as of Tuesday were caught during the pre-hurricane storm that kept fishing boats at bay, their skippers weighing whether they should call it a season.

As discussed in last week’s “On the Water,” the surfcasting was wild, a classic dream come true, when a strong east wind drives prey shoreward — in this case, big bunker — with hungry striped bass hot on their trail.

As of Tuesday, the standings in the tournament’s wader division were as follows: Klever Oleas’s 42.56-pound striped bass stood in first place. Oleas’s 31.02-pound striper held second place, and a 23.86-pound bass landed by Mike Larson held third.

Mary Ellen Kane, a perennial winner in the women’s division, was at the top of the leader board with a 26.42-pounder. Nick Bocchino and his 35.2-pound striper dominate the wetsuit division.

Outside the tournament, very big bluefish were trashing bunker under the Montauk Lighthouse and west through the beaches of downtown Montauk, Napeague through Amagansett, Georgica Beach (big blues at Georgica on Monday) in East Hampton, and on and on. Bass and bluefish have been bending rods at Gin Beach on Montauk’s north coast. Although thebass action has slowed some, the continuing presence of bunker is a sign the striped bass season is not over.

Once storm swells began to subside, it became clear that Gardiner’s Bay’s cornucopia of porgies, sea bass, and false albacore was still producing.

“If it’s not blowing northwest, it’s blowing southwest. I can’t get out,” Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett said, referring to opportunities to go “coot” shooting, using the Bonac name for sea scoters. Bennett runs combination “cast and blast” charters for anglers who like to cast for fish while waiting for sea ducks to descend on his decoys. Lots of laughs, believe me.

“Yesterday, a dragger crossed the bay heading to Montauk,” Bennett said on Tuesday morning. “I guess. There was an illusion. It looked like a giant ship at first when it crossed in the lee of Gardiner’s Island” — calm water in the lee of anything reflects a kind of mirage into the air, making things passing through the mirror-calm area look larger — “and it shrank down to a 40-foot dragger. Ha, ha. Anyway, there must have been thousands of coot in the air. They say there’s been a lot all the way into Cedar Point and Sag Harbor.”

The hunting season started Saturday. The bag limit is 6 per day, 18 in possession.