Friday morning started out only beautiful. No signs of fish as Capt. Ken Rafferty’s boat left the Montauk Harbor inlet heading west toward Gardiner’s Island. He’d called around, spoken to fellow guides already offshore. “No albies” (false albacore), “no bass” (striped bass).
Sunday afternoon was one of those magical times reserved for September when, because the sun is lower to the horizon, the world seems to glow. Looking south from the beach in Montauk, a small, stationary flotilla of boats could be seen a few miles from shore working what must have been a productive hive of summer flounder, otherwise known as fluke.
“Dreary” has gotten a bad rap. The word might have been used Labor Day afternoon in the soft fog and light drizzle that shrouded Hither Woods as seen from the end of the town pier that juts into Fort Pond Bay, where members of several families cut clam baits on the wooden railings and fished for porgies. The words of the children flowed effortlessly from English to Spanish and back again, their tongues deciding which of them best fit the nuance at hand. Chinese was spoken, Japanese, and something Slavic. Laughter was the lingua franca.
The plan was to sail the sloop Leilani to the porgy grounds on the east side of Gardiner’s Island from Montauk Harbor on Sunday, preparing clam baits along the way. We’d done it before: stayed the night at an anchorage in the cove on the north side of the island, and feasted on grilled porgy washed down with a glass or two of wine, making the return trip the next morning.
The days pass, sunrise to sunset, and we go about our business for the most part unaware of the mythology that springs from our time and winds through our lives, felt but unseen, like an undercurrent. Once in a while the current, with its demigods and siren songs, comes to the surface as it did last week.
Kenny Bouse described how he and his brother began their fishing careers in Montauk 62 years ago this way:
“We took off from Bay Shore on an old ’51 flathead Harley. We didn’t know where the hell we were going. We got to the Lighthouse. I said, ‘What do we do now that the road stops.’ We found some Bubbies haulseining and they told us how to get to the docks.”
The party on the banks of Fort Pond Bay in Montauk Sunday celebrated the rescue of John Aldridge after his surviving 12 hours at sea over 30 miles offshore with the help of buoyant rubber boots. He was known as Johnny Load, a nickname with undefined coinage. He is now known as Johnny Boots.