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Sixty-Something: My Gardiner’s Bay Sailing Season Of 2018 Comes To An End

T.J. Clemente

The author captures the sunset from his sailboat. (Courtesy Photo)

Ernest Hemingway wrote the novel The Old Man and the Sea about the aging reality of a fisherman. Last week I aged as I watched Forbes Rivas and his son haul my 22' Catalina sailboat ("Cindi Lou") out of the water of East Hampton's Three Mile Harbor and put it on its land stands not but 50 yards from where it floats all summer. It's a sad day when I see the boat hauled out of the water because I can feel something ending, something I enjoy so very much, that being my Gardiner's Bay sunset sail season.

Many times when I am the only person out sailing in Gardiner's Bay I feel and think about so many things. I have moments when I reflect on my sixty-something years. I think of when I had young children walking around the house. I fondly remember taking them to school. Now they are in their early thirties. I also reflect on my decades working in Manhattan only to end up writing stories for two East End publications. I often end up laughing about them while sharing with my sailing friends.

Back in 2004 my boat used to be hauled out of the water with a big crane commanded by Don Vander Ver. As he approached 80-years-old Don put in a system to take the boats out with a travel lift for when he would not be able to man his crane. In affect he was preparing his boatyard for the time he would not be able to do the launchings and the pulling out of the water of all our boats with his mighty crane. That time has come.

So there I was taking down the sails and packing them away for the winter. Taking down my "bergee flag" my colors, and securing things for the winter's north winds that will wreak havoc and bring snows. Last year due to machine problems my season ended on Dec 21! Trying to avoid that situation Forbes started much earlier this year. It had been years since my boat was out of the water before November. As Don aged, the boats came out of the water more slowly and later. Now it's up to Forbes when they come out.

As I was completing the task of securing the boat for the off-season on the land, my good friend Todd Wickersham (who sails with me most evenings for our photographing sunset sails) noticed the sunset forming. When I sail, it is usually preceded by an off the boat Sammy's beach swim. Often while swimming then sailing I watch the sky change colors. I enjoy seeing the pink, orange, grays starting to form around the clouds with that famous East End blaze of sunlight brightening up everything. Then comes those amazingly powerful minutes before the sun actually sets. Who can resist watching a beautiful sunset? Both Todd and I grabbed our phone-cameras to snap a few photos of the sunset as we do most nights but usually out in Gardiner's Bay.

Todd even snapped a photo of me taking my last 2018 sunset photo from the deck of my boat on the land but still wet from being in the water. It was a brilliant sunset and it was a brilliant sailing season. When spring rolls around, the boat will be painted, washed up and launched. I will be a year older. There are only so many sailing seasons in a sailor's life. 2018 was magnificent - I had many perfect breezes and powerful sunsets. Yes, I have become an old man of the sea.




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