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Rocking The Harbor Safely

Originally Posted: July 17, 2008

Ben Amato

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The scene at the Duke Estate as they "Rock The Harbor." Photos by Ben Amato

Saturday evening in Three Mile Harbor defined what a Hamptons weekend could be. Across the bay stretched hundreds of boats, from 'Hercules', a mega-yacht designed for exploration to 'Endless Pleasure', a huge catamaran very aptly named. Lining the eastern shore, the diners at Bostwick's and East Hampton Point Marina filled the decks enjoying the breezes, beauty and fine food, eagerly awaiting the after-dinner fireworks.

The western shore was dominated by the "Rock the Harbor" Charity event, with hundreds of party goers spread across the Duke Estate. Further north other houses and beach parties lined the shoreline, all eyes focused on the barge filled with fireworks anchored in the northern corner of the bay. Back on the water, dozens of boats rafted up forming floating islands, in anticipation of the traditional 'Bastille Day' fireworks display. Begun decades ago by Tony Duke and the late George Plimpton, the unofficial Fireworks Commissioner of New York City, annually Three Mile Harbor fills with yachtsmen and cruisers from as far away as Albany, Connecticut, and Rhode Island who come to anchor, feast, and enjoy the unique beauty of this East Hampton natural treasure.

"We look forward to these events," said Ed Michaels, Senior Harbormaster for East Hampton. "We need to do these things," referring to the huge behind-the-scenes coordination necessary to pull off a major event like the "Rock the Harbor" fireworks (formerly Boys Harbor Fireworks) and festivities. Hours before the first rocket was lit, Ed coordinated over 45 officers from the East Hampton Marine Patrol, the Town Police, the State DEC agency and the Coast Guard, who motored in from the Montauk Station. Their goal of keeping everyone safe went off as well as the fireworks themselves.

Marine Patrol Officers Dale Petruska and Kevin Maier.

"It's a little slower these last few years," said Kevin Maier, a Marine Patrol officer who allowed me aboard Marine 6, a 25-foot center console patrol boat he was piloting. He and his partner Dale Petruska are usually on night beach patrol in their SUV's but this evening is annually special. "There was uncertainty whether there would be fireworks this year - and there are two other events tonight, fireworks in Dering Harbor and another out in Shelter Island."

The view from the front of the skiff was impressive. The anchoring lights atop every sailboat mast twinkled like early evening stars, covering the horizon. Music from the Duke Estate echoed across the calm harbor. The rear decks of nearly every boat were brimming with happy faces, plates filled with food, and hands either waving or taking pictures.

"We accomplished our plan," said Pat Mansir, an East Hampton councilwoman of over 11 years. Under her direction in coordination with Harbor Master Michaels, the entire town waterside facility was re-built and enhanced. "We've repaired the dock structures, the breakers out in the channel - we did improvements at Fresh Pond Beach and Head of the Harbor - there are new landing ramps - Marine One and Marine Two, (referring to two new large patrol and push boats used by the Marine Patrol) were built right here in Montauk."

According to Councilwoman Mansir, Ed Michaels was the key to the revitalization of the town's marine facilities. "He's a retired Master Chief. He is so well liked by the men in blue."

"I've spent 20 years in the Coast Guard; Montauk and Governor's Island - mostly in the east," said Ed, "and now, 15 years here I've got five years to go and I've never had a summer weekend off - that's when our business is."

And this summer evening his team of officers made sure the business was the safety of the thousands who saw the Grucci fireworks display. The traffic on the water was kept under five knots, no wake. The gridlock on land, both before and after the show, was handled expertly by town officers manning each major intersection. The weather was "Hamptons Perfect," warm setting sun, cool soft breezes, and an atmosphere that was at once filled with excitement, yet relaxed enough to remind you that you were where you wanted to be - out on the water on an East End summer night.

 • To anchor in Three Mile Harbor check in with the Marine Patrol, on VHF Channel 16 or call 631-537-7575 or their General Information line at 631-329-3078. The town maintains several moorings, marked with a large "T" and all you need to do is pick-up the mooring pennant and wait for the free town pump-out boat to come alongside to collect the minimal fee and complete the paperwork. Along the eastern shore of the harbor stand some of the finest marinas on the entire East End: East Hampton's Point, Three Mile Harbor, East Hampton Marina, Harbor Marina, Halsey's, Shagwongs, Maidstone Harbor and the town dock. Either tying up in a slip or hanging out with your hook, Three Mile Harbor offers a stay worth remembering, even on evenings without fireworks and gala parties.

Revelers gather at East Hampton Point.

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Guest (Ted Tillinghast) from 19 Will Curl Hwy. says::
What happened to the strictly enforced 5MPH speed limit in Three Mile Harbor and the channels?
Aug 25, 2011 1:22 pm


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