We move swiftly across the glittering water, waves lapping at our boat. Our majestic white sails catch wind and cause us to glide closer to our destination. Wind sweeps across the water, rippling the surface. The summer sun shines its glorious rays on Gardiner’s Bay.
We go sailing on our 16-foot sailboat, the boat that my grandfather bought when my mother was a child. Now, as my sister and I benefit from these outings, his gift has been passed down three generations. We have gone on many adventures that have led us to harbors, coves, and creeks that we otherwise would not have known. We love the East Hampton area, with so many places to explore.
We moor our boat in Three Mile Harbor, where our trips begin and end, whether we go near or far. We have sailed all the way around Shelter Island, as well as to Sag Harbor, Greenport, Coecles Harbor, Accabonac Harbor, and many other locations on the eastern end of Long Island.
Our sailboat, our key to exploration, takes us to wonderful places. Our rolled-up paper map guides us to our destinations and alerts us to dangerous rocks in the water. Shells, sea glass, and rocks line the beaches we visit. We anchor our boat and explore the shore. We love making little aquariums, in which we put minnows and hermit crabs, but we always let them go, back into the water. What a great feeling to arrive at a new place and realize that we’ve sailed there.
On hot summer days, my sister and I laugh as we jump off our boat into the cool water together. We attach a small ladder to the side in order to help us get back into the boat safely and quickly. Our life jackets ensure our ability to pop up out of the water right after we jump in. The water refreshes us on a scorching summer day — I feel like I could stay in for so long, but I worry a little that I might get stung by a jellyfish lurking nearby. I lie on my back and float and look up at the gorgeous blue sky above me, and I watch the occasional cloud drift by.
When it’s low tide, we anchor in shallow water and put our ladder out. We get our mask and snorkel gear and splash into the water. Snorkeling gives you a terrific inside look into what life is like under the sea. Seeing the little crabs scurry away at the sight of you makes you think of what a giant you must seem like to them. Fish often come and go, gracefully gliding by your mask. The grass-like seaweed dances to the rhythm of the waves pushing it.
Exploring underwater life lets me observe nature like I’ve never done before. The water greets me with a cool twinge, but I fight through the cold and realize how amazing it is to snorkel here. A shell sparkles, and I dive down to pick it up. I notice that a sea creature is inside, so I gently place it back on the ocean floor.
After we snorkel and get back onto our boat, we decide we want to sail to a lighthouse close by. The white structure called Bug Light that sits on stilts ahead of us in the blue water looks like a spider as we get closer to it. No longer an active lighthouse, it still stands guard over Gardiner’s Bay. As the water gets shallower, more shells and rocks begin to appear. We drop in our anchor and walk to shore.
I get the happy and successful feeling of reaching our faraway destination by boat, yet again. I always find it a thrill to be on land and realize that we took our little boat to get there. With our eyes glued on the sand, searching for sea glass, we make our way to see Bug Light up close. The lighthouse stands tall in the water, with waves washing over the rocks that surround it.
We have seen dozens of lighthouses through our sailing adventures. Even when we are on land, we love to watch a lighthouse’s beam race through the dark sky and guide other ships to safety. Each one unique, no two lighthouses have the same shape or colors. Symbolic of the willingness of people to help one another through the challenges of Mother Nature, these magnificent structures spread a feeling of awe over my family whenever we see one sending out its guiding light.
As the sun drops closer to the horizon, we realize that we must return to our mooring. We do not have running lights or GPS on our boat, so we are not allowed to be on the water at night. We leave Bug Light knowing that we’ll still be able to see it in the distance. With our sails raised,we head for home.
We take down our sails as we approach the red and green buoys marking the entrance of Three Mile Harbor. The wind billows softly at my face while the sun paints an orange and pink sky as it sets. The water reflects the same brilliant sunset image. I think back and realize what a delightful day we’ve had. We’ve done some of our favorite activities: snorkeling, seeing a lighthouse, swimming, and sailing.
Our sailboat gives me amazing opportunities and has helped teach me how to sail. It continuously opens fantastic doors for me, and for that, I am grateful. I will keep these sailing memories all throughout my life.
Laura Kee, 15, was a student in Megan Chaskey’s Teen Creative Writing course at the Ross Summer Camp this year. Laura spends summers in East Hampton with her family and lives in Weston, Mass.