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The Mast-Head: In the Wake of Yachts

Wed, 06/23/2021 - 18:40

After a long spring of chores aboard Cerberus, my 1979 Cape Dory, I went on a shakedown sail out of Three Mile Harbor on Sunday. Wind was at a minimum in the midmorning, as I drifted sleepily toward Gardiner’s Island. Dozing off was out of the question, however, because even a minute or two’s inattention could have put me in the path of one of the many very expensive pleasure boats roaring east or west across the bay.

The New York Times recently reported that the market for powerful luxury cruisers was at a high. Yachts are in demand, apparently. The Times reported that prices and charter rates were way up from prepandemic levels. As with Hamptons real estate, boats are in a seller’s market at the moment.

“James Bond boats,” as a member of the Star staff called them this week, are hot. These sleek dark-gray craft can race comfortably along at 45 miles per hour and can be seen docked in Sag Harbor or tear-assing toward Montauk for a lunch at Duryea’s. With speed come choices — “Drinks at Claudio’s, anyone?” — but this is at a cost; a futuristic 38-foot-long Riva from Italy could run $1 million pre-owned, as they say. Even the small craft out Sunday afternoon were fancy once I got a close look at them, with nice exterior upholstery and not a fishing rod in sight.

It was hard not to get annoyed as I plodded along by the wakes these speedboats left. Wires rattling inside Cerberus’s aluminum mast came near to driving me crazy, as I fought to keep my eyes open.

Late day was another story. After leaving from anchor near our place at the south end of the bay, there was wind aplenty. With less than half my foresail out and a baggy main, I had the boat on a hard heel and going along at the hull’s maximum theoretical speed of 6 knots. Up near Fireplace, a small open boat with three or four people aboard blew by me, headed west. I saw them again once I rounded the bend and was working upwind toward Lion Head.

It was near to the end of the incoming tide, and the rock that gives that part of Springs its name was submerged, out of sight, but not by much. The rental was coming east, and went inside the warning green buoy, as I tried to be understood by gesture that there was a dangerous rock ahead, which is not easy, especially when trying to communicate with people with more money than boating sense. One of the occupants waved as, I swear, the boat passed within an arm’s length of riding right up on the rock.

I told a friend on the East Hampton Fire Department dive team about it that evening. He wasn’t surprised and said the team was just waiting for the call when something bad like this was going to happen. Seems inevitable. It’s going to be a long, bumpy summer on the water.

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