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The Mast-Head: A Conspicuous Summer

Wed, 09/08/2021 - 19:30

“What do you think has been the thing that defines this summer?” It was an interesting question that Adelia, my eldest, back from a summer session of college, asked. “You know, like traffic or. . . ?”

She was on to something. Each busy season here has its own characteristics, at least if you look at it in generalities. Summer 2021, to me, has been one for showing off. The cars are more expensive, the boats bigger, and the clothes fancier — people are capital D dressed. Folks are looking to flex, as my kids call letting everyone know just how rich you are.

The conspicuous consumption, I assume, has a lot to do with the pandemic. After somewhat of a dowdy season in 2020, looking and feeling great may have been something of a necessity, provided you had enough bank to pay off the platinum card bills.

Vacation home buyers for decades drove real estate prices to ridiculous heights. That went on unabated, with the community preservation fund tax on property sales getting fatter by the day. But that was not new. What was, I think, was everything else, an endless series of Instagram moments on a friend’s boat.

Curious to see how Labor Day weekend was going, I sailed from Three Mile Harbor to Sag Harbor on Sunday. I passed, or was passed by at least as often, a half-dozen mega-yachts, a truly huge one anchored curiously in a no-man’s-land section of the bay about two miles south of Plum Island; privacy was premium for whoever was aboard. But these giants were not otherwise all that noteworthy.

What did get my attention was that even the relatively small runabouts were million-plus vessels, fast, sleek, shiny, if not always clear about rights of way and the rules of the seafaring road. I might have thought to keep a list of their names, but over all, they seemed selected to flaunt.

At one point, as I was looking for a place to anchor near the Sag Harbor breakwater, I slid past an enormous blue-hulled sailboat that, from a distance, appeared to have the words Fat Boy painted in script on its transom. “At last!” I thought. “Someone with a sense of humor.”

Alas, no. As I got close, “Far Bay” became clear. “Of course, what was I thinking,” I said to myself.

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