We’ve tried multiple times over the years to feel the love for Gardiners Bay in Long Island. The first time we were there was to bring Pegu Club back to Groton after we bought her. She had been kept in Dering Harbor in Shelter Island and we were looking forward to sailing her back. What we ended up with was a hot, humid day with zero wind and the most obnoxious power boaters we had ever encountered. The kind who go full speed on autopilot while hanging out down below without a lookout. Those who were actually at the helm seemed to enjoy going as fast as they could while aiming right at us and then turning at the last minute to see how big a wake they could give us. Jeff vowed he would never return to Gardiners Bay.
The next season we decided to give it another shot. We had a sporty, close-hauled 40 nm sail from Block Island to Three Mile Harbor in Gardiners Bay (that was actually our longest sail until we left to go cruising). Three Mile was a lovely spot with a very large anchorage, excellent holding, and clean, warm water to swim in. We enjoyed it so much that we stayed there for several days before having to motor all of the way home on a hot, humid day with zero wind while being harassed by obnoxious power boaters. Are you starting to see a pattern?
Since we are gluttons for punishment, the following year we tried to go to Three Mile Harbor for a weekend. We had a great sail that became increasingly boisterous, at which point we had to turn directly into the wind which was now blowing 18 knots and kicking up a large chop. The current was against us, Pegu Club was barely making 2 knots between the waves, and we decided rather than suffer for several hours we would turn around and go back to Shenny. We had a great downwind sail all of the way back. No aggressive power boats this time because there was too much wind. We called that our 28 nm sail to nowhere.
Last year Gardiners Bay was a refuge. We turned and ran away from a pounding that we were receiving on Long Island Sound from a weather front. The closest escape was through Plum Gut so we shot through there and took refuge in Coecles Harbor on Shelter Island. Like Three Mile, this was a lovely anchorage with excellent holding, and we ended up staying there for five nights due to the vagaries of the weather gods. Coecles actually has a 48 hour anchoring restriction between May 1 and September 15th, but this was post-September 15th. When we left we had to beat into the wind and current for about an hour and a half before slipping through Plum Gut. The only advantage to those conditions was that, once again, it kept the aggressive power boaters away.
Clearly we have had a very mixed history with Gardiners Bay. There’s either no wind, there’s too much wind right on the nose with the accompanying beatdown, and if there’s not too much wind there are incredibly rude power boaters. But we kept reading about how wonderful it was and we figured maybe we weren’t giving it a fair shake. Maybe we were missing something. So, eternally optimistic, we decided to try and feel the love by hanging out there for awhile before continuing down Long Island Sound.
We started with a return to Three Mile Harbor, motoring from Shenny for a few hours before enjoying a nice sail the rest of the way. It felt great to finally be on our way again, and Three Mile was as nice as we remembered it.
After three nights at Three Mile we moved on to Sag Harbor. This was a short hop of only 6 nautical miles and we were able to sail for the first part of it before having to fire up Big Red. Sag Harbor was a new spot for us, and I was really looking forward to checking it out.
Overall Sag Harbor had it’s positives and negatives. On the plus side, it has some good amenities for cruisers. There’s a large anchorage with great holding, a dumpster for trash by the dinghy dock, and a laundromat, a good grocery store, and two hardware stores all within a few blocks of the dinghy dock. On the downside, the AT&T and T-Mobile cell service is horrific, and we have never been in an anchorage with ruder powerboaters in our life. Boats zipped through the anchorage at full blast leaving huge wakes, other boats pulled water-skiers back and forth, back and forth all day long, and the weekend was even worse. I figured it would be bad given that it’s August, but this was on a completely different scale of bad. Next time we’ll stick with the weekdays which were a bit better, and move back to Three Mile for the weekend.
As for the town itself, we enjoyed some good boat TV and people watching. Downtown had a plethora of businesses for window shopping and a large assortment of classic New England houses which are always easy on the eyes. The boats ranged from Little Bristol-size to megayacht size, and it was fun to see those. The people watching was . . . interesting. Let’s just leave it at that.
Sag Harbor had a beautiful library (above).
The volunteer fire department was having its annual fundraising carnival on the beach. It was cool to see the rides lit up at night from the boat, and I was looking forward to the scheduled fireworks show. It was very late getting started (it was pretty windy so we thought it had been cancelled), but just as we were going to bed we heard the first tell-tale hiss of a firework going off. Hooray! We ended up enjoying a good show.
On Monday we gladly waved goodbye to our wake-filled anchorage and had a very nice quick sail to Coecles Harbor. Coecles is even nicer when it’s not cloudy and cold like it was when we visited last September! The water temperature was 80 degrees so we enjoyed a few days of swimming off of the boat and some beach walking on the point. There’s also a water trail that I’d like to check out next time we are here.
After Coecles it was time to say goodbye to Gardiners Bay and start working our way down Long Island Sound. So what’s our final verdict? Well, you may have noticed that I’ve used the phrase “next time” in a few spots. The wake-filled anchorage in Sag Harbor aside, we really did enjoy our time in Gardiners and there are still several spots we didn’t get to see. Now we can see why it gets high praise from so many sailors.
I guess you could say that we’re starting to feel the love. We’ll be back sometime.