It’s been a very long time since I wrote a blog post, over a year. I made a conscious decision to only blog when there was something new or different to describe. That certainly doesn’t mean that there has been nothing new or different in our lives, it only means that I couldn’t necessarily relate it to boating or travel (and life often gets in the way of writing blogs.)
We had a long stretch of rainy and chilly weather here in New England which made it feel as though our boating season would never begin. But by late June we were ready to begin our summer cruising with Magnolia who arrived here to join us. Magnolia sat on our mooring ball out at Avery Point while her crew took a road trip to a family event in Michigan.
Upon their return and after both a cookout with friends at Shennecossett and a get-together on Magnolia (and why did we all forget to take photos of that???), our boats were ready to get underway. We had to make it a short and interrupted beginning to the longer cruise due to a commitment back at home, so we chose West Harbor on Fishers Island as a first stop.
We decided that West Harbor would actually be a good destination given the July 4th holiday craziness on the water as well as our time/distance constraints. And Magnolia had never been there.
The Dumplings are two tiny islands just outside of West Harbor, Fishers Island. North Dumpling is owned by Dean Kamen, an inventor whose projects include the insulin pump, an all-terrain wheelchair, portable water purification systems and robotic prosthetic limbs……and the Segway, a self-balancing electric scooter. Kamen and North Dumpling’s quirky story has been featured in an article, “Welcome to the Secret Island of an Eccentric Genius.”
South Dumpling is uninhabited, but has a little history of its own, as described by Robert Anderson, Jr. whose family owned the island from 1964 -1980. South Dumpling is now held in a land trust, the Avalonia Land Conservancy, Inc.
For the 15 years that we have made the 5 mile trip, the one thing I always look for is the sea wall painted with the words, “Where the Wild Things Are.” I ponder about what prompted the idea and imagine the laughter and enjoyment that the family must have had as they engaged in the project.
After settling in, the warm July 4th weather called for a dinghy ride around the harbor to check out the sights and see what’s new. For a small harbor there is a lot to see.
The harbor is lined with lovely old family homes, docks, and boats.
We slept well and awoke to……………… uh oh… The next day didn’t “dawn” at all until very late in the morning. This thick fog overlaid West Harbor and well across the southern New England islands.
The fog departed very slowly, and by early afternoon we were rewarded with a sunny warm day – the four of us jumped into the dink for a visit to the island.
Fishers Island provides a dinghy dock right at the yacht club for people to use and come ashore (take the hint, SYC?)
A few geographic facts about Fishers Island:
- about 9 miles long and 1 mile wide, located at the eastern end of Long Island Sound
- 2 miles off the southeastern coast of Connecticut across Fishers Island Sound.
- 11 miles from the tip of Orient Point, Long Island
- 2 miles from Napatree Point, Rhode Island
And yet the island is part of the town of Southold in Suffolk County in the state of New York.
About 250 people live year-round on the island but the population swells to about 2,000 during peak summer weekends. In 1930 the population reached a peak of 1500, split between year-round residents and Fort Wright personnel. The closure of the last hotel in 1941 and of Fort Wright in the late 1940’s resulted in a dramatic decrease in year-round residents.
Fishers is a quiet place. The wealthy families that have spent generations summering here and the year-round residents want to keep it that way. There are no hotels, only one restaurant and one small cafe, one liquor store, two gift shops, an ice cream store and a grocery store. There are two private clubs, Hay Harbor and Fishers Island Club, that provide a social life for members and offer world class golf. I read an article that Fishers Island is known as the “anti-Hamptons” and is proud of it.
Our primary goal for the afternoon was to enjoy ice cream. Al and Anthony need regular infusions. “Toppers” is the little ice cream shop with a dog theme. Yes, a dog theme. It’s a cute idea, but the flavors all have clever names that make it a little hard to know what you are getting without a closer look.
We walked up the road to The Henry L. Ferguson Museum. After wandering around the displays of photos and artifacts from Fishers Island history, we found ourselves conversing with the director, Pierce Reynolds. This man knows his island history and is very adept at sharing the facts and fables of Fishers.
Here was my chance! Why, why is Fishers Island part of New York and not Connecticut?????? The question has bothered me for years. What’s the story, Pierce?
Here is the short version —
The Pequot Indians called Fishers Island “Munnawtawkit.” In 1614, the Dutch explorer, Adrian Block, discovered the island and named it Visher’s Island.
In 1640, John Winthrop, Jr. son of the famous Governor Winthrop, the founder of Boston, obtained grants for Fishers Island from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Connecticut General Court in 1641. Winthrop hoped to secure his rights to the island by applying to both colonies because the boundaries of these new colonies were somewhat fluid and had not been fixed yet.
In 1657, when Winthrop became governor of Connecticut, he had included Fishers Island, where he owned the land. But, in 1664 a land patent granted to the Duke of York, brother of King Charles II, included all islands in Long Island Sound — apparently giving Fishers Island to the Province of New York.
Fishers Island remained in the Winthrop family of Connecticut until 1863, in spite of the change from Connecticut to New York, when ownership passed to Robert R. Fox, and then to Edmund and Walton Ferguson, also of Connecticut.
In 1879, a joint commission from Connecticut and New York officially settled the CT-NY dispute by affirming that New York would have legal title to Fishers Island. In return, Connecticut then received full title to the Fairfield County panhandle, which intrudes into New York’s Westchester County.
And yet, and yet…..Fishers Island’s zip code is 06390, corresponding to Connecticut zip codes that begin with “06”, while other residential zip codes in New York State begin with “1”. Hmmmm. Pierce says that is for expediency since the mail is contracted to come from the Connecticut coast because there is no public transportation from anywhere else.
So there you have it.
We walked around a small section of the western end of the island, the only really public part of Fishers. Some of the sights —
The Fishers Island fireworks were Friday evening’s entertainment. A boat is the best place to watch a fireworks’ display. Especially after you re-anchor farther away.
Sailing races are frequently held in West Harbor as part of the Fishers Island Yacht Club activities. We had great spectator seats from our boat as racers passed by, sometimes quite closely. We may have gone to the “dark side” but we still appreciate sails filled with wind, silently propelling a boat across the water.