West Harbor & Coecles Harbor – New York Is So  Close!

posted in: Southern New England Sailing | 11

Whenever we want (or need) a quick getaway from the dock, we scoot over to West Harbor on Fishers Island which is in New York, but only 4 nautical miles away from Shennecossett Yacht Club. I’ve whined about New York’s ownership of Fishers Island on numerous occasions so I will try to let it go this time. This was just an ordinary overnight trip, but still so delightful. Our plan was to do a whole lot of nothing!

Hanging out in the cockpit, just chilling and relaxing.

As we maneuvered to our usual anchor location, we noticed another Kadey Krogen nearby. You can’t miss that distinctive profile no matter what the size.

Sea Dweller, a 2020 Kadey Krogen 48
We had met Jeff and Ellen in 2019 at the Kadey Krogen Rendezvous in the Chesapeake, the same week that we found and bought our own Kadey Krogen. It was fun to get together and catch up.
The setting sun across the water in Connecticut.
The sun is down but the orange glow remains.
The predawn view is pretty darn good, too.
Having my morning coffee in my old Fishers Island mug. I bought this in a shop on the island many years ago. Now you can acquire anything you might want with that Fishers Island motif on it.  Anything.
Al documented my water workouts on both days. West Harbor is a nice place for a swim. The water was 67 degrees which is bearable, after about 5 minutes. 😉

We returned the next afternoon for a special occasion at Shennecossett – Whit’s 70th birthday dinner! Whit and Joan own our former Kindred Spirit #3 so we have a unique bond. 

It takes both Laura and Joan to get those carrot cakes ready with candles.
Happy Birthday, Whit!

We were off again on Friday morning – can’t waste these days of lovely weather. First, we paused to hang on our mooring by Pine Island, across from Avery Point.  We have had this mooring since 2006, back when we were the only ones out there. It’s still a really, really nice location although it is no longer our own solitary cove. 

We haven’t used the mooring much over the past few years which is a shame because it is a great little cove, albeit rolls at times.
Al enjoyed his breakfast, feet up.

Where to go next???? Hmmm……. How about a place, not too far away, where we have not been for over 15 years? OK! Coecles Harbor on Shelter Island across Long Island Sound between the North and South Forks of Long Island. That’s a mouthful for the 17 ½  nautical mile distance from us here in Connecticut. 

This is the Marine Traffic route we followed from West Harbor back to SYC and then across to Coecles Harbor. The black dotted line is the border between New York and Connecticut. This part of New York state is so close to us.
What a day! it’s nice to see the captain relax on the bow.
The lighthouse on Little Gull Island sits at the eastern end of Long Island’s North Fork, where Long Island Sound opens out to the sea. Over the years, the method of powering the light has changed from whale oil, to lard oil, to kerosene in 1883, to incandescent oil vapor in 1907, and finally to electricity in 1937.

Little Gull Lighthouse isn’t a famous or well-known lighthouse, but the original 53-foot lighthouse was described as “the key of the Sound.” It sure has seen its share of troubles. 

  • British troops landed during the War of 1812. Removed lanterns and reflectors putting it out of service for the rest of the war.
  • Two great hurricanes that swept through New England in 1815 and 1938 damaged and demolished major parts of the lighthouse and buildings.
  • In 1867, the Lighthouse Service began work on the eighty-one-foot gray granite tower that stands on the island today and installed a second-order Fresnel lens in the lantern room atop the new tower.
  • A fire in 1944 destroyed much of the keeper’s house and spread into the lighthouse tower. 
  • The lighthouse was labeled as  “excess”  in  2009 and put on the auction block 2012.
  • A Connecticut businessman is now the owner of Little Gull Island Lighthouse and has stated that he wants the lighthouse restored, preserved, and made accessible to the public.
Plum Island ahead and to starboard. That little dark speck is Old Silas Rock, a marked hazard in the water.
Upon closer inspection, we saw that Old Silas Rock was occupied by a seal.

Plum Island is very well-known. When we would travel from the Connecticut River to Long Island we passed through Plum Gut on its western side. It was interesting to have a look at this eastern side. I remember that in 2008, on one trip, I was reading Nelson DeMille’s famous mystery novel, Plum Island, as we passed through Plum Gut.

In 1954, the island became the home of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), a United States federal research facility dedicated to the study of animal diseases and tasked with protecting America’s livestock from foreign animal infections.

There have always been plenty of rumors, conspiracy theories, and myths about the work done on Plum Island. Just a simple google of “Plum Island” will lead you down a rabbit hole. The facility is scheduled to be shut down in 2023 and had been advertised for sale for over a decade. The potential sale was averted in 2020 through the efforts of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition. Together, with The Nature Conservancy and Save the Sound, the Preserve Plum Island Coalition has a vision for for Plum Island to become a national monument for the purposes of ecological conservation, historical interpretation, and the discovery and celebration of our shared cultural heritage. The plan includes sanctuary areas for wildlife, preservation of the lighthouse and historic fort, an educational facility and a campus for research. This future would protect jobs in both states and allow residents and tourists to take guided tours of the island for the first time.

Views of the eastern shore of Plum Island. Supposedly people can use the beaches although they cannot go any further into the island. I am looking forward to the fruition of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition’s vision for Plum Island.

Gardiner’s Bay is larger than it might seem, but soon we had the Coecles Harbor entrance in sight.

The entrance to Coecles isn’t all that wide.
Port side
Starboard side. Coecles Harbor posts numerous “notices” – no personal watercraft, no transit speed over 20 mph, no shellfishing, no dumping of oil, sewage or garbage, AND anchor only in the designated area and for no longer than 48 hours.

That all sounds like a lot of rules, but we don’t mind most of them at all. The only way to maintain a harbor’s natural habitat is to protect it, unfortunately from humans. There isn’t a lot to do here other than swim and kayak. The only accessible beach is on the one side of the entrance. The Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island borders the southern side of Coecles Harbor.

We arrived and anchored early Friday afternoon and planned to stay until Sunday afternoon. Yes, I know, it’s the weekend…….. There were only 9 other boats which isn’t bad because it is a sizable anchorage area.

Kindred Spirit at anchor
The toys are out!

Coecles Harbor is a good place for kayaking. I found a Coecles Harbor Marine Water Trail online so on Saturday we made that our main activity.

The map portion of the Coecles Harbor Marine Water Trail. Each of the numbered circles is marked with a floating yellow buoy marked with green leaves and white numbers.
Time to kayak
Buoy #10 on the Coecles Harbor Marine Water Trail marked one of the many osprey nests.
We sat in our kayaks and watched the adult ospreys bring fish back to their nest of young ospreys.
We toured Fan Creek to find buoys #11, #12 and #13. It was low tide, very low. I would like to come back at a higher tide.
Farther into Coecles Harbor is the marina and mooring field.
Al is so observant. He spotted this Morgan Center Cockpit from a distance. A closer vantage point revealed that this was Osprey’s Rest, a Morgan we remember seeing when we had our Morgan, Kindred Spirit #2..

My favorite portion of the Water Trail was #9, Taylor Island. The last time we were here, the building was dilapidated, the grounds were overgrown and there was no way to land there. A lot has happened since then.

Taylor Island on the left, as seen from the anchorage.
It was originally called Cedar Island when F.M. Smith (the “Borax King” of 20-Mule-Team Borax fame) bought it as a rustic retreat on his Shelter island estate. S. Gregory Taylor, a Greek émigré and New York City hotel magnate, purchased the island in 1937. The town of Shelter Island was granted possession in 1998 in adherence with Mr. Taylor’s will “for the use and
enjoyment of the general public.”

The restoration of Taylor Island took from 2011 – 2014, well after whenever our last visit occurred. We were curious and landed our kayaks on the little beach. The island is a tombolo. I asked (myself) what is a tombolo???? A tombolo is one or more sandbars or spits that connect an island to the mainland. At low tide Taylor Island is connected to the larger Shelter Island.

Walking up to the cabin. Oh my! What a sweet log cabin. It was open for people to wander around.
The kitchen. Hmmm, now that I think about it and look at the photos, I don’t think there was a refrigerator.
The bathroom. Love the tub!
Main living space
The fireplace feature and very neat ceiling.
And two bedrooms!
The wraparound porch was a wonderful place to sit for a spell. Check out the porch posts.

By Saturday evening, the nine boats had swelled to over thirty, but only 20-some stayed overnight. Another evening of paintings in the sky.

The setting sun
Fifteen minutes later we have a swirly sky.
Fifty minutes after sunset
A more subdued sky, but still with some drama.
The moon did want to be left out of the show.
The water in Coecles Harbor was SEVENTY-SEVEN degrees!! Even Al dove in to join me. TWICE. I think he looks like he might be enjoying it.
Back on the paddle board. Al is definitely improving at handling the SUP, but he still isn’t convinced it is worth keeping.
He may have found a new purpose for the board.
One last kayak trip out to the beach at the harbor’s entrance.
After a delightful, restful, pleasant six days, we left Coecles to head home to Shennecossett and then land life. Alas, we had no ice cream on this trip.

11 Responses

    • watsons

      It just goes to show that you do not need to go far to get away!

  1. Ellen Seltzer

    Hi Michele…what a cool blog…thanks for sending it…even though it is not something we would ever do, it was fun to see what you guys see while boating and how you spend your days. It is definitely beautiful and peaceful and calming and I would love to sleep to the rhythm of the water…not harry!
    so glad you had fun and keep doing what you both love.

    • watsons

      Thanks, Ellen. We all have our own individual “go-to” places for escaping, exploration, curiosity,and relaxation.

  2. Dave Comando

    Glad you enjoyed our home waters of Long Island. Coecles Harbor Marina has ice cream in their office. It is not homemade, so may not be up to Al’s standards! Lol!
    We plan on staying in West Neck Harbor this weekend, close to us but far enough to feel away.

    • watsons

      We checked every boat that entered to see if it might be you. We were hoping fate would bring Kindred Spirit #1 and Kindred Spirit #4 together! Maybe next time.

    • watsons

      Believe me, we are aging! We do everything slower than before. But thanks anyway! Maybe it is the combination of ice cream and salt water?

  3. Kimberly

    Coecles is a favorite of ours. We’ll have to check out the Marine Water Trail via dinghy when we head south in September! Kimberly

    • watsons

      Definitely dinghy to Taylor island! There is a small dock there for boats and dinghies.

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