Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On the island on the edge of the sound

The island presented everything short of failure. The casino had burned down. The hotel had been razed. The water table in the freshwater cistern lay below sea level so the drinking water well was fouled with salt water. The walls and floor of the saltwater swimming pool had collapsed; all that was left were twisted iron pipes, a few spigots, some broken-down granite stairs descending to the shore. The woods were cut by walking trails which wound through the abandoned fruit-tree groves and past the terrace between the foundation of the big dining room and the staff quarters, the formal gardens and the broken steps up the hill into the nightclub and the casino.

The field where the golf course stood had reverted to the empty sloped contours and hollows of the grassy drumlin. The grass and shrubs hadn't been mowed since last summer. The granite columns that supported the ballroom and dance floor, a big-windowed palace on the side of the hill with views of the  the bay and the jagged profile of the sound's offshore islands, were chipped and broken. The nearby twin island lay a few scant yards from the gravel bar where the barge had burned and foundered and bspilled its cargo.

This bedrock island gives way to soft sandy sea bottom one side, deep narrow channels marked by day beacons and green cans and red nuns, on the other. Some of the markers designate a boating channel. Others, the transit for the barges delivering coal to the power plant by the water treatment plant where the condemned houses and public park and seasonal penny arcade and carnival lay fallow.

We landed on the island. The caretaker cottage was boarded up. With the wind blowing hard, we'd have the island to ourselves for as long as we wanted. We'd launched from the corporate beach for the most direct route to the island, and because we were on the water so late in autumn fall, we could leave the car in the parking lot for as long as we needed to. This is the state's gold coast. The yacht clubs in the adjacent coastal towns are expensive, elegant, exclusive. Staff wear vaguely military uniforms. Rules committees meet often to discuss infractions of clubhouse and yacht-racing rules. The downtowns of the nearby ports have evolved into blocks of expensive preserved antique charm. The nearest summer cottage island patrols its dock and shores to repel intruders who don't have permission to land.

To the east, beyond the shipping channel and the liquified natural gas offload platform, the big submerged ledge where the freighter and the pilot boat sank and settled, in the big winter storm, and far beyond the inshore fishing grounds, and the submerged bank of the terminal moraine of the remnants of the ice shelf...

...beyond all this lay the vast shallows of the offshore fishing grounds, that wispy curve of the last twist of the Gulf Stream where it collided with the Labrador Current. And finally the continental shelf and the depths of the open ocean.

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