I’ve been fortunate to spend a large part of my life living on islands that range from remote and minuscule to Manhattan. Many might say Manhattan doesn’t count, but no one who has lived there would agree. It’s true that the vertical nature of the city draws your eye up — you need to venture to the city’s edges or heights to see the water that surrounds you. But there’s no going anywhere without a bridge or a tunnel or a ferry.
Most of all, for those of us who are true water lovers, you can sense it all around you — a reassuring presence that lingers offstage and is easily found when you most need it: a walk along the river, a ferry ride, a trip over a bridge to see the tugs, marine patrol, waiting tankers and working waterfront.
We can universally agree that Manhattan is exempt from one island truism, however: islands are lovely in summer. Manhattan? Not so much, which is why the city empties out to the Hamptons, Fire Island, the Jersey Shore, to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Cape Cod, Maine and other seaside destinations.
We escape for the fresher air and beaches, of course, but those who seek out islands are looking for more. There’s the journey itself, usually requiring a little extra effort and planning but supplying a kind of decompression en route, a ritual that begins the magic unwinding. Then, of course, there’s the quality of light around most islands — a slight shimmer in the air, light reflected off the sea and refracted in a concentrated and enveloping brightness that signals island time.
Of all the island experiences, my favorite is anchoring overnight off one, which is different from anchoring off the mainland. You are an island off an island. Your boat has borne you there, and it is your delivery and your escape. To go on deck with a cup of morning coffee and look at the sun rising in the mirror around you is pure peace and blissful anticipation of your visit.
This summer, if you don’t already do so, seek out an island. They are everywhere and range from crowded barrier islands along our shores to remote islands off the Maine coast, like the one I spend at least a few weeks on every year. There are as many kinds of islands as there are ways of getting to them. Book a cottage in an island village, a condo on a barrier island beach, a room in a lighthouse that’s been converted to a B&B. Best of all, of course, is to go on your own boat. Soak in that morning sunrise at anchor and keep it with you all year long.
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July 2014 issue