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How we'll spend our summers

Soundings editors and writers tell how they plan to get out on the water this summer

I keep my 21-foot Four Winns deckboat, Midway, at a marina between the office and home, so every other week or so I meet my wife and kids at the boat for a two-hour dinner cruise after work. We drop the hook off one of our favorite spots on the lower Connecticut River, enjoy a sandwich and go for a swim. We sometimes bring a portable propane grill ashore and barbecue on the beach. On weekends we’ll treat friends to a day on the water, and I pull my 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter on a tube. This year we finally may make the July Fourth run north to Middletown, Conn., to watch fireworks from the water. An all-day trip south to Long Island Sound, then east to Fishers Island Sound, also is on the agenda.

— Rich Armstrong, associate editor

Read the other story in this package: Our guide to your best summer ever  

Our Westsail 32, Robin, has been straining at her dock lines since March — I’m sure she can smell the breeze along the Maine coast. So my wife, Monica, and I will steer north from the Chesapeake in early July, skipping from Cape May, N.J., offshore to Block Island, R.I., and then working our way east and north to Penobscot Bay and Maine’s fog and islands, looking in every port for stories to write. This year, I have a good recipe for bluefish, so I expect to harvest some meals along the way. Once in Maine, we’ll welcome aboard Dan Plastridge, who introduced me to sailing 46 years ago. At 91 he’s still eager to take Robin’s tiller, and his smile at the helm will be the highlight of the cruise. We’ll miss the start of the 100th anniversary Newport Bermuda Race June 16, which should be fantastic with more than 200 boats waiting for the gun off Narragansett Bay. But if our timing is right, we’ll be in Newport July 14 for the start of the Offshore 160 Single-Handed Challenge, a tune-up for next year’s Bermuda 1-2 race. (I’ve threatened to enter.)

— Douglas A. Campbell, senior writer

Small-outboard racing has been a hobby of mine since age 9 and has grown into a passion. This summer I will be powerboat racing on lakes and rivers throughout the Northeast and Midwest. The 10-foot hydroplane and runabout “kneelers” I race are built of marine plywood, with some composite materials to save weight. Power for the A Stock Hydro and A Stock Runabout classes in American Power Boat Association competition comes from a 15-hp fishing engine. It has a special racing lower unit, a razor-thin stainless steel prop, and pushes the hydroplane to speeds better than 55 mph on a typical 3/4-mile oval course. Boat, engine and driver must weigh at least 345 pounds combined; however, meeting the minimum weight requirement hasn’t been a problem for this driver for several years. Big races this season include the Northeast Divisional Championships at Thompson, Conn., July 8 and 9, and the National Championships at Wakefield, Mich., July 31 to Aug. 5.

— Michael Hauenstein, staff writer

As the family dynamic changes, so does the boating plan. This season we’ll forego the extended cruise and mostly enjoy the local waters around Shelter Island, N.Y., the north fork of Long Island and the lower Connecticut River. Most weekends will find us at one of the beautiful anchorages around Shelter Island, my Albin 36 trawler, Alyssa Reid, serving as a base while the Boston Whaler 21 Outrage handles the tubing, sightseeing and attempts at learning to fish. Several long weekends are planned, among them a raft-up with friends in Coecles Harbor, N.Y., and possibly a trip to Hamburg Cove, across Long Island Sound and up the Connecticut River. We also plan to anchor the trawler in Southampton’s Three Mile Harbor for the annual fireworks display. The season wouldn’t be complete without our customary trip to Montauk Point. And we’ll trailer the Boston Whaler to Maine in August for a week of boat camping and exploring the Maine Island Trail.

— Frank Kehr, technical writer

The highlight of the cruising season for many who belong to yacht clubs is the annual club cruise, and this year I’ve organized our Norwalk (Conn.) Yacht Club event. We’ll set off from Wilson Point in Norwalk and head to Coecles Harbor on Long Island’s Shelter Island, Three Mile Harbor, Stonington, Conn., Cuttyhunk, Mass., and Jamestown, R.I. We’ll spend our last night at Bristol Yacht Club on Narragansett Bay for a barbecue overlooking the harbor.

After the club cruise my wife and I hope to take our Grand Banks 42, Maramor, to Maine, cruising at displacement speed and stopping along the way at Newport, R.I., and Cape Ann, Mass., before dropping the hook in a secluded anchorage in Maine waters.

— John Love, contributing writer

My wife, Mel, and I are looking forward to enjoying the beautiful Chesapeake, where we both began cruising. (At some point we might head farther north to find some cooler weather.) We look forward to having fun with our old 20-foot Mako, although we’ll be going very slowly because of the price of gas. But Mel’s birthday is July 4, and mine is Oct. 17, so we’ve both already promised each other a day of running fast in the Mako as presents. Mel especially looks forward to drifting for flounder and to rockfish season; I can’t wait for lots of good boardsailing. We’re always sad to leave a place, because we know we’ll miss our friends there, but we’re always glad to reach the next destination aboard our Gulfstar 53 motorsailer because of the friends we’ll meet up with. We’ll be really happy spending good time with good friends in the Chesapeake. Some are watermen, some are pleasure boaters, but most all love the water.

— Tom Neale, technical editor

My first cruise of the season will stop at what was once the funkiest establishment on Chesapeake Bay: Vera’s White Sands Marina and Restaurant on St. Leonard Creek, off the Patuxent River in Lusby, Md. Vera Freeman, the aged doyenne who arrived here from Hollywood 50 years ago, presided over her imaginary Polynesian fantasy formally gowned in Indian saris and jewels like an ersatz vision from a B-movie set of “Arabian Nights.” The fact that it wasn’t a particularly profitable enterprise — its main purpose was as a sound stage for Vera’s Hollywood memories, with her in the starring role as a kind of Norma Desmond — made it all the more impossibly charming. The restaurant, however, was sold and gutted earlier this year by the new owner of what is now called Vera’s White Sands Beach Club. Miss Vera, who still lives next door in “Vera’s Villa,” with a swimming pool in the marble-floored living room, promises to make weekend appearances in full regalia, but it’s clearly another end of another Bay era.

— Jack Sherwood, writer at large

My family has a full summer of boating, fishing and fun centered around our classic 17-foot Boston Whaler Nauset, Clam, and the many places it carries us. Catching crabs, digging soft shells, netting silversides and scooping up comb jellies — basically anything that scuttles, swims or burrows — is always high on the lists of my 6- and 7-year-olds. So is diving off the boat and retrieving bits of broken shells that litter the sandy bottom. Who can gather the most in a single dive? We have an uncrowded island beach that we anchor the Whaler off of that is just loaded with sea glass. New masks, snorkels and a tube — “Finally,” my son says — will find their way onto the boat, too. The kids also should have fun in an old Blue Jay that will be new to them this summer. Sometime around the end of June or early July, I hope to wrestle with several large 40-plus-pound stripers as they pass through the rips of eastern Long Island Sound on their way to summer feeding grounds. After that, you’ll find me casting from a drifting boat under warm night skies, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, happy as a clam.

— William Sisson, editor