Saltaire Summery

By Hugh O’Brien

I’d be remiss if I didn’t begin the first column of 2017 with a report on Saltaire’s latest attraction, the swimming raccoon. The other week I got off the 8:10 p.m. ferry and was greeted by Andrew Hoffman with the news that I had just missed his (the raccoon’s, not Andrew’s) latest exploit. Apparently a few minutes earlier, people on the dock caught sight of this very large raccoon swimming along the bay side of the dock. He paddled through the entrance to the marina, rounded the corner to the ferry slip, and then clambered out onto the dock’s “low-tide entrance” (the built-in stairs leading down into the ferry, used when the bay’s level is low). From there Andrew and the rest watched as he scurried over to the green refuse container by the dock house, scrambled up the side, squeezed through the flap and rummaged around inside, looking for dessert. Andrew said he thought the little guy would become trapped in there but sure enough, having found an appropriate snack, he climbed back out (no mean feat, having to pull the flap toward him to escape), jumped down and repaired to the aisle between the wagon racks, where he happily enjoyed his ill-, if imaginatively-, gotten goodie.

Of course, by the time we disembarked from the boat, the critter had dissolved in the night, maybe still lurking beneath some lucky passenger’s overturned wagon, maybe having swan-dived back into the bay to work off his newly acquired calories. (Apologies to our swan population for the analogy.) I was keenly disappointed and mentioned the incident to Trevor Schurr, one of the deckhands, who said, “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen him lots of times.” Has everybody seen this thing except me? Ah well, just something to keep an eye out for if you take an evening ferry. Later that night a cricket jumped up my sleeve, but that’s another equally riveting story for another day.

Anyway, hard as it’ll be to top that, welcome back as we mark Saltaire’s centennial. Actually, 2017 is the centenary of Saltaire’s incorporation as a village; we’ve already missed the hundredth anniversaries of the purchase of the land (2010), the construction of the community (2011) and its official grand opening (2012), so this was our last chance to latch onto some centennial before we’d find ourselves discussing plans for our bicentennials in 2110, 2111, etc., etc.

Mayor John Zaccaro is spearheading a collaborative assemblage of residents preparing sundry activities and celebrations to note the occasion, including tours, talks, films, food and the one I’m most looking forward to, a time capsule. I don’t think its contents have been decided on as yet, or the date on which our descendants are supposed to excavate it (or dive to it, if water levels rise as predicted) for their amusement at our quaintness, though they may have cause for puzzlement as to why we included a raccoon in it. The daylong festivities unfold Saturday, Aug. 26, and of course we’ll have more as the date hurtles down on us.

It’s been a busy off-season hereabouts, the most visible evidence of which strikes just as you step off the dock – our newly wooden Bay Promenade. With the increase in bay flooding the risks of storm waters scouring, undermining and breaking up a cement walk have become too great to make such a walk still practical. Fittingly, in our centennial year we’ve gone back to the past to better our future, restoring Bay as a boardwalk as it was in 1912. (And we have the photos to prove it.) During the winter the work was interrupted for installation of a new water main, the burial of electrical wires and other sexy stuff, but it resumed as soon as possible. The contractors picked up the pace and with luck it might be done by Memorial Day, or reasonably soon thereafter. Beyond its aesthetic qualities, the promenade is smooth and solid and a pleasure to walk and ride on, though you really do have to get used to not being able to move off the walk just by stepping or weaving aside – the walk is elevated now, and that last step is, if not quite a lulu, a modest uh-oh. Actually there will be fill and maybe some off-ramps making the Prom level to the sand, so there’s no need to get spaced out by the minor inconvenience of a half-foot drop on either side. Just exercise caution and observe proper street rules. You know, like we do on every boardwalk.

Better still, the community’s amenities have already started their services. The Yacht Club has opened, with Dennis Sommeso back in charge and with new house manager Eileen McGill, both insuring another enjoyable summer. Right now just the bar is open, and tennis is of course in full swing, as it were, but the season’s offerings are just weeks away and everything looks good to go. Plus we now have our new retractable wall between the bar and big room, meaning that your enjoyment of the activities in the latter (movies, shows, kids’ stuff) won’t be diminished by the noise emanating from the former (bar patrons have been known to get a touch raucous now and then). As purveyor of classic movie night, I can only echo the phrase uttered by Columbus when he mistook Passaic for the Pacific and thought he’d discovered Japan: “Yay!”

Meanwhile, on the adjacent lot Patrick Adams opened the market in mid-April, the earliest we’ve had our grocery store in operation in over 25 years. While the initial offerings were as you’d expect, more limited than those proffered during the summer, demand grew quickly and Patrick has worked hard to stock up to meet the welcome, if unexpectedly high number of customers. Lots of improvements have gone into the market, so drop in by and by, stick around to buy and buy, and while we’re at it, by the bye, we welcome any and all helpful feedback – ‘Bye now!

The reopened bar at the Saltaire Yacht Club, no longer this unoccupied. (Photo courtesy Saltaire Yacht Club)

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