Sag Harbor to Greenport: The Ferry Diary

“Let’s be the first ones in and the last out,” I said to Hank, my old friend and compatriot for the day, as we walked from my apartment in Sag Harbor Village to Long Wharf and hopped on the 10 a.m. Peconic Bay Water Taxi to Greenport. Both of us admired the vessel’s yellow hull with black–and–white checkers, much like the old Checker cabs I loved growing up in Manhattan in the 1980s, and we agreed that $20 was a small price to pay for the freedom of enjoying a decadent day on the North Fork without the complications and dangers of driving.

The 45-minute ride was scenic and relaxing as we sat on white benches by the rail on the upper deck of the low-wake catamaran. Thankfully, it was also long enough to enjoy the sea air, the view and a fluffy egg sandwich with black coffee from the Golden Pear. We arrived at Mitchell Park in Greenport and immediately noticed the fantastically modern yet somehow fitting architecture, including the Harbor Master’s office, a round structure housing a vintage carousel, and the nearby camera obscura looking out onto the bay. Behind it, the village ice skating rink lay empty, waiting for the winter months.

Within the small dark room of the camera obscura—an optical device or chamber for drawing and entertainment that uses a lens to project a moving picture of its surroundings on an interior screen—Hank and I marveled at the live image of boats and bayside scenery projected naturally on the table before us. The docent explained that this Greenport treasure is one of about 50 public camera obscuras in the world, only five of which are in the U.S., yet the signage is so minimal in Greenport that few know it exists. The experience was well worth the $1 admission.

Given the early hour, we passed the Whiskey Wind Tavern and the Frisky Oyster on Front Street and made a note to visit the bars and Claudio’s on the waterfront for drinks later. “Let’s take a look at the galleries,” Hank said, rolling his eyes in anticipation of a village awash in poorly done nautical scenes for tourists. But as we made our way from the now closed Terrance Joyce Gallery to Rich Fielder, Winter Harbor, Art Haiti, Gallery M and South Street Gallery, we found an interesting mix of local, contemporary, ethnic, ceramic, modern and traditional work.

I was particularly struck by the cool contemporary paintings by Reme and North Fork resident Colin Goldberg at Sláinte, a relatively new boutique, skateboard shop and gallery on Main Street. I had to talk Hank down from dropping $2,500 on a pair of rare Nike sneakers, but he felt better after buying a hoodie unlike any I’d seen for sale on the East End. We stopped into the Bego Ezair Hotel-Gallery across Main Street and checked out more art as well as the random plastic toys and art supplies scattered about the lobby, café and gallery spaces. I urge anyone visiting Greenport to drop by this quirky spot. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Marijana Bego, the eccentric owner who we witnessed dancing with abandon in the doorway and around the lobby later that night.

Between stops at galleries and shops, and trying Hopnami IPA and Black Duck Porter beers at the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company tasting room on Carpenter Street, we ate a satisfying and casual lunch of brick-oven pizza and beer at Emilio’s on Main Street while watching passersby from our table outside. Returning to Front Street, we couldn’t resist the extensive menu of delights at Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices. Now with our stomachs full and plenty of culture and shopping behind us, Hank suggested we begin drinking in earnest and I concurred. After all, it was officially evening.
At the Frisky Oyster we each imbibed a Hendrick’s gin concoction with cucumber, mint and lime called a W.A.R.D v 2.0 and followed with a Tall, Dark and Frisky, the chic restaurant’s lovely cocktail with Mount Gay and Myers Dark rums, fresh ginger and Fever Tree Ginger Beer. The masterful libations set us on course for a wild evening, which took us to the Whiskey Wind Tavern and Noah’s—with a break in-between for the award-winning fried chicken and fresh lemonade at Salamander’s General Store on 1st Street—and finally to Claudio’s Clam Bar for live music. We were having so much fun at Claudio’s, and Hank was making headway with what appeared in his beer goggles to be a beautiful woman, when I realized the time.

In a panic, and to Hank’s dismay, we raced back to Mitchell Park and just made it onto the last Water Jitney leaving for Sag Harbor at 10 p.m. The ride back seemed to take minutes as we laughed and recounted the day, and both of us vowed to make the trip at least once more before driving to Greenport again becomes the only option for those of us on the South Fork.

The Peconic Jitney Water Taxi announced that it has extended its service between Sag Harbor and Greenport to October 1, 2012.

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