Category Archives: Longshore

Wondrous Weekend

This weekend has been many things: scary, snowy, white, bright and beautiful.

It also brought out the best in “06880” photographers.

All around town, you’ve been capturing amazing images of this very lovely town.

Here are a few final shots. (Click on or hover over to enlarge.)

Light at the end of the storm. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Light at the end of the storm. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

We think of John Kantor as the sailing school guy. But he loves Longshore in all kinds of weather., as this photo clearly shows. (Photo/John Kantor)

We think of John Kantor as the sailing school guy. But he loves Longshore in all kinds of weather, as this photo clearly shows. (Photo/John Kantor)

Not far from Longshore, Saugatuck Shores' Canal Beach looks equally lovely. (Photo/Gene Borio)

Not far from Longshore, Saugatuck Shores’ Canal Beach looked equally lovely. (Photo/Gene Borio)

There were ducks galore on Saugatuck Shores...

Enjoying the water of Saugatuck Shores…

...and one lone guy in the air. (Photos/Gene Borio)

…and one lone guy in the air. (Photos/Gene Borio)

The sun set colorfully over downtown. (Photo/Michael Baltierra)

Red sky at night: good news, right? (Photo/Michael Baltierra)

A special nighttime view of the Post Road, looking east. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

A colorful nighttime view of the Post Road, looking east. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Blizzard Of 2016: Noon Report

Here’s how Westport looked a few minutes ago. Most of us — except those with water in our yards — seem to be doing okay.

As always, click on or hover over photos to enlarge. And let us know what’s happening in your neck of the snowy woods.

Water seeps into Kendall Gardiner's back yard. But the view across Sherwood Mill Pond is magnificent.

Water and ice seep into the back yard. But the view across Sherwood Mill Pond is magnificent. (Photo/Kendall Gardiner)

High tide on Saugatuck Shores this morning does not bode well for tonight's expected even-higher tide. (Photo/Gene Borio)

High tide on Saugatuck Shores this morning does not bode well for tonight’s expected even-higher tide. (Photo/Gene Borio)

One view of high tide at Saugatuck Shores...

One view of high tide at Saugatuck Shores…

...and another. (Photos/Gene Borio)

…and another. (Photos/Gene Borio)

High tide, as viewed from Harbor Road. (Photo/Bart Shuldman)

High tide, as viewed from Harbor Road. (Photo/Bart Shuldman)

A tag sale at 24 Ferry Lane East had few visitors. It's been extended to tomorrow. But hey -- items are available for all seasons! (Photo/Alison Fisher)

A tag sale at 24 Ferry Lane East had few visitors. It’s been extended to tomorrow. But hey — items are available for all seasons! (Photo/Alison Fisher)

Colonial Druggists is open -- and if you've got an antique car, you can get there! (Photo/Ellen van Dorsten)

Colonial Druggist is open — and if you’ve got an antique car, you can get there! (Photo/Ellen van Dorsten)

Blizzard bonus: Jeff Scher created this video about (of course) snow. Much of the film is based on footage he shot in Westport in the 1970s and ’80s — especially at Longshore, when the skating rink was next to the inn. The wide shot was Round Pond Road in the late 1960s. Get your hot chocolate, and enjoy!

Town To Residents: Prepare For Floods, Winds

Westport’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated.

Uh-oh.

An announcement on WWPT-FM 90.3 — the town’s emergency broadcaster, which will be all-storm, all-the-time throughout the weekend — says to expect only moderate snowfall: 4 to 6 inches.

That’s the good news.

The bad news: With 2 full-moon high tides, and winds gusting up to 55 miles an hour, there will be flooding on par with the 1992 nor’easter that surged through downtown. Tides are expected to be 1 foot lower than Hurricane Irene in 2011.

The high tides are expected tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m., then more significantly tomorrow  night at 11. Sustained winds of 25 to 30 mph from the northeast — with those much higher gusts — will push the water very high.

Town officials urge residents to move cars now to higher ground. Saugatuck Shores residents can park at railroad station Lot 8 (by I-95 Exit 17). Compo and Old Mill residents can park at Longshore.

Officials warn all residents to secure loose objects on decks, porches and patios.

The forecast calls for snow to begin falling tomorrow morning. The storm will continue for 24 to 36 hours.

Stay safe and warm, Westport. And stay tuned to 90.3, and “06880.”

PS: Send photos!

PPS: If there’s a fire hydrant near you, don’t forget to clear snow from around it.

Hurricane Irene flooded downtown Westport, in August 2011.

Hurricane Irene flooded downtown Westport, in August 2011.

 

Phil Walklet: Everyone In The Pool!

We all remember influential teachers: The English instructor who convinced us we could write. The biology teacher who pointed us to a career in medicine. The middle school staff member who helped us get through a difficult time in life.

But who remembers the person who taught us to swim?

Phil Walklet has done that for thousands of Westporters, of all ages. At Staples — where he runs the Parks and Recreation Department’s program (and manages the lifeguards) — Walklet works with 3-year-olds. And 80-year-olds.

They love him. Walklet is a natural teacher.

He’s a lifelong swimmer too. Growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia, he and his 7 siblings were always on swim teams.

In 1969 — the summer after he graduated from high school — Walklet’s father got a job in New York. The family moved to Weston. He moved on to Clemson University.

The swim program was insignificant — the team used a 20-yard YMCA pool — and after a while Walklet transferred. He worked at several different jobs, including teaching small kids at the Staples pool.

Phil Walklet

Phil Walklet

A year later Walklet became assistant director of the Longshore pool. He’s now the director — a job whose timing works well with his school-year job (security supervisor at Greenwich High).

At Staples, Walklet works with his brother Colin and daughter Courtney. “She’s amazing,” he says proudly. “She’s so good with kids with autism and other challenges. She’s like a horse whisperer.”

He’s no slouch himself.

Walklet loves teaching. “It’s in our blood,” he says. “Back in Virginia, there was very little instruction. Now we break everything down.”

He laughs. “We didn’t even wear goggles.”

With 3-year-olds, Walklet says, “I put myself at their level. You can’t push them too hard. To trust the water, they have to trust you.”

Once they do, it’s a simple process: “Put your face in the water. Glide. Kick. Breathe.” Walklet goes at whatever pace is right, for each individual child.

“I’ve taught kids who were found at the bottom of a pool,” he says. “That’s so challenging. I just circle around, try different things, then come back so they’re not thinking about that anymore.”

Teaching continuing education swimming to adults on Wednesday evenings, Walklet sees a wide range of abilities.

Westport continuing education

One 80-year-old man — you thought I was kidding? — was traumatized as a child. All his life, he feared the water.

“I got him to move, with a kickboard,” Walklet recalls. “He didn’t learn to swim, but he was so grateful that he could be independent in the water.”

The key, Walklet says, is for a swimmer to feel comfortable and relaxed. “The rest is easy.”

Now in his mid-60s, Walklet has no plans to retire. Swimming has been part of his life forever. At Staples and Longshore, the pools still beckon.

 

Longshore Restaurant Reopens In February

Slow winters helped drive Splash — the long-running Longshore restaurant — out of business.

Pearl at Longshore — the new spot taking its place — hopes to do better. They’re even starting with a wintertime crowd.

Owners Marc Backon, Antonio Ninivaggi and their local investors announced this afternoon they’ll open in February.

The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant opens in February. Disregard this August view of Splash.

The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant opens in February. Disregard this August view of Splash.

They’ve spent months restoring the interior — and kitchen. Executive chef Michael Hazen will serve “sophisticated, seasonally inspired American cuisine” that focuses on “the simplicity and flavors of the ingredients.”

Pearl will offer traditional seafood dishes, grass-fed beef and seasonal produce, with organic, healthy and gluten-free selections. The bar includes craft and micro-brew beers. “Pearl in a Box” is the name of their takeout menu.

Designer Bilal Barakat has “captured the spirit and history of Longshore, and infused it with a rustic chic and cosmopolitan feel.”

Sounds like big changes are ahead for Longshore diners.

But the new owners were smart to leave one thing alone: the view.

Even in February, it’s spectacular.

Longshore Ice Rink: The Coolest Place In Town

Whether the weather outside is frightful — or a winter wonderland — Longshore’s PAL Ice Rink is open.

It was even open this weekend, despite frighteningly tropical temperatures.

For 19 years, the open-air spot just a few yards from Long Island Sound has been one of Westport’s most popular winter destinations. Families, teenagers, tweens — even, last Friday at 2 p.m., a guy in his 40s skating leisurely circles all by himself — flock to our improbable but beloved rink.

For all that time — a few years before, even — the one constant has been Tony Lantier. A Montreal native who as a kid spent every waking moment on the ice — at indoor rinks and outdoor ponds — he came south for his wife’s job.

Tony Lantier, at the PAL Longshore Ice Rink.

Tony Lantier, at the PAL Longshore Ice Rink.

In Canada, Tony had been a property manager. Soon after arriving in Westport, he met Angelo De Caro. The owner of Splash wanted to increase winter business at his off-the-beaten-path restaurant. What better way than to offer skating?

Tony got to work. He rented a 100 x 60-foot rink. He found a chiller. He and De Caro enlisted the vast resources of Westport PAL.

For 3 years, the rink was a wintertime fixture in the Splash parking lot. But skaters were not exactly diners. Diners were not exactly pleased to have to park in another lot. When the old Longshore bathhouses were ready to be torn down, Tony saw an opportunity to move the rink.

He and Parks and Recreation director Stuart McCarthy collaborated on a multi-use new building. Joey Romeo would rent it during good weather, to sell burgers and fries. In the winter, Tony would rent it for use by skaters.

Longshore ice rink logo

The current rink is PAL’s 5th, and biggest. 200 feet long and 85 wide, it’s regulation size for hockey. The NHL won’t be playing matches there — but Staples’ boys and girls teams do. The large, board-banging crowds are great fun.

But — unlike other rinks in Fairfield County — hockey is not the main attraction. Lots of time is devoted to public skating. There are some lessons and private parties, plus an occasional low-key, late-night “pond hockey”-style group of hockey players. But most hours of most days — up to 11 p.m. — anyone can just skate.

And they do. Tony — who can talk for hours about ice, ice-making and ice maintenance — is proud that the rink operates virtually every day, from Thanksgiving weekend through early March. Only a drenching rain or humongous snowstorm closes it.

(And not always. Tony’s 50th birthday present was a state-of-the-art snow blower. He’s been known to pick up some up of his teenage employees after a heavy snow. They don’t have to drive in bad weather — but they can help him clear the rink.)

Rink maintenance is a full-time job.

Rink maintenance is a full-time job.

Black Friday was 67 degrees. But — thanks to 300 tons of refrigeration — the rink was open. And packed.

Skaters rely on it. Savvy ones know that a season pass — $150 for adults, $100 for children — is among the best bargains in town. The price includes not only unlimited skating, but skate rental or sharpening too.

Tweens make the rink their own on Friday and Saturday nights. In terms of a safe environment, the rink is this generation’s Arnie’s Place. Parents drop their kids off knowing they’ll have fun, and be looked after lovingly.

Tony loves everyone who skates. The other day, he spotted a 4-year-old wearing a Canadiens jersey. “Want to ride on the Zamboni?” he asked? He strapped her in, then took her on a special adventure.

Currier and Ives meets the PAL Longshore Ice Rink.

Currier and Ives meet the PAL Longshore Ice Rink.

Operating an outdoor rink is not cheap. Tony — who also owns Thin Ice Management, a consulting company that works with clients like the twin rinks at Shelton — spends $50,000 a year just to put in and take out the rink. His electric bill last year was $40,000.

But he loves what he does. His prices have not changed in 16 years.

“We don’t charge more. We just get better at what we do. And more people come,” he says.

He is a master of details. When the phone rings and he’s near, he answers it. The questions are invariably the same: “Are you open? How late?”

“I could let it go to the recording, with the same information,” he says. “But people want to hear a live voice.”

The rink’s website — redesigned recently by fellow Canadian and huge skating fan Michael Winser — includes a live webcam. It’s one more way to spread the word about Tony’s passion.

A screenshot from Saturday's live webcam. Lots of lessons went on that morning.

A screenshot from Saturday’s live webcam. Lots of lessons went on that morning.

“On  most days we have the best ice in Fairfield County,” he says. “I’m a perfectionist about it.”

About everything, really. He gets up at 3 a.m., to check (remotely) on the chiller. He’ll head to the rink from his nearby home at 6 a.m., just because he loves seeing the early-morning view, and breathing the bracing salt air.

Years ago, Ryan Partnership created an ad campaign for the PAL Longshore Ice Rink. “The coolest place in Westport,” they called it.

Now it’s the hottest too.

Yes, Only 3 Weeks Till Christmas…

…though you wouldn’t know it from the late-October foliage at Longshore.

The course is in great shape, and these golfers were out earlier today on the 8th hole:

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

Meanwhile, the Saugatuck River is still pleasant enough for paddling. Alert “06880” reader Jamie Lindenbaum was out this morning, and captured this scene:

Saugatuck River paddle - Jamie Lindenbaum

Happy holidays! The weather outside is definitely not frightful!

A Post-Apocalyptic Saugatuck

The back cover of Flesh & Wires — a new science fiction book just published by Jackie Hatton — reads:

Following a failed alien invasion the world is left sparsely populated with psychologically scarred survivors, some of them technologically-enhanced women. Lo, leader of the small safe haven of Saugatuck,…

Whoa! Does our little town star in a very intriguing work by that rare species: a female science fiction writer?

Yep.

Jackie Hatton

Jackie Hatton

Hatton — an Australian who grew up in Tasmania, earned a master’s in American history in Melbourne, and a Ph.D. in the same subject at Cornell — landed here when her husband got a job in Stamford. They knew Westport was a beautiful town, and heard it was “open-minded and open-hearted.” They bought their 1st house on Treadwell Avenue in 1998, attracted by the nearby water.

Hatton was a freelance writer, which worked well. She wrote all morning, then had lunch on the beach. She wrote again in the afternoon, and grabbed dinner somewhere in the neighborhood. Some days, she gardened — and thought.

She and her husband planted a small apple orchard. She calls it “a charmed and charming period” in their lives.

“We spent perhaps too many happy hours in Viva’s and Dunville’s,” she laughs. But she volunteered at the Westport Historical Society, and met friends through New Neighbors.

With Turkish friends, they bought a boat and spent every summer weekend on the Sound.

When Hatton and  her husband were bored, they played a game: “Looking for Keith Richards.” They’d head to lively bars with great music, like the Georgetown Saloon. They never found him.

Jackie Hatton's beloved house on Treadwell Avenue.

Jackie Hatton’s beloved house on Treadwell Avenue.

They moved in 2003 for work reasons — first to a minimalist place in New York City, then to the magical old streets and canals of Amsterdam. They’re still in the Netherlands, but Hatton calls Westport “the most beautiful place I have ever lived.”

The town remained vivid in her mind. Hatton always wanted to set a story here. She began writing a murder mystery, but that genre in a New England setting seemed like a cliche.

One day, rooting around for a more original premise, she recalled the one thing she’d always found strange about Westport: “there are no men there during the day.” Suddenly, she wondered: What if all the men were not just at work in New York?

Then she realized: If the men never came home, the place would still run. Women already maintain the properties, organize the activities and run errands all day long.

They manage many shops, and the small businesses operating out of big homes: freelance consultancies, part-time practices and the like.

Flesh & WiresHatton kept thinking: How would women handle a real crisis? So she added aliens.

Despite their circumstances, the women in Flesh & Wires — who have created an oasis of civilization in Saugatuck — still care about home decoration, gardening, cooking, dancing and clothes. She included those details because she believes that making things beautiful can be a way of “dealing with darkness and difficulties.” How women spend their time is a serious thread throughout the book.

Of course, Hatton has a few laughs too. She turns a nail salon into a military training center. She also enjoys demolishing I-95.

Her book includes the cute little 19th-century cottage that was their old house; Saugatuck Rowing Club and Longshore; Mansion Clam House and Peter’s Bridge Market (both now gone).

The Bridge Street bridge — which may or may not be gone long before the apocalypse — serves as a major checkpoint into town. Downtown has been flooded into oblivion. And Cockenoe Island serves as a prison.

The Bridge Street bridge: While Westporters debate its future, Jackie Hatton turns it into a post-apocalyptic checkpoint into and out of Saugatuck.

The Bridge Street bridge: While Westporters debate its future, Jackie Hatton turns it into a post-apocalyptic checkpoint.

“I’m interested to hear if Westporters find post-apocalyptic Saugatuck beautiful or horrific,” she says. “I love the new park I created, but I hate the idea of living in fear behind fortified walls.”

So what’s next, in the pre-apocalyptic real world?

“My great fantasy is that Hollywood buys the movie rights to Flesh & Wires,” Hatton says. “And then pays me to spend the summer on location in my favorite place in the world.”

More realistically, she hopes that promotional activities bring her back to Westport soon.

“There’s a margarita waiting for me at Viva’s,” she notes. “And a bar stool at Dunville’s with my name on it.”

(Click on www.jackiehatton.net to learn more about the author and her book — including a feature on how she uses Westport settings.)

Gloria Drifts Away

For years, “Gloria” was a glorious sight.

Alan Sterling built the wooden oyster boat himself. He named it after an old girlfriend, and took it oystering on 150 acres of beds, between Compo Beach and Cockenoe Island. It was a tough job, but Alan — a Staples grad — loved it from the day he began, in 1964.

Alan moored Gloria in Gray’s Creek, between Compo Beach Road and the Longshore exit. Some winters, he lived on the boat. It was cold — but it was home.

On July 4, 2014, Alan died of a massive heart attack.

Since then, Gloria has just kind of drifted. She was Alan’s baby, and now he’s gone.

The other day, “06880” reader Bruce McFadden spotted Gloria abandoned, on the Gray’s Creek shore.

Gloria, on the Gray's Creek shore. (Photo/Bruce McFadden)

Gloria, on the Gray’s Creek shore. (Photo/Bruce McFadden)

He wonders if anyone has plans for the boat. The Honda outboard has value. Perhaps, he says, funds from its sale could be used to place a plaque or bench at Longshore’s E.R. Strait Marina, honoring one of Westport’s last commercial fishermen.

Drive It!

The Longshore golf course looks great these days.

Making it even better: new signage.

Longshore signage

All that’s needed now: Something to make your golf game look as sharp as the signs.

(Hat tip and photo: Kaye Leong)