Category Archives: Beach

Jonathan Livingston, I Presume?

Sunday’s photo challenge showed the dilapidated brick wall at Compo, near the lockers and Joey’s.

The photo below is much more evocative of the beach every Westporter loves:

Seagull at Compo

The photographer requested this credit: “Patrick Goldschmidt and Jonathan Seagull.”

A Good Walk Spoiled

Betsy P. Kahn’s early morning Compo Beach stroll was marred by this sight:

Lifeguard chair - August 23, 2016 - Betsy P Kahn

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Every lifeguard chair up and down the shore was toppled, she says.

And this is not the first time.

No, the wind was not strong last night.

But the (we assume) teenagers out for some late-summer mischief were.

More Minute Man Signage

For at least the 2nd time this summer, the Minute Man monument has been adorned with a sign.

This one advertises an estate sale on nearby Bluewater Hill South.

Minuteman sign

If “o6880” readers have any ideas on how to stop the scourge of advertising at one of Westport’s 2 most iconic sites, click “Comments” below.

Otherwise, the cannons may be next.

Striking Scene At Compo

Brian Chapman took this dramatic image at Compo Beach, earlier tonight:

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Brian Chapman)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Brian Chapman)

Post Three

Alert “06880” photographer Andrew Colabella captured this riveting scene, from the central lifeguard station at Compo Beach:

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Buy An Oyster Knife; Build A Sherwood Mill Pond Sharpie

Three years ago, Westporter JP Vellotti helped turn century-old deck planks from the Laurel — at the time, America’s oldest oyster boat still sailing — into handsome and useful oyster knives.

The production run was limited. Many folks missed out.

One of Jean Paul Vellotti's oyster knives.

One of Jean Paul Vellotti’s oyster knives.

Now Vellotti is back, with an updated version of the Laurel oyster knife — and a new idea. It satisfies requests for more knives, celebrates history and gives back to the community.

Vellotti hopes proceeds from the new knives will help fund construction of a Sharpie. That’s the type of old-school vessel that for decades was part of Westport’s oystering and maritime traditions.

Sharpies were stable enough to carry heavy loads, with sails large enough to go across Long Island Sound.

A double-masted Sharpie, on the Mystic River.

A double-masted Sharpie, on the Mystic River.

Saugatuck River Sharpies were used to “tong” and “rake” for seed oysters. Vellotti hopes to register his Sharpie with the state as a seed boat. It would be the first Connecticut-built sail-powered craft used in oystering since the 1950s.

“The neat thing about a Sharpie is that it doesn’t draw much water,” Vellotti says. “It can sail inside the Sherwood Mill Pond with the centerboard up, and around the islands with it down. It can also go all the way into downtown at any tide.”

He hopes to offer rides on the Sharpie — perhaps as a quick spin around the Mill Pond, or a pre-Levitt Pavilion concert sail.

A Sharpie model built by Harry Runyon, caretaker of the Sherwood Mill Pond island house.

A Sharpie model built by Harry Runyon, caretaker of the Sherwood Mill Pond island house.

“This is not an overnight project,” Vellotti notes. “But I’m 100% dedicated to it. If the community can support me, I’ll deliver a boat we can all enjoy.”

Soon, he’ll take classes at Maine’s WoodenBoat School. He has all the power and hand tools required; he just needs to learn skills like lofting and cutting a stem rabbet.

Vellotti’s instructor grew up 3 houses down from the Staten Island yard where the Laurel was built. His grandfather helped construct it — an amazing coincidence.

In an undated photo, a Sharpie (foreground) sits on braces near the old Sherwood Mill Pond grist mill.

In an undated photo, a Sharpie (foreground) sits on braces near the old Sherwood Mill Pond grist mill. The mill later burned; a private home has replaced it.

Vellotti plans to draw the lines and make the patterns this winter, and calculate the materials needed. Construction starts in the spring. If all goes well, the boat will make a splash — literally — next summer.

“Sharpies are not the hardest boat to build,” he says. “This is an attainable goal.”  He’s getting help and support from other boat builders and woodworkers.

His Sharpie is not yet built. But Vellotti is already looking ahead, beyond his boat and the Mill Pond.

“If all goes well, this might start a chain reaction of small, traditional wooden craft in our waters,” he says.

“I have a Cornish Pilot Gig in mind. It would be a great team builder, and look fantastic rowing down the Saugatuck River.”

(To order Laurel oyster knives — or for more information on the Sharpie Mill Pondo project — click here.)


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Compo Guards Save Lives, Offer Life Lessons

Westport’s lifeguards are superb. They’re well-trained, well-skilled, friendly and fun. (They’re also very tan and quite fit.)

Compo Beach-goers know that the guard shack offers more than first aid. There’s tide and temperature info; warnings — and an always intriguing Quote of the Day.

Yesterday’s was particularly noteworthy:

Compo lifeguard sign

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Old Mill Rocks

Alert “06880” reader Trey Ellis is a nationally known writer, political pundit, social critic and university professor.

He’s also a Westporter, with a pretty good eye for our town’s natural beauty.

Yesterday, he snapped this image from Old Mill Beach.

Click on or hover over image to enlarge. (Photo/Trey Ellis)

Click on or hover over image to enlarge. (Photo/Trey Ellis)

Once again — as with all his work — Trey’s perspective is special, and unique.


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Timeless Compo

Alert “06880” reader — and wonderful photographer — Irene Penny snapped this photo yesterday:

(Photo/Irene Penny)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Irene Penny)

But it could have been taken any time, over the past many decades.

Compo Beach is as steady as the tides.

Mary Allen’s Historic Mill Pond Bench

Alert “06880” reader — and amateur historian — Wendy Crowther writes:

Mary Riordan Allen grew up on Hillspoint Road, a few houses away from the iconic Allen’s Clam House.

In the early 1900s, Walter “Cap” Allen opened his clam and oyster shack on the banks of Sherwood Mill Pond. The oysters came from beds in the pond and nearby cove. Cap often hand-shucked them himself. Over time he grew Allen’s into a rustic family eatery.

Recently, Mary returned to the property — now the site of the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve. It was a special occasion: to meet her bench.

A year ago, she asked Sherry Jagerson — chair of the preserve committee – how she and her family could contribute to the spot that meant so much to them. (A photo on the plaque — and below — shows Cap Allen holding a baby: Mary’s husband, Walter Allen.)

Captain Walter Allen (far right) with his wife Lida, daughter Beulah, holding his son Walter Ethan Allen (Mary’s future husband). The photo was taken at Allen's Clam House around 1911.

Captain Walter Allen (far right) with his wife Lida, daughter Beulah, holding his son Walter Ethan Allen (Mary’s future husband). The photo was taken at Allen’s Clam House around 1911.

Several months later, Mary came to Westport from her home in Maine. Sherry, I and other committee members walked the site with her, to pick out the best spot for the Allen family bench.

Mary Allen, at Sherwood Mill Pond.

Mary Allen, at Sherwood Mill Pond.

After returning home, Mary sent me old photos. One showed her son Chris sitting on what may have been the same boulder from decades earlier.

Mary said that Chris loved feeding the swans close to shore. In early spring, they came to the marsh, rebuilt their nest, laid their eggs and raised their cygnets.

Mary Allen's son Chris, with Sherwood Mill Pond swans.

Mary Allen’s son Chris, with Sherwood Mill Pond swans.

In high school, Mary clammed at low tide on the mud flats, and sold them to Cap. She also sold horseshoe crabs. He put them in floats where he kept his fresh clams; they kept the water clean.

Cap Allen and his wife Lida, in front of the clam house.

Cap Allen and his wife Lida, in front of the clam house.

The Clam House and Mill Pond were Mary’s summer playground. She and her friends rented Cap’s handmade rowboats, to catch blue claw crabs and have adventures. They swam at the gates at high tide — a “challenging and dangerous activity” that today she would not allow.

In winter, the pond froze over. The ice skating was wonderful.

Years later — after she married — Mary’s own children enjoyed similar activities. They also ate quite well at Allen’s. After all, she was family.

Cap’s son, Walter Ethan Allen, had a 35-foot ketch-rigged oyster boat. With a shallow draft and long, shallow centerboard and rudders, it was perfect for oystering. For better ballast, Walt asked neighborhood kids to sail with him.

When Walt returned from World War II, he asked Mary — a Staples High School student — to help. Eventually, ballast turned to romance. They married when she was 18. He was 30.

Walt and Mary Allen had 5 children. This photo shows Abigail, their oldest (Cap’s grandchild), in front of the barn that once stood tight against Hillspoint Road on the edge of the Clam House property. The barn -- which still stands -- was rustic inside, but furnished with a full kitchen and a 2nd-floor loft. Cap used it as a popular summer rental property.

Walt and Mary Allen had 5 children. This photo shows Abigail, their oldest (Cap’s grandchild), in front of the barn that once stood tight against Hillspoint Road on the edge of the Clam House property. The barn was rustic inside, but furnished with a full kitchen and a 2nd-floor loft. Cap used it as a popular summer rental property.

Cap owned a 1934 Ford Phaeton convertible. He drove it to the bank every Monday morning, to deposit the week’s proceeds.

Mary enjoyed hanging out at the clam house. Cap was “quiet but friendly and affable, and had a nice sense of humor.” A cigar smoker, he recovered from throat cancer. In 1954, age 75, he died of arterial sclerosis.

His sons — David and Mary’s husband Walt — tried to keep the business going, hiring help while they held their own jobs. Finally, they decided to run the restaurant only. The Uccellinis — 2 generations of their own family — did a magnificent job too.

Allen’s Clam House was a hugely popular summer place. Over time though, the building wore down. Environmental restrictions made it financially impossible to continue.

The restaurant closed in the mid-1990s. The land was ripe for sale. Developers — hoping to build 3 houses — made lucrative offers. Westporters mourned the loss of what had always been a favorite view. They urged the town to buy the land.

Mary worked closely with First Selectman Diane Farrell, and negotiated a special deal. Though it took many years, the site was eventually rehabilitated by volunteers. It officially opened as a preserve in 2010.

The Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve is one of the most tranquil spots in Westport. (Photo/Katherine Hooper)

The Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve is one of the most tranquil spots in Westport. (Photo/Katherine Hooper)

For the dedication, Mary’s daughter Bonnie Allen wrote:

A special acknowledgment is due to my mother, Mary Riordan Allen, the last remaining owner of the Allen’s Clam House property. 11 years ago, in the spirit of Captain Allen’s concern for the Mill Pond and its meadows, she turned down high purchase offers from developers in favor of selling the property to the town at a price it could afford.

With generous matching contributions from like-minded Westporters (Paul Newman, Harvey Weinstein and Martha Stewart among them) the town of Westport bought the property, and honored my mother’s wishes that it be preserved in its natural state, dedicated to my grandfather, Captain Walter Dewitt Allen.

Last week, Mary and Bonnie returned to Westport to meet their bench — a gift from Mary and her children. The plaque honors Mary’s husband Walt, who died in 1982, and Bonnie’s son, Sebastian Katz, who died in 2000 at age 20.

Mary and Bonnie Allen, on the family's bench.

Mary and Bonnie Allen, on the family’s bench.

The plaque on the Allen family bench.

The plaque on the Allen family bench.

Mary’s bench is the one that Sherwood Mill Pond visitors gravitate to most. I suspect that’s because it provides the same views and sense of peace that first drew Cap to this special piece of the Mill Pond, and inspired him to raise a family and a business on its shores.

Thanks to Mary and her family, this site is a wonderful place, where both nature and history are preserved.


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