Category Archives: Longshore

Pic Of The Day #911

Finally! A candidate we can all agree on. (Photo/Luke Garvey)

Minuteman Yacht Club Welcomes All

Half a century ago, Joe Schachter bought a boat. He, his wife Irma and their young kids loved leaving their slip at Longshore, and heading out on the Sound.

Except when they couldn’t get out, because the basin was silted over. In fact, the only time that worked was half tide or more.

A few similarly disgruntled boat owners started talking. They realized their individual complaints to town officials went nowhere.

Meanwhile, over at Compo, there wasn’t even a real “marina” at all. Boats were tied to buoys. After a day on the water, boaters blew air horns, then waited for a tender to fetch them from the gas dock. On busy days, it took an hour.

They formed a group, to advocate for all Westport boaters. They named themselves the Minuteman Yacht Club.

Irma and Joe Schachter

It took 30 years, but they finally got action. Twenty years after that, Schachter — now 94 years old — is still involved.

And, in a measure of how far the Minuteman Yacht Club has come, one very important town official — 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — attends many of the group’s events.

The organization’s efforts paid off in the renovation of Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach. A gangway — to walk to boats — replaced the old blow-your-horn-and-wait-for-a-lift system. Both it and Longshore were dredged, dramatically increasing their capacities.

Compo now has “one of the best marina set-ups of any town on Long Island Sound,” Schachter says proudly.

Ned Dimes Marina.

He should know. After a career change from advertising, he developed a concrete flotation system that completed 400 projects around the East Coast. Compo was his last major one.

But — like so much else in Westport life — boating has changed in the 50 years Schachter has been involved.

Whether its clubs Minuteman or Kiwanis, “it’s hard today to keep them going,” says Barbara Gross.

She should know. A Westonite who does not own a boat — she’s a kayaker who loves the Sound, Cockenoe and nearby islands — she enjoys Minuteman Yacht Club for its social events.

The calendar is filled: Commissioning Day party, post-race parties, clambake, reggae party, commodore’s reception, change-of-watch dinner, even a winter holiday party.

“There’s a real camaraderie, a fun spirit,” Gross says.

She hopes families with young children will consider joining Minuteman Yacht Club. “It’s important to give kids a taste of boating,” she says. “And this is a great way for parents to have fun with them. You don’t even need to own a boat.”

It’s a good way too, she says, to introduce youngsters to the wonders of Long Island Sound.

And maybe they will grow up to be — like herself, Schachter and many others — the voice of sailboat and powerboat owners, all over town.

(For more information on Minuteman Yacht Club, click here.)

Westport: The Write Place

The statistics are in: 18 iconic Westport locations. Six library spots. Six pick-your-own-spots. All told, 250 “writes” during last month’s Write Here project.

Jan Bassin

Led by Jan Bassin — Senior Center coordinator of writing programs, and the Westport Library’s Maker-in-Residence — each hour-long session began with a brief introduction. After a prompt, Westporters of all ages, abilities and backgrounds began writing. At the end, volunteers shared their creations.

The proudest — or bravest — uploaded their writing to a dedicated website.

But those dry facts don’t come close to telling the whole “story.”

Like many participants, Bassin knew some of the writing locations well. In her case it was the Senior Center, Westport Country Playhouse, Compo Beach, Wakeman Town Farm, Levitt Pavilion and Farmers’ Market.

Others she hadn’t visited or thought about in years: Earthplace, Rolnick Observatory, Westport Historical Society.

She’d been to Toquet Hall only once; the Westport Weston Family YMCA and Ned Dimes Marina never. She had no idea where to find the police station entrance.

Writing at Earthplace …

Jan was excited to “discover” those new places. But just as intriguing was the chance to look at familiar places with new eyes: the Town Hall lobby, for example, and train station.

She realized too that classrooms at fire and police headquarters, picnic tables at Longshore and chairs under a tree at the Farmers’ Market were as exciting as the more “sparkly” venues.

Each site brought new revelations. Jan and her group sat spellbound as Nick Marsan described his circuitous, unexpected route to becoming a firefighter; Sue Pfister spoke of shifting her focus from business to social work, then finding a population where she could help; Lori Cochran-Dougall shared her passion for sustainability; Carleigh Welsh offered her heartfelt philosophy about the importance of the arts, and Shannon Calvert showed photos of the universe taken at the observatory.

… the Westport Country Playhouse …

Each visit, Jan says, “felt like a private and special writing party.” Everyone at every site treated the writers as special guests.

At the end of each talk, she guided the group into “feeling” the place they were in. The writing that followed was “amazing.”

It was “beautiful, connected and gorgeous” — even from people who insisted, “I don’t write.”

When she designed the month, Jan did not expect to be as moved as she was, every single day. “People’s voices and stories still play in my head,” she says with awe.

… and the Westport Farmers’ Market.

The project was as much about “place” as about words. “We can’t actually think of ourselves at any point in our lives without remembering where we were,” she notes.

“By writing together in a series of places in our town, we ask: What makes a community?”

The answer, it turns out, is write right here.

(Click here to read the writing posted to the Write Here website.)

Pic Of The Day #863

Longshore Sailing School, from offshore. Meanwhile … (Photo/Bruce McFadden)

12 year-old Tucker Peters won 7 of 15 races, to claim Longshore Sailing School’s 2019 Doug Sheffer Cup.

The Bedford Middle School 8th grader won convincingly, with consistent finishes. Just behind him were Staples High School freshmen Devon Jarvis and Alan Becker.

The Doug Sheffer Cup is awarded annually in memory of the late 1969 Staples graduate, who was instrumental in the early years of Longshore Sailing School.

Tucker Peters

Unsung Heroes #112

As summer winds down, this week’s Unsung Heroes is a no-brainer.

Everyone — and there’s a ton — who made this year’s Compo, Burying Hill and Old Mill Beach and Longshore experiences so wonderful: Take a bow!

If you are a:

  • Parks & Recreation maintenance worker, who cleans up our messes so conscientiously and professionally
  • Parks & Rec gate attendant, who waves us in, collects our fees and deals so smilingly with a not-always-smiling public
  • Parks & Rec Department staffer or Commission member, who helped shepherd the new improvements (South Beach sidewalk and bathroom, new tables and grills) through from conception to completion
  • Lifeguard, who keeps us safe, provides first aid, reunites lost kids with panicked parents, and endured a few very boring days in the chair watching the water when the beaches were closed (special shout-out to directors Heidi List Murphy and Danilo Sierra)

  • Marina worker (and of course Westport Police marine unit member), who do so much good stuff the public seldom sees
  • Joey Romeo or part of his youthful “By the Shore” staff at Compo and Longshore, who serve great food and never get mad even when we have no idea what to order despite standing in line for 10 minutes thinking about it

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

  • Longshore golf course, tennis court or pool attendant, who we see every day, in all kinds of weather and seldom even nod to
  • Early-morning employee like Drew Grega, who grooms the beach so well and unobtrusively we never even know you’re there …

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

It would not have been a wonderful Westport summer without you.

PS: I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone. If I have — aaargh! Just add those Unsung Heroes in the “Comments” section.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Friday Flashback #155

In early 1960, the town of Westport bought the failing private Longshore Beach & Country Club. The 169-acre property included a golf course, tennis courts, pools, marina, inn/restaurant, residential cabins, even 2 private roads.

Plus — why not? — a lighthouse.

The entire process — from concept to approval from the Board of Finance and (unanimously!) the RTM — took just 18 days.  Town officials put together a $1.9 million package, then earned approval from the Board of Finance and RTM.  The latter vote was 38-0. 

Five years later, the Westport Town Crier published a remarkable aerial photo of what was then the still-novel town-owned country club.

(Aerial photo/Robert Lentini)

Moving counter-clockwise from the center, you can see the old tennis court locker rooms, and adjacent wooden bathhouses (though you can’t see how dark they were, or smell their decades-old musty odor); the original Longshore Sailing School; several cabanas by the old pool — and, partially hidden by trees next to the marina, the circular lighthouse.

It was always a source of fascination for kids, and admiration by adults.

The lighthouse survived one demolition attempt in the late ’60s or early ’70s. Eventually — when the entrance to the pool area was modernized — it was torn down.

Here’s what we miss:

(Photo courtesy of Peter Barlow)

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Pic Of The Day #848

Gray’s Creek Revolutionary War cemetery at Longshore (Photo/Kathie Motes Bennewitz

Batsh*t Bride Comes Home

First came “Groundhog Day.” Then “Independence Day.”

A new film takes place on April 1. It’s not called “April Fools Day” — the title is “Batsh*t Bride” — but the premise is clear.

Just before her wedding that day, a bride pranks her fiance by saying they should break up. Unfortunately, he feels the same way. Everything spirals out of control from there.

Jonathan Smith’s indie feature — starring Meghan Falcone as Heather — debuts August 26 at Stamford’s Avon Theatre. The venue is signifcant: “Batsh*t Bride” was filmed throughout Fairfield County.

Many scenes took place right here, including Christ & Holy Trinity Church and Longshore and Pearl restaurant. A number of Westporters had roles as extras.

The first scene the filmmakers shot was Heather’s failed wedding. Cinematographer Jason Merrin worked on it while in town for his own wedding.

A local blog posted the call for extras. Expecting only a handful of people, Smith planned his camera angles creatively. However, the Christ & Holy Trinity pews were packed.

Lights! Camera and action came later. (Photo/Ellen Bowen)

Many extras were then recruited for other background shots. One was even given a line.

The ballroom and hotel scenes were all shot at The Inn at Longshore. But the production was allowed in only on Monday through Wednesday, for 2 consecutive weeks.

Smith liked Longshore so much, he rewrote several sections to fit the grounds. He added in golf and kayak scenes.

Tickets to the premiere are $10. Chez Vous Bistro offers a $25 prix fixe 2-course dinner prior to the screening, while Flinders Lane Kitchen & Bar has happy hour drink prices and complimentary appetizers after the screening (with ticket stubs).

Email batshitbride@gmail.com for tickets and dinner reservations.

Friday Flashback #153

Lou Nistico is fondly remembered as part of the family that owned the Arrow — the beloved Italian restaurant in Saugatuck (it’s now Mystic Market).

In the mid-1970s though, he was also the concessionaire at Longshore. His daughter Joanne was the bartender.

At the time, Westport was the illustrators’ capital of the world. They worked at home, but socialized often.

A group of cartoonists often played golf, then headed inside for martinis. Joanne calls them a “fun and wild group of talented men.”

One day during lunch, they dashed off this collage for Lou:

Famous names are included: Tony DiPreta (who drew “Joe Palooka”), Bud Jones (“Mr. Abernathy”) and Bob Gustafson (“Tillie the Toiler”).

Dick Wingert’s “Hubert” looks half in the bag, as he raises a glass to “Lou the Great!”

But check out Stan Drake’s “Juliet Jones,” and his/her R-rated comment.

Then look at Curt Swan’s Superman next to Grace — and his wandering eyes.

They make a nice couple. Their cartoon kids would have been gorgeous.

Unsung Heroes #109

Alert — and grateful — “06880” reader Peter Boyd loves the Longshore pool.

“It’s an incredible town resource,” he says. “For just the price of a handpass, you can swim in a well-kept pool surrounded by the Long Island Sound. It’s great.”

Last week — following an energy-sapping heat wave — the temperature dropped substantially. Then it rained.

But Peter is intrepid. At 5 p.m., he headed to Longshore to swim.

No one was there — no one, that is, except a man named Jay. He’d covered his computer — used to check those handpasses — with a trash bag.

Jay welcomes swimmers to the Longshore pool.

He cheerfully told Peter that the pool was open according to the published schedule — rain or shine. It’s closed only during thunderstorms, and for 30 minutes afterward.

“He was happy to let me in,” Peter says. “And the lifeguards were happy to come out to ensure I was safe.

“They’re a great team. Service was cheerful and professional, as always. Whether it’s a crowded weekend in the sun or a deserted weekday in the rain, we are very lucky to have them.”

Thank you, Jay and everyone else at the Longshore pool. You are our Unsung Heroes of the Week!

Rain or shine, the Longshore pool is a town gem. (Photos/Peter Boyd)