In November all traces of the sun are gone from the sky by 5:00 p.m. The trees are almost totally without leaves. The ocean breeze feels more like a menacing wind, one that brings tears to your eyes when you face directly into it. Yes, it is November in the Hamptons, that month not many celebrate – with the exception of Thanksgiving – or mark on their calendar as their favorite time of the year.
Shakespeare did not compose love Sonnets for November. You never hear, “Shall I compare you to a November’s day,” and think positive things. Yet, November in the Hamptons is a better place to be then most others during that month.
The first thing that comes to mind is the scent of so many fireplaces burning wood. When I used to walk or hike the few years I lived in East Hampton Village, Springs and Northwest Woods, I loved the scent of the burning wood you would always smell in the cold air.
I used to drive my car south of the highway in November because many homes hidden by thick hedgerow could then be observed through thinning brush. I love old sycamore trees and the East End has some amazing roads lined with them. I believe they are the most interesting of the leaf-less trees of the cold seasons due to the ways the lower thick branches show both age and strength with their girth.
Farm stands out east do their best to stock Long Island corn as long as possible into November. I know the folks at Halsey Farm & Nursery harvest one section of their corn so they can have some to sell right up to Thanksgiving. I love Long Island corn.
My sailboat comes out of the water in November. It will sit on the land on the shore of Three Mile Harbor until April. However, one November the folks at the yard were running late, so I went sailing just before Thanksgiving. I was bundled up, as did Todd Wickersham who has sailed with me regularly for the last decade.
We were bundled up in very warm winter jackets, heavy socks and wool hats. We looked like Stowe, Vermont skiers in January because it gets cold on the water in November. We decided to sail only in the harbor because the sky was cloudy and the sun was going to set around approximately 4:40 that evening, post day light savings time. The tide was going out. The wind was great as we made turns to check out the homes along the shore that are so visible in November with most of the trees without leaves.
In the middle of Three Mile Harbor is a sandbar that makes the harbor only a foot or so deep at low tide. We avoid that area at all costs, even at high tide. As the sun was going down, it was mostly behind grey clouds – yet it still made the evening memorable. But, what makes this night most memorable was just at the most peaceful moment, when the wind all but became gentle, the boat (a 22′ Catalina) stopped, embedded in sand. I popped on the motor and held it on an angle to free the boat, but to no avail. We scrambled to take down the sails. That whole evening we saw neither another boat or moving person along the shore. It gets that way in Three Mile Harbor in late November with almost all the boats already on stands in boatyard parking lots. It was cold and the thought of taking off our boots, socks and pants to go into the water to push the boat to deeper water by lessening the weight aboard. That was our only option. There seemed to be no other choice.
However, all of a sudden, we heard a faint noise coming from the south end of the harbor, the area where we turn in to dock. A powerboat appeared in the twilight and it wasn’t going 5 MPH, the usual sanctioned speed in the harbor, but full tilt. We wondered, will they see us, can they help us? We watched as that boat, a whaler, built for shallow water, came right close to us and the dude on that boat just said, “Catch this line and cleat it.” I believe Todd cleated the line to the front cleat, and the motorboat operator turned up his motored and towed us to deeper water in the channel. We threw him back his line and as we were saying, “Thank you,” he said, “I am out of here. It’s really cold.” And within seconds, he was speeding back to wherever he came from. We never found out who he was, how he found out we were out there, or where he and that boat came from. The next day, my boat was hauled out of the water. Todd and I put away the sails and removed the outboard motor. To this day, we still talk about that night and wonder who was that guy? That is easily my favorite Hamptons November story.