Stopping on Fishers Island is a chance to get some solace for the soul and discover one of the great treasures of the eastern Long Island Sound, north coast. Anyone who has sailed this part of the Sound to or from the route to Newport, Block Island and beyond has at some point sailed by Fishers Island. It is a very private place known primarily as a summer resort for the wealthy who have owned spectacular homes on the island for generations.
Almost immediately, upon arrival, you get the sense that everyone knows everyone and as Fishers Island Yacht Club Marina Manager, Lincoln White, told me you can still hitchhike on Fishers Island. In fact, the “downtown” area is so small that you will note St. John’s (one of three churches on the island, but the only Episcopal one) web site does not have an address for the church. You just ask and someone will point you to the church.
I highly recommend you start your discovery at Fishers by getting a slip at the Fishers Island Yacht Club. Since the emergence of Dockwa, an online booking service for mariners, it is easy to arrange a reservation and Dockwa made it possible for me to find FIYC and its proximity to St. John’s.
St John’s like its counterpart in Oak Bluff’s, Martha’s Vineyard, is a seasonal parish, which means it functions roughly between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Given that seasonality, this parish is unique in that it maintains a scholarship program which focuses on year-round island residents. While most people on the island are summer residents there remains a small population which lives here year-round and while the church stops holding services it does not stop serving the community. One of the first people I met on the island told me when I asked where St. John’s was, “my son got a scholarship from that church…” I don’t believe he was an Episcopalian since he had trouble defining the location of the church – -but he sure knew what St. John’s meant to the island! St. John’s is like comfort food for the slightly older members of the faith. Here is the kind of mix between morning prayer and Rite I or II that some of us grew up on. Anyone who remembers a low church tradition will find comfort here. Especially in a summer resort, the simplicity and warm morning prayer tradition is much appreciated. But the commitment of St. Johns to the island shows a depth of faith beyond the lovely clapboard structure perched on the hill just up from the post office.
127 years old at the time of this writing the simplicity of the building mirrors the understated feeling of the island. Unlike the excesses of Newport’s gilded age, Fishers Island and St. John’s is firmly rooted in an old fashion, well-bred, understated elegance that resonates memories of a simpler more gentile time when good manners were a must and the motto unto whom much is given much is expected was preeminent. St. John’s is all of that and more.
If you arrive Friday or Saturday , be sure to order from Edwards Lobsters. If you stay at Fishers Island Yacht Club (which I highly recommend) the lobsters are delivered to your boat. Other most stops include Toppers Ice Cream an easy walk from the Yacht Club and Pequot Inn which has good food and fun for the family until 10 pm when it becomes an over 21+ club. One small point the term yacht club to many might mean a large facility, but FIYC like all the rest of Fishers Island is on a much smaller scale, with two small white buildings that blend into the shoreline.
To be blunt, there is simply no place for brunch on the island. However, right down the street from St. John’s there is a lovely town green where the post office is located. Right across the street is the News Café, a well-stocked deli that has great bakery items and a large selection of breakfast and lunch sandwiches. There is ample outside seating and it is a great place to just sit relax and watch kids playing on the town green. A few doors down is the aforementioned Toppers Ice Cream which is a clever dog themed ice cream parlor with a large selection of ice creams, my favorite puppicino.
A short walk from the ferry or the main marine centers.
MORE TO COME
After the service there are a number of restaurants along the main commercial streets ranging from gourmet take out, diner food or Mexican, but the one place not to be missed is Claudio’s. Claudio’s is really a series of restaurants spread out over the wharf, there is a clam bar, crabby Jerry’s and the main restaurant. All sites serve solid seafood, a good beer selection and a very relaxed atmosphere.
I have to start this entry with a general confession; THIS IS MY PARISH. I was confirmed at St. Johns; my parents are buried in the Columbarium, my daughter was married at St. John’s and my first grandchild was baptized here, so I am a bit prejudice.
St. John’s is a lovely historic parish in a picturesque community 30 minutes from New York City. Larchmont Manor, where the church is located, was once a just a summer community and the church is surrounded by wonderful turn-of-the-century (as in 20th Century) homes that feature large porches and heavy doses of charm.
St. John’s is an easy walk from either Larchmont Yacht Club, itself a historical and charming place, where one may be able to secure a transit mooring or Horseshoe Yacht Club a smaller more casual place where moorings may also be available. From either location, you are a five to ten-minute walk to Fountain Square and St. Johns.
The English Gothic style church was consecrated in 1894 and was the first place of worship in the Village of Larchmont. The more cynical among us debate which came first the Yacht Club or the parish, but St. John’s long ago shed the socialite, attend to be seen reputation and today is a vibrant parish, well attended, with an active social outreach program and an extraordinary Sunday school program. For many years members of the parish have spent a few weeks in Nicaragua building homes and in one case a school.
Recently refurbished the sanctuary has some lovely stain glass windows. The windows over the altar are particularly lovely on a sunny day. Coffee hour is next door in the parish hall itself a hub of community activity. You will find the parish welcoming and particularly kid-centered with toys and a safe play area set up so that if you have a child in tow, they can have fun while you get a cup of coffee.
St. John’s is in a residential area, but if the weather is good and you are in the mood for a walk you can stroll up Larchmont Ave. to the center of the village and find several good spots for breakfast/brunch. Aurary and the Manor Deli are polar opposites one offering the best bacon, egg and cheese on a roll, in the area (The Deli), the other a long list of omelets and other very satisfying morning choices. Aurary also has outside seating and can be very crowded. At the intersection of Larchmont Avenue and US 1, The Boston Post Road is a french bakery that offers strong coffee and perfect croissants. You can also grab a baguette to put on board.
Built-in 1884, this majestic stone church stands watching over the Mamaroneck Harbor as it has for centuries. Unlike its sister parish, St. John’s in Larchmont, St, Thomas’s is situated in the middle of the Village. The village has a dinghy dock in the inner harbor which makes the walk to St. Thomas’s a very easy proposition.
Mamaroneck Harbor has several things to recommend it. There are two extremely good boat yards if repairs are need and either one Nichols or McMichaels may have a transit slip available. The outer harbor has a mooring field run by the Village. You can speak with the harbor master about availability of a mooring for the night.
As you enter the harbor be very careful there are some shoals you can’t see and are not marked except on charts so keep a good eye. The harbor is busy with several yacht clubs and private docks making coming and going a bit challenging but anywhere you tie up you can get to St. Thomas’s.
One other note about St. Thomas’s on Saturday’s they host a farmer’s market. If you don’t find what you need at the market, the main street (Mamaroneck Avenue) is just a couple of blocks to starboard as you face the church. Mamaroneck Ave, is filled with Italian deli’s an
Before returning to the harbor you might consider a stroll down Mamaroneck Avenue, one of the five top eating destinations in Westchester County. While there are several excellent Italian and Asian choices you might also consider any of the strong representations from around the world including Le Provencal Bistro for outstanding French cuisine, or if you have a taste for great Indian try Rani Mahal. These two restaurants are long standing and popular spots on Mamaroneck Ave, but it seems almost unfair to single them out. This street is just so full of great choices I would recommend walking up and down and see what catches your eye. From Sal’s, the king of the pizzeria, to Smashburger at the far end of the avenue there is absolutely no bad choices just variations in the cuisine and price.
This church was where Teddy Roosevelt’ and family worshipped on Sundays. Oyster Bay, part of the “gold coast” of Long Island is the site or Roosevelt’s summer home Sagamore Hill. The Village is also home to Billy Joel among other celebrities both past and current.
The walk to the church is not only easy but interesting as well, if you stay at the outstanding Oyster Bay Marine Center. The OBMC has a very large mooring field and some slips. The launch service is excellent from the moorings and the village is full of interesting things to see on your way to church. Among points of interest is the Railroad Museum and the audio tour you can plug into your cell phone.
The church is small and lovely, filled with spectacular stain glass and a very enthusiastic congregation. Facing the entry door there is an ancient cemetery of 9 graves that fascinated my nine-year-old son, while the headstones are brittle you can still make out the headline – Here lies the remains of James Doughtery.
The Pastor Michael Piret, is fascinating in his own right. A native of Buffalo he ended up at Magdalen College, Oxford for so many years that when he came back to the States and Oyster Bay he had a British accent and trouble driving on the right/wrong side. His sermons are excellent not too long, not too short, just right for a muggy summer morning. Christ Church is blessed not only with stain glass and a friendly congregation but of special note they have excellent air conditioning so you can concentrate on what Father Piret is saying!
Every parish I visit I am amazed at the uniqueness of the parishioners and the services, while still following the Book of Common Prayer Rites giving everyone that familiar (sometimes unfamiliar) guide. Unique to Christ Church is the holy water at the entrance, the inclusion of Pope Francis in the prayers for the people and wonderful gentlemen in bermuda shorts and blazers topped off with bow ties. While the “old school” uniform and the plaques to Teddy Roosevelt’s family is a reminder of the old elite waspy church the congregation is warm, unpretentious and welcoming in keeping with the diverse “new church.” Father Piret even gave us sailors a shout out during announcements, so be sure to let them know you arrived by boat. I had such a great experience at Christ Church that the very next Sunday I changed my plans so I could come back again.
After the service we got offered a lift to the marina, but we wanted to stop at Tabby’s, Oyster Bay’s answer to a diner for breakfast. It is a pretty popular place. Walking back from the service to the marina most likely the Railroad Museum will be open and it is worth a visit. Next to the museum is a large park with some great playscapes if you are traveling with younger children.
To reach Christ Church, Port Jefferson, NY from the harbor is a simple walk up Main Street take a right on Maple and left on Barnum and there you will find the quaint church with a sign that screams, ‘We help our community’. The billboard proclaims all sorts of good deeds like a soup kitchen, which is part and parcel of this sturdy and determined parish.
The image is fitting of a town that has two sides. Port Jeff is a ferry town. Year-round, the ferries shuttle people to and from Bridgeport, Connecticut, serving as a much more pleasing form of transport than the often threatening bridge across Long Island Sound. Because of the ferry, many people pass through Port Jeff to other destinations like the large State University of New York complex at Stony Brook, the next town over. It is also a vibrant harbor for sailors who often stop at Port Jeff for a weekend or as a stopover point in route to eastern or western Long Island or north to numerous locations on the Connecticut Shore Line. There are three options for staying in Port Jeff; there is the marina at Danfords which offers slips, and moorings that you can rent from Port Jeff Launch and Water-Taxi or Port Jeff Yacht Club. Reservations for moorings can be arranged through Dockwa.
Sailors find Port Jeff a safe and fun harbor with plenty to do. There are the lobster dinners at the Steam Room a pet-friendly institution which is right across from the ferry landing. For desert don’t miss Rogers Frigate renowned ice cream and candy emporium, next door.
The other Port Jeff is one of the year-round residents and this group like so many other resort towns is a far more eclectic population one that looks to a place like Christ Church for support and comfort. If you have the time, you might be interested in reading the history of this parish before attending a service. Since 2001 and congregation has had some challenges and is now being served by a Priest-in-Charge, which means the church is in transition and seeking ways to strengthen their membership and calling. But don’t let that keep you from attending. The fact is that this parish is warm, committed, and looking forward.
The church building dates to 1879 when the land it sits on was purchased from P.T. Barnum, the showman. The interior is intimate and a perfect place for reflection and private thoughts, a place of solace.
Port Jeff is full of restaurants of all types, seafood, delis, and pizza. My personal preference for an after-Church lunch is at Danfords Wave Restaurant. Danfords is a marina and hotel resort right next to the ferry and a short water-taxi ride from a mooring. From the outdoor restaurant overlooking the harbor, you can enjoy good food and gaze out over the marina filled with super-yachts and try to guess what celebrity owns one of the 100-foot mega boats. Danfords Wave Restaurant offers Sunday Brunch, or breakfast before church and is not to be missed.
Christ Episcopal is an easy walk from the harbor where you can pull a mooring and use the water taxi or dingy to get into town. To get to the church you walk through the quaint downtown and through the historic section complete with historic homes of whalers and colonial settlers.
MORE TO COME
As you make you way back to the harbor there are several spots for brunch. If you are in a hurry pick up some fresh bagels at Bagel Buoy Market. 3 Bay Street or other meal fixings at Harbor Market & Kitchen 184 Division St.
Shelter Island is a bit tricky when you want to mix sailing and faith. The island is served by two ferries. One on the northside goes to Greenport and the one on the south side goes to Sag Harbor. St. Mary’s is between the two sides of the island a hike from any of the harbors. If you have the good fortune to pull a mooring on the northside there is a bike rental spot, which might make a good solution to getting to St. Mary’s. You can also take a short walk to the ferry for Greenport and attend services there. (See Greenport entry).
If you have a yacht club membership you can get a mooring on a reiciptical and that gives you the advantage of launch service. If you don’t have such a resource I would recommend Jack’s Marina, which is one of my favorite spots, but you will need a dinghy. Jack’s is really a hardware/toy store with a mooring field, run by some really great people.
MORE TO COME
Across the street from Jack’s is a restaurant that serves complete and substantive meals. Down the block is a very popular gourmet market Marie Eiffel Market, with tables inside and out. The shop offers outstanding pastries, good coffee and other breakfast and lunch items. Plus there is a large of assortment of take out foods that can be reheated on board.