--John and Michael Toomey, boatyard owners, Amityville.
Fishermen and boaters have a long history of contending "with Mother Nature. Alongside them are boat builders and boatyard owners, who are entrusted with protecting their customers' vessels, recreational and commercial alike. After Superstorm Sandy there may be some important lessons to be learned from these tradition bearers.
"Probably 98 percent of the boats that stayed in the water didn't sustain any damage. They were all fine. There was not near as much damage as the boats on land--basically the boats on land sunk on land," recall the Toomey brothers. Danny Schmidt, owner of Davison's Boat Yard in East Rockaway, had a similar experience: "My first thoughts were--how do you prepare for it, hope it doesn't hit you and if it does, you don't want to think of it. Reality--when it happens--you go along putting everything back together. It's not a matter of we'll never survive it or we can't fix it. We went from being six feet under water to -within days having equipment and trucks running. There is stuff you do to prepare--turn electrical off, tie up certain items--boats here and there. We prepared for a lot of storms in the past but nothing like Sandy. It was crazy with the tide. The building saved our boats--because everything stayed inside the buildings. A lot of the other yards--[they] don't have buildings and their boats are outside. Once boats are lifted off their chocks, they go the way of the wind. Only had a few boats damaged from that part of it--very little physical damage--but a lot mechanically because they sank on land. It wasn't until January that we got boats off the ground."
As Betty Arink of the Bayles Boat Shop in Port Jefferson reflected, "Boats belong in the water."
Further down the coast in Far Rockaway, the historic bungalows along Beach 24--26th streets, recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, also have important lessons for us. Shortly after Sandy hit, I feared that the bungalows would be devastated and destroyed, given all the bad news we heard about the Far Rockaway peninsula. I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat shocked that there was minimal damage, but then quickly remembered why they survived many other storms over their 90-year history. The modest frame homes were set back from the beach behind a protective dune. After the 1938 hurricane, also known as the "Long Island Express," the Army Corps of Engineers began building a series of jetties, including one at Rockaway Inlet just to the east of the bungalows. According to bungalow owners, this jetty helps protect the homes adjacent to the inlet. The bungalow owners and local residents also began a dune stabilization project in the past decade that helped protect the bungalows. The bungalows, like bay houses, are set on locust posts that allow water to travel underneath the wood frame structures. The modest height of the bungalows also protects them from strong winds and gusts.
When we think of storms and the built environment, we often expect that public works projects ?will have the best minds examining the problem and developing solutions. Fortunately, many government workers now recognize the value of the knowledge of local tradition bearers, sometimes referred to as "Local Ecological Knowledge" or LEK During the past six months, officials from FEMA and other agencies have actively pursued bungalow and bay houses owners, boat builders, and other maritime tradition bearers in the hopes that their knowledge will help others in coastal communities. As Ellen McHale wrote in her column in the previous issue of Voices (38:3-4), community residents have an intimate understanding o f their region's waterfronts, whether it's located in the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys or on Long Island's barrier beaches or bays. As advocates for traditions, we cannot forget the practical knowledge that generations of coastal residents have acquired and that can benefit others.
So the next time you hear of an approaching storm, ask the person in town whose livelihood depends on the weather how to prepare and what to expect. They have many lessons and words of advice to share. As fisherman Tony Sougstad recalled in a recent interview: "The best tool we had was local knowledge passed down from fisherman to fisherman, and the barometer. If the glass rises, the weather is going to be fair; if it rises too fast, we're going to have westerly [winds]; and if the glass falls, we're going to get nor'easters." If you have a tradition relating to weather events, let us know. Your knowledge can help others.
Nancy Solomon is executive director of Long Island Traditions, located in Port Washington, New York. She can be reached at (516) 767-8803 or info@ longislandtraditions.org.
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|Title Annotation:||VIEW FROM THE WATERFRONT|
|Publication:||Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2013|
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