Salt air swirls around montauk point, rolling over the dunes, down Montauk Highway and into the main drag of the fisherman’s town at the tip of Long Island, New York. It brings an intoxicating scent for yachtsmen, and it makes the local saltwater taffy saltier and the fudge, well, fudgier. Even coffee has extra oomph when you’re eating a pre-cruise breakfast at John’s Pancake House.
It could be argued that Montauk — also known as “The End” on tourist T-shirts and bumper stickers — is the quintessential little drinking town with a fishing problem. You won’t get any argument on that if you saunter into Liar’s Saloon, a local watering hole where patrons gather in their deck boots after a day on the brine to share a draft beer and fish tales. The stories don’t necessarily have to be true, just good.
To me, Montauk is that one particular harbor. It’s the place where I got an early sense of the salt life. I recall the first time I walked into the old Salivar’s restaurant and saw the giant head of a great white shark that left me slack-jawed. Capt. Frank Mundus, known to many as the inspiration behind Peter Benchley’s Capt. Quint in Jaws, had caught the ominous-looking predator. Mundus arrived in Montauk via Brielle, New Jersey, in the early 1950s, to start his charter-fishing business. My father fished with him in the 1960s and ’70s; he called Mundus a “character” long before Robert Shaw played him in the movie. The colorful (pun intended) captain painted his toenails red and green for port and starboard, and came up with the marketing slogan “Monster Fishing.” It worked. Not everyone knows every fishing boat in Montauk, but most know of the Cricket II and the exploits of Mundus.
Fishing comes first in Montauk, but it can also be a jumping-off point for Long Island’s North Fork wineries or for New York City. It’s about 14 miles to Block Island, with other New England hot spots beyond. If you drop in, check out the lighthouse. Commissioned by President Washington in 1792, it’s been a navigation aid since 1796. (I’ve caught a lot of stripers near it, but let’s keep that between us.)
Summer is just over the next horizon waiting for you. It’s time to single up lines and head for that one particular harbor. Where’s yours?