Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Month: September 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Report #4: A Sail On Sampawams Creek: Sept 28, 2017

I guided Nancat down Sampawams Creek toward the Great South Bay. This creek is one of seven that form the Necks in the Town of Babylon. Suffolk County’s south shore has about 75.These creeks were formed about 5,000 years ago when a breach in the Ronkonkoma Moraine, The Terminal Moraine is a deposit from the glacier. This linear ridge along the island held back glacial melt water until it forced a breach in the Dix and Half Hollow Hills area. A huge volume of water rushed through a low spot and flowed south creating seven shallow valleys. Sampawams Creek is the easternmost creek of those seven.  In recent years it was designated as a boundary separating the Towns of Babylon and Islip.

“There are holes in the bottom of the creek. One is 35 feet deep just south of the three boathouses on the Islip side. Fishermen know about these holes because fish congregate there.” Roger Holzmacker commented. He sailed the creek as a youth and has witnessed many changes.    He is a neighbor who helped me restore and launch Nancat four years ago. I hauled her out for two years and with his encouragement, and have launched again for two months of sailing. “September and October are the best sailing months of the year.” I refer to him as Saint Roger because without his help and encouragement, I would not be sailing. He helped me restore the boat and his encouragement and generous spirit gave me the confidence to try. I have no outboard motor and this limits my distance. He is my nautical angel. My goal is to sail to Oak Island and sail around it and go clamming. The distance is about 2 miles across open water. Without an outboard motor, I’m tempting fate.

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Nancats Third Sail : September 24th, 2017

I had been waiting for such a day like this. The wind was right. I prepared the boat to sail. This time I learned about kinks.

While hoisting the sail, a kink in the halyard stopped the process. I found a knot, which I am calling a “kink” that stopped the line from sliding through the block.  I removed the kink, with the line free, I can continue hauling the sail. I tie down the halyard line. Loosen bow and stern line’s and am free of the dock. The wind is light yet enough to carry us south on Sampawams Creek.

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Lewisburg – Princeton Getaway: September 8-10, 2017


We visited a huge mill operation in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. It was turned into an antique business with 350 consignment booths. As my wife went happily on her way, I stumbled from booth to booth, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material. I began out trying to be mindful of item after item.  I began gulping whole booths with occasional stops to actually look at a few items like a old pair of wood skis. I remember how I used a pair to ski down the slide in Como County Park.

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Making Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Big, round red tomatoes

Sit beside a cutting board

With the sharpest, serrated knife I own

I cut hem in half, then half these

Gut the pulp

Lay the juicy, red strips on a screen

Set it in full sunshine

Cover with netting

No insects permitted


Hot days are best for evaporation

It may take three or four days

The day star will do its work

No electric dehydrator for me.


These leathery almost sightless strips

Shrunken and dry

Are ready for February

When you bring the sunlight back.

Lakeland County Park: Part 2

Honeysuckle Pond  is the main attraction of Lakeland County Park. Visitors have to follow a complex of board walks to reach it. I first caught sight of it through an opening in the forest. When I first sighted the Pond, I was surprised. It is much smaller than what I remember thirty years ago. I expected to see water like I did back in the 1980’s when it looked more like a small lake than now. I saw a large. pure grassy area where the pond used to be. I soon found out why. The pond level is three vertical feet lower. As a result, the wildlife living there has greatly reduced. I saw turtles and slender silver fish, possibly minnows. What left is kidney-shaped. The boardwalks were built decades ago to prevent visitors from slogging in mud and protecting fragile plants. Drought is the main cause over the past two years. Not enough rain water has fallen to soak into earth to keep the water table higher

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Second NANCAT Sail: September, 2017

I raised my wind meter while standing on Cindy and Paul’s dock. The white Styrofoam ball hovered between 8 to 9 MPH. Not sure if I should cast off. There was a nice ripple on the water, but the situation is difference down stream where the creek  widens. Wind out of the north means an easy trip to the bay, but not so easy returning. Tacking in the narrow section of the creek is difficult. I decided not to sail on the weather report that said wind shifting to the east in the afternoon.

I left the dock in the early afternoon for another trip up and down the creek. I raised the sail and was underway immediately. I soon learned that I I forgot to lower the centerboard. The boat glided off course.

I encountered stronger wind when I entered a wider section. The boom is too low and as I changed sides, I had to duck every time I came about. To change direction, I have to do three things simultaneously. Shift from port to starboard or the opposite side, duck, tighten the sheet, and turn the tiller. This is the point where my boat is out of my control. I have to hurry to maintain control. The tiller is long. As I shift , my life jacket catches the sheet and tiller and I struggle to untangle.

Wind is always variable. Gusts luff the sail. I drifted and banged into pilings and bulkheads when the wind died. I fumbled, pushed off with the paddle I struggled, shifting back and forth, ducking, adjusting sheet and tiller. I thought sailing was supposed to be fun

I came about at the Babylon Public Dock and proceeded fast, slow, backwards, and becalmed. I still have not mastered my sailing skills. I managed to reach the narrows after many tacks. I finally decided to lower the sail and row to the slip.

I felt like had just finished an intensive gym workout. Dry land and safety at last. I experienced “nosing up” several times. This happens when I don’t have enough momentum and try to come about. I turn hard and the boat doesn’t respond. The bow keeps going in the unintended direction. I am turning away from the way I want to go.. Then, holding my breath, slowly, the bow turns to way I want. I find a place where I can get more speed. As I sail, I think about a coming hurricane, and three huge boats coming my way.


Duct Tape – The Poem

Sticks where I want it
And sticks where I don’t want it
Sticks to my fingers
Resists unsticking
Jumps from finger to finger
“Annoying.” I say
“Stop complaining. “She says
It refuses to leave
I shake it
I pull
I grab
Like a friend
Who doesn’t stop talking
Or a fly around a lamp shade
Guaranteed to hold and stay
It’s what duck tape is for
Like a mosquito that buzzes your ear
A guest who overstays their welcome

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Shake Down Sail – September, 2017

After a two year break, I stepped aboard NANCAT once  again. The name comes from Nancy Catherine Keating, my wife. I have a small thirteen foot wood wood catboat. The boat is the smallest of a class of boats known as catboats. They are suited to shallow bays because they have shallow drafts. Cat boats have their masts far forward and are not noted for speed. They were the boats that plied the Great South Bay early in the 20th century. Fishermen and clammers liked them because their broad beams and stability made it easy for their work.

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Art From Art: Ekphrastic Poetry Writing – an example


Jazz with the motor running; EMS van flashes past, loud beeping, and siren blasting warning drivers to the side/ this is emergency/ first responders have the right of way/ we are coming through/ move aside/ you block our passage/ life or death!


I crouch before yellow flowers of Goats Beard plants, relatives of dandelions, looking for insects / I catch tiny native bees in sunlight / their flights jerk and jump /  left / right / up / down /  hover – like me, manic/ impulsive/ darting like a half back who clutches a football down field / dodging in cubistic starts and stops/ fake left / fake right/ break a tackle/ charge through an opening into a clear field.

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The Four Women in Picasso’s studio:

Left to right:

Number one – bare breasted all fashionable, stares at the painter, posing    for the master who sees her form, color posture

Number two – she is reflected in a mirror – checks her hair and makeup,      competes with woman number one
Number three – charges stage right, angry,

Number four – lounging, exhausted, distraught,


Lakeland County Park

In order for visitors to experience Lakeland County Park, a series of boardwalks are necessary. This is because most of the park has a wetlands habitat. Elevated four feet above the ground, visitors have a grand opportunity to look down to see vegetation that required wet soil.

The maze of boardwalks is extensive. There are straight-aways, zig zags, and alcoves where one can sit. Touch-me-not or jewelweed is in full bloom in September. Dense stands of this plant are easy to spot. The orange blossom stands out against its green leaves.

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