Block Island

Pirates. That is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Block Island. As a kid, I first visited this beautiful island off  of  Montauk Point, New York, with my parents. The stunning natural beauty, the clear blue water and the towering bluffs of  the island couldnhold the attention of a 7-year-old for a New York minute. No, what interested me was the local legend surrounding Captain Kidd, as told to me by my dad.

is rumored that Captain Kidd buried all of his treasure on Block Island,” he said. fact, I bet itburied right there on the beach.”Block Island

The improbability that an infamous pirate had buried his booty just feet from the shore in a spot that also happened to be within a line of sight from where my parents drank cocktails was lost on me. I spent hours shoveling that beach with my unwilling assistant/younger brother, whom I had promised a small cut of the treasure.

Fifteen years later, the retired U.S. Coast Guard station at the entrance to Block IslandGreat Salt Pond welcomes me like an old friend. Dozens of boats circling the harbor in pursuit of a free mooring donextend the same feeling. The controlled chaos is a regular scene and the closest thing to a traffic jam you will find here.

When you do tie up to a mooring or wiggle into a slip at Champlin, Payneor the Boat Basin, walk just a few hundred feet from the dock and you will realize why finding space in Block is such a challenge. It is, lor lack of a better word, beautiful. Rustic restaurants, century-old homes and quaint B&Bs separated by stone fences dot the rolling green landscape, which can be compared to Ireland.

The iconic beauty and relaxed atmosphere of the island has earned it the Nature Conservancydesignation as one of the top 12 Great Places.”

Over the years, it has been the vacation spot of’choice for presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton. At the entrance of the three marinas and the ferry dock, youfind moped and bike rental shops, which are the best options for experiencing the entire 10-square-mile island. If you are giving yourself a self-guided tour, which is recommended, a good place to start is at the Southeast Lighthouse. Performing the roles of both an active lighthouse and a museum, it is one of Blockproudest landmarks.

Leave the bikes and mopeds at the lighthouse and hike along the Mohegan Bluffs to admire the nearly 180-foot-tall cliffs that make up the southeastern corner of this New England paradise. They sit in stark contrast to the low-lying harbor of the Great South Pond, so make sure your camera is charged.

Block Island

At the beginning of your second day here, keep your ear toward the hull and listen closely If the wind is blowing the right way, youhear Bobby Leone singing , Andiamoooo.”Italian for letgo, the greeting from the pastry boat cruising the harbor has been an enjoyable Block Island tradition since the ‘s, when Leonefather, Aldo, first founded AldoBakery and hired local kids to take him on a boat to deliver his pastries to those sitting on the hook.

father was a colorful guy; first thing in the morning he would go around in a boat and sing opera. In between songs, he would shout andiamo to wake everyone up so they would buy his donuts and coffee,   Leone says. took over when my father passed away in 1982. Itscary to me because, when I started, the kids I saw that were 5 and 6 years old are now bringing their children.’’

Block Island, like any great cruising destination, offers dozens of’restaurants, from curbside pubs to five-star dining rooms, and most of them feature fresh seafood caught right off these shores. If a casual dining experience and a first-class view are on your menu, then a visit to The Oar is a must. Just walk in the door, which is feet away from the Boat Basin, and yourealize how it got its name. Since the ’s, patrons have been able to sign and decorate an oar and the owner would hang it in the restaurant. Today, the tradition continues, and literally hundreds of oars adorn the place. Besides the wall ornaments, The Oar is famous for its lobster rolls and mudslides.

While most of the island shares the rocky coastline that the Long Island Sound is known for, Crescent Beach, on the islandeast coast, explains why Block Island is sometimes referred to as the of the North.” The white-sand beach and turquoise —yes, turquoise!

water make this a popular spot. The outdoor bar at Ballard, serving frozen and exotic drinks, rounds out this tropical trifecta to complete the illusion. Step into the surf and the cold water will quickly snap you out of it and remind you that you are still in New England.

With thousands of boaters visiting the island every summer, most of them return to this slice of cruising nirvana annually.

of our customers are repeats and over the years … have become like an extended family,” explains Joe Kunz, who has worked at the Block Island Boat Basin for 17 years. people that meet one another here stay in touch throughout the winter until they see each other here again.’’

Returning to the island more than a decade after I first explored it, I am more able to appreciate the salty pubs, the array of restaurants and scenery that can literally take your breath away. Still, part of me wants to trade the lobster rolls and cocktails for a pail and shovel to pick up where my inner child left off. Maybe Ifind that treasure after all.