Riley’s Beach


Photographer Unknown

If there was one piece of geography that I have to say has influenced my life more than any other, it’s the cut between Riley’s beach and the tip of Sampson’s Island only a few dozen yards away.

I had been there in diapers as a child when visiting my great grandmother who lived on Shell Lane only a short walk away.

Our 1971 Sunfish spent summer after summer there flipped over on the sand with a big red “SKI” painted on it’s bow with some nail polish that my mother agreed to sacrifice for the occasion.

It was where my father would stand fishing for hours and hours at dusk with no-see-ums biting at those of us with him on the beach; my father immune due to the plume of pipe smoke surrounding him as he stood in silhouette out on the rocks catching mainly sea robins and sand sharks, but loving every minute.

It was where I found countless pieces of sea glass that I would bring home to New Jersey and admire for hours wundering where it had journeyed and where it began but loving that I found it in Cotuit.

It was where I exploded an aresenal of fireworks knowing that the police were nowhere to be found and could care less what I was doing unless someone from Ocean View Ave called in a complaint which would take an hour to respond to.

It was where I walked at least a thousand times from Riley’s around Bluff Point to Hayden’s at low tide collecting snails, crabs and every other form of sea life that would fit into a plastic bucket.

It was where my grandfather would drive each morning at 5AM to drink his coffee and assess the weather. It was where he would also go at 5PM to end his day and assess the weather once more. Sitting with him looking out over the Sound he would tell me about a particular local tale entitled “The Cut of Her Jib” where a woman rowed from Loop Beach to Nantucket.  In classic Grandpa style he probably embelished the story with a few comical elements just to see me laugh. One of these days I will read it.

Riley’s was where I would land my Optimist Pram on the next beach over just to say hello to my mother who was sure to have a thermos full of Zarex and a cheese sandwich to fill up on. The thought of Zarex is repulsive at this point, as it was like drinking candy which I would probably be eating along with my Zarex back then.

Standing on Riley’s I would strain my neck to see Submarine Rock, the lights of the Sound, my best friend Christian coming in from Popponesset Bay and fighter jets as they screamed out to defend the free world.

It was where I watched a young Chris Berry get pulled from the water lifeless and bloated while his mother screamed his name asking why, why. why?

It was where I watched Jim Mayne (Freeheart) spend an entire day painting the scene from the jetty with a long cloud in the sky that looked like a lobster tail.  After my standing there and being fixated on it for hours, my mother came over and bought the painting and to this day I can remember each step of its creation from a sketchy outline to when Jim signed his name and handed it to us.

Just off the beach was where my Laser would conveniently tip over with my girlfriend on board forcing us to struggle together to right the craft by slithering around on the dagger board in my attempts at masculine feats of strength and bravado and her not so feminine attempts at assistance.

It was where moonlight races would come to an end with mothers and fathers shining flashlights at their children as they were dropped off by some makeshift water taxi more intoxicated than their parents would ever admit. It was where bonfires would burn into the night for those that were lucky enough to stay.

It was where I would sleep, or not, for many many nights with tales upon tales of the best times of life.

Cupid has his own cove over there!

And lately, it has been where my son had his best fishing experience ever, pulling in snapper blue after snapper blue from the boiling August waters. Many of the fish were caught in places other than their mouth as the hook would catch them before they even had a chance to bite.

He has gotten to go there a number of times over the years even though he’ll never spend as much time there as I did.

I hope that it never changes, but it already has and will continue I’m sure.

Yet I hope that my son and I keep going back and that we might get to experience some of the same.

And, I hope that if I’m lucky, I’ll get to visit it forever.

It will always be hallowed ground to me.

4 Responses to “Riley’s Beach”

  1. Bill Eburn Says:

    Hey John,
    I have great memories of Riley’s as well. I rememnber as a young boy watching Uncle Gerry and John Ohman swim across to the island and thinking how far it seemed. Like most things, when you look at it as an adult it seems much smaller. I have more memories of Nana Duxbury’s house as a child… playing chinese checkers and building playing card castles on rainy days stands out. My Mom and sisters are down staying at our cottage this weekend and I’m taking them down to see the cottage we used to rent in Eastham. Have you ever gone back there? Had some fun times there too.

  2. bronislaw Says:

    I swam it a few times but ever since the guy got his face run over and walked out of the water with his face looking like swiss cheese I never did it again! I should update it with a few swimming stories or the story I heard about my mom and your mom getting swept out into the sound on a raft…need to get the details from them one of these days. I have not been back to Eastham in years but would love to see the old place. I have pictures but very few memories of it. Maybe I’ll get a few flash backs if I go. Do you rent out your cottage in the winter? I would love to go up some weekend as I love the Cape when its really quiet.

  3. charles northey Says:

    I just stumbled on this doing a search for Cahoon. Your words could have come right out of my experience of Riley’s. Having spent every summer there as a kid and now trying desperately continue the tradition for my daughter, I know exactly what you mean about hoping it will never change and yet having to let it change as it always will. Riley’s, Sampson’s, and Cotuit in general, seem to invite a crazy sort of nostalgia.

  4. pamela walsh Says:

    I think I’m THAT GIRL! Ahhhh sweet 16! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: