Freedom, Food and Family

Schultzys26The 4th of July holiday is a time to celebrate our freedom, our founding and our liberties – all of the things that we enjoy as citizens of this big, beautiful nation we call home. For me the 4th of July is my Thanksgiving.

It’s the time of year that the bay is bountiful, the weather is favorable to a fisherman and my friends and family are close. I’m thankful for all of it. Summer on Long Island has always been extraordinary because the occupation that puts food on my family’s table is also part of so many celebrations.

It was a brutal winter for all of us, the Baymen in particular, so this respite means even more. But there’s something else. Something even more personal that makes these summer holidays so meaningful.

I come from a big family. So does my wife, Vicky. Sometimes at family gatherings it seems like everyone on the North Shore of Long Island is somehow related to us. Since we have been a couple the same thing inevitably happens during these long summer holiday weekends. I usually catch up with friends and family after getting out early and working all day on the water. We move from house to house, eating our way through neighbor’s backyards and stopping every ten feet to talk to someone walking between the beach and bay side streets in Bayville.

Then, like clockwork, we all wind up at Bumpy’s.

You may have noticed the “Bumpy Special” Clambake Bucket on our special order items. It’s named for my father-in-law. Bayville residents need no introduction because he’s a legend in this town. And deservedly so. Bumpy and my mother-in-law treated me like a son from the moment I met Vicky. In their minds we were instantly one family, not a relation through marriage. I know plenty of people who either dislike their in-laws or, at best, tolerate them but it’s not something I can relate to.

And so this year, unlike years past, I will get to Bumpy’s a little later than usual because of the launch of our new Clambake Bucket product line. And no one is more excited for Vicky and me than her parents. In fact, it seems like the whole of Bayville is pulling for us and being the wind in our sails. But I will get there. And no matter how late it is, Bumpy will be there holding court, smiling, laughing and loving life.

This is my 4th of July.

Happy 4th. See you on the water. Buzz me later.

– Jim

Life Cycle of the Bay

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.

Henry David Thoreau

IMG_3641Every year for the past twenty years or so, the Baymen’s Association participates in the annual harbor cleanup in Oyster Bay. Boats from all over the North Shore of Long Island come together to troll the harbor and pick up debris deposited along the coastline during the winter months. It’s important to hit the area before the sea grass and brush along the coast really begin to fill in.

I remember the first year we organized such a massive cleanup effort. It seemed like it would never end. Years of neglect had stubbornly embedded garbage in the muck and the sand from what seemed like all over the world. It was a difficult task but one that was so necessary. This was more than just the area we worked; these were the waters we fed people from.

Over the years, this cleanup has become a major source of pride among the baymen who truly consider themselves champions of the environment.

This year I noticed something markedly different about the cleanup. It was easy. Friends of mine who came along with me this year also remarked about how they felt they actually had to hunt for debris along the shore. As a career fisherman in this area, it’s hard to describe how good it feels to know that we have made such great strides in restoring the natural splendor of this habitat while protecting the harvest at the same time.

Life, like the environment, is a balance. And you get out of it what you put in. Put in garbage and that’s what you’re going to pick out of it. Put in a little love, care and attention and, well, you get the drift.

With my kids in the boat, I eased along the shoreline looking for remnants of rubbish ushered in by winter storms and thought about my relationship to the water and the products I serve. Apart from the obvious fact that the clams and oysters I harvest are sweet, fresh and delicious, they serve a higher purpose. The most important function clams and oysters serve is as nature’s filtration system. Millions of shellfish on the ocean floor handle and cleanse many more millions of gallons of water that flow constantly in and out of the bay as it recharges every day.

So in a way, on this day I’m returning the favor. Lightening the load of the product that feeds my customers who feed my family. How’s that for the circle of life?

Now, you might be thinking that it’s a little hokey to think this way, but it’s honestly how I feel. Spend enough time listening to the wind speak as it hustles across the bay and you’ll know the water is very much alive, and very much a part of who we are. With my children with me in the boat, and my friends nearby, I could swear that I even heard the wind say, “thank you.”

See you on the water. Buzz me later.

-       Jimmy

Downeaster Schultzy

Billy Joel Alexa “I never thought that things would go this far. I never thought that life would be this way. I never thought I’d be a superstar. Oh, Jesus Christ, I wish that I was back in Oyster Bay… Taking it easy.”

-        Billy Joel

It was one of the first days of the real summer season last year. It was a particularly long winter and a cool spring on the bay and all of the baymen were itching to stretch out and open it up a bit on the water. For the first time in months I was in shorts, flip flops and a tee shirt and ready to dig a little further from home base; one of those days that makes you feel good about digging for a living. It almost didn’t matter whether I found a productive spot to fish in for the day. I was just happy to be alive.

After digging near the shore for a while I cruised through the harbor further out toward the Long Island Sound, I slowly hugged the shore taking in the beautiful coastline of the Island. Just as I was about to crank it up I noticed a guy at the end of a dock that led to one of those incredible Gold Coast homes that you see in magazines. He was whistling and waving me over so I let off a little and turned to head toward him. As I pulled closer to the dock I realized that the nondescript guy in a baseball hat gesturing to me was none other than Billy Joel.

Mind you, this wasn’t the first time I met Billy. The cool thing about this guy is that even though he is one of the most recognizable people on the planet, he’s first and foremost a Long Islander. There’s absolutely no pretense about him whatsoever and he treats everyone he meets the same. Aside from his obvious musical talent, the people around here know him as a dedicated fisherman and motorcycle enthusiast. I would venture to say that if you asked him, even he would say he considers himself more of a biker and a fisherman than a musician. In 2010 when he opened his bike shop, 20th Century Cycles, it was (of course) right in the heart of downtown Oyster Bay. Vicky and I catered the party because someone told him I had a killer raw bar and that I was a local guy.

That’s the Billy Joel we know around here.

So when he waved me over, I instinctively knew he was looking to jawbone about shellfish for a while. Sure enough, we got to talking about the catch this year and what was happening on the water. I had a few clams from the morning in the boat so we broke them open and enjoyed a few of Oyster Bay’s treasures, skipping the empty shells along the surface of the water. After a half-an-hour of trading fishing stories we shook hands and I was back on my way out to the “office.”

See you on the water. Call me later.

-        Jimmy