Taylor's Island Cabin at Dawn

An essay by Ronnie Sauers:

The Sauers Era

Ron and Ronnie Beth Sauers sailed by Taylor's Island in their vintage 29-foot Choy Lee sailboat in the summer of 1979 and fell instantly in love with it. After determining that the island was unoccupied they set about discovering who the owner was and what might be the terms of leasing it. Ron was a builder all his life and they were confident that they could more than satisfactorily address whatever needs the house and the island had. They called Stephan Stephano and after filling him in on their lives with boats and in construction, he gave them a lifetime lease, conditional on their revitalizing the island and house and paying annual taxes. The revival became a community project, involving friends, relatives, and even business associates; the result was a warm, welcoming home-away-from-home for all.

As it turned out there was much to be done, both structurally and cosmetically. The hot water heater and generator had to be replaced, as did the wooden car ramp. Major repairs were called for on the porch and the roof, and the frequently-breaking water main. A new propane refrigerator and stove were purchased, the master bedroom and bath where gutted and sheet- rocked, the windows were replaced. The list was virtually endless, but it was a true labor of love.

Ronnie and Ron added many touches that enhanced the quality of life on the island. They installed an outdoor shower and skylights in the living room. The docks were rotted, and in addition to repairing them, they built two large motorized floating docks, capable of bringing people to and from the island and for taking moonrise cruises in the harbor!

The island became a mecca for celebration. One engagement party and two weddings were held there, including the wedding of Shelter Island's own Rod and Robin Anderson. On one occasion, there was a Passover dinner for 20 on the sandbar while the tide was out! As a trained marine biologist Ronnie took special delight in beach-combing with the many children who visited the island, watching baby horseshoe crabs hatch and jellyfish spawn, and snorkeling among the scallops with their glorious iridescent eyes.

Perhaps the most anticipated annual "happening" on the island was the Fourth of July clam and lobster bake. Those who felt adventurous would dig for clams and mussels, which were found in profusion just off the island. Ron would drive to Bob's fish market for the lobsters, and bought local sweet corn. As the harbor filled with boats of every description, the feast was prepared on the BBQ and an extra long table was constructed for up to 30 celebrants at a time. Sometimes as they dined they were entertained by the sight of an inexperienced or unfamiliar captain running their boat aground on the bar at the tip of the Island. The able island crew would instantly jump to the rescue and set them a loose. From the tower, they were afforded a 360 degree view of the fireworks displays from every town for miles around.

Often as many as 25 guests, an unlikely but delightful mixture of friends and family, would visit for an hour, a day, or a weekend. Yet no matter how many people came to the island at a given time, finding a private spot to read, or nap, or simply water-gaze was never a challenge. It felt as if the house and its acre of lawn expanded to accommodate any and all.

It was always a special treat when Ron would load a group into the Boston Whaler for the wave- surfing rides that came to be referred to as "butt-busters." Yet the fondest memories of the island are of the quiet times, waking to the early-morning smell of bacon and coffee, awaiting the return of the ospreys to their nest and observing the rearing of their young, sitting around a toasty fire on a cold autumn night, and each day watching the exquisite curve of the sand bar reveal itself.

As anyone who lives by the ocean can attest, there is a constant need for vigilance, and Taylor's Island was no exception. One night the guest cabin that stood only a short distance from the main house caught fire and could not be saved. The sight of the Shelter Island fireboats silhouetted against the night sky as they pumped water from the harbor onto the blaze is still a powerful memory. Every winter, no matter how hard it was secured, a winter storm would blow away a part of the island, the docks, parts of the seawall, the propane tank, the porch roof, necessitating a hard-weather search. But the vagaries of nature could never dampen the joy in coming to the island in all seasons and in all weathers. There was never a time when it wasn't beautiful and soul-nurturing for the Sauers, as well as those they loved and who made Taylor's Island their mecca.

With Stephan Stephano's passing, Ron and Ronnie lost Taylor's Island, as ownership reverted, by law, back to the town of Shelter Island. Leaving it for the last time was arguably one of the hardest things they had to do. Yet, for their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends, nothing can replace the joy of the nearly two decades when they had their own, impossibly special Taylor's Island.