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Len Carolan

Winners cross the finish line during the 12th annual SikaFlex Quick & Dirty Boat Building Competition in Port Jeff. Photo by Aramis Khosronejad
By Aramis Khosronejad

The 12th annual SikaFlex Quick & Dirty Boat Building Competition took place at Port Jeff’s Harborfront Park on Aug. 19 and 20, channeling the village’s local shipbuilding heritage for a fun weekend.

The Quick & Dirty competition covers a summer weekend each year, with competitors having five hours to build their boats on the first day. The day after, they decorate their vessels and then race them. The competition consists of a few awards: best design, decoration, fastest boat built and the standard top three race winners.

Len Carolan, president of Long Island Seaport and Eco Center, has been a part of the race along with the Bayles Boat Shop, a local shop that has coordinated the event since 2012. 

“I have met some wonderful people,” Carolan said. “It’s been fun meeting these people and working together to do our boat building and also organizing an event like this.” 

Inspired by the rich maritime and shipbuilding history of Port Jefferson, the idea for this competition was sparked by Charles Carter. According to the Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson was once the most prominent ship manufacturer in Suffolk County. 

Additionally, according to the website of The Shipyard, Port Jefferson’s economy mainly ran on the ships it used to build until approximately the 1920s, when it transitioned to a tourist-based local economy. 

Carolan spoke of his desire to involve more competitors, emphasizing that the event is a carefree and fun race. He said that people should join “for the experience. It’s a fun weekend.” 

One team that has been involved in the competition since it started is Ken Callirgos and Matthew Debeau. Callirgos said he has kept coming back because he “had so much fun the first year,” and that that’s the reason he’s planning on participating in the event in the foreseeable future.

Outside the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum, Mark Sternberg, above, holds a copy of “New York Archives” magazine, which published his research this fall. Photo courtesy Sternberg

By Julianne Mosher

Living in Port Jefferson for more than half his life, Mark Sternberg always knew the village had a story. 

“I grew up here and I always wanted to know the absolute history of Port Jeff,” he said. “I wanted to get to the bottom of it.”

The North Shore of Long Island played a big role during the Revolutionary War. Books, movies, television shows and college courses have preached that the Culper Spy Ring — a network of American spies active during the British occupation of New York City and organized by Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge and Gen. George Washington — was based primarily on Port Jefferson’s next-door neighbor, Setauket.

Sternberg, a lawyer by trade and Port Jefferson high school graduate of the Class of 2001, first became interested in the history growing up and learning these stories and legends. Interested in his hometown, he began reading about its history, eventually getting his hands on “The Seven Hills of Port: A Documented History of the Incorporated Village of Port Jefferson” by Patricia Hansell Sisler and Robert Sisler. 

“I had a professor at New York University, a summer program for producing, and one of our projects was to pitch a show about something you love,” Sternberg said. “I thought that the Culper Spy Ring would be a great TV show.”

And that school project became a passion. 

Above, Mark Sternberg leading a tour of visitors through the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum on Culper Spy Day. File photo by Raymond Janis

In 2013, Sternberg found a letter that tied two Port Jefferson brothers to the ring. Retrieved from a chimney of what is now the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum years ago, the letter (dated Dec. 21, 1780) informed loyalist soldier Nehemiah Marks’ comrades that Phillips and Nathaniel Roe helped supply Setauket-based spy Caleb Brewster with information to pass on to the patriots. 

Sternberg located the letter archived at the University of Michigan. 

“I had a lot of people telling me the basis for the claim was a legend,” he said. “It was made up.”

But it was eventually authenticated and now hangs in the museum, which was originally Phillips Roe’s home, located at 141 W. Broadway.

“Mark has done the real hard research,” said George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force. “I think he has certainly put Port Jeff village back into the mix. … People always used to call them the Setauket spies, but it’s pretty clear that the Roe brothers played a central role due to his research.”

Hoffman added that Sternberg has brought “fresh eyes to old history.”

Finding the letter sparked something in Sternberg making him want to discover more. 

After going away to school in Atlanta, Georgia, and then NYU, he left the quaint village he used to call home, moving to Manhattan for 12 years. 

Then, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sternberg and his now-wife decided to move back out to the Island, settling in East Patchogue.

“When I moved back to Long Island, I wanted to get involved more with the house,” he said. 

Working closely with Port Jefferson Village historian Chris Ryon, he began doing heavy, original research into the Roe family.

“Mark has been working, really concentrating, on this Culper spy history, and then delving into it more so than anybody else that I know,” Ryon said. “He has gone beyond what a lot of historians would look up.”

Ryon admired that, while working full-time, Sternberg spends most of his free time continuing to learn about the Roe family and how Port Jefferson was involved with the Revolutionary War. 

“He’s traveled all over the place, looking at the primary documents, and by doing that, he’s discovered many more things, and a lot of mistakes that people have repeated,” he said. “Mark is so saturated in his knowledge of this, he picks up on things that people don’t understand are important.”

‘He has changed the way people think about Culper Spy Ring.’ 

­— Chris Ryon

Since Sternberg’s initial find of the letter almost 10 years ago, he has continued to research and advise on the history of the brothers and how the home was part of a much bigger piece of history that was almost forgotten. 

“He has changed the way people think about Culper Spy Ring,” Ryon said. “He has enlightened us — he has raised the bar.”

Sternberg said that he is continuing to help with the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum, setting up exhibits and preparing for its full opening to the public. He also is working alongside Len Carolan at Port Jeff-based Bayles Boat Shop to recreate a whaleboat from the American Revolution era. The boat shop is an offshoot of the Long Island Seaport and Eco Center — a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of maritime history on the Island. Sternberg will be acting as a historian on the project to get the boat as close as possible to what it was.

“Mark has been instrumental in tying up what we’re doing in building this boat and the history of [the whaleboats],” said Carolan, president of the Bayles Boat Shop. “And especially how the history is connected to Caleb Brewster.”

Sternberg also recently published new findings about the Strong family in “New York Archives” magazine this past fall. 

“People ask me, ‘Why are you so into history?’ and honestly, I’m more into solving mysteries,” he said. “There’s so much more to find and it’s that dopamine rush when you find out something about your hometown’s history you would have never found out before.”

Sternberg is happy to volunteer his time to find out what really happened up here almost 250 years ago.

“Why wouldn’t I volunteer? I love my hometown,” he said. “Any of my extra time I can spend here talking about the history, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

TBR News Media recognizes Sternberg’s valuable local historical research by making him a 2022 Person of the Year.

Port Jeff village historian Chris Ryon, above, poses with a Revolutionary War era whaleboat. The planned “Resolution“ will be similar in style and scale to the above vessel. Photo courtesy Ryon

American history and local tradition are on a collision course here in the Village of Port Jefferson.

Last month, public officials announced that the village government would partner with the Port Jeff-based Bayles Boat Shop to recreate a whaleboat from the American Revolution era. The boat shop is an offshoot of the Long Island Seaport and Eco Center, also known as LISEC, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of maritime history on Long Island. 

Mayor Margot Garant said the village government entered into conversations with LISEC because it sought a way to promote the story of Port Jefferson’s role in the Culper Spy Ring.

“We would have never considered it without having LISEC as a partner,” Garant said. “They just absolutely loved the concept. We brought it to them for the historical component and for helping us tell the story about Port Jefferson’s instrumental role — and the Roe family’s role, in particular — in the spy ring.” She added, “We felt the whaleboat would be a unique way of embracing the history, telling the story and engaging the community.”

In an interview, LISEC president Len Carolan indicated that the buildout would last for up to two years or so. “The boat will be a little bit longer than 25 feet, 6 feet wide, and it will weigh up to a ton,” Carolan said. He added that a project of this scale will also require additional steps: “This is the first time we’re going to be using a lofting platform.”

Lofting is a practice in wooden shipbuilding that enables designers to produce full-scale drawings used as templates. These renderings will help the builders to cut wood pieces with precision and to create a vessel that is as true to the source as possible.

The designers even hope to use the same building materials as the original whaleboats. “Typically, the boats then were built with white oak and white cedar,” Carolan said. “We have access to white oak because that grows here on Long Island. The white cedar, though, is no longer available here, so we’ll have to go a little further north to get the kind of wood we need.”

The term “whaleboat” is a misnomer, denoting the style of the vessel rather than its intended function. Carolan stressed that the operators of the original whaleboats did not use them for hunting whales.

“It’s similar to the design of the boats used to hunt whales, but those boats were much bigger — they were like 32 to 36 feet long,” he said. However, the boat’s design likely offered the patriots certain tactical advantages at sea. “It was easy to maneuver and row, and they were able to raid British ships and get away quickly using these whaleboats.”

Local historian Mark Sternberg is among the key figures involved in this project. Sternberg said he cultivated an interest in local history while growing up in the Port Jefferson School District. Back then, the stories of local patriots left an early impression upon him, inspiring him to pursue the subject more deeply.

“I’m from Port Jefferson … and grew up surrounded by the history here,” he said. “There is a lot of stuff here in Port Jeff that hasn’t been well documented. We have barely even started to scratch the surface of what we know about the spy ring.”

Sternberg foresees the whaleboat serving an array of educational purposes. An operational whaleboat makes possible various historical reenactments, such as Valentine Rider’s misguided plundering of the Roes — whom he had falsely believed were loyalists — and scenes of the numerous whaleboat battles fought in the Long Island Sound.

Sternberg added the whaleboat would help to tell the story of Caleb Brewster, a Setauket native who assisted the American war effort through his participation in the spy ring. Brewster also joined in the famous whaleboat fighting on the Sound. 

Though the name of Brewster’s whaleboat is lost to history, Sternberg recommends naming it “Resolution.” He said this title could still honor the Brewster legacy.

“My recommendation is to call the boat Resolution,” he said in an email. “This was the name of Valentine Rider’s whaleboat; [he was] a patriot privateer who launched from Connecticut to harass perceived loyalists on Long Island. It will work for plundering reenactments, as Valentine Rider and his men plundered the families of Nathaniel and Phillips Roe in May 1781 — the Roes were portraying themselves as loyalists as part of their roles in the Culper Spy Ring.” He added, “The name will also work if we ever try to reenact the intense whaleboat fight of 1782, as Valentine Rider fought alongside Caleb Brewster in that battle.”

Port Jeff village historian Chris Ryon also supports the whaleboat project. He sees the whaleboat as a unique opportunity to showcase two previously distinct strands of local history, connecting the village’s shipbuilding roots to its contributions to the Revolutionary cause.

The whaleboat “pulls it all together,” Ryon said. “It’s one of the earliest histories we have and pulls our Revolutionary War history in with our maritime history.”

Carolan expressed similar enthusiasm for the project. He said he hopes for the public to be able to follow the various stages of the buildout, from the construction of the lofting platform to the completion of the whaleboat. 

He also holds that the whaleboat could be a precursor to similar projects down the road, generating momentum and boosting confidence among those working on it. “We are hoping that it becomes a visible sign to students and local school districts,” the LISEC president said. “And that the entire build from beginning to end is open for the public to see the progress.” 

Carolan added that he hopes the build is the first of many large undertakings for the Bayles Boat Shop and added, “I think it’s going to give us so much more exposure.”

For Garant, sharing the local history of Port Jefferson is essential. By educating locals about their historical origins, she believes residents can better understand who they are, where they come from and their place within that history.

“I think the history is key to who we are,” the mayor said. “I feel one of the responsibilities of local government is to not only embrace that history, but to enrich and save it and work with the community to celebrate it and talk about it.”

The Sikaflex Quick & Dirty Boat Build Competition, sponsored by the Sika Corporation and hosted by the Long IslandSeaport and Eco Center, seeks boat building/race teams for its 10th annual event to be held at the Harborfront Park, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson on Aug. 28 and 29 (rescheduled from Aug. 21 and 22).

Boats will be built on Aug. 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., painted on Aug. 29 from 9 a.m. to noon and then take part in a race the same day at 2 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place and original design. For more information and for an application, call Leonard at 631-689-8293 or email [email protected].

Photo by Alex Petroski

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED FOR AUG. 28 and 29 DUE TO THE WEATHER.

By Kimberly Brown

This weekend bring your friends and family to Port Jefferson Harbor to experience the legendary and captivating Sikaflex “Quick and Dirty” Boat Building Competition. 

Sponsored by the Sika Corporation, a supplier of marine adhesives and sealants,  the event provides would-be boat designers and builders a chance to showcase their creative skills and talents.

Photo by Alex Petroski

Hosted by the Long Island Seaport and Eco Center (LISEC), the tenth annual competition will be held over a two-day period, Aug. 21 and 22. On Saturday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., visitors can watch two-member teams, who are working under a time limit of five hours, build their boats in the parking lot of Harborfront Park next to Bayles Boat Shop. 

“It’s great to be back,” said Len Carolan, the event’s coordinator. “This year we have about ten teams, so it seems like everyone is ready to get out there and have some fun again and that’s what it’s meant to be about.”

The challenge? Not only do the contestants have to finish constructing their makeshift boat within a few hours, but they are also expected to assemble it using a mere supply of plywood, plastic cable ties, and Sikaflex sealant — no nails or screws allowed!

On Sunday from 9 a.m to noon, the teams will finish painting their masterpieces, covering the boat in fun designs, and patterns. Finally, at 2 p.m, the teams will race each other in Port Jefferson Harbor to compete for first prize. 

“I think the time limit is what keeps some people away from trying because they’re thinking ‘How could we build a boat in five hours?’ but it gets done and always turns out great,” Carolan said.

Teams ranking in first, second, and third place will receive trophies for their boat racing success, but there will also be a prize for the team that has the most original design. Following the award ceremony, LISEC will raffle off a special item made at the Bayles Boat Shop. “We thought we should do something a little different for the raffle this year, so we built a 14-foot stand-up paddle board at the shop,” Carolan said. “We have one team that builds a different raffle boat each year — next year we will have a 16-foot canoe.”

Tickets for the raffle range between $5 and $20 and the paddle board will be on display throughout the weekend.

According to Carolan, the “Quick and Dirty” boat race is still welcoming teams to join in on the fun. The entry fee is $100 and each team must seek a sponsor, or sponsor themselves. Local businesses are encouraged to sponsor this annual event. 

For more information on how to participate, visit www.lisec.org or contact Len Carolan at [email protected]. 

 

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Brendan Martin will be taking part in his first New York City Marathon in November. Photo from Brendan Martin

By Dan Aronson

Smithtown native Brendan Martin, 27, is set to make his debut in the New York City Marathon this November.

“It’s one [race] I feel like I have to do before I retire from competitive running,” Martin said. “It’s my hometown race.”

This 26.2 mile-marathon is one the most popular races in the United States. It draws runners and spectators from all over the world, and takes competitors through all five boroughs of New York City. The race was first held in 1970, with only 127 runners competing.

Brendan Martin competes in a previous race. Photo from Brendan Martin
Brendan Martin competes in a previous race. Photo from Brendan Martin

Martin did not find his passion for running until high school — he always thought he would be a big lacrosse player. The Smithtown resident played lacrosse competitively until the end of 10th grade and then decided to put it aside so he could focus on running.

His father Bill Martin said one of the reasons he made the switch from lacrosse to running was his size.

“The only thing that has hampered him, in pretty much anything he has done, is his size,” the father said.

Both of Martin’s parents will be attending the race in November and are very excited to see how he performs.

“I don’t think I can keep my wife away,” Bill Martin said. “[Brendan] has taken things to a whole new level. We are not surprised he has made it this far. He works very hard towards his goals and has done that since high school — he puts together a good plan and executes it.”

Len Carolan, Martin’s coach at Smithtown High School West, had a significant impact on the runner. He has now been retired for eight years, but still keeps in touch with Martin.

“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special” Carolan said. “His love of running and his desire to do well, plus his talent, is what really makes Brendan stand out. He was by far the most talented runner I ever coached.”

Martin led his cross-country team at Smithtown to three consecutive Suffolk County championships from 2003-06. He clearly set his team up well for future years, as without him the Bulls went on to win the title in 2007. The Bulls teams in 2007 and 2008 also won back-to-back divisional championships.

“He was instrumental in getting us to that competitive level,” Carolan said.

And Martin has similar feelings for his old coach.

“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special.”

— Len Carolan

“He gave me a good feeling about running,” Martin said of Carolan. “He made it really fun and team-oriented for us. That made it a blast. He was really good at coaching the fundamentals, working hard, being dedicated and working together with your teammates, and I think that really stuck with me.”

Each athlete prepares himself in a different way, and for Martin, that’s running year-round.

He said he spends eight to nine weeks preparing for the race. In the first five to six weeks, he runs about 120 to 130 miles a week. Once he gets closer to race day, Martin said he tries to run 20 to 22 miles per day, at marathon pace.

“I’m going to make sure I’m doing a lot of hills in my training, because New York is a notoriously difficult course, with lots of ups and downs,” Martin said.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not up to the task.

“I need to study on my own a little bit what to expect, and as long as I do that and I run patiently — very tough at the end — I expect to do pretty well,” he said.

The unique challenge that comes with running in the marathon is that you can’t run the course in preparation, because the only time the roads are closed is for the marathon.

He’s still ready to take on the course, and is looking forward to taking on New York City.

“A hilly race suits my strengths and as long as I run smart, have good confidence in myself,” he said, “[I could] be one of the top Americans and hopefully the top New Yorker.”