Atlantic City, New Jersey
Today, when someone thinks of Atlantic City, New Jersey, the first thing that usually pops into their minds are the casinos, and the large support industry that revolves around the "sport" of gambling. But 40 years ago, when I was a kid spending time there on my father's boat, it was a much different place. In the 1960's, A.C. was a city in decline. Years before it had served as a posh playground for the rich and famous. But in the years following WWII, the city saw a steady decline in both the quality and quantity of its visitors. Much of this had to do with the rise in popularity of air travel, greater numbers of people who owned cars, and newer, fancier resorts competing for the attention of the high brow set. Atlantic City then became the "getaway" place for the working class. Amusement piers, boardwalk shops, and a plethora of circus-like acts, all competed to wow the "shoe-bee" (A shoe-bee was a name given to a day tripper who typically packed their lunch in a shoe box) visitors who usually came from the Philadelphia Pa. area and the nearby suburbs. Likewise, a great many working class people owned modest boats of all sizes, many of whom kept them docked at one of several marinas in the greater A.C. area. My father's boats were kept at 2 different locations from 1965 to 1969. The first was in a place called "Snug Harbor", a little protected cove just past Gardener's Basin, off of Connecticut Ave. Later he moved his final boat, a 29' Owens, to a marina known then as "Wescott's Marina", (the most recent aerial shot of the area shows that it's all gone now. I guess there'll be condos there soon) located just off of Carson Ave. and across the Bay from what was called the A.C. State Marina (Which is now called the Farley State Marina). Adjacent to Wescott's was an oil unloading terminal. It was not uncommon to have oil tankers unloading there fairly regularly. Because of the commercial shipping, the channel through the Absecon Inlet and into Clam Creek was dredged, so we never had to worry about shallow water. Across the bay from us and a bit further out from the State Marina, was a U.S. Coast Guard Station, to the left, and the Municipal public boat launch (also gone now) to the right. As we moved beyond that, the Absecon Inlet beckoned. To the left, was the intercoastal waterway, which was accessed by motoring under the drawbridge which connected A.C. with Brigantine Island (The drawbridge was replaced by a much higher fixed bridge in the early 70's). To the right, the inlet lead a fairly straight run right out to the ocean. As you made the trek toward the ocean you would pass Captain Starns (see how it looks now), and Hackney's seafood restaurant. The smells of the cooked seafood used to waft out over the inlet, and there was always a flock of seagulls circling around. A series of rock jetties greeted as we headed further on toward the ocean. I assume they were constructed to reduce the shoaling effects of the tides and storms. The transition to the ocean was usually smooth. The one hazard that we had to keep watch over was a long sand bar which stretched out on the port (left) side of the inlet on the outbound direction. Waves were always breaking there and the shallows stretched out for several hundred yards or so. We never headed north toward the sand bar, so I don't know what lay beyond it. Dad always chose to head south toward the Steel Pier and the beaches. Sometimes we'd venture as far as Ocean City. When the ocean is your playground, your choices were virtually endless.
Many times we drift fished in the inlet. Sometimes we'd head across the inlet to a small cove on Brigantine island and have a picnic. In those days, most of that part of Brigantine was either sand dunes or marshland. Today, there are houses taking up most of that ground.
My experience with this area as a boater ended in July of 1969. I have returned occasionally throughout the years, but I haven't been on the water here since the late 70's. Much of the area has changed since the 1960's. Most of the old landmark places are either long gone or have changed hands. There has been an explosive growth in development, especially on Brigantine Island. The casino industry has infused much money into the area for growth and renovation. I'd like to take a boat trip out on the inlet and bay someday, if for no other reason than to trip down memory lane.
Pros: A cruising boater's paradise. You are limited only by the amount of fuel you can carry.
Cons: Thanks to the effects of the casinos, your pockets probably need to be pretty deep to stay here today.