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    Of Safe Landings and Snug Harbors

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Story and Photography by Chris Poh

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated, “You could not step twice into the same river.” There is no one way to describe life at the water’s edge, it is always changing—and streams are not rivers, gulfs are not oceans, and ponds are certainly not lakes. And man’s relationship to each of these bodies of water is quite different. Any angler worth his bait and tackle could tell you this. And though I have not spent much time with rod or reel in hand, I have whiled away many an afternoon hoisting pint glasses at some waterside retreat.

Snug Harbor Restaurant and Inn in Hammondsport, NY
Snug Harbor Restaurant and Inn in Hammondsport, New York

Bar at Snug Harbor Restaurant and Bar in Hammondsport, NY

taps at Snug Harbor Restaurant and Inn in Hammondsport, NY

When I need to be reminded of my place in this vast universe, I head to the ocean. A lazy and less serious mood might find me lounging alongside some river. But when I’m in the need of quiet contemplation, I prefer my libations lakeside. And there is no place better suited for that calming introspection than Snug Harbor on Keuka Lake in Hammondsport, New York. From its docks, decks and verandas this grand structure provides its patrons a sweeping view of one of the most peaceful and magnificent waterscapes in wine country.

Keuka Lake in Hammondsport, NY
Keuka Lake from Hammondsport, New York

For much of the year, the most that will disturb the silent tranquility of this setting is the wind fluttering through the tacking jib of a passing sailboat, the low rumble of an inboard engine as a classic wooden motorboat makes its way to the dock, or the cry of the Red-billed Gulls flying overhead. But for three days during the month of September, a much noisier flock takes flight in the currents and slipstreams above Lake Keuka. On the second weekend after Labor Day, the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum hosts the annual Seaplane Homecoming.

Since 2003, the event has attracted aviators and airplane enthusiast from around the globe who come to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Glenn Hammond Curtiss. This favorite son of Hammondsport was a legendary pioneer in the manufacture and racing of motorcycles during the early years of the twentieth century. But by 1911, Curtiss opted to utilize his considerable mechanical skills and innovative engine designs in machines that would not be as bound by the constraints of gravity. Much to the relief of his competitors at Indian and Harley-Davidson, Glenn Hammond Curtiss was now in the aeroplane business. And his many achievements in that bold venture would ultimately have him come to be regarded as the “Founder of the American Aircraft industry” and “The Father of Naval Aviation.”

Aircraft photos are courtesy of the Glenn H, Curtiss Museum

A-! Triad
A-1 Triad

Original A-1 Seaplane
The original A-1 seaplane.

The Christening of the seaplane, "America."
The Christening of the seaplane, "America."

Reproduction of the seaplane, "America."
Reproduction of the seaplane, "America."

The seplane, "America"
In her glory!

On June 30th, 1911, America’s first naval aviator, Theodore (Spuds) Ellyson piloted the world’s first seaplane (the Curtiss A-1 “Triad”) over the waters of Keuka Lake. Only the family and friends of Simeon Rathbone, the owner of Snug Harbor at that time, could have witnessed this magical flight from the comfort of the shaded verandas. The former hotel had been converted back into a private residence in 1895. But since its renovation and restoration in 1989, the public can once again take advantage of this exceedingly pleasant waterside property. And if you’re lucky enough to be there during the Seaplane Homecoming, you might just catch a fleeting glimpse of a Grumman Super Widgeon, a de Havilland Beaver or a Murphy Moose. On the other hand, if the roar of a Pratt and Whitney R-985 engine is a bit much on the senses, one can always retire to the splendid solace of the inside bar for a glass of  the native grape, or a pint of the local brew. Because when one is traveling these waters, you can always be assured of two things, a safe landing—and a Snug Harbor.

twin Irish Coffees

      Click here to discover how the mechanical genius of Glenn H. Curtiss may have led to the creation of Irish coffee.

Snug Harbor Restaurant and Inn

9068A Snug Harbor Drive (Formerly 144 West Lake Road)

Hammondsport, New York 14840

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