Cigar Aficionado

Caught in a Storm

I zipped up the flap on my tent, put my left arm over my young son and covered him up as best I could. The orange tent glowed from the lightning bolts above and thunder cracked far too close outside. We were on an island. Our tent was the tallest object on the beach for about 50 yards, and the boat that brought us here was well offshore in high tide. The nearest home was two miles away. The storm came on hard, fast and took us by surprise.

Saturday started out well enough, with my buddy Mark and I taking our kids out on his boat to an island off the Connecticut shore. The water was calm as we set out for the short ride out of the harbor, and we got in close to the small island, anchored the boat and rafted the kids and the gear some 20 feet ashore in low tide. We set up our tents, put up the folding table and got to camping. The kids swam in the water, made sand castles and searched for clams. Mark and I each cracked a cold beer and lit up Coronado by La Flor Lanceros.

We had listened to the weather forecast on the local news before heading out. It called for isolated showers with a 20 percent chance of precipitation—no big deal. As we sat in our beach chairs, watching the kids play and enjoying the Coronados, we thought we might catch a break on the rain. The sky was mostly clear. Then as we began cooking dinner, a few rumbles growled in the distance. Around 8 p.m., we began getting the kids ready for bed, and that’s when the heavens opened up.

Storms in the northeast typically move in from the west this time of year, but the cell that found us snuck in from the north. It was big. Buckets of rain poured onto the tents, the wind kicked up, and the lightning was relentless.

My boy was a little spooked by the first big crack of thunder, but within two minutes he was snoring soundly. The kid’s a champ. He did a lot better than his dear old dad—I thought the tent was going to blow away, leaving us even more exposed. A few drops of water got in as the rain shield rose and buckled, but everything held up. Tip of the hat to the Coleman Co.—best $40 I’ve ever spent.

The storm parked overhead and raged for a good 40 minutes before ebbing slightly. “What the heck was that?” I yelled to Mark, in the other tent. His kids, like mine, slept through the entire storm. For them, it was as if nothing had ever happened.

About an hour later, the rain subsided. Mark got out of his tent, and I (reluctantly) got out of mine. The campground looked like it had spent time underwater. Everything was soaked, but largely intact. The beach chairs we had brought for the kids had drained well, so they weren’t unbearably wet, and we hunkered down with cold Heinekens and clipped the heads off of some San Cristobal Maestros.

Across the water in the Long Island Sound, the lightning continued, arcing across the sky in dramatic fashion. The menace, however, was gone—the bolts were too far away to do us any harm. Now we could reflect on getting through unscathed.

It wasn’t quite the camping experience we had signed up for, but it certainly was memorable. The combination of cold beers, rich cigars and the overflowing sense of relief made everything seem right with the world. We savored those cigars for a long time.

The next day, we pulled up to the dock. The guys in the harbor smiled at us. “Going camping again?” they asked.

“Yeah,” said Mark. “At the Four Seasons.”

"Sorry, unrelated question. In the "How We Taste" segments that you are posting now, what lighter are you using? Is it a Maxijet from S.T. Dupont?" —June 19, 2008 10:31 AM