Sep 12, 2017 1:42 PM
By Frank S. Costanza
As the son of a retired 24-year U.S. Coast Guard and Navy veteran, Jay Barnes grew up on the water—though the actual body of water changed many times over the years.
Born in Sacramento, California, Mr. Barnes and his family made stops in Mobile, Alabama, Long Beach, California, Seattle, Washington, and Miami, Florida, before his father, Michael Barnes, was transferred to Long Island. They eventually settled in the Westhampton area in the summer of 1987, and the senior Mr. Barnes continued enjoying one of his favorite hobbies: fishing.
"I grew up fishing," said Jay Barnes, who now lives in East Quogue and recently purchased his first boat, a brand new 21-foot Key West dual console bow rider, from Hampton Watercraft and Marine in Hampton Bays.
"My dad always enjoyed it," he added, explaining that he has forgotten much of what he learned about fishing from his father, who now lives in Pennsylvania, as he now prefers to simply cruise around Peconic Bay in his new boat, sometimes going tubing.
Still, that did not stop Mr. Barnes from immediately signing up when Anthony Villareale, president of Hampton Watercraft, asked if he'd be willing to volunteer for the company's inaugural "Take A Vet Fishing" day this Saturday, September 16.
"When I heard the cause, I immediately volunteered," said Mr. Barnes, operations manager with Arenz Heating and Air Conditioning in Quogue, and whose younger brother, Steve, is a former U.S. Marine. "Then, afterward, I was, like, 'Damn, I don't know anything about fishing anymore. I need to get someone out there with me who knows something about fishing.'"
Filling that role will be Mr. Barnes's coworker, Andrew Conforti of Westhampton, who will be in charge of getting the two veterans assigned to his friend's boat, the Emily Rose, baited and hooked for Saturday's tournament. It will include the awarding of prizes for largest fish caught in five categories: striped bass, porgy, fluke, black sea bass and sea robin. An award ceremony and complimentary barbecue lunch for veterans and their families will immediately follow at the marina, which sits off Newtown Road in Hampton Bays.
Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, and fishing will follow from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Veterans can weigh their catches from 12:30 until 1:30 p.m. at the Hampton Watercraft dock before enjoying the barbecue.
Those veterans interested in signing up, and those captains considering volunteering their boats and time, can call 631-728-8200 for additional information.
As of earlier this week, 10 Hampton Watercraft customers had already signed up for the fishing tournament, which will require that they host as many veterans as they can aboard their vessels ranging in size from 16 to 37 feet, according to Megan Buckley, marketing and event coordinator for the business. She added that organizers are anticipating between two and three dozen veterans this weekend, noting that they'll be getting help from volunteers with the Hampton Bays Lions Club and the Hampton Bays Middle School Student Council and Leos Club, the latter being an offshoot of the hamlet's Lions Club.
"We absolutely plan to make this an annual event and hope that it continues to grow, and maybe next year we will have 15 to 20 boats to take out our well-deserving veterans," Ms. Buckley wrote in an email.
She explained that Mr. Villareale, whose company also has locations in Westhampton Beach and Eastport, wanted to host such an event after meeting members of the Airborne Tri Team, a not-for-profit based in Farmingdale that assists veterans with mental and physical challenges.
To help get the program off the ground, Ms. Buckley even enlisted the help of her brother, Gerard Buckley III of Hampton Bays—though he did not require any coaxing.
A draftsman for Shawn Leonard Architect in Southampton, Mr. Buckley said he immediately agreed to offer his captain services—as well as his 28-foot Key West Billistic center console boat—after being approached by his sibling. Even though they don't have any veterans in their immediate family, Mr. Buckley explained that volunteering is a family trait; he noted that his late father, Gerard "Jerry" Buckley Jr., was a 35-year fire department member prior to his death this spring.
"If she hadn't volunteered me, I would have done it anyway," said Mr. Buckley, who also volunteers with the Hampton Bays Fire Department, about his sister. "I think it's a great idea. I know plenty of veterans, just in the fire department alone … who are interested."
He noted that his boat should be able to accommodate up to five veterans "pretty comfortably," and that he and some of the other captains are most likely going to take their passengers into the ocean where they can fish for fluke and sea bass.
"They're biting pretty good there right now," Mr. Buckley added. "If we can go out there, I'm going out there."