Imagine a country song — some laid-back summer number about pontoon boats, beer drinking and sunblock.
That song is a reality all summer long in a shallow, sandy nook along the southwest shore of Saratoga Lake. From a planing motorboat, Sand Bay, Grog’s Cove or whatever people choose to call it, is pretty easy to spot. Most weekends it hosts a flotilla.
The place is only accessible by water, so boats crowd in, criss-crossing anchor lines from the first spring day warm enough for swimming to the last chilly fall dip. All summer long, there’s beer, music and a general air of relaxation.
On an early August Sunday afternoon, Kyle Warmt leapt from the water, fists raised at an oncoming volleyball. In mid-air, he punched the ball straight up, nearly as high as the spray from his subsequent belly flop.
“Oh,” came shouts from both teams.
Eric Simmons belted forward at surprising speeds for a man with several beers already consumed and water up to his thighs. He smacked the ball over the net.
“These two are our all-stars” said Kevin Lancto, pointing at Warmt and Simmons.
Lancto’s team made up half the crew of a dozen beefy guys in camouflage hats and bikini-clad tanners passing a volleyball over an impromptu net.
“The more you drink, the better you play,” Lancto said with a laugh, admitting his team lost the match.
For a sunny afternoon, the bay was relatively quiet. Scores of laden boats bobbed at anchor. Music and laughter drifted across the water along with the smell of fresh-burned tobacco. A man of few words who called himself John Grog sold burgers from a pontoon-mounted grill.
“I sell burgers and some hot dogs. I’m here every day,” were his only words.
A boat called It’s Jager Time drifted in under cut power. The owner flopped over the rail in a pair of shorts to pull his boat into the shallows.
At least in the early afternoon, the bay verged on being family-friendly. Courtney Salton played in waist-high water with her young daughter Maci, some family friends and an English mastiff named Tank. It’s a tradition left over from her pre-parenting days.
“We’ve always come here,” she said, holding Maci under her arm floats, “but it’s a little different now.”
Her friend Stephanie Stephen laughed, also holding a toddler in arm floats.
“Yeah,” she said. “There’s a lot more whining and a lot less drinking.”
These days, they weigh anchor before the real party gets rolling. They get home in time to put their kids to bed while sunburned, shirtless guys whoop it up on the water.
“My buddy has a real bumpin’ sound system on his boat,” said Dave Korzun. “He had it out here the other night. You could feel the sand shaking under this whole bay.”
That night, Korzun said, was a real party.
“This is sort of quiet,” he said Sunday afternoon as he stood in the lake petting his dog, Jada, who took a dignified position on an inner tube.
Meanwhile, his friends lounged on a boat or in the water. One slept.
He said the quiet has its merits, but he was plotting another party.
“We’ve got a big one planned for the 24th,” he said. “We hired a DJ and everything. People are going to be dancing in the water.”