Ron Fenning uses his 31-foot boat as a second home as long as the weather stays pleasant in Sea Isle.

By Donald Wittkowski

Since 1986, Ron Fenning has had the same boat moored at the same slip at Sea Isle City’s municipal marina.

Over the years, he has grown used to the tens of thousands of tourists who flock to the beach town during the summer months. But by late September, the crowds thin out and Sea Isle becomes remarkably quiet.

Even the pesky, biting greenheads that invade the shore over the summer magically disappear in early fall, Fenning noted.

“This time of year is lovely,” said the 67-year-old retired teacher.

Along the Jersey Shore, the fall months, still warm enough to sunbathe on the beaches or take the boat out, are known as “locals’ summer.”

With many of the tourists long gone, local residents have the town largely to themselves. Fenning, for instance, was among only a few boaters at the Sea Isle Marina during a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

“There are no crowds,” he said while using a hose to clean the deck of his 31-foot boat, “Teacher’s Pet II.”

Boats remain tied up in their slips during a quiet day at the Sea Isle Marina.

Fenning is taking advantage of the summer-like weather to extend his time on his boat, which serves as his summer home, before heading back to his full-time residence in Churchville, Pa.

“I’ve been here since the city took over the marina in 1986,” he said. “I’ve had the same slip and the same boat. I know that this time of year here is particularly special.”

Sea Isle, a town with about 2,000 year-round residents, can see its summer population swell to close to 75,000 people at the peak of the tourism season. Inevitably, there are traffic backups, lines getting into restaurants, a scarcity of parking and tight space on the beaches when so many people pack the island.

Local residents acknowledge the importance of tourists for Sea Isle’s economy, but they also admit that the post-Labor Day slowdown allows them to enjoy the beaches, the Promenade and other attractions in town without having to contend with big crowds.

“I like the quietness of it all. It’s peaceful. But the weather is still nice and there’s still plenty to do,” Sea Isle resident Matt Rodden said.

Rodden explained that fall remains a good time for catching flounder, stripers and weakfish. He was trying to decide Sunday whether to go fishing off the dock at the municipal marina or cast a line off the beach.

Longtime friends Mary Rostovich, left, and Diane Loftus enjoy a sunny day on the beach during their shore getaway.

On Sunday afternoon, the air temperature and water temperature were an identical 73 degrees in Sea Isle, giving sunbathers a beautiful beach day.

Diane Loftus, of Philadelphia, and Mary Rostovich, of Glenolden, Pa., had monitored the weather forecast for the shore and decided to take a weekend beach trip to Sea Isle. Relaxing in their beach chairs, they soaked up the sun just a few yards from the water’s edge.

“We saw the weather. I said, ‘It’s sunny and we’re going to the beach,’” Loftus recalled of what she told Rostovich, her best friend for 40 years. “The water’s still warm and the beach is great.”

After Labor Day, beach tags are no longer required and parking is free in Sea Isle, giving people an “extra bonus,” Loftus said.

Rostovich said Sea Isle offers a much quieter alternative to other, more hectic shore towns, but still has enough attractions to keep her coming back.

“I like most of the stores,” she said. “I like the family-oriented atmosphere. I like the beach, too. It seems to be much cleaner and nicer than some of the other beach towns.”

John DeVito and his 7-year-old grandson, Chase, splash around in the 73-degree ocean water.

John DeVito, of Philadelphia, brought his 7-year-old grandson, Chase, to the beach for a weekend getaway. While Chase played in the surf, DeVito raved about the sunny weather.

“It’s beautiful. You couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to be down here at the shore. We’re taking advantage of the great weather now, in September and October.”

The weather was so glorious Sunday that parishioners from four Catholic churches gathered on the Sea Isle beach for a pre-Confirmation Mass celebrated by Father Pete Joyce of St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Marmora.

“Being out on the beach reminds us of the beauty of Creation,” Joyce said. “It takes us out of our familiar environment and adds to the richness of the church experience.”

Father Pete Joyce of St. Maximilian Kolbe Church celebrates Sunday service on the beach.

Dozens of parishioners from St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Joseph Church in Sea Isle, St. Brendan Church in Avalon and Our Lady of the Angels Church in Cape May Court House joined Joyce for the beach Mass.

Joyce called on the parishioners to give him a strong “Amen” to end the service. If they didn’t, he jokingly threatened to keep them longer at Mass and force them to miss part of the Eagles game Sunday afternoon.

With that, the parishioners responded with a booming “Amen,” loud enough to be heard over the waves lapping the shoreline just steps away.

For one brief moment, “locals’ summer” wasn’t so quiet after all.

Bicyclists take advantage of the nice weather for a ride on the Sea Isle Promenade.