By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Summer arrived early Sunday in Sea Isle City.
Yes, the calendar says differently, and it’s a week before Memorial Day weekend traditionally heralds the start of the busy summer tourism season at the shore.
But make no mistake about it, summer did arrive Sunday on a July-like day with temperatures flirting with the 90s.
All anyone needed for proof was to take a look at beaches crowded with sunbathers, brightly colored umbrellas and children laughing in delight.
Lea Brooks smiled as her 4-year-old grandson, Kingsley, began digging in the sand with his toy shovel in a quest for buried treasure.
“I like it a lot,” Kingsley exclaimed of his play time on the beach. “I also like going in the water.”
Brooks, whose family has vacationed in Sea Isle for years, relocated to the beach resort after her home in Pittsgrove Township, Salem County, was destroyed by an electrical fire last October.
Fortunately, no one was injured, but the fire ruined the family’s possessions. In another sad postscript to the fire, Kingsley said, “All my toys got burned up.”
Now, seven months later, Brooks and her family continue to recover from the blaze, partly through the generosity of Sea Isle residents who have donated many household items.
“It’s been such an amazing community,” Brooks said. “They have helped to relieve much of the burden.”
Brooks and her family were lucky to find a year-round rental home in Sea Isle while they build a new house in Pittsgrove Township.
“This is so amazing because it feels like we’re on a 12-month vacation,” Brooks said of the advantage of being at the shore.
She noted that she is relieved to finally escape the “COVID lockdown” and see life start to return to normal.
“I think we’re all ready for that,” she said. “I think the beach feels like a safe place for that.”
Beachgoers Donna Monaco, her daughter, Amanda, and her sister, Linda Kelly, are planning to make the most of their summer vacation now that the pandemic restrictions are being rolled back or lifted altogether.
“We’ll start to travel again,” Amanda said. “We’ll also come to the beach more often.”
Donna and Amanda Monaco live in West Chester, Pa., while Kelly is from Woodbury Heights, Gloucester County.
They headed down to the shore to savor the sunny skies and summer-like weather. There was the added bonus of not having to pay for beach tags this weekend. Beach tags start in Sea Isle on Memorial Day weekend and will last through Labor Day.
All three women tippy toed into the surf about knee deep and discovered that the water was still chilly. But it really didn’t matter.
“It’s cold, but refreshing,” Donna Monaco said.
While many people spent a leisurely day on the beach, others took to their boats, kayaks and paddleboards for some fun and fishing on the bay and ocean.
Lori Adams and her fiancé, Michael Billups, both of Philadelphia, contended with the light breezes while out on their paddleboards in the channel at Sea Isle’s municipal marina.
Fortunately, they had a good crew member. Their dog, Champ, a German wirehaired pointer, stood on the bow of Billups’ paddleboard as though he was the navigator. Champ also jumped in to get cool.
“This is beautiful. It is such a nice day,” Billups said.
Billups noted that he recently recovered from a bout of COVID, but did not become seriously ill.
“I actually got over COVID. I was lucky,” he said.
Boater Ron Fenning had one word to describe his feelings now that the pandemic has dramatically eased and people are once again able to enjoy the shore.
“Relief,” he said.
Fenning, a retired teacher who lives in Churchville, Pa., was using a cloth to do some cleaning on his 31-foot boat, “Teacher’s Pet II.” Since 1986, he has had the same boat moored at the same slip at Sea Isle’s municipal marina.
This summer, with the COVID crisis waning, Fenning said he is planning to get out on his boat and do more fishing.
Matt Schad and his father, Rich, of Marmora, joined their friend, Joe Krajicek, of Seaville, for a fishing trip Sunday on Krajicek’s 23-foot boat. The fishing wasn’t as good as it was on Saturday, but they still caught some flounder for dinner.
“We went out at 6 o’clock and came back about an hour ago,” Matt Schad said around 2 p.m. while filleting the flounder at the marina.
COVID or not, Schad made it clear that he and his father intend to do some serious fishing this summer, especially on nice days like Sunday.
“When it comes to us, fishing has never changed. We’re always going to do it. But it is nice to get out,” he said.