Breaking out the bay views

Steps to the second floor (above), where deck breezes seem capable of sweeping lightweights away. The bay can be viewed from inside (below). Bohan made the round table and four stools in the middle of the room.
Steps to the second floor (above), where deck breezes seem capable of sweeping lightweights away. The bay can be viewed from inside (below). Bohan made the round table and four stools in the middle of the room. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)

David Bohan's life journey led him far away, but now he's back on LBI.

Posted: August 13, 2012

Just when it seems you've reached the end of Long Beach Island's last outpost, Holgate, a small road leads to a beach cottage straight out of central casting.

Its weathered gray-brown siding, pale blue shutters, and window boxes face the road, and then the actual entrance appears. A huge bell with resounding gong - definitely not the traditional doorbell - announces visitors.

If David Bohan is not down by the bay tending to his oyster bins, he responds to that summons with a broad grin. This is a man at peace in his seashore environment, delighted to be back on LBI, where he was born and came of age.

"I know this island pretty well," says Bohan, who returned here full time six years ago after retiring from two former careers: teaching middle-school students industrial arts in Ocean Township while living in Toms River weekdays and spending weekends in Beach Haven, and working in his own construction business.

Divorced and on his own, he found the circa-1920s beach cottage and began a new life.

"I knew the house was just right for me," he says of the tidy, nearly hidden property, carved from a larger parcel that borders much larger houses nearby. Bohan's land extends 1,130 feet toward the bay and an additional 350 feet into the bay - more than enough for him.

Five rooms on one level, and an upper deck with what he wryly calls not a man cave but a "man tree house," suit this 65-year-old adventurer, who embraces a life as a professional freelance fisherman when the spirit moves him.

Bohan traveled to Europe for three months in 2009 on a fishing expedition, has participated in numerous fishing tournaments, and caught a 600-pound blue marlin on the tournament circuit.

"It's terrific exercise," he says.

When he settled into his cottage on the bay, Bohan soon recognized that the large living area of the house, which overlooks trees, shrubs and the bay, is its prize. Complete with fireplace with a massive pine mantel and comfortable leather upholstered furniture, the room has the sort of sweeping views - binoculars are at the ready - that the seashore is all about.

But the adjacent kitchen wasn't getting that view because of a wall blocking it.

So one of the first things Bohan did was cut out a large opening between the kitchen and living room that transformed the space, giving the kitchen the same marvelous bay views. Because of his industrial-arts teaching background and visual instincts, he knew that this simple change would enhance life in the cottage. And it has.

Bohan has surrounded himself with furnishings that are low maintenance/high comfort, including many pieces made with his own hands. A handsome desk, shelving that makes small spaces instantly efficient, and end tables that reveal his skill with wood all help to create the warm, cozy space Bohan relishes.

A favorite piece from earlier years is a combination coffee/dining table. Thanks to small pullout benches that rest under the table, it can be reconfigured for meals with his two adult daughters, his son-in-law, and a special guest, grandson Oliver. On the menu frequently: very fresh oysters.

A functional kitchen, a combo bath/laundry room, and two bedrooms complete the utilitarian space, where fishing rods become "ceiling art," lying across a hallway ceiling as both a practical - and surprisingly aesthetic - feature.

There's no mistaking Bohan's affection for the island where he was born.

Gracing one wall is a striking photo of a forlorn shack that time forgot on the causeway leading to LBI, a reminder of the island's past. There's also a rendering of the tavern on the causeway approach that Bohan's grandfather once owned. (It's now the Dutchman, a landmark bar and restaurant.)

On the cottage's second level, where deck breezes seem capable of sweeping lightweights away, a large indoor room houses a hammock that dominates one end of the space. A marine radio on the wall is tuned to the Coast Guard station, and a sobering map tracks the havoc wrought by a 1962 nor'easter that devastated the island.

Whole neighborhoods were destroyed, and the devastation forever changed the face and footprint of Long Beach Island. "Somehow, the area where my property is was spared," Bohan says.

The chief of police at that time and two colleagues drowned, leaving Bohan's father, a member of the force, to become chief. So this oysterman/fisherman is always attuned to nature's fury as well as its bounty.

"You're pretty aware of it all when you live in a place like this," he says.

Ask Bohan about his favorite things and he points to his views of the wetlands, but also to the rustic outdoor shower, a simple - and profound - pleasure for seashore lovers.

"I use it all the time," he says, "and only surrender when it's just too cold!"

It's clear that, for Bohan, life is good.

"You have to have a certain temperament to live year-round at the Shore. Some people need a lot of space and luxury, but for me, this cottage is just right."

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