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Bon Voyage

Coastal Connecticut boating destinations

© Monika Lewandowska/istockphoto.com

Definition: cruise (kruz) To Sail, travel about or move along, as for pleasure or reconnaissance, especially in an unhurried or unconcerned fashion. To move leisurely about in an area in hope of discovering something. 

Long Island Sound is an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean located between Connecticut to the North and Long island, NY to the South, (1320 square miles) creating perfect proximity to many wonderful boating destinations, both day trips as well as extended stay.  Numerous marinas offer full service accommodations and range from casual to state of the art docking, with varying price points, appealing to most residents of the Gold Coast. 

Sheffield Island

N 41.057499 W 73.414481, 2 miles SW of Norwalk Harbor is an easy distance for either an overnight or a day cruise from just about anywhere along the Ct Sound. Anchorage is well protected from the elements, easily navigable and has deep water almost right up to the beach. There are also a number of transient slips available in the visitors dock in Veterans Park. A short walk across the bridge lands you in the historic SoNo district, where visitors can enjoy restaurants, shops and entertainment. A dingy ride takes you to the Maritime Aquarium and IMAX Theater. The Sheffield Lighthouse has been restored and tours are available and include a chance to climb up into the light tower itself, where the NY City skyline can be seen. The Nature Trail is another Island attraction where from a viewing platform, a variety of wildlife including nesting herons and other birds can be observed. Also offered is the newly established Norwalk Islands Canoe and Kayak Trail which lead you to Sheffield, Shea and Grassy Islands. Boats may be launched from Calf Pasture Boat Launch.

The Thimble Islands

41 15’.52’N x 72 45”.11”W is SE of Branford, CT and is also a relatively short distance destination. These Islands consist of a collection of steep granite Islands sticking out of deep water bearing rock ledges. The Thimble Islands are a favorite destination on Long Island Sound and are one of the prime locations where Captain Kidd’s treasure is supposed to be buried. There is a humble New England fishing village on one of the Islands and a charming village called Stoney Creek on the mainland. There are several anchorages, though they are not easily found without a detailed chart. The main and most easily accessible anchorage is between High Island and Pot Island. The Coast Guard mooring is free for the taking if it’s unoccupied by nightfall. Stoney Creek has a substantial dinghy dock to service local residents and there is a fuel dock with full access to the main street, where dinghies may be parked when you go ashore for dinner. For more information please visit www.thimbleislands.com.

The Connecticut River

The largest and longest river in New England, this cruise is suggested as a weeklong adventure, as there is much to do and see. The CT River is blessed with shallow shifting bars at the mouth of its river, saving it from industrial development; it therefore remains as pristine as it was centuries ago. It is amazingly beautiful and offers one breathtaking vista after another, each town more charming than the last; the shores are lush and the terrain, pleasantly hilly. As you enter the river past the breakwater (with its own lighthouse) the seascape opens onto broad views of marshland. The Eastern side is shallow so it’s best to hug the Western side for depth, following the channel markers. There are major marinas to starboard, with fuel docks and extensive facilities that can accommodate mega yachts and include among their numerous amenities, a spa. The CT River boasts a wonderful town adventure each of five days: Essex, Hamburg Cove, Selden Creek (rated #1 in the top ten East Coast Gunkholes), Goodspeed Landing and Old Saybrook. On your way out, be sure to stop and pamper yourself at the Saybrook Point Inn Marina. saybrookpointmarina.com.

Fire Island

Across the Pond on Long Island, many fantastic Marina Destinations abound as well. Fire Island, nestled between the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, has been a haven for generations of ocean loving people and offers pristine beaches. Fire Island offers swimming, biking, surfing, beach volleyball, kayaking, tennis, clamming, fishing, surfing, boating, sailing and numerous nightlife hotspots. For more information please visit fireisland.com

The North Fork

Greenport, Long Island Marinas make visiting the North Fork by boat a pleasure. They are clean, safe, are chocked full of amenities and often boast in ground swimming pools and on site restaurants. Brewer Stirling Harbor Marina, Brewer Yacht Yard (with skilled carpenters and mechanics) and Townsend Manor Marina (Lat/Long 41° 06.567’N/72° 21.690’W) are located on the shore of Stirling Basin. Townsend Marina is within walking distance of the town, is well protected from weather and boat traffic and has an Olympic sized swimming pool beside its kids wadding pool. Golf, tennis, vineyards, a movie theater, horseback riding and more are nearby. 631.477.2000.

Northport Harbor

Northport Harbor inside Huntington Bay (off Eaton’s Neck) is another favorite and remarkable boating destination. It offers protected anchorages, numerous marinas/ yacht clubs, great swimming spots, lots to do and is one of the few easily accessible, lovely waterfront towns on the Sound. As you enter, to port, is Price Bend, an anchorage that is one of the easiest havens to reach and tuck in for the night (beware of the old bunker that sits like an island off the beach). Mid-summer Price Bend is alive with children and dogs frolicking along the public beach and exploring the bunker. Duck Island and Centerport Island are a bit farther in and offer protected anchorage. It is here on Little Neck that the Vanderbilt estate, Eagles Nest, sits as a natural history museum, planetarium, and mansion open to the public.

If you prefer to stay ‘where the other half docks’, try Forty 1° North’s Hotel Marina Resort in Newport, Rhode Island. This marina has been completely redesigned and rebuilt from the waterline up, creating a state of the art docking and yacht service facility on par with world class yachting destinations around the world. Premium amenities abound marked by impeccable service, comfort and style. 41north.com/marina-services.

Note: most marina amenities include; dockage, electricity, laundry service, wireless internet/TV, pump out facilities and more. Some are pet friendly. Please check with each individual marina before you set sail.

Photograph by Kendra Bollinger Guilfoile

Nantucket harbor

New England Islands are also recommended: Nantucket, MA, Block Island, RI, Martha’s Vineyard, MA, Cuttyhunk, RI as is Watch Hill, RI. noaa.gov provides weather forecasts, storm warnings, nautical charts and more. Safe, happy voyages!

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