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Sailing through history on Long Island Sound

by SV Crystal Blues 17 Aug 2018 07:41 UTC
The Griswold Inn has a fine collection of nautical prints © SV Crystal Blues

Essex, Coonecticut

After rushing our cruise through Long Island Sound last year, we've decided to slow things down this time and perhaps even smell the roses. Last week we came up the Connecticut River to the historic town of Essex, anchoring off the town and thinking about the British raid here in the war of 1812, when most of the vessels in the harbor were burned. Last night we dined at the Griswold Inn, where the tap room has been serving ales for over 200 years. They also serve up some outstanding music - my feet were tapping all night to the Shiny Lapel Trio (actually six of them on stage but who's counting). This is a beautiful town, with several active yacht clubs and a museum to keep us entertained.

However our cruise really started further west, when we transited the East River at Manhattan and launched out into Long Island Sound.

Port Washington

Our first stop on the sound, and what a great place it is. The town welcomes visitors with a free mooring for two nights, free dinghy dock, fresh water, pump out facilities etc. Even the supermarket is serviced by a free floating dock. Cruiser heaven! We took the train into Manhattan, visited the Museum Of Modern Art, the Highline in Chelsea and generally had our big city fix for the month. Back in Port Washington that evening the mood was relaxed - a real village feel, with an excellent Asian deli-market.

We departed Port Washington feeling quite positive, which meant that we were a little unprepared for our next port of call.....

Port Jefferson

A long day sailing brought us to attractive Port Jefferson, with a wonderfully sheltered and spacious anchorage area. Ferries come and go all day, crossing to the Connecticut shore, and there is fairly constant tug and barge traffic in the harbor. It is great for boat watching, problem is, the welcome on shore here is decidedly muted.

The city council dock wants $12 an hour just to tie your dinghy up - yoiks - and even the local yacht club can be finicky about sharing their space with like minded visiting souls. Corinthian principles be damned!

We were chased down the dock by one member, who admittedly backed off when we explained our presence and that we'd been approved by the dock master. However that member's attitude reflects the character of the town pretty well.

The Active Captain online cruisers guide has the following user comments in relation to visiting Port Jefferson Town Marina (these are some headlines) : "Locked Up Like A Sailors Jail", "Unfriendly To Cruisers", "Good Anchorage Poor Hospitality", "Expensive Transient Docking", "Not Looking For Transients", "Rip Off", "Miss This Town". Get the picture? These are the worst reviews we've ever seen for what should be a popular place. Port Jefferson has a serious attitude problem. In a nation where the vast majority are courteous and incredibly helpful to us, shame this place has to be so antsy.

Westport, On The Saugatuck River

30 nautical miles north east across the sound, boring motoring again, we arrived in Westport with plans for two nights in the local marina. Our plan was to spend time with friends David & Jody Neaderland, who live nearby in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Predictably, our weekend disappeared into a blur of social events, starting with a family Clam Bake on the Saturday night.

Sunday was a picnic sailing day for our friends onboard Crystal Blues, with plenty of time for a BBQ lunch anchored off a local island. Emma and Jacob, David & Jody's children, sailed Crystal Blues and spent hours swimming from the transom.

We wrapped up the weekend with (true bliss) great Thai food at a local restaurant on the Sunday evening.

Old Saybrook, On The Connecticut River

Our last stop before Essex, just inside the mouth of the Connecticut River, here is a town with a fine nautical tradition and a reasonable approach to handling visitors. In the harbor, certain moorings are available free to visitors - these identified with yellow ribbon on the float. If they are all in use, then visitors are encouraged to pick up any mooring, so long as they don't leave the vessel. The harbor has recently been extensively dredged, and was able to handle our 7 feet draft. Note the latest charts show it as quite shallow - not the case any more.

With a welcome like that, walking the town and spending cruiser bucks where we could. Craft beer at the excellent pub and wonderful steaks for our freezer from the market. Next day we cruised up river another four miles to beautiful Essex, anchored off the town and settled in for a few days, which is where this story all started!

This article has been provided by the courtesy of SV Crystal Blues.

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