SEA ADVENTURES CELEBRATE SUMMER IN CONNECTICUT’S FAIRFIELD COUNTY

Hoist the sails on a tall ship. Explore an island. Trawl for lobsters and sea stars. Watch the sunset at sea.

Refreshing summer adventures at sea are a great way to celebrate summer along the Long Island shore in Western Connecticut’s Fairfield County. There’s something for maritime explorers of all ages.

Tall Ship Tactics

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Soundwaters, an environmental education organization in Stamford dedicated to protecting the waters of Long Island Sound, invites the public to set sail aboard their 80-foot, three-masted schooner Soundwaters most weekends through September. Afternoon sails from 3p.m. to 5 p.m. are ideal for families, with passengers invited to help raise the sails and to examine first hand the aquatic life that lives beneath the waves. Educators teach participants about the quality of the water, and how to test it.

Relaxing and romantic two-hour early evening sunset cruises are better suited to adults, who are invited to bring their own picnic dinners and beverages on board. Afternoon sails are $30 for adults, $20 for children; sunset cruises are $30 for all ages.

The Soundwaters is located on 333 Ludlow Street in the Stamford Harbor Park Marina just off of I-95. Information, schedules and reservations are available at www.soundwaters.org or by phoning 203-406-3335.

Deep Sea Secrets

Oceanic Research Vessel
Oceanic Research Vessel

Educators at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk show and tell what goes on from the water’s surface to the bottom of the sea for passengers on the aquarium’s 29-passenger research vessel. Oceanic. Crewmembers drop the nets and passengers haul them laden with treasures for close-up views. The haul may include plankton from the surface and a variety of creatures from the muddy bottom, perhaps fish, crabs, lobsters, sea stars and other little-seen creatures. The catch is important since the observations are recorded as part of the on-going Long Island Sound Biodiversity Data Project. Cruises lasting two-and-a-half hours go out every day at 1 p.m. in July and August and on Saturdays at 1 p.m. in September and October. Cruises are $20.50 per person. Children must measure 42 inches to sail. For reservations, phone 203-852-0700, ext. 2206, during regular business hours; or email reservations@maritimeaquarium.org.

Island Adventures

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Board the Norwalk Seaport Association’s 49-foot catamaran C.J. Toth for a salty 45-minute escape to Sheffield Island. Passengers enjoy a special day of picnicking, tours of a historic lighthouse, shell hunting, and walks to view the colorful sea birds sheltered in the marshes and sandy shores of the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge.

Vistas of Long Island Sound from the 44-foot lighthouse tower are among the island’s highlights. On a clear day, the views reach to the distant skyline of New York City.

Trips to Sheffield Island will run weekends through September 29 with boats leaving at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 3:30pm. Return trips are at 1:15 p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. Weekday trips at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. are also available through Labor Day, and the fare is $22 for adults, $12 under age12,

Clambake cruises depart at 6 p.m. every Thursday evening to September 26, returning at 10 p.m. They are a true New England dining experience in a festive tented pavilion on the lighthouse lawn. The menu includes clams, mussels, corn on the cob, and a choice of lobster, fish, steak, or chicken. Roundtrip cruise and dinner is $65 to $79 per person, depending on entrée. Tours of the lighthouse are included with dinners.

Special theme weekends include Pirates Weekend July 13, 14 and July 20,21 and Haunted Lighthouse August 10, 11. Early bird watchers can board special bird-watching cruises at 8 a.m. on July 6 and August 3. For details and tickets www.seaport.org or phone 203-838-9444.

For information about nearby events and a free copy of UNWIND, a full-color,
152-page booklet detailing what to do and see, and where to stay, shop and dine in
Western Connecticut, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968,
Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, or visit their web site at www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com.

Maritime Aquarium’s Cruises Go Daily in July

Study Cruise aboard the Oceanic

Share a memorable boat ride with crabs, fish, lobsters and other creatures brought up right out of Long Island Sound right before your eyes during daily study cruises this summer with The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

The Aquarium’s exciting Marine Life Study Cruises will begin their daily schedule on July 1, departing at 1 p.m. each day through Labor Day. (In June, they push off at 1 p.m. on Saturdays.)

During each 21/2-hour Marine Life Study Cruise aboard the research vessel Oceanic, animals are collected from different water levels and bottom habitats of the Sound. A video microscope provides a magnified look at wriggly plankton gathered at the sunlit surface. Tiny crabs and worms emerge from a sampling of the anaerobic muddy bottom. A biodredge reveals a hidden world of sponges, snails and mollusks. And everyone inspects the trawl net’s bounty – varieties of fish and crabs, lobsters, sea stars, squid and always a few surprises.

The outings are much more than a boat ride. Maritime Aquarium educators involve participants in the processes, from sorting through samples to helping to pull in the trawl net and returning animals to the water. These animal encounters have immediate and incredible value in showing participants that the Sound is very much alive and worthy of our protection.

Besides being fun and eye-opening, Marine Life Study Cruises also contribute to local scientific research. Water-chemistry and weather readings are taken. And details about the animals brought onboard are entered into the Aquarium’s Long Island Sound Biodiversity Project, a database on the physical and biological features of the Sound. The database, available online for teachers and researchers, will reveal any changes in the Sound over time.

Also during the study cruises, as part of a Horseshoe Crab Census conducted by Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, The Maritime Aquarium tags and records data about all horseshoe crabs collected.

Cost of a Marine Life Study Cruise is $20.50 per person ($18.50 for Maritime Aquarium members). All passengers must be at least 42 inches tall. Reservations are strongly recommended; walk-up tickets will be sold space permitting. The Oceanic can accommodate 29 passengers. Marine Life Study Cruises also are available for private 9 a.m. charters for summer camps, Scouts and other groups. Cruises depart from the dock near the Aquarium’s IMAX Theater entrance. To reserve your spot on a Maritime Aquarium Marine Life Study Cruise, or for more details, call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206. For more information visit www.MaritimeAquarium.org. For regional information visit www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com.

Classic Schooner Sails SoundWaters Opens this Weekend!

Anyone who has ever dreamed about gliding full sail on a classic schooner should visit SoundWaters, an environmental education organization located in Cove Island Park in Stamford. They offer regular sails on the SoundWaters, an 80-foot three-masted replica of a 19th Century sharpie schooner, which leaves from Brewer Yacht Haven Marina in Stamford.

Afternoon sails from 3 to 5 p.m. on selected dates from June through August are great for families with children age 5 and up, offering the chance to help hoist the sails and raise the trawl to discover who lives underwater. This summer, afternoon sails are offered on the following dates: Sunday, May 29, Sunday, June 12, Saturday, June 25, Sunday, June 26, Sunday, July 3, Saturday, July 9, Saturday, July 16, Sunday, July 17, Saturday, July 23, Saturday, July 30, Saturday, August 13 and Sunday, August 14.

Sunset Sails on selected weekends and weeknights from June through August are intended for adults, who are invited to bring dinner and their favorite beverages on baord and relax while watching the sun go down. These sails are intended for Adults, as alcohol is often brought on board. Sunset Sails are offered 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm on the following dates this season: Sunday, May 29, Sunday, June 12, Saturday, June 25, Sunday, June 26, Tuesday, June 28, Sunday, July 3, Wednesday, July 6, Friday, July 8, Saturday, July 9, Friday, July 15, Saturday, July 16, Sunday, July 17, Wednesday, July 20, Friday, July 22, Saturday, July 2, Wednesday, July 27, Friday, July 29, Saturday, July 30, Saturday, August 13 and Sunday, August 14.

On July 2 Soundwaters is offering a “Fireworks Sail”, that is truely an unforgettable event that is set against the dramatic backdrop of Long Island Sound from 7:30 pm – 11:00 pm. Tickets for this very special sail are $75 per person.

Tickets for Afternoon and Sunset Sails are $30 per person and all children must be at least five years old. To reserve your space please call 203-406-3335 with a credit card. Prior to the day of the sail, tickets are also available at the SoundWaters Center in Cove Island Park and can be purchased by credit card, cash or check. Spaces on day of sail are available first come first served. Passengers can pay in person (cash or check) on the day of sail dockside (Brewers Yacht Haven Marina). Note that these spaces are not guaranteed. For any additional questions or if you would like to make advance resevations phone (203) 406-3335 or email hstarks@soundwaters.org.

To reach the Marina coming from the North on I-95:-Take I-95 South to Exit 7. Merge onto N State St (merge into the middle lane, the far left lane will take you back to I-95 South). Turn left on to Washington Blvd (5th Traffic Light) Washington Blvd will turn into Dyke Lane Continue on Dyke Lane. Take a right onto Batemen Way. Turn left into Brewer Yacht Haven Marina and follow the pavement to the southwest corner of the marina. The Schooner SoundWaters is located at Dock S1.

Coming from the South on I-95: -Take I-95 North to Exit 7.-Merge onto S State St-Turn right onto Washington Blvd-Washington Blvd will turn into Dyke Lane- Continue on Dyke Lane.- Take a right onto Batemen Way- Turn left into Brewer Yacht Haven Marina and follow the pavement to the southwest corner of the marina. The Schooner SoundWaters is located at Dock S1.

The gate into Brewer Yacht Haven Marina is open Monday – Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm and Saturday 8:00am – 1:00pm. If your sail is after 5:00 pm on a weekday, after 1:00 pm on Saturday, or on a Sunday, a SoundWaters staff member will be at the entrance gate into Brewers Yacht Haven Marina 30 minutes prior to the start of the sail to check in passengers and direct you to parking. You must check in at the gate 5 minutes prior to the start of the sail.