Summer Cruises to Sheffield Island

The recipe for a perfect summer night out is available every Friday night in July and August thanks to a partnership between the Norwalk Seaport Association, Mama’s Boy restaurant and the Norwalk Parking Authority. “Maritime Cruise and Cuisine” Fridays are returning for a third year offering participants a cruise around the Norwalk Islands followed by dinner at Mama’s Boy and convenient, safe parking at the Maritime Garage.

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The Maritime Cruise and Cuisine package includes a Norwalk Harbor sunset cruise with the Norwalk Seaport Association’s “CJ Toth” ferry, leaving from Sheffield Island Dock (located on the corner of Water St and Washington St) at 6:00 pm and returning at 8:00 pm. Guests then walk one block to Mama’s Boy Restaurant, featuring a gourmet twist on Southern food, located at 19 North Water Street, for a three-course meal. The package price is $57 per person plus reduced price parking of $2 for the evening at the Maritime Garage. Cruise and Cuisine Fridays run through August 29th.

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The Norwalk Seaport Association is also offering up plenty of family fun in late July and early August with the pirates at the lighthouse! The Pirates are coming to Sheffield Island on July 26 and 27 and August 2 and 3. Pirate Weekend activities are free, but participants must purchase round-trip ferry tickets to Sheffield Island. Tickets to the island are $22.00 for adults, $12.00 for children ages 4-12 and $5.00 for children age 3 and under, plus applicable service charge.

Bird watching Tours run through August 10 that offers visitors the experience to understand and explore the importance of Norwalk Islands and it’s many migratorial bird species. Larry Flynn, a master wildlife conservationist with DEEP will conduct these informative tours.

Scenic Cruises to Sheffield Island are offered through September. Trips to the island take visitors through the historic Norwalk Harbor area to the Island that offers unique views of the shoreline, a tour of the lighthouse and the chance to explore the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge or picnic on the beach. Tickets can be purchased online or at the dock. Remember to wear comfortable shoes with a closed heal or back strap; flip-flops are not allowed due to safety concerns.

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The boat leaves from the Sheffield Island Lighthouse dock located at the corner of North Water Street and Washington Street in Historic South Norwalk. Parking is available adjacent to the dock and at the Norwalk Maritime Center Garage.

For information and reservations, please call the Norwalk Seaport Association, 203-838-9444 or buy tickets online at www.seaport.org.

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.

EXCITING HANDS-ON ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS ON LONG ISLAND SOUND THIS SUMMER

Oceanic Research Vessel
Oceanic Research Vessel

Go aboard The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s research vessel this summer to journey out onto Long Island Sound and discover first-hand “what’s down there?”

The Aquarium’s hands-on Marine Life Study Cruises offers exciting introductions to fish, crabs, skates and other animals brought up right out of the water and onto the research vessel Oceanic for examination.

The study cruises will depart on Saturdays at 1 p.m. through June 29 and will push off at 1 p.m. daily in July and August.

“Before people can be inspired to take actions to preserve and protect Long Island Sound, they first must understand what animals are in the Sound and how complex, diverse and alive this marine environment is,” said Jamie Alonzo, the Aquarium’s director of education. “Our best exhibits within the Aquarium can’t top the immediacy and impact of seeing dozens of animals come up out of the water right in front of your eyes.”

During each 21/2-hour Marine Life Study Cruise, animals are brought onboard 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, skates, lobsters, sea stars, squid and always a few surprises.

Study Cruise aboard the Oceanic
Study Cruise aboard the Oceanic

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.

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 of physical and biological features available online to teachers and researchers.

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.

“Boat rides are always great for some family fun, but the animal encounters and learning opportunities make our study cruises even more memorable,” Alonzo said.

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 weekday charters for schools on field trips, summer camps, Scouts and other groups at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

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, go to www.maritimeaquarium.org or call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206. For area information www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com

Kayak to Cockenoe Island on Aug. 18

On Saturday, Saturday, August 18, from 1-3:30 pm the Westport Historical Society is hosting their 3rd annual kayak tour to Cockenoe Island lead by author David Park. The tour group will meet at Longshore Sailing School, Longshore Park, in Westport Connecticut. The cost to participate is $20 for non-members of the Historical Society and $18 for Members. The Raindate is August 19. Kayak rentals are available from Longshore Sailing School, for reservations, call 203-226-4646. Intermediate level kayak ability is required.

Cockenoe Island, is a 28 acre island one mile off the coast of Westport. The tour will be led by David Park, board member of the Norwalk River Watershed Association and author of the guidebook “Kayaking in and around the Norwalk Islands.” This year, the tour is being offered in conjunction with the Westport Historical Society’s current exhibit “The Sound and the Saugatuck” which runs through September 1st.
Cockenoe Island is open to the public thanks to the hundreds of Westport residents and town officials who fought against the proposed construction of a nuclear power plant back in 1967. The plan was brought forward by the United Illuminating Company who had purchased the island a year earlier from the Smith family, the owners of the island at the time. After the plan was defeated, the town of Westport purchased the island as open space and it is now enjoyed by all types of recreational users and nature enthusiasts. The acquisition was heralded as a significant conservation victory for the nation by Life Magazine.

The tour group will land on the island for a stroll and hear about how the Saugatuck River watershed effects the water quality of Long Island Sound and wildlife of the Norwalk Islands. Cockenoe Island is of particular interest because of the current conservation efforts and successful nesting colonies of egrets, herons and terns

Copies of “Kayaking in and around the Norwalk Islands” is available for $10 at the WHS Remarkable Gift Shop, 25 Avery Place in downtown Westport.

About the Westport Historical Society

The Westport Historical Society, founded in 1889, is an educational organization dedicated to preserving, presenting and celebrating the history of Westport, Connecticut. It is committed to increasing awareness of the importance of preserving our town’s heritage and its historic buildings and landmarks.

Wheeler House is the Society’s headquarters, at 25 Avery Place, Westport, Connecticut, was purchased in 1981. The house, built in 1795, was remodeled in the Italianate style in the 19th Century and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Connecticut Register of Historic Places. The house has three Victorian Period rooms and a gift shop. The only octagonal-roof, cobblestone barn in Connecticut, which is on the property, was completely restored over a ten-year period and houses the Museum of Westport History displaying a diorama of the town as it looked toward the end of the 19th Century. For additional information on programs visit www.westporthistory.org.

Explore the Shore and the Sound at the Bruce Museum Seaside Center

Bruce Museum Seaside Center

The Bruce Museum Seaside Center is an environmental and cultural facility located in the Innis Arden Cottage on Greenwich Point, one of the East Coast’s most scenic coastlines. During summer months, Seaside Center personnel encourage Point visitors to drop-in and explore the local shore and marine life.

Daily activities at the Seaside Center may include guided nature walks which incorporate the geology and ecology of Greenwich Point; study and identification of Greenwich Point flora and fauna; marine organism anatomy dissections; plankton viewing with microscopes; arts and crafts; and much more! Guests can also enjoy the Seaside Center’s facilities at their own leisurely pace viewing the dioramas, interactive exhibits, and live specimens in the marine-life touch tank and aquariums.

Open through September 2, with special events scheduled throughout the year, regular hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Beach passes are required for entrance into Greenwich Point. Fees for non-residents are $5 per person plus $20 for parking. For additional information call the Bruce Museum at 203 869-0376 or visit the website at www.brucemuseum.org.

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.