|Destination: Milford, Connecticut|
Charles Island has had several owners, and American Yacht Club had once planned to build a clubhouse there before opting for Milton Point in Rye, NY. The United Illuminating Company also owned the island and was considering it as the site of a power plant. UI donated the island to the State of Connecticut in 1981, and it’s now a nature preserve and part of Silver Sands State Park.
Navigation & Anchorages
Use the tide tables for Bridgeport, CT. High tide at Milford Harbor is eight minutes earlier and low tide is ten minutes earlier. Mean tidal range is 6.6 feet. If you’re making your approach from the east, you’ll see Pond Point and R N “12,” and Welches Point and R N “2.” There are rocks in this area and you should stay south of both nuns. Approaching from the south or west, be aware that there are shoals to the east and south of Charles island, between Fl R 4s BELL R “16” and GC “1.”
There’s a good anchorage in the body of water known as The Gulf on the north side of the island, which provides shelter from the prevailing southwesterlies. Watch out for the numerous oyster stakes in this area, and be advised that this anchorage doesn’t afford good protection in a south or southeasterly blow. The water here ranges from seven to 20 feet deep, and the bottom is hard sand. At high tide, you might see local boaters crossing “The Bar” that separates Charles Island from the mainland, but you should play it safe by going around the south end of the island on your approach to the harbor entrance.
Milford Harbor offers safe refuge in bad weather. Two jetties flank the entrance to the well-marked channel, and, you might be greeted by a wave from a fisherman or two as you enter. The 100-foot wide channel was recently dredged to a depth of nine feet at MLW past Wilcox Park (seven feet MLW at the very top), although there may be only two feet just outside the channel at low tide.
Although most of Milford’s shoreside attractions are on the western side of the harbor, you’ll see the entrance to Gulf Pond on the right side of the channel. Although there’s no anchorage in this shallow gunkhole, you can explore its quiet waters in your dinghy at high tide and it’s an excellent place for birdwatching.
The first set of slips you’ll encounter to port belongs to the Milford Yacht Club. The club has dock space and freestanding docks in the mooring field available for transients, as well as showers, a restaurant (“gentlemen shall wear jackets while seated in the main dining room for Saturday dining”), a bar and snack bar. For overnight accommodations, contact the dock office at 203-877-5598 or on VHF channel 68. MYC’s full-time Dock Master Timothy Mulherin and his staff will be happy to assist you. Visiting boaters are invited to enjoy the club’s large pool, and there’s also a kiddie pool for the wee ones. Milford YC is the home of one of the largest junior sailing programs on Long Island Sound.
Further up the harbor, you’ll pass the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration building that houses the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Established in 1931, the Milford Laboratory performs aquaculture and habitat-related work. The aquaculture program includes studies of the culture of fish and shellfish to develop methods suitable for commercial use as well as stock enhancement and restoration.
Just beyond the NOAA site is Port Milford Marina, a full service marina with 10 transient slips (eight feet at MLW), showers, a 35-ton travel lift and sailboat specialists that know everything from the bottom of your keel to the top of your mast, including certified diesel mechanics. It’s an easy walk to Milford Yacht Club, beaches, or town. Contact Bruce Kuryla and staff at 203-301-2222 or VHF channel 68 if you are in need of a repair or a just a place to spend the night.
Port Milford occupies land that was once owned by submarine pioneer Simon Lake. One of Lake’s designs, the Explorer, built in 1933 for commercial deep-sea work, is on display at the Milford Landing Marina (see below). In the marsh at Port Milford is an abandoned modified diving bell that was designed to search for sunken gold in New York City’s East River.
Spencer’s Marina, past Port Milford on the starboard side, has a few transient slips and can accommodate boats up to 45 feet (six feet at MLW). They have showers, gasoline and a 25-ton travelift, and can handle a variety of repairs. You can reach them at 203-874-4173. Milford Harbor Marina, past Spencer’s on the port side, has ten transient slips for boats up to 50 feet (eight feet at MLW), a repair facility, gas & diesel, ice, a laundry, showers and a pumpout station. They monitor VHF channel 68 and their phone number is 203-878-2900.
Still further up the harbor on the port side is Milford Boat Works, a full service marina with transient dockage (eight feet at MLW), gas & diesel, ice, showers, laundry and a pumpout station. Their Ship’s Store is a well-stocked chandlery with a knowledgeable staff. Other facilities include gas, diesel, ice, pump out, showers, laundry and travel lift. Nancy Bodick and staff monitor VHF channel 68, or you can call them at 203-877-1475.
Milford Lisman Landing Marina, at the head of the harbor, is an all-transient marina (the only one of its kind on the East Coast) with 40 slips that can accommodate boats up to 65 feet (eight feet at MLW). Ray Swift and crew have created a beautiful facility, with 30 & 50-amp service, ice, water, a tennis court, laundry, showers, beautifully landscaped grounds with a barbecue & picnic area (they supply the charcoal), an on-site ice cream stand called Scoopy Doo’s, internet access, concierge service, complimentary morning coffee & newspaper, and a pumpout station. Milford Lisman Landing is a very popular destination, with several owner’s associations using it as a base for their annual (and sometimes more frequent) rendezvous. Reservations are essential for weekends during the season.
This marina is home to a few commercial clammers and lobstermen, and you’ll often be able buy the catch of the day. Visitors can enjoy the picnic tables, rose garden and landscaped walkway along the harbor leading up to the Hotchkiss Memorial Footbridge that crosses the harbor offering a breathtaking view of the waterfall underneath the memorial bridge. Across the bridge is Fowler Field and a launch ramp, tennis and basketball courts, library and playground. Milford Lisman Landing Marina monitors VHF channel 9 and their phone number is 203-874-1610.
Among the possible destinations for a dinghy expedition are the aforementioned Gulf Pond and Charles Island, or the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center, located at Milford Point,. Another option for getting there is to bring a bike or rent one in town (see below). Opened in 1995, it’s located on Cedar Beach, an 8.4-acre barrier beach (the town’s western-most strand) situated next to an 840-acre tidal estuary at the mouth of the Housatonic River. Of the 399 bird species known to nest in Connecticut, at least 300 have been observed from the Audubon Center’s decks and towers. For more information on programs and hours of operation, call 203-878-7440 or visit ctaudubon.org.
Downtown Milford, “A small city…with a big heart,” is a short walk from any of the town’s marinas. Milford Green, the secondlongest town green in New England (surpassed only by Boston’s) is a popular gathering place for residents and visitors, bordered by restaurants, shops, a fine arts center, art and antique shops and coffee shops. In the center of downtown is the Milford Metro North train station, just a block from the docks. Not only do crews and weekend guests catch up with a boat in Milford, New York City dwellers have found Milford an attractive homeport as it is one of the last stops on Metro North. Milford has a wide variety of restaurants. Several of them are within a short walk of the harbor, and close enough to one another that you can enjoy a pre-dinner stroll as your crew decides on the night’s meal. To reach the many dining establishments located beyond walking distance, call the Weekend Area Valet Express (W.A.V.E.) Shuttle at 203-223-0842. Between June 2 and September 2, this free shuttle will take you to restaurants, hotels, and shopping areas. The W.A.V.E. shuttle runs on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5 pm until 1 am. They’ll pick you up at Milford Boat Works or Milford Lisman Landing.
- Archie Moore’s Bar & Restaurant 15 Factory Lane, 203-876-5088 Casual pub-style dining, outdoor patio
- Bistro Basque 13 River Street, 203-878-2092 Spanish Tapas, French Bistro, outdoor patio
- Breakfast & Lunch at the Corner 109 River Street, (Mon.-Fri 7am-2, Sat. & Sun. 7am – 12:30pm)
- Cabo 1 Schooner Lane, 203-882-1999 Mexican & Southwestern cuisine, outdoor patio
- Café Atlantique 33 River Street, 203-882-1602 Fresh bistro fare, wine and expresso bar, breakfast, lunch & dinner, outdoor patio
- Citrus 56 South Broad Street, 203-877-1138 American/Caribbean cuisine, outdoor patio
- Franco’s Pizza 58 River Street, Milford, CT, 203-877-6180
- H. Mangels Confectioner 109 River Street Gourmet Gifts & Confections, handcrafted truffles
- Johnny Ray’s Restaurant 1015 Bridgeport Avenue, 203-877-2200 Modern American cuisine, outdoor patio
- Liquid Lunch 84 South Broad Street, 203-877-7687 Soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts
- Park Lane Deli 50 Broad Street, 203-878-1498
- Peter Pan Pizza 12 Broad Street, 203-878-9224
- Rainbow Gardens 117 North Broad Street, 203-878-2500 Restaurant and Bed & Breakfast, country style lunch and dinner
- River Street Restaurant 109 River Street, 203-882-0071 Italian cuisine, BYOB ($3 per bottle charge), cash or check only
- SBC Restaurant & Brewery 33 New Haven Avenue, 203-874-BEER American pub food and homemade brews, outdoor patio
- Scoopy Doos Ice Cream At Milford Lisman Landing Marina
- Scribners 31 Village Road, 203-878-7019 Woodmont section of Milford, worth a cab ride or call Scribner for a ride – he may be able to help. Great Seafood
- Seven Seas Restaurant 16 New Haven Avenue, 203-877-7327 Casual seafood and American pub dining. Voted best fish & chips
- Stonebridge 50 Daniel Street, 203-874-7947 American fare featuring seafood, beef, poultry and pasta dishes, outdoor patio
- Taste of Thai Restaurant 22-24 Broad Street, 203-876-2299 Lunch, dinner, take-out
Places of Interest
The Canvas Patch, landmark on Milford’s Green for 30 years, sells unique gifts including totes, hats, handbags, flags, windsocks, glass, pottery, and Milford memorabilia including afghans, collectibles and home décor items. Contact Sue for more information at 203-878-7505.
For your photographic needs, visit Milford Photo, a local institution located just up from the harbor on Factory Street. From film and batteries to processing and digital imaging, Milford Photo has it all, including a friendly, professional staff.
If you want to rent a bike or kayak, walk up to the Green to Tony’s Bikes and Sports, on the corner of Broad and High Streets. Owned and operated by Tony Libretti since 1991, the shop sells several bike brands and Perception Kayaks, including fully kitted-out fishing models. Bike rentals are $25 per day, and kayaks are $30; calling ahead (203-878-5380) to reserve a kayak is strongly recommended.
Milford Celebrates the Arts!
Artists and art lovers gravitate to Milford, and with seasonal art shows on the Green and established local antique shops and art galleries, regional artists have several venues to display and sell their creations. The Milford Fine Arts Council’s Center for the Arts, located at 40 Railroad Avenue South (at the railroad station, just steps from the Green and a block from the harbor), offers a wide range of cultural activities and events throughout the year. Stop in to view the exhibits at the Firehouse Art Gallery, or perhaps a play at the Eastbound Theater or live music on Friday nights at the Performance Coffeehouse. The Milford Fine Arts Council also hosts the New England Art & Crafts Festival. Contact them at 203-878-6647 or visit milfordarts.org.
The 35th Annual Milford Oyster Festival, on August 14 & 15, is perhaps the town’s most highly anticipated event of the season. You’ll find children’s entertainment, carnival rides, outrigger canoe & kayak races, the Liberty Schooner Cruise, more than 200 arts & crafts vendors on the Green, the Classic Car Hop featuring pre-50s antique, 50s customs and 60s & 70s muscle cars and classic motorcycles and live music at Milford Lisman Landing Marina, food vendors, live music by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, local Celtic favorites the Highland Rovers Band, the Aerosmith tribute band Draw the Line, Remember September…and plenty of delectable local oysters from the Wepawaug River’s tidal flats and the Gulf. Call 203-878-5363 or visit milfordoysterfestival.com.
The Milford Arts Council’s Annual Sand Sculpture Competition, held in July, is an annual favorite sponsored by the Milford Bank. Hundreds of participants create sculptures from the sands of Walnut Beach. There’s no entry fee other than a non-resident parking fee of $5, so bring a shovel and bucket and have at it. Competition categories include Individual, Family, Friends and Clubs. Trophies and cash prizes are presented in each category, with an overall ‘Best in Competition’ award. For more information, call 203-878-6647 or visit milfordarts.org. ✦
Charles Island: Buried Loot and Curses to Boot
According to legend, a fortune in buried treasure lies under the soil of Charles Island, a 14-acre island that lies just off the coast of Milford. While en route from New York to Boston in 1699, Captain William Kidd visited Milford and may have buried iron chests filled with gold and precious gems on the island. Kidd, who was misled to believe he was to be pardoned by the East India Co. on charges of piracy and murder (offenses for which he was hanged in London two years later) is said to have placed a curse on anyone who tried to dig up the booty before he returned to claim it.
Kidd’s curse was the second of three placed on what was also known as “Hard Luck Island” because of a string of failed enterprises including a tobacco plantation, a fertilizer plant, a hotel and a religious retreat. The first curse is said to have been cast by a Paugussett chief whose daughter was kidnapped, and the third by the sole survivor of five sailors who allegedly discovered the hidden treasure of a Mexican ruler named Guatmozin in a Mexican cave. After returning to Milford with the treasure in 1721, four of the men met horrible deaths. The fifth sailor attempted to hide the loot in the cellar of the Milford Inn, but after it was found by a tavern customer, he is said to have rowed the treasure chest out to the island and buried it, placing a curse on it to prevent future discoveries.
Attempts by professional and amateur treasure hunters to find riches on Charles Island in recent years have yielded nothing. If anything valuable is indeed buried there, those centuriesold curses are apparently still doing their stuff. ✦