New London, on the west bank of the Thames River in South-eastern Connecticut, has a rich maritime history and plenty of attractions for cruising families. This historic seaport, known as the Whaling City, has revitalized its waterfront with improved accommodations for visiting sailors including new transient docks at City Pier and municipal moorings at Waterfront Park. This July, New London will be the final port of call for Op- Sail 2012, with a flotilla of tall ships from around the world ar-riving for a spectacular celebration of sail. Twenty-twelve marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, and New London is celebrating the bicentennial during OpSailCT 2012, which runs concurrently with Sailfest, the city’s big annual festival, the weekend of July 6 - 9.
Navigation & Anchorages Provided by Richardsons' Maptech, reprinted with permission
Use Maptech Chartkit Region 3, Maptech Waterproof Chart-book Long Island Sound, Maptech Waterproof Charts #1 and 7, and Maptech electronic and NOAA paper charts 13213 (1:10,000), 13212 (1:20,000), 12372 (1:40,000) and 13205 (1:80,000). Use tide tables for New London, CT. The paired flashers marking the entrance to the New London Harbor chan-nel are 4.5nm from the entrance to Niantic Bay, 3.3nm from Race Rock, and 4.5nm from the approach to Mystic at Morgan Point. You’re going to run into a lot of military and commer-cial shipping traffic in New London Harbor. Always give the right-of-way to larger and less maneuverable vessels, especially submarines, which will be on the surface until they reach the open Atlantic. Ferries run in and out of the harbor, moving fast and leaving large wakes.
The main channel into the harbor begins at Fl G 2.5s G “1” and Fl R 2.5s R “2.” Between Fl R 2.5s R “2” and Race Point on Fishers Island are two ship anchorages, “E” and “F.” As you head north into the wide-open harbor, you’ll see New London’s Ledge Light (Fl (3) W&R 30s 58ft 14M HORN), a square, brick Victorian building atop a white pier. The light marks a series of ledges that block the harbor. Farther up to the west is the bea-con of the New London Harbor Light, also known as “Pequot Light” (Iso 6s 89ft 14M), with a red sector marking the nearby shoals. The main entrance has 36 to 40 feet of water, with a mean tidal range of only 2.6 feet, so fixed docks are pretty much the rule. From the west, you need not enter the channel at the outer channel buoys unless you have a very deep draft. Keep east of GR C “R” at Rapid Rock and G C “7” off Cormorant Rock at the west entrance to the harbor, to avoid many rocky patches and boulders. Also stay well east of Quinnipeag Rocks, northeast of New London Harbor Light.
Pine Island Channel cuts between Avery Point in Groton and Black Ledge, marked on the north by G C “3” and Fl R 4s BELL R “2’ off Pine Island. *Caution: Pine Island Channel has a 10-foot controlling depth and is used by small boats running between New London and Fishers Island, but it’s best left to those who are familiar with the area. If you do use it, stay well out from Eastern Point to avoid Black Rock as you come into the main channel.
The first good anchorage on the west side of the river (in anything but a strong southerly) is Greens Harbor, marked by White Rock just off the main channel. There’s a 5-mph speed limit throughout the harbor. Be sure to pass south of R N “2” and W Or C marking Hog Back Rocks. Upriver beyond Fort Trumbull is Shaw Cove, with 11 to 15 feet of water. Enter through the railroad swing bridge on the west side of the river; sound one long and one short blast to open the bridge.
Moorings & Dockage
Entering the river, the first moorings to port belong to Thames Yacht Club. This friendly, informal club welcomes transient boaters, and the mooring fee includes access to the club’s showers and galley, and a very nice white sand beach. Thames YC monitors VHF channel 71 and their launch runs from 9 am to 9 pm daily from mid-June until Labor Day. Call 860-383-0017 or log onto thamesyachtclub.org.
Thamesport Marina, two docks upriver from Thames Yacht Club, has 20 transient slips, four moorings, a dinghy dock, dive shop, restrooms, showers, gasoline & diesel and a pumpout station. A BoatUS Cooperating Marina, Thamesport Marina monitors VHF channels 9 and 68. Call 860-437-7022 or (toll-free) 800-882-1151 or visit thamesportmarina.com.
One dock north, Burr’s Marina has 25 transient slips for boats up to 120 feet, as well as six transient moorings, a dinghy dock and launch service, restrooms and showers, a café, tented picnic and barbecue area, repair facilities, ship’s store, laundry and a swimming pool. Burr’s monitors VHF channels 9 and 68 and offers courtesy rides. Call 860-443-8457 or visit burrsmarina.com.
Crocker’s Boatyard is located further north, inside deep and sheltered Shaw’s Cove. Crocker’s has 25 transient slips with a dockage depth of 12 feet and can accommodate boats up to 100 feet. Crocker’s also has a swimming pool, marine supplies, gas & diesel, ice, repair services and Travelifts, and they monitor VHF channel 9. Call 860-443-6304 (toll-free 800-870-1285) or log onto crockersboatyardinc.com.
There are 41 New London City Moorings located at the south end of Waterfront Park in 15 feet of water at low tide. These are Helix moorings that can accommodate boats up to 50 feet. They are available for $35 per night, which includes access to showers and coin operated laundry facilities. The moorings are located off the Custom House, a federal-style grey granite building. Look for the large white “Moorings” sign on the side of the Custom House Pier. Launch service is available during the boating season, and there is also a dinghy dock. Waterfront Park monitors VHF channels 9 and 12. To reserve a mooring, call 860-443-3786.
The newly reconstructed City Pier is just upriver from the Custom House Pier. Look for Union Station, a large brick building built in 1888 that serves as New London’s Transportation Center. The Amtrak station is here, and you’ll almost always find taxis waiting outside. There are new floating docks at City Pier, with free transient dockage for boats up to 100 feet. There is a four-hour time limit for tie-ups, and no overnight dockage. For more information, call Dave Crocker at 860-443-6304. Ferries depart New London for Block Island, RI and Fishers Island, Orient Point and Montauk, NY. The terminal is just north of City Pier. Visit blockislandferry.com, goblockisland.com, fiferry.com and vineyardfastferry.com.
Museums, Historical Sites & Other Attractions
On July 6, “The Rockets’ Red Glare: The War of 1812 in Connecticut: A Bicentennial Exhibit” opens at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, a Neo-Classical building at 625 Williams Street (adjacent to Connecticut College). Featuring artifacts from the Stonington Historical Society, Mystic Seaport, the New London County Historical Society, the New London Maritime Society and the Lyman Allyn, as well as items from other museums and private collections, this exhibit highlights the impact of the War of 1812 on the state and region. The Rockets’ Red Glare runs through December.
The Lyman Allyn has a permanent collection of more than 10,000 paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, furniture and decorative arts, primarily American art from the 18th through 20th Centuries. Hours are 10 am - 5 pm Tuesday through Saturday and 1- 5 pm Sunday. Admission is $5 ($4 for students and seniors). Kids under eight are free. Call 860-443-2545 or visit lymanallyn.org.
Built in 1833, the Custom House Maritime Museum, located at 150 Bank Street and run by the New London Maritime Society, is America’s oldest operating custom house. Designed by federal architect Robert Mills (designer of the Washington Monument), the imposing granite Greek Revival building is fronted by live oak doors hewn from timbers salvaged during the restoration of the world’s oldest commissioned warship, U.S.S. Constitution. A special Amistad exhibit commemorates the role of the Custom House in the lives of those who seized control of the slave ship in 1839. Hours are 1 - 5 pm Tuesday through Sunday through December. Suggested admission donation for adults is $5. Children 14 and under with adult are free. Active duty military personnel are also free. Call 860-447-2501 or visit nlmaritimesociety.org.
Built in 1754, the Shaw Mansion was owned by Nathaniel Shaw, Connecticut’s Naval Agent during the Revolution.
Now the home of the New London Historical Society, it’s at 11 Blinman Street (just off Bank Street next to the Firehouse) a very easy walk from the Custom House. Hours are 1 - 4 pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 am - 4 pm on Saturday, and summer Sundays from 1 - 4 pm. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. Call 860-443-1209 or visit newlondonhistory.org.
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, standing in Parade Plaza at the intersection of State and Bank Streets, is engraved with the names of Revolutionary War privateer ships. Dedicated on the occasion of New London’s 250th anniversary in 1896, the granite obelisk is flanked by male figures of a soldier and sailor and topped by a female representing Peace. Across the street from the monument is Nathan Hale’s Schoolhouse. Hale was Schoolmaster at this one-room, gambrel-roofed schoolhouse from 1774 - ’75, before he became a Connecticut Rangers captain. In 1776, he was caught spying on the British during the Battle of Long Island and hanged at age 21. Legend has it that Connecticut’s State Hero said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Call 860-443-7949 for hours.
Monte Cristo Cottage was the summer home of Eugene O’Neill, America’s only Nobel Prize-winning playwright, and the setting for two of his plays: Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Ah, Wilderness! The cottage, at 325 Pequot Avenue, is open Thursday to Saturday from 12 to 4 pm and Sundays from 1 to 3 pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Admission is $7 ($5 for students, seniors and O’Neill Theater Center members). Call 860-443-0051 for more information.
Fort Trumbull State Park is the site of a pentagonal Fourth Order fortification built on the river between 1839 and ‘52 as part of the U.S. Coastal Defense System. Some of Fort Trumbull cannons are still on display, and the Visitor Center has multimedia theaters and interactive exhibits depicting 225 years of military history and technological advances from the Revolutionary War to the Cold War. Admission is $5, and you can picnic, fish and hike along the Waterfront Walk. Call 860-444-7591.
The U.S. Coast Guard Museum, on the campus of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy at 15 Mohegan Avenue (a short cab ride from downtown), has artifacts from Coast Guard history, models of ships and displays of heroism over the years. The Coast Guard, founded in 1791 as the Revenue Cutter Service, is the oldest continuous maritime service in the United States. Admission is free, with cadet-led and self-guided tours daily. Visit uscga.edu.
Mystic Whaler Cruises runs daysails, dinner cruises and overnight voyages on the Tall Ship Mystic Whaler, a 110-foot replica of a 19th Century cargo schooner. When she’s in port, you’ll find her docked at City Pier. Call 860-447-1249 or (toll-free) 800-697-8420 for their tour and sailing schedule or visit mysticwhaler.com.
Family fun is foremost at Ocean Beach Park, a 50-acre park boasting the whitest sugar-sand beach in New England. You’ll also find an Olympic-size pool, a waterslide, an 18-hole miniature golf, carousel and rides, magic shows, food and ice cream stands and a nature walk. Ocean Beach is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The park hosts a classic car Cruise Night on Mondays and Beach Blanket Movie Nights on Tuesdays, and there’s live music nightly in the summer. Visit ocean-beach-park.com to learn more.
Across the river at 57 Fort Street in Groton, Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park is the site of the Battle of Groton Heights in 1781. The fort has earthen ramparts and antique cannons, as well as the 134-foot Groton Monument, dedicated in 1830 to those who defended the fort. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with free admission. The park is open year-round from 8 am to sunset. Call 860-445-1729 or visit fortgriswold.org.
The U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum & Historic Ship Nautilus, at One Crystal Lake Road in Groton, has America’s finest collection of submarine artifacts. The U.S.S. Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, built in Groton in 1954, is docked at the museum and may be boarded. Admission to the museum and Nautilus is free, and hours are 9 am to 5 pm daily (1- 5 on Tuesdays) from May 15 to October 31. Visit ussnautilus.org or call 800-343-0079.
New London has abundant eateries, from steakhouses, Italian, Thai, Indian, Japanese and Chinese to, of course, seafood. These are a few favorites among many within walking distance of the waterfront, mostly on Bank and State Streets, and in the south end of town along Pequot Avenue. Check your choices at newlondonwaterfrontdistrict.org and newlondonmainstreet.org.
One of New London’s newest fine dining establishments, The Commoner, at 36 Bank Street, serves a mix of American cuisine and has live music on select nights. Call 860-437-3350 or peruse their menu at thecommonernl.com. Muddy Waters Café, at 42 Bank Street, serves breakfast, sandwiches, soup, salads, freshly baked goods and an impressive list of coffee and tea beverages. Call 860-444-2232. Thames River Greenery & Beanery, at 70 State Street, is a unique flower shop that also serves breakfast and lunch, with pastries baked on the premises. Call 860-443-6817 or visit thamesriver.com.
Owned and operated by the Hanafin family in the tradition of the public houses of Ireland, Hanafin’s Public House, at 312 State Street, serves Irish fare and has live music weekly. Learn more at 860-437-9724 or hanafinspub.com. Bean & Leaf, at 13 Washington Street, is a favorite local hangout serv-ing panini sandwiches, soups, salads, teas and their own roasted coffee. They host a jazz trio on Mondays, college talent nights on Tuesdays, singer/songwriter open mics on Wednesdays, and poetry on Thursdays and Sundays. Learn more at bean-leaf.com.
South of the downtown area, Captain Scott’s Lobster House, across from Crocker’s Boatyard at 80 Hamilton Street, is a family-owned seasonal crab shack serving chowder, lobster rolls, clam fritters, fish ‘n chips, lobster bisque and more with a view of New London’s charter fishing fleet from the outdoor picnic tables. Call 860-439-1741, and expect a wait during peak hours at this popular spot. Fred’s Shanty at 272 Pequot Avenue, has been serving the shoreline since 1972, with clams, hot dogs and hamburgers in a casual outdoor setting. Order at 860-447-1301 or check the daily specials at freds-shanty. com. Stash’s Café, at 95 Pequot Avenue (860-443-1095), is a local favorite known for their excellent food. Stash’s has live rock bands every weekend. On the Waterfront, at 250 Pequot Avenue, offers elegant family dining with a great view. Seafood, steaks and pasta are specialties, and you can dock your boat there during your meal. Call 860- 444-2800 or visit onthewaterfrontnl.com.
New London’s 26-block Downtown Historic Waterfront Dis-trict, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, is easy to explore on foot. For a comprehensive list of New London’s many unique shops, visit newlondonmainstreet.org.
Bike Share New London has free loaner bicycles for visit-ing sailors who want wheels to explore further. To borrow one of this volunteer-run organization’s green & yellow bikes for the day, go to the Cornish Parking Garage on the corner of Union Street and Governor Winthrop Boulevard, fill out a waiver and ID form, leave a $10 deposit and select a bike and helmet. For more information, call 860-912-6882 or visit bareiss.net/ bikenewlondon/bikenl.html, where you’ll also find maps, routes and trails. If you can’t find something you need for your boat at one of the marina ship’s stores, Defender Industries’ Warehouse Outlet Store is about three miles from downtown New London at 42 Great Neck Road in Waterford. Call 800-628-8225 or visit defender.com. If you need sail repair, Farrar Sails, at 6 Union Street, will pick them up and deliver them back at area docks. Call 860-447-0382 or visit farrarsails.com. Farr Under Dive Center (860-440-0657) at the same address offers tank refills, SCUBA instruction and equipment.
You’ll need a taxi or bike to get to a supermarket, but basic provisions are available within walking distance of Waterfront Park. Zambala Grocery Store, at 128 State Street, is not your typical convenience store, and you’re likely to be welcomed by the friendly owner, Tenzeng Pama. Call 860-442-0098. Thames River Wine & Spirits at 68 State Street (860-443-9463) has an excellent selection. Brie & Bleu, next door at 70 State Street, is New London’s original cheese market. Call 860-443-6817.
The Gallery at Firehouse Square specializes in maritime art from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Owned by John S. Johnson, the gallery represents over 75 artists, with temporary exhibits of visiting artists in the adjoining Brick Annex. The gallery is hosting the New London Plein Air Competition, with painting dates July 6 - 8 during OpSail, and an exhibition July 8 - August 11. For more information, call 860-443-0344 or visit firehousesquare.com.
Hygienic Art Galleries, at 79-83 Bank Street, comprises an artists’ cooperative, an art park, an amphitheater and the Garden of Hygienia sculpture garden. The 8th Annual Hygienic Art Outdoor Fine Crafts & Arts Festival is July 7 & 8. Visit hygienic.org or call 860-443-8001.
In our Senior Editor’s estimation, the measure of a city is whether or not it has an independent record store and a non-commercial radio station, and New London has ‘em. Crate diggers will want to visit The Telegraph, at 19 Golden Street. Rich & Daphne Lee Martin specialize in new & used vinyl records, local music, books, and other musical and literary ephemera. Call 860-701-0506 or visit telegraphnl.com.
Record collectors – indeed collectors of everything from vintage clothes to antique furniture – could easily spend an afternoon in the remarkable New London Antiques Center at 123 Bank Street. The largest group shop in Southeastern CT, its four floors are packed with a staggering collection of merchandise (including several thousand vinyl LPs) from 120 dealers. Call 860-444-7598.
WCNI 90.9 is New London’s radio station, broadcasting from the Connecticut College campus. Programmers – residents and students alike – let the music do the talking, serving up lengthy, well crafted sets of good music from around the world, along with interviews and performances by regional artists. Call in your requests at 860-439-2850 or listen live at wcniradio.org.
With a first-class theatre and several pubs and clubs within walking distance of the waterfront, New London has a vibrant live music scene. You’ll find plenty of information about venues, area bands and musicians and a schedule of upcoming shows at New London’s online music zine, wailingcity.com.
Occupying a beautifully restored 1920s Moroccan-style movie house at 325 State Street, the Garde Arts Center presents Broadway musicals, opera, film festivals, young people’s theatre and live music including the resident Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra. Visit gardearts.org or call 860-444-7373.
The legendary El ‘N’ Gee Club, a block west of Bank Street at 86 Golden Street, is New London’s home of punk and hardcore, hosting a variety of bands on weekends. Call 860-437-3800 for the schedule. Bank Street Café, at 639 Bank Street, presents local indie, punk, metal, Americana and rock acts every weekend. They have pool tables and darts on the second floor and an outside courtyard. Check their schedule at bankstreetcafe.net.
Guided tours of New London Harbor Light are available on Wednesday afternoons through June. Visitors meet at the Custom House Maritime museum at 1 & 3 pm for a shuttle ride and a guided tour while climbing the 119 steps to the top of Long Island Sound’s oldest and tallest lighthouse.
According to the US Coast Guard, at night more lighthouses can be seen from the lantern of this lighthouse than from any other place on earth. The suggested donation is $35 adults ($15 ages 8 - 14), and the tours raise funds for the light’s restoration. Space is limited to six visitors per tour and advance reservations required. Call 860-447-2501 to make a reservation.
New London’s biggest annual bash is Sailfest. This three-day festival (July 6 - 8) features live entertainment on three stages, arts & crafts, free kids entertainment, a 5K road race, a car show, the Bizarre/Bazaar outdoor art show, more than 100 vendors, and the second largest fireworks display in the Northeast, presented by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. VIP tickets for the Fireworks Experience at the Custom House Pier, including a lobster dinner, beer tent and private bathrooms, are available at the event website. Hours are Friday from 12 to 11 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 11 pm and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. Call 860-444-1879 or 860-443-3786 or visit sailfest.org.
New London is the final port of call for the fleet of international Tall Ships participating in OpSail 2012. New London and Groton will host most major activities from July 6 - 9, but because OpSail 2012 CT will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, other towns where battles occurred, including Essex and Stonington, CT, are also part of the fabric of the celebration. For more information, visit opsail2012ct.org.
Don’t Miss the Boat!, on July 14 & 15, is a two-day maritime-themed event created to sustain the energy of OpSail 2012 CT and Sailfest. For more information, call 860-443-3786 or visit sailfest.org. Fish Tales, Tugs & Sails, on Saturday, July 21, is a free nautical-themed family festival celebrating children’s literature and the environment. Tugboats will be docked at Waterfront Park for boarding, and kids can meet captains and crews. The Tall Ship Mystic Whaler will be open for tours, New London Community Boating will showcase its sailing program with races on the Thames and Project Oceanology will host tours of their research vessel, featuring sea creature touch tanks. There will be reading by several children’s authors, storytelling and live entertainment. Call 860-444-2489 or visit newlondonmainstreet.org.
Editor's Pick: A New London Landmark - “The Dutch”
Not long ago, there was a neighborhood tavern in almost every town in America – a small, friendly place where you could read the papers, play cards, watch a ball game and enjoy a good, simple meal with a glass of beer or wine. Such places are nearly all gone, except for holdouts in New York City and Boston…and 23 Green Street in New London! The Dutch Tavern is New London’s oldest watering hole, and playwright Eugene O’Neill is said to have quenched his thirst here back in 1912 when it was called The Oak, returning after Prohibition when it reopened as the Dutch, in 1934.
Aside from electric lights, pinball machine and TV (often as not with a Red Sox game on), the Dutch has barely changed since the first glass of beer was drawn there a century ago. A black & white photo of Babe Ruth meeting rookie Ted Williams has hung on the wall for decades, and bets are settled with “the book” – a baseball encyclopedia behind the bar. Your hosts, Martha Conn and Peter Detmold, serve terrific homemade soups, chili, sandwiches and burgers at working man’s prices. Call 860-442-3453 or read the fascinating stories at dutch-tavern.com.
Detmold is a founding member of America’s Best Unsigned Band, New London’s own The Reducers. The “Wailing City” music scene owes much to Detmold (guitar & vocals), Hugh Birdsall (guitar & vocals), Steve Kaika (bass & vocals) and Tom Trombley (drums & vocals), who have cranked out high energy – and fun! – rock & roll for decades, proudly “out of step since 1978.” For more information, visit thereducers.com and their own label, Rave On Records, at rave-on-records.com.
Steve Kaika is battling an illness and The Reducers are on hiatus. (Get well soon, Steve!) On Friday, June 15, his friends are banding together for the Benefit For Steve Kaika at Hygienic Art Park on Bank Street. Performers include Rivergods, Dogbite, Ken Atkins & the Honky Tonk Kind, Original Sinners and special guests. Music starts at 6 pm.