You’ve Got Some Op­tions On The Lower Con­necti­cut River

Soundings - - Local Knowledge - By Steve Knauth

The lower Con­necti­cut River has been called one of the last great places on Earth. For boaters who’d like to ex­plore the re­gion, Old Say­brook, at the river’s mouth, and Es­sex, 6 miles up­stream, are good places to start.

Old Say­brook, set­tled in 1635, is a bustling town of 10,000 of­fer­ing ev­ery­thing from fast food to fine din­ing, pop­u­lar shops to the per­form­ing arts, all within easy dis­tance of its many mari­nas. Es­sex, long ago a part of the Old Say­brook colony, re­tains its New Eng­land charm and has been voted one of Amer­ica’s best small towns. The quiet, tree-lined streets and beau­ti­ful New Eng­land homes make it a won­der­ful walk­ing town. Es­sex is also home to one of the most scenic har­bors on the river, while three mari­nas pro­vide just about any ser­vice a boater might re­quire.

En­ter the Con­necti­cut River be­tween the two break­wa­ters off Say­brook Point, marked by the Say­brook Break­wa­ter Light. The 410-mile river spills into Long Is­land Sound with a lot of force on an out­go­ing tide, so use cau­tion on your ap­proach. Note that the east side of the lower river is shal­low and dot­ted with old stone shad piers just be­low the sur­face; pay strict at­ten­tion to the chan­nel mark­ers as you cruise up­stream.

Boaters will come first to the Say­brook Point wa­ter­front and the up­scale Har­bor One and Say­brook Point mari­nas. On the east bank of the river, Old Lyme Dock Co. pro­vides tran­sient dock­age. Con­tin­u­ing north past the Be­tween the Bridges ma­rina and S&S Marine, you’ll come to Ferry Point, home to the Brewer Ferry Point and Is­land Cove mari­nas.

Th­ese fa­cil­i­ties of­fer some ser­vices, in­clud­ing fuel. ( A West Marine is a few miles from the river in Old Say­brook.) Be­tween the Bridges and the Old Lyme Dock Co. can ser­vice yachts of 100 feet and larger.

Once you’re set­tled in, there’s plenty to do. The Katharine Hep­burn Cul­tural Arts Cen­ter (named for the town’s most fa­mous res­i­dent) presents con­certs, the­ater productions and clas­sic films. Say­brook Point Inn & Spa of­fers a re­lax­ing day of treat­ments. Take a walk along the 17acre Fort Say­brook Mon­u­ment Park, or kayak the river’s estuaries and back­wa­ter streams.

Hun­gry? Try the up­scale Fresh Salt, at Say­brook Point; or­der lob­ster rolls and fresh shell­fish at Liv’s Shack, at Har­bor One, or at Liv’s Oys­ter Bar on Main Street; or head over to Johnny Ad’s, serv­ing fried seafood, burg­ers and hot dogs since 1957. Main Street’s Pa­per­back Café has great breakfasts, the aptly named Penny Lane Pub of­fers ca­sual fare, and Pizza Works is fa­mous for its model train lay­out — and, of course, pizza.

For pro­vi­sions, there’s a Stop & Shop and a Wal­mart in town. Main Street is home to a va­ri­ety of shops sell­ing ev­ery­thing from books and jew­elry to clothes and cof­fee. Drop by the leg­endary Ted’s Bait & Tackle for fish­ing sup­plies — and some valu­able lo­cal knowl­edge. Rivers End Tackle is an­other op­tion for an­glers.

Es­sex is as peace­ful as Old Say­brook is busy, and that makes it a per­fect des­ti­na­tion for those who want to lay back and re­lax. Visit the

The ma­rina at Say­brook Point Inn & Spa can ac­com­mo­date boats from 13 to 140 feet.

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