Millions of years ago, glaciers buckled, folded and fractured the bedrock shores of what is now Long Island Sound. This ancient activity underlies the crook-and-cranny beauty that attracts boaters from around the world. It’s a popular body of water, yet you can still find quiet pockets surrounded by the bounty of nature, particularly with the right timing. Here are some of the anchorages that many enjoy and suggestions for when it may be best to hoist the anchor, secure a mooring and gunkhole by dinghy while boating on Long Island Sound.
From Algonquin Indian paddlers to Great Gatsby-style parties in the Roaring ’20s to the current protected bird colonies, these islands have held the hands of time. While boating on Long Island Sound, pay careful attention to the many hazards and substantial tide swings. Most of the islands are privately owned, but Chimon and Sheffield are part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and open to the public (except for nesting restrictions from April 1 to Aug. 15). There is an anchorage bowl southeast of Chimon Island. On the island’s northwest, shallow-draft boats anchor at the beach while others stay farther out. Northwest of Sheffield Island, which is exposed to the southwest, is still a nice place to drop the hook.
Old Saybrook and Essex
Swallows swarm in fall, bald eagles nest in winter, and shad school in spring. In summer, the Connecticut River is all about boating on Long Island Sound. The southernmost towns provide some nice spots to anchor. Grab a mooring or gunkhole in your dinghy. Old Saybrook has several special anchorages, one of which is above the highway bridge between Ferry Point and Calves Island. The town of Old Lyme has two transient moorings in the anchorage north of Calves Island (two-night maximum). Near Essex, there is a short-term spot east of Nott Island (shoaling has been reported so watch your depths). For a longer stay, bypass the anchor and contact Brewer Dauntless Marina (860-767-8267) or Saybrook Point Marina, Inn & Spa in Old Saybrook (860-395-3080).
Hamburg Cove and Selden Creek
The shores become even more bucolic as you continue up the Connecticut River. Stunning Hamburg Cove in Lyme has always attracted those looking for a quiet place or hoping to rendezvous with friends. It is currently filled with moorings, so you should contact the harbormaster (860-434-0028) for your best options. To the north, Selden Creek makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time. Its natural protection makes it a popular hurricane hole for locals. The creek runs around Selden Island and has deep water for anchoring, yet many find it too narrow for swing room. To truly appreciate the environs, stay at a marina in Deep River or Chester Point Marina (860-526-1661) and gunkhole around the island by dinghy.
Noank and Mystic
World-renowned seaports, fresh seafood and quaint villages define Noank and Mystic. One of the quietest anchorages is east of private Ram Island (it can get lumpy from easterlies). If you’re up for a two-mile ride, you can dinghy to the municipal dock at the Mystic drawbridge. An anchorage closer to shore is across the channel from Ford’s Lobster (860-536-2842), which also offers transient moorings. The anchorage just above Mystic Seaport holds about 4 feet of water, according to the harbormaster. The maximum stay is seven days, and there is a dinghy dock if you are visiting the Seaport. Moorings are available at Noank Village Boatyard (860-536-1770) or Noank Shipyard (860-536-9651). Nearby Bebee Cove and Palmer Cove are beautiful shallow water gunkholes to visit by dinghy.
Nine-mile-long Fishers Island has a storied history as a retreat for the rich and famous and is still predominantly private. Often associated with nearby Connecticut, it is actually a hamlet of New York. You can enjoy the beauty of this little island by anchoring in the designated anchorage at West Harbor outside the mooring field. You usually find ample room, and transients are welcome to use the dinghy dock at the Fishers Island Yacht Club. The east side of uninhabited Flat Hammock is a nice spot, and you can dinghy to shore for a swim. East Harbor can be a serene place for smaller boats.
Northern Shores of Long Island
Port Washington has honed the art of welcoming boaters. Cruising boaters rave about this place. Tucked well into Manhasset Bay, you can anchor in the federal anchorage outside the mooring field or use one of the 20 town mooring balls (free for two days). Check in on VHF 9 or with Port Washington Water Taxi (VHF 9 or 516-455-0411), which services the entire harbor. Amenities abound, whether stocking up on supplies or heading over for a meal at the landmark dock-and-dine Louie’s Grill & Liquors, you will have access to it all.
The Sand Hole at Lloyd Point
This protected dual-basin just north of Huntington was dredged into the spit and is surrounded by Caumsett State Park with the exception of one private 20,000-square-foot Tudor mansion. It attracts many a mariner on weekends. The surrounding area is largely a bird sanctuary and private property, so be sure to heed the signs if you explore in your dinghy. The entrance is tricky. Deeper draft vessels should enter at high tide only, and you may want to follow another boat in if it’s your first time. Watch for the bar north of the entrance. The two basins inside are joined by a narrow channel. There is good holding ground in both but more depth in the southern basin. Depths in the narrow inside channel can go as low as three feet.
Not far from the Sand Hole, you may want to head past the fun little hamlet of Oyster Bay and into West Harbor, a well-used protected anchorage. The enforced 5 mph speed limit in the harbor maintains safety. These waters are part of the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a winter migration area for waterfowl such as black ducks, canvasback and longtailed ducks. In summer, they are replaced by another type of water-lover — boaters. Although you won’t find much in the way of shore access, the surroundings are tranquil. Even in the warmer climes, you see plenty of feathered friends, the protected piping plover likely among them.
As you approach Huntington Bay, to port is a long prong of beach that wraps around Eaton’s Neck Basin, a lovely anchorage bordered by nothing more than nature and one of the oldest Coast Guard stations in the country. You cannot go ashore as the land is now a bird sanctuary. Both the Coast Guard station and the historic Eaton’s Neck Lighthouse remain active. The entrance is narrow, and buoys are not charted (be sure to pay attention to them, though). There are good depths inside. The Coast Guard station and lighthouse horn that blasts above you in fog add a lively twist to this gunkhole.
Price Bend (Sand City)
South of Eaton’s Neck Basin, round the West Beach spit and anchor in Price Bend, also known as Sand City. The area is popular with local boaters. Anchoring is possible around Sand City Island all the way up to the cove, but be mindful of shallow spots and shoals and rocks. The area is home to Hobart Park, which is reachable by road and has a large parking lot and public boat ramp all the way up in the most protected part of the cove.
The waters near Port Jefferson have plenty of action with ferries that transit hourly to and from Connecticut. Note that MountMisery Cove on the east side of the harbor, which used to be a popular anchoring spot, is now largely filled with moorings. A better bet for anchoring is to head west behind Old Field Beach where you find deep water, but you have to watch for a number of areas where mounds can bring depths as low as three feet. If the bustle in town is enticing you, bypass anchoring and head straight to Port Jeff where you can get a transient mooring from either the Port Jefferson Launch Service (631-796-4462) or the Port Jefferson Yacht Club (631-473-9890). Call ahead or contact either on VHF 68. For longer stays, dock at Danford’s Hotel, Marina & Spa (631-928-5200).
Mattituck Creek is a lovely winding waterway with marshland, wading birds and osprey. However, don’t get too caughtup in the surroundings, as you have to pay attention to the buoys in the narrow channel. The end of your journey boating on Long Island Sound brings you to the charming hamlet of Mattituck. There is a federal anchorage just off Strong’s Water Club and Marina (631-298-4739). You can land your dinghy at the town dock or opt for transient dockage at the resort-like marina. The area is just on the other side of Peconic Bay, and a short walk or bike ride gets you to the village with restaurants and shops; wineries are nearby.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used for navigation. All mariners should use up-to-date information from the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and check local regulations on anchoring and shore access.