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Despite Looming Closures, Ferries Still Crisscross Connecticut's Waters

Even as two beloved ferry routes find themselves on the chopping block, others — both public and private — remain.

Several state-run ferry services are about to be sunk, but for those still yearning to glide across Connecticut's waters, several private-run options remain.

In 1917, Connecticut assumed operation of ferry service between Chester and Hadlyme. Depending on the status of state funding, that route may cease operation Aug. 25.

The summer service has never been profitable, particularly since the East Haddam Bridge was built, said Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Transportation. 

The same fate awaits ferry service between Glastonbury and Rocky Hill, which dates back to 1655. Between the two, 10 ferry workers will be laid off, according to ConnDOT.

Still, ferries remain all along the coast and up the Connecticut River.

The Norwalk Seaport Association’s Friends of the Norwalk Islands offers trips and tours of Sheffield Island and the 10-room lighthouse, which was built in 1868.

"We’re unique, we’re not just a ferry ride," Greg Groomrigian, Sheffield Island Lighthouse Caretaker, said. "We give you a tour of the lighthouse, the caretaker's cottage, and the history."

It costs $22 round-trip for adults, $20 for seniors and members of the Norwalk Seaport Association, $12 for children ages 4-12, and $5 for children ages 3 and younger. There are also Thursday evening clambakes and Wednesday evening sunset harbor cruises.

With more people looking for entertainment and recreation close to home, Sheffield Island is becoming ever more popular, Groomrigian said.

"We’ve definitely picked up in business a little bit. We’ve definitely become a destination for the public," the light keeper said.

For those who can't resist the combination of history and water, several charter boats offer tours of the Thimble Islands. The Great Wisconsin Glacier formed these islands more than 10,000 years ago. Today Captain Bob Milne takes people aboard the Volsunga IV. During the 45-minute narrated tour, passengers will learn local lore, including rumors that Captain William Kidd once visited.

And the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferry might want to brace for some competition. The City of New Haven is hoping to establish its own commercial ferry service to go between New Haven and Long Island. If successful, it would join 12 such services already operating in the sound.

Further down the coast, Greenwich offers two ferries. However, only those with a valid town beach pass can avail themselves of the island beach ferry, which carries people to both Little Captain Island and Great Captain Island. 

The first is a 20-mintue-ferry ride that takes people. The second town operated ferry ride lasts about 30-minutes. Both islands have picnic grounds.

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