The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is offering a rare close-up look at five historic lighthouses in central Long Island Sound during a special boat outing on Saturday, March 5.
Participants aboard the Aquarium’s unique new hybrid-electric research vessel, R/V Spirit of the Sound, will make passes by five century-old beacons: Peck Ledge, Greens Ledge and Sheffield Island lighthouses in Norwalk, Penfield Reef Lighthouse in Fairfield and Stratford Shoal (Middle Ground) Light.
This 4.5-hour Central Long Island Sound Lighthouse Cruise departs at 10:00 a.m. Advance reservations are required.
“As we see firsthand with our annual ‘Festival of Lighthouses Contest,’ people have a special fondness for lighthouses,” said Tom Naiman, the Aquarium’s director of education.
“There’s a respect there for the role that lighthouses play in our maritime history, and an appreciation for the different ways that they were designed and built. These cruises are a great chance to see these unique structures up close and from the water.”
The cruises will pass by:
• Greens Ledge Lighthouse, a cast-iron “sparkplug” lighthouse southwest of the Norwalk harbor (and south of the Five Mile River). It was built in 1902 and automated in 1972.
• Sheffield Island Lighthouse, one of Norwalk’s iconic structures. Built in 1868, the granite-block lighthouse with a white lantern tower was deactivated in 1902 upon the debut of Greens Ledge Lighthouse. The Norwalk Seaport Association bought the lighthouse in 1986 and re-lit it in 2011, though not for navigational purposes.
• Peck Ledge Lighthouse, a cast-iron “sparkplug” lighthouse at the southeast approach to Norwalk Harbor. It was built in 1906 and automated in 1933. A recent online auction to place the lighthouse – but not the light’s operations – into private hands drew a top bid of $235,000.
• Penfield Reef Lighthouse, a charming granite-block lighthouse with a short lantern tower rising from the white mansard roof. It was built in the early 1870s and automated in 1971.
• Stratford Shoal Lighthouse, a granite-block house whose location is still debated: is it actually in Connecticut or New York? Built about 8 miles off Bridgeport on the Sound’s dangerous Middleground Shoal in 1877, the light was automated in 1970.
All the lighthouses are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Maritime Aquarium educators will offer details, histories and anecdotes about the lighthouses, and also point out the Sound’s visiting winter waterfowl.
Binoculars will be provided. Naiman said the Aquarium’s lighthouse cruises are a special photo opportunity for both lighthouse buffs and bird-watchers, so bring your camera!
R/V Spirit of the Sound has a climate-controlled cabin and two deck levels. The country’s only research vessel with hybrid-electric propulsion, the $2.7 million, 64-foot catamaran is bigger, quieter and greener than the Aquarium’s former boat.
More lighthouse cruises targeting these same beacons are planned for April 2 and May 7.
Tickets for a Central Long Island Sound Lighthouse Cruise are $70 (or $60 for Aquarium members) and include a box lunch.
In addition, the Aquarium’s Western Long Island Sound Lighthouse Cruises will visit eight historic lighthouses on March 26, April 23 and May 28. Tickets for these six-hour outings are $75 (or $65 for Aquarium members) and include a box lunch.
Advance purchase is required for all Aquarium lighthouse cruises. Reserve tickets online at www.maritimeaquarium.org or call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206.
The Maritime Aquarium is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to educate visitors about – and to create stewards for – Long Island Sound. It accomplishes this by allowing visitors to get close to more than 250 species native to the Sound and its watershed, including sharks, seals, sea turtles, river otters, jellyfish and other animals. One of the top places for family fun in Connecticut, the Aquarium also features hands-on educational programs and displays, public study cruises out onto the Sound, and Connecticut’s largest IMAX movie theater, with a screen that’s six stories high. TripAdvisor.com reviewers rate The Maritime Aquarium as one of the Top 25 aquariums in the U.S. and the best aquarium in New England.