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Cruising New London, Connecticut

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New London, Connecticut, might be the most underrated port in all of New England. But as the home of a vibrant art and music community, with historic attractions and featuring some of the best boating and fishing in all of the Northeast, this is a city that should not be overlooked.

The city is located along the banks of the lower Thames River, near Long Island Sound and Fishers Island Sound. It’s also a short cruise from Block Island and eastern Long Island. And New London’s waterfront has experienced a rebirth in recent years as officials have worked to make visiting boaters feel welcome in the city. The result is easy access and plenty of facilities for boaters.

Considered by many to have the finest harbor in Long Island Sound, New London has an inviting wide, deep harbor. But it is busy and frequented by ferries, freighters and the occasional submarine, so pay attention while navigating. To enter the entrance channel, pass close to the outer channel sea buoys, Fl G “1” and Fl R “2.” Be sure to leave New London Ledge Light, on the west side of New London Ledge, to starboard.

New London has a mooring field off Custom House Pier, along with a free dinghy dock and a secure visitor’s center with restrooms and showers, all within easy walking distance of the downtown shops and restaurants. There’s also City Pier, which offers overnight slips on 6 floating docks with power and water. For information on facilities at the piers, call 860-443-3786 or use VHF 9 or 12. Crocker’s Boatyard;  800-870-1285; VHF 9, in Shaw Cove, features transient slips, a fuel dock, haul-out service, repair, WiFi, a pool, laundry, showers and more. Burr’s Marina; 860-443-8457; VHF 9 offers transient slips and moorings, fuel, ice, water, power, WiFi, showers, marine store and laundry. And Thamesport Marina; 860-442-1151, VHF 9, on Green Harbor, offers transient slips, fuel, water, power, WiFi, ice, showers, a marine store and a restaurant.

Once ashore, you’ll find a city with art galleries, plenty of interesting shops and restaurants, and historic streets lined with attractive buildings designed by some of the nation’s greatest architects. Visitors can learn about the history of the Coast Guard by touring the Coast Guard Museum; 860-444-8511. Also worth a visit is the Custom House Maritime Museum; 860-447-2501, which was built from 1833 to 1835 by the designer of the Washington Monument and is home to the oldest continuously operated customs house in the country.

The Lyman Allyn Art Museum; 860-443-2545 is housed in a neoclassical building on 32 landscaped acres, and it features galleries showcasing mostly American art. Also popular among visitors is Fort Trumball State Park; 860-444-7591, which has a fishing pier, serves as home base for the Coast Guard training barque Eagle, and has a visitor center with interactive exhibits for both adults and kids.

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