Cruise highlights nature and landmarks along Connecticut River

Cruise highlights nature and landmarks along Connecticut River

HADDAM — Connecticut River Expeditions run from February to October along the river, but the sights and sounds vary greatly depending on the season.

The company has been offering a variety of river experiences for 17 years, Captain Mark Yuknat said. The type of cruise depends on the season, starting in February with eagle and osprey nest viewing tours.

In the spring, group tours highlight landmarks along the lower section of the river, including Gillette Castle, Nathan Hale schoolhouse, and a state-owned preserve. In the fall, foliage tours are offered.

Yuknat said they also offer sunset cruises for adults, dessert cruises featuring homemade key lime pie, and another cruise focusing on geology. All crew members are certified master naturalists, including Cathy Malin, who was on board for a group cruise last week. Malin said customers include local students of all ages.

“When people ask us, we say it’s never the same,” Malin said. “Every day is different. You never know what you’re going to see.”

Yuknat said one of the challenges is constantly monitoring the weather for potential hazards. In the winter months, they have to be watchful for ice on the river. During other times of the year, rain is a concern. They will sail in a light rain, but not a heavy rain or wind,

On last week’s cruise, about 40 passengers on a trip from New Jersey boarded the boat. Malin handed out binoculars to anyone who wanted to use them, and Yuknat steered the boat under the East Haddam Bridge. Malin pointed out the Nathan Hale school house on the bank of the river and several osprey nests. After circling back under the bridge and heading south, the passengers were treated to sights of the Goodspeed Opera House, several marinas, Gillette Castle and many more osprey and bald eagle nests.

Malin and Yuknat kept up a steady conversation about the sights and answered questions. The group got to see a bald eagle feeding its chicks. There were several occupied osprey nests with one or both of the parents swooping around when the boat passed by. Yuknat and Malin told the passengers about an osprey who was late leaving the nest one year and inspired Yuknat to start a book titled “Lazy Larry.”

Joan and Tom Shannon, from Union, New Jersey, were on the cruise.

“It was better than some of the larger ships we have been on,” Joan Shannon said. “It was much more intimate and we could pay attention to what (Malin) was saying.”

Tom Shannon said they enjoyed being given binoculars for the cruise to help see the sights.

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