By Andrew Kelsey
Whether you are interested in lake or river adventures, or fun on Long Island Sound, there are myriad boating opportunities in Connecticut.
“We’ve got lakes, ponds and rivers. And Long Island Sound is probably one of the best cruising boating bodies of water in the country,” said Captain Yale Greenman of Stamford-based Green Marine Education, adding that our local ocean water is right up there at the top along with Chesapeake Bay.
“There’s so much to do from New York City to Block Island,” said Greenman, adding that from swimming to fishing and jet skiing to visiting cities and towns, there are numerous options for water-based recreation.
Green Marine Education offers Connecticut Safe Boating License courses and provides an opportunity for boating enthusiasts to get their boating or other watercraft certification.
A boating license in Connecticut is actually called a certificate; to legally operate any boat with an engine, even a dinghy, or sailboat 19½ feet or longer, one needs a Safe Boating Certificate or Certificate of Personal Watercraft Operation.
Like seemingly everything, the boating world was altered in some way by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Green Marine Education began offering Zoom classes online a couple of years ago.
“Boating really kind of exploded for a while because people couldn’t get on a plane—they couldn’t go on vacation,” Greenman said.
With summer sun and longer days arriving, there is more opportunity for people to enjoy the waves in a boat or being pulled by one on jet skis or inner tubes.
“What could be better. We are so lucky in Connecticut. We have all the rivers and lakes and particularly Long Island Sound,” Greenman commented.
Greenman is also the harbormaster for Stamford Harbor. It is a bustling place for both boat owners and those who do a time share, which allows boating enthusiasts not have to worry about maintenance and docking, Greenman noted.
Green Marine Education, which has offered boating safety courses since 1999, requires people to attend a Connecticut-approved Safe Boating & Personal Watercraft class and pass the Connecticut exam to qualify for boating certificates. Their classes are affordable and are scheduled through June with more to come. Private boating lessons are offered through Green Marine at such locations as yacht clubs and boating clubs, and offered to organizations, schools, police and fire departments, and families, for example. The Personal Watercraft Operation certificate covers both boating and jet skiing.
As Greenman noted, you do not have to be licensed to be on a boat, only to operate one. Just like with a car, he said.
Enjoying the water
CareFree Boat Club has 130-plus locations nationwide, including in Clinton and Noank in Connecticut. Its memberships allow customers to enjoy the life of boat ownership without any of the responsibilities other than operating the boats, said manager Ace Andaleeb.
“We do all the work so you get to enjoy boating,” Andaleeb continued. “People do a lot. We have families going out multiple times a week all season long. They look forward to the season and getting out on the water.”
Boats available at CareFree include single-console ones, which are ideal for fishing and dual consoles made for cruising; tubes can be attached to the backs of the boats for fun on the waves.
Andaleeb pointed out that because of the weather, Connecticut’s summer boating season is short, but enthusiasts can utilize any of the other locations around the world as part of their membership.
“At our location, you are in the perfect spot to explore the various destination ports, including Fisher’s Island, The Hamptons, Mystic, Greenport, Block Island, Long Island and many more,” stated the CareFree Boat Club’s website for those who simply want to explore locally.
“Boaters who cruise the lower Connecticut River often find themselves in a different state of mind—and place. In this world, friendly marina owners offer transients a ride into town, primordial forests embrace quiet anchorages; hidden creeks and coves invite small-boat exploration,” explained New England Boating and New England Fishing about places to explore by boat. “This much traveled, border-defining waterway, the largest and longest in New England, is nothing if not scenic and accommodating.”
New England Boating further detailed things to see, places to eat, places to stay and where to dock in several spots, including Essex, Niantic, New London and Milford.
Connor Kostyra, owner of Brookfield-based Lakeside Watersports, which provides a variety of water sport lessons on Candlewood Lake, described the Lakeside Watersports experience as, “a really easy vacation where you don’t need to own a boat.”
A flat hourly fee includes up to 10 people on a boat. Customers can take turns learning to water ski, wakeboard or one of several other water sport options. For those who might not be ready to get up on water skis, there is tubing.
“They have the best time. There’s really no way of not having fun,” Kostrya said. “It’s a totally fun summer experience.”
One of the offerings at Lakeside Watersports is wakeskating, which is like wakeboarding only no bindings. Riders hold the handle and can turn the board sideways while being pulled by boat. There is also kneeboarding, described by Lakeside as being good fit for first-time water sports enthusiasts learning what it is like to be pulled by a boat.
Kostrya said lessons are provided for beginners on up to experienced water sport enthusiasts looking to do tricks on the lake.
Getting your certificate
If being a passenger on a boat is not enough, and certification is the goal, here is what you need to know:
- To obtain your boating certificate, you must take a Department of Energy & Environmental Protection-approved (DEEP) boating safety course and pass the state exam. All courses are required to be a minimum of eight hours and are two to four sessions. After passing the exam, people can get their certificate online.
- Operating a boat or personal watercraft is not only for adults. Children under 12, in fact, can operate a boat with up to a 10-horsepower (hp) motor by themselves. For boats with a motor larger than 10 hp, children must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 18 who has their boat or personal watercraft certificate.
- To operate a personal watercraft by yourself, you must be at least 16 years old and, if younger than 16, must be accompanied by an adult over with a personal watercraft certificate.
- Boating certificates do not need to be renewed. They are good for life.
- There is a way to prepare for certification. Refer to boatus.org to prepare for the boating safety course.
Approved safe boating course agents are organizations that are approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the State of Connecticut to teach boating education leading to certification. A list of agents and other pertinent information may be found at portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Boating. There are agents throughout Connecticut, including Green Marine Education, as well as out of state and they are listed on the DEEP website.