Boating in Norwich, ConnecticutThe Thames River to Norwich
Long before Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, a simple cash transaction took place between Native Americans and settlers
from nearby Old Saybrook: The Englishmen paid the Mogehans £70 for nine square miles of land, which would become Norwich. That transaction gave birth to a community that turned the head of the Thames into a major seaport.
Like many other 17th century townships, Norwich found itself with a shortage of manpower and turned to slavery. By 1756 most of the town’s slaves had either been allowed to purchase their freedom or been freed outright. It took the state of Connecticut another 30 years to fi nally outlaw slavery.
A century later, Norwich acted as a major conduit for the Underground Railroad, transporting former slaves from the south to Canada. Though the citizens were widely applauded for efforts in transporting freed slaves, local blacks still faced discrimination, particularly for employment at the higher paying mills, and they were relegated to work on the docks, railroads and hotels. In spite of this, many worked undeterred in highly skilled occupations, proved themselves to be adept craftsmen, and created demand for services that were traditionally given to whites, such as shipwrights and builders.
Things to See and Do
Foxwoods (800-369 9663) and Mohegan Sun (888-226-7711) dominate the to-do list for many of the area’s visitors.
But there’s more to the Thames River than casinos. In Norwich, don’t miss the Spirit of Broadway Theater (860-
886-2378) at 24 Chestnut Street. As a venue for professionaland semi-professional theater and music performances from
around the country, this small theater is grand in scale.
Farther down the river, no mariner can miss the Coast Guard’s U.S.S. Eagle, a dominant sight at the U.S. Coast
Guard Academy. Both the ship and the Coast Guard Academy (860-444-8270) have guided tours available.
About four miles north of the bridges, look for the boathouses used by the Yale and Harvard crews during their annual
regatta on the Thames. Boating on the Thames (860-443-3310) has single and tandem kayaks if you want to
experience rowing on the river.
If you’re planning a stay of any length call the Norwich Tourism Office (860-886-4683) for the lowdown on the
events taking place while you’re here. Get some sports action at Putts Up Dock Mini Golf (860-886-7888), right at American Wharf. This is no average mini-golf course—it’s touted as one of the most challenging in New England.
Norwich sponsors free concerts each week at the Howard P. Brown Memorial Park, a great setting on the river banks near downtown. There are also a number of community events held during the summer at the Marina at American
Restaurants and Provisions
The area around American Wharf makes it easy for visiting boaters with a couple of eateries right in the complex.
Hooked on the Wharf (860-887-8555) serves lunch and dinner waterside with outdoor seating and an innovative seafood
and American menu. Start the morning with great coffee accompanied by pastry, bagels, or egg dishes at the Harbor Bistro (860-889-8425). Later on, head to Billy Wilson’s Ageing Still (860-887-8733) for some serious dart competition,
live bands, and a bevy of beers on tap.
Another fi ne breakfast choice is Olde Tymes Restaurant (860-887-6865) on Main Street. If pizza sounds good, try La
Stella’s Pizzeria (860-887-5574). You’ll need a lift to Kensington’s at the Norwich Inn (860-886-2401), serving naturally
raised lamb, veal, and Kobe beef entrees along with a special spa menu and a distinguished wine list.
If you’re up for a walk, follow the hills to Norwich’s town center. You’ll be rewarded by several fi ne eateries and bistros.
Stock up on supplies on West Main Street at Shop Rite Supermarket (860-887-6088), which also has an ATM. If it’s laundry day, head to the nearby James Laundromat & Dry Cleaners (860-887-9665).
Downriver, just north of the Coast Guard Academy, Boating on the Thames (860-443-3310) offers a wide range of repairservices as well as summer valet and storage. If you want to just get off the boat to go shopping, it’s only two miles to the malls from here.
Navigation and Anchorages
Use tide tables for New London. High and low tide at Norwich is 20 minutes later. Multiply height of tide at New London by
1.2 for height of tide at Norwich. Mean tidal range is 3 feet.
The main passage to New London starts at lateral marks G “1” Fl G 2.5s and R “2” Fl R 2.5s. The channel is straight
and deep. To the southwest, Pine Island Channel offers an alternate route, however it is laden with rocks, including the
unmarked Black Rock, so unless you have a good handle on the area we’d suggest going through the main channel.
New London harbor is deep, expansive and well marked. Again, heavy summertime traffi c is the key consideration.
Most of the berths for big and small vessels are unobstructed, so visibility overall is good. A bascule railroad bridge just north of downtown New London separates the upper river from New London Harbor. Give the usual one long and one short blast on your horn, or contact the bridgetender on VHF 13 to open the bridge. Unless your masts are extremely tall, you won’t have trouble passing under the next two bridges, with clearances of 135 feet. The Eagle has
to house her topmasts (at 147.3 feet) to get under the bridge.
It’s about a 13-mile trip from New London Ledge Light to Norwich, so it’s best to enter on the fl ood. You’ll fi nd brackish
water all the way upriver.
Upper Thames River
Tidal range in the upper Thames River is three-and-a-half feet, and the five-mph speed limit is strictly enforced. The
channel is well marked and runs at least 12 feet deep all the way to Norwich. Just north of the I-95 Bridge, directly
across the river from the Submarine Force Museum, is the friendly, family-owned Boating On The Thames (860-443-
3310) with boatyard, launch facility and boat livery. The only boating facility farther upriver between New London
and Norwich is Gales Ferry Marina (860-464-2146) at Clark Cove. There is a fixed railroad trestle at the entrance
to Clark Cove with a vertical clearance of 13 feet, so only smaller vessels will be able to reach this facility.
With prevailing winds out of the southwest, sailors are often welcomed with an easy broad reach all the way upriver.
The channel is well marked with buoys and range lights, and there are no problems until you pass beneath the 75-foot high Mohegan-Pequot Bridge. Above this bridge, be careful of the sea walls and dikes that are invisible at anything over
half-tide. These walls were originally built to keep steamships from silting up the channel with erosion from their wash.
While the dikes were once above water except at unusually high tides, the river has risen by nearly a foot in the last century, putting the dikes underwater and forming a distinct and unusual hazard to navigation. If you stick to the channel,
however, the dikes will pose no problem. Newcomers are advised to head upriver at low tide to get a good look at the
location of these obstacles.
Norwich Harbor, at the confl uence of the Thames, Shetucket, and Yantic rivers, is well protected by the high hills
around it and makes an excellent haven in bad weather. Small boats can anchor above the Norwich bridges, with its clearances of 18 and 13 feet, but larger boats will have to look for space farther south.