Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Thimble Islands
Stony Creek, CT
by Betty Wiest

Sunday, July 15, 2012

When we think of a thimble, we think of a small metal pitted cap used at the tip of a finger, most notably used in sewing according to Webster’s Dictionary.

I don’t know who named them but one could see the relationship to the numerous pint sized and not-so-pint-sized rocky pitted islands off the coast of Stony Creek, Connecticut, a bit east of New Haven. Some inhabited, some merely the cap of rock—but all fascinating to our group of paddlers (Ken K., Ken B., Phil B., Robyn, L., Andy A., Monica O., Janet L., Gail S., Herta D., and me).

There were some inquiries that morning: “There’s a 50% chance of rain. Do we really want to travel 2 hours and then discover we’re hitting bad weather?” Not to be deterred, I told the group, “The trip is on!” I must be pulling a “Bob Rankin…look outside and see what the weather’s like.” It turned out to be a great day, albeit a bit hot—but then it’s July.

We all met at the Palisades Center in West Nyack at 7 a.m. A few of us transferred boats as carpooling was suggested and made the trip a bit easier. Everyone was given directions since caravanning that distance can be difficult. I told the group we’d meet up at the service area just before our exit. Little did I know several of the rest areas were closed for renovations. Janet and I took an accidental detour but by the time we arrived at the put-in everyone else had arrived. But by a stroke of shear luck I got the parking space right next to the launch—believe me, I’m not complaining. But I had never seen so much traffic in this cozy town ever on a Sunday morning! The roving police officer was seen to be marking cars for their four-hour parking limit in a particular section (I think where the tourist boat goes out).

The Thimble Islands were discovered in 1614 by Adrian Block, who discovered Block Island. These unique islands were used for everything from farming to quarrying its famous pink granite and bootlegging to hiding Captain Kidd’s treasure (who sailed there in 1665).

The water was quite calm when we all set out from the town dock…and it was throughout the morning. We paddled away from the congestion. It wasn’t long before we passed our first island complete with a dozen nautical flags. The next island had about 20 houses on it; from there we passed one luscious island with one very large home and manicured fenced-in landscape…and then another island with a single home. Some had old-fashioned widow walk; they all had docks. We paddled out to the furthest island and only public island called “Outer Island” which is the home of one unit of the Stewart B. Mc Kinney Wildlife Refuge. Once owned privately, it now serves as a nesting place for bird populations. We were greeted by several docents who were happy to show us around and talk about the island’s history.

Off again for more exploration...being careful of the tourist boats who have a routine of bearing down on us then veering off. Whew! It happened several times. We ventured down a river to stop on a raft and rocks for lunch. We’ve stopped here on other trips although we’re not supposed to. We arrived, we ate, we left the site as if we had never been there.

On to the last leg of our trip, we passed several beautiful homes, both architecturally and landscape-wise. It was a lovely day, the water was pleasantly calm, and our group enjoyed a trip that was delightfully different.

Gail S. provided me with some interesting info: “Only six islands get electrical power through underwater cables from the shore; the rest use some combination of generator, solar power, batteries, kerosene, or propane. About half the islands get fresh water through underwater pipes from shore; the rest use wells or rainwater, or have containers of water delivered. No sewers serve the islands, requiring the use of septic tanks for sewage treatment.”

There’s been a time delay in finishing this report so before I’m on to the next adventure (8/5), we’ll end here.


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