Old-Style Passenger Boat Offers Soothing Cruises By Hartford Riverfront
by Jim Altman
September 04, 2010
Looking for serenity now?
Relaxation and exploration await aboard the Hartford Belle, a little-known liquid asset plying the Connecticut River.
The classic, white, 47-foot-cruiser offers 60- and 90-minute tours along the Connecticut River, where passengers can take pleasure in their placid surroundings as they glide under the congested snarl of cars and trucks on the Founders and Bulkeley bridges.
The longer tour starts at Charter Oak Landing, picks up additional passengers at Riverfront Plaza downtown, then charts a course north before looping around and heading toward Wethersfield Cove.
"This is a character boat built in 1992 to match the1920s-era-type passenger cruiser," says Bill Keyt, the Belle's first mate.
Capt. Brad Fenn, who began passenger trips four years ago, says, "We try to bring people back to the Connecticut River. For many, the Connecticut River was sort of lost on the other side of Route 91, and people forgot it was there."
Passenger Linda Caruso, on the Belle for the first time, "grew up in downtown Hartford near Riverside Park," she says. "I've never seen it from this angle. I've never seen all the bridges and the shoreline. It's terrific to see it this way."
Enjoying the sights from the stern of the boat, Cathy Mandle of Wethersfield says, "It almost makes you forget where you are for a moment, and the kids love it. The kids are seeing things they've never seen before."
Fenn offers historical facts as the boat floats by the Colt Building, the Travelers Tower and other landmarks. If the tide is right, the Belle travels to Wethersfield Cove before it returns to port.
Keyt, readying the boat for arrival, says, "A lot of it is knowing the river is this nice ... just the exploration and finding out new things that they didn't know were available in Connecticut or the Hartford area."
And, it seems, in 90 minutes, the hassles of I-91 and I-84 looming above are 86'ed on the water.
IF YOU GO
WHEN: The Hartford Belle offers scenic cruises on most weekends through Columbus Day. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, including Labor Day, its 60-minute cruise leaves from Riverfront Plaza at 1:15 p.m. and from Charter Oak Landing at 1:30 p.m. A 90-minute cruise leaves from Charter Oak Landing at 2:45 p.m. and from Riverfront Plaza at 3 p.m.
COSTS: The 90-minute tour costs $19, $10 for children under 12; the 60-minute tour is $13, $7 for children under 12. Snacks and drinks are available on board.
INFORMATION: www.hartfordbelle.com or 860-665-9428.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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