Cruising Port Jefferson

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By Rich

Take one part ferry terminal port, one part tourist village and one part scenic mooring field, mix it all up in a pot and you have the somewhat odd concoction that is Port Jefferson. Located on the north side of Long Island about half way down the Sound, Port Jefferson is a great stopping point for cruisers making their way from one end of Long Island to the other. And odd though it may sound conceptually, Port Jefferson ‘works’ really well as a scenic cruising destination all its own.

Although the power plant dominates the view to the west of the harbor, the views north, south and east are pleasant enough to make for a lovely evening enjoying cheese and crackers in the cockpit. And heck, the power plant is a novel sight out of the portholes while down below so first-time visitors may enjoy the contrasting visual effect.

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At the north side of the harbor are two small anchorages giving access to sand dunes – a great location for a raft up if you’re visiting with a group and fun for taking an evening hike to take in the scenery.

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Ashore, you’ll find a very tourist-y shopping village catering to visitors boarding the ferry at Bridgeport. It’s not a high brow crowd so unless you’re looking for something in particular to buy in the village you probably won’t need more than a very brief walk around to have had your fill. There is a lively power-boat marina with a pleasant bar and nightly live music, but like Montauk, sailors won’t find very much of a cultural fit there.

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I got a mooring with Setauket Yacht Club that was very reasonably priced and included brief access to a dock for wash down, filing water, etc. They had showers and free launch service and the launch drivers were super helpful in providing information on where to go to provision, etc. I met several members (transients do not need to be members either of Setauket or a reciprocal club to visit) who were very friendly.

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Here are some other notes for visiting cruisers:

  • Provisioning in Port Jefferson is a bit of a challenge. There aren’t fully-stocked grocery stores within walking distance, so I used Uber to reach a PathMark about 12 minutes away. That added $30 to my shopping bill for the round trip – something to keep in mind in your voyage planning.
  • Be prepared to have your big-kid pants on and belted tight if you arrive in the channel to Port Jefferson at peak time (for example on a Sunday afternoon, as I did). You will encounter strong currents and very high volumes of aggressive powerboat (and ferry) traffic.
  • The ferry and other industrial ship traffic operating in Port Jefferson means the otherwise well protected anchorage can be rolly. The good news: it’s very predictable. Expect a moderate to heavy roll about once per hour as the ferry arrives and leaves. Otherwise it’s very calm.
  • The ferry blows its ship’s horn often when departing. It operates from early morning to night time, so light sleepers will want to be in bed early enough that being woken by the early morning departure won’t be a problem.

If none of those conditions sound like deal-breakers to you, go! I stayed from Sunday afternoon through mid day Friday and thoroughly enjoyed my stay despite an unseasonable heat wave. Port Jefferson may sound odd but once you’ve been, you’ll see why it can quickly become a favorite stop even for cruisers who aren’t looking to put in while running up the Sound.

2 thoughts on “Cruising Port Jefferson

  1. Rich, did you consider Huntington Harbor a bit farther south? We bought our boat there and I remember it as a pretty good spot to anchor, moor, or tie up. Huntington Yacht Club is also there

    1. We shall have to try it next year! I chose Port Jefferson specifically because it was a common cruising destination during my childhood and I was keen to visit it again. But next year, on the way up, we’ll try Huntington Harbor!

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