Every corner of Rhode Island is pretty awe-inspiring, but arguably it’s the sea and those miles of coastline that’s most deeply woven into the state’s identity. With summer finally in its full glory, the itch to experience the aquatic spoils of the Ocean State grows more difficult to ignore. Whether you’re looking to learn to sail, paddle along a river, or go fishing on a yacht, we’ve assembled the ultimate resource for putting the sea in your season.
If you’ve dreamed of gripping the wheel of a sleek sailboat with the wind billowing in your sails up Narragansett Bay’s West Passage at a steady clip but can’t tell stem from stern, fear not. NEW ENGLAND SAILING CENTER (NESC) in Jamestown offers beginner through advanced sailing certification courses, both private or in group settings of up to four. Accredited by the American Sailing Association, private lessons can be tailored to couples or families, as well, so all aboard can learn to cruise safely and confidently, whether trimming the sails or mastering the perfect starboard tack. In the Basic Keelboat course, students learn the fundamental principles of sailing in just two days via both classroom and on-the-water training, rendering them ready to skipper an 18- to 27-foot keelboat. NESailingCenter.com
Founded after the 1983 loss of the America’s Cup in local waters (a day that lives in Newport infamy), SAIL NEWPORT has grown to be New England’s largest public sailing center. With tomorrow’s sailors in mind, Sail Newport works to attract new enthusiasts of all different ages and backgrounds to the sport. Families or groups can schedule a Try Sailing experience with one of their certified instructors and up to four adult guests (or up to two adults and three children) where you’ll learn the ins and outs of sailing, or sign up for a weekly group adult learn-to-sail program where you’ll dive deeper into sailing instruction aboard a J/22. SailNewport.org
A boating center in Providence? Yup! Founded by a group of sailors in 1994, COMMUNITY BOATING CENTER (CBC) at India Point Park offers outreach, lessons, and affordable access to Narragansett Bay with a range of programming including summer EcoAdventures and sailing camps. Adults can become CBC members, and after completing lessons or passing a challenge test, have access to the center’s fleet of more than 60 boats. Save the date for their annual Renaissance Regatta Fundraiser on August 17. CommunityBoating.com
Bristol’s HERRESHOFF MARINE MUSEUM offers interactive youth and adult sailing classes during summer and fall. Skilled instructors teach the art of seamanship and the principles of sailing aboard classic wooden Herreshoff sloops on the Narragansett Bay. Private lessons are also available, but if landlubbing is more your speed, check out the museum’s exhibits and campus. The Nathanael Greene Herreshoff Model room, named for the famed Bristolian and renowned naval architect, holds a collection of 500 models significant to the Herreshoff legacy. Herreshoff.org
Not only does University of Rhode Island have an awesome sailing team that boasts several Olympians and 28 All-Americans – along with a nice-sized sailing fleet of Flying Juniors, RS Quests, and Turbo 420s – during summer they offer many one-week youth camps for ages 6-17, and 18+ programs at their sailing center in Wakefield. Learn more at Web.URI.edu/CampusRec
If you’re not ready to take to the seas but want to see where the magic happens, visit the International Yacht Restoration School of Technology & Trades in Newport. At its core, it’s a trade school, albeit a very unique one focused on maritime trades, design, and modern manufacturing, but it’s also one of the only places you can see shipwrights in training. Take your time exploring the school’s three harborfront acres and don’t miss the elevated catwalk inside the century-old Restoration Hall for a bird’s eye view of yacht restorations in progress. IYRS.edu
For an interactive, educational, and just plain cool way to learn about the past, present, and future of sailing, you don’t need your sea legs to love everything about The Sailing Museum, which opened in Newport just last year. With high-tech exhibits like the immersive film dome and an opportunity to test your strength by grinding the winches, you’ll learn the ins and outs of the sport like never before and leave with a little hometown pride when you see just how much Little Rhody has played a critical role in the sport’s success. TheSailingMuseum.org
In 1962, Narragansett Surf Shop made history by being the first surf shop to open in Rhode Island. Today, folks of all ages and abilities speckle the swells at spots along RI’s coastline, and most days, the waves are decidedly undaunting, making conditions ideal for both longboards and new learners (but don’t be fooled – a good storm swell brings out top talent!). Best bets for today’s surfers include Island Surf & Sport in Middletown, Matunuck Surf Shop, Paddle Surf RI and Rhode Island Surf Co. in Westerly, and Warm Winds in Narragansett.
If you’re looking to paddle in various forms, RI has waterways for all levels with scenic locations from Block Island to the Blackstone River and places in between. Before you set out, be sure to do a little research (ExploreRI.org) so you’re not in over your head because yes, even Little Rhody has Class I-II whitewater levels (including Clear River, Harrisville). When it comes to equipment, test the waters by renting. Narrow River Kayaks is now a mobile outfitter providing full- and multi-day kayak, canoe, and SUP rentals with delivery and pickup services; self pick-up is also available in West Kingston (NarrowRiverKayaks.com). Over in North Kingstown, The Kayak Centre offers on-site rentals, inviting paddlers to soak in the charm of picture-perfect Wickford Harbor (KayakCentre.com). Seeking a city view? Experienced paddlers with their own kayaks can register for Clear Currents, a community paddling event in Providence on August 19 where illuminated fish are mounted on each craft adding to the spectacle of a WaterFire night (WaterFire.org).
The boat, the bait, the cast, the wait… fishing has its rewards but you may need a boatload of patience. Enter: The Frances Fleet, which operates four boats out of the Port of Galilee in Narragansett and offers a variety of options, including half- or full-day charters, night fishing, and for serious anglers up for a fight, tuna charters, where you might be reeling in albacore, yellowfin, and bigeye tuna as well as swordfish, mahi-mahi, and bonito that’ll put your muscles to the test (FrancesFleet.com). Also docked in Galilee is Seven B’s V, a customized fishing yacht which carries on multi-generational family tradition dating back more than 65 years. Captain Russ Benn’s 80-foot yacht can welcome up to 113 passengers for public fishing or private charters and this time of year, you can cast your line for fluke (summer flounder), black sea bass, bluefish, and porgy (scup) (SevenBs.com).
The Block Island Ferry is celebrating 90 years but keeps swimming forward with tickets now accessible on Apple Wallet or Wallet Passes on Android. Offering both traditional (allowing passengers, bicycles, and vehicles) and high-speed service (passengers and bicycles only), sail away from either Point Judith or Newport this summer for a fantastic day trip or vacay
(BlockIslandFerry.com). For a low-key BYO-everything adventure, the
Prudence Island Ferry departs from Bristol for a 30-minute journey (PrudenceBayIslandsTransport.com). From Quonset Point in just 95 minutes, you can be licking lobster ice cream in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard via the Rhode island Fast Ferry (RhodeIslandFastFerry.com).
Discover new-to-you small islands along the coast with a 90-minute narrated cruise aboard a catamaran that sails past Hope Island, Fox Island, and others. You’ll also see 10 lighthouses and cool sights like Clingstone, the famous “house on the rock” near Jamestown on one of the outcroppings called “The Dumplings.” Fun fact: Mumford & Sons shot a music video in the house in 2018 for their song “Guiding Light.” RhodeIslandFastFerry.com
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