Island Belle looking to sail away after being kept from leaving Norwalk port

NORWALK, Conn. – A Mississippi-river style sternwheeler didn’t make its expected trip into Long Island Sound from a Norwalk park Sunday, but it appears poised for an extended trip to Rye, N.Y.

The Island Belle is looking for permission to dock at Playland Pier in Rye from June 1 to Jan. 2, according to a memo, attached below, written by Westchester Recreation, Parks and Conservation Commissioner Kathleen O’Connor.

Sound Charter Group LLC, which operates the Island Belle, wants to use the pier, dock, ramp and moorings at Playland Pier, according to an agenda for the Westchester County Board of Acquisition and Contract. Sound Charter would maintain the pier’s hydraulic boat ramps, the memo states.

The Island Belle was scheduled to be the first vessel to use the Veterans Park visitor’s dock for commercial purposes last Sunday, but instead sat at its mooring on the other side of the Norwalk River railroad bridge. The trip was cancelled Thursday, said Recreation and Parks Director Mike Mocciae, one day after the U.S. Coast Guard was alerted that the vessel might be taking on paying passengers in violation Coast Guard orders.

The Coast Guard had ordered Ken Hart of Sound Charter Group to have divers survey the Island Belle’s hull, according to Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound Investigations Division Chief Dawn Kallen.

NancyOnNorwalk contacted Kallen Wednesday to ask if Hart had gotten the dive survey, which was ordered in February. She said he had not. She indicated she had not heard of the Island Belle’s scheduled Sunday trip. She said there would be “consequences” for the vessel’s operators if that trip were made, as the dive survey had not been received by the Coast Guard.

Kallen said Monday that one of her inspectors had contacted Hart Thursday. “There probably is a connection (to the cancelled trip). The connection is he didn’t get the dive survey and hasn’t been approved to operate yet,” Kallen said.

An inspector talked to Hart again Tuesday and asked about the status of the dive survey, she said. She did not know the result.

The vessel is scheduled to use the Veterans Park visitors dock June 6 and 7, Mocciae said. He said Sunday’s visit was cancelled without explanation.

The dive survey was ordered after the Coast Guard received complaints about the Island Belle sitting on the bottom at its mooring at O&G Industries in the upper Norwalk Harbor when the tide is low. Kallen said a dive survey is standard procedure whenever there is a grounding.

The possible contract between the Westchester County Recreation, Parks and Conservation Department and Sound Charter Group is scheduled to be discussed Thursday at the Westchester County Board of Acquisition and Contract, according to the Westchester.gov website.

A NancyOnNorwalk reader relayed that information in a late Wednesday email.

“I doubt they know anything about what Sound Charter Group has done to Norwalk,” the reader said.

Sound Charter Group was sued by Norwalk in August. The city is seeking compensation for damage done to the Visitors Dock on Oct. 29, 2012, as Superstorm Sandy came in. Sound Charter Group filed a response in November, alleging negligence and carelessness on the city’s part. Although Hart’s lawyer, Albert Strazza, said in January the case is close to a resolution, it remains in negotiations, according to Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola.

Island Belle Rye NY proposal

The Island Belle rests at the O&G Industries dock on South Smith Street.
The Island Belle rests at the O&G Industries dock on Smith Street.


13 responses to “Island Belle looking to sail away after being kept from leaving Norwalk port”

  1. NorwalkFisher

    Wow so he is going to run away to another sta. I guess its their problem now. Good luck to Westchester County! Doesn’t he also have unpaid dock fees? Isnt the whole reason they were ordering out of the harbor is becuase he simply wasn’t paying his bills?

    I wonder if the boat is supposed to be at the pier 24/7…If this is the case the boat can easily damage the pier as it will bash against it during storms. The pier in Rye is very exposed unlike our Norwalk pier.

  2. Ergo

    Good riddance to bad rubbish!

  3. Peter Parker

    Let it go! Amen. Kathleen O’Connor is a smart woman, I’m sure she will do her homework.

  4. Tobias

    I hope it goes far, far away! I am sick and tired of having to see things about this boat.

  5. Benthere Donethat

    Awesome move by SCG!!! The Pier at Playland is a magnificent facility, and I hope to be among the first onboard the Island Belle when she relocates. This will surely be a WIN-WIN for both Westchester County and SCG.

  6. The Truth

    As I read this article Im shocked that once again Nancy has printed an article without first verifying her facts. As far as the same few above that feel that nasty unjust and inaccurate commentary is necessary maybe you should step out from behind your screen names and address you concerns directly with Mr. Hart. I know he has offered the arena but not a single one of you stepped forward to address what clearly are your “concerns” . I think that speaks to the very nature of these attacks.

    1. Mark Chapman


      Every fact was verified, every comment or assertion attributed. And, about stepping out from behind screen names…

  7. Joe Randall

    @Truth – What is innacurate the fact that the boat is not allowed to sail due to a careless person? Who lets a Passanger Vessel of 600 passangers hit the bottom twice a day?

    Or is it untrue that he didn’t pay his dockage fees to City of Norwalk?

    Or that Army Core of Engineers ordered him out of the harbor months before SANDY and he diregarded?

  8. Oldtimer

    Didn’t Hart have problems with the State of NY and the Coast Guard when the Ship was still being called the Annabelle Lee and was operating out of Stamford on Friday, July 9, 2010 ?


  9. Nick

    Wonder if that’s why the name changed….

  10. Jay Mandell

    Just read the proposal and all I have to comment on this is that hope they ask for a money order or cash upfront

  11. Rod Martin

    It would be nice to have a boat at the dock in Rye. I really like the boat. We went out on July 4th, my kids have not stopped asking about it for this year. Its a public service for people like me who don’t have their own boats to get out on the Sound for an afternoon or evening.

  12. jan freedam

    Your first concern should be safety not fun…the guy lets his 600 passenger vessel rub the ground on a 2x per day basis….wpuldnt let my worst enemy ride that barge which probably couldn’t make headway I’d a storm rolled in

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