Summer cruises; free summer passes for teens at gym; volunteers needed for horseshoe crab tagging

The Sheffield Island lighthouse. (Norwalk Seaport Association)

NORWALK, Conn. – Some Norwalk area announcements for you:

  • Sheffield Island opens for the season
  • Planet Fitness offers teens summer passes
  • Maritime Aquarium seeks volunteers to tag horseshoe crabs

Norwalk Seaport Association advertises summer cruises

Linda Cappello, Norwalk Seaport Association Executive Board Trustee, is in charge of seasonal preparations at Sheffield Island and Lighthouse. She described her work in a news release.

“The first thing I do is prior to putting together a work party is visit the island to see how the island and lighthouse have weathered the winter. I inspect the interior and exterior of the lighthouse and grounds to determine what tasks need immediate attention, as well as those that require eventual attention,” she said.

Cappello’s work party of 20 to 25 volunteers will go to the island several times before Memorial Day Weekend, cutting up fallen limbs, painting picnic tables, cutting down all seagrass, and weeding the pathways.  At the Lighthouse, they uncover the boarded-up windows, clean the gutters and downspouts, check the tower, clean the rooms, polish the furniture and set up the displays.

Cappello said she would live on the island if she could. “It is my passion. I have cruised the waters of Long Island Sound and the Norwalk Islands for as long as I can remember. My father introduced me to the Sound when I was a child, and I have loved it ever since! As for our volunteers, I think it offers them a unique opportunity for a good cause, especially if they have a love for Norwalk’s maritime history and Long Island Sound. We always welcome the help, just contact us.  Throughout the summer season, the lighthouse has to be cleaned, the grass has to be mowed, and the shells along the pathways have to be maintained, along with a myriad of other tasks to keep the Island and lighthouse welcoming for visitors.”

According to a news release, the May cruise schedule includes:

  • Sunset Cruises 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Thursday May 26, through Sunday May 29.
  • Cruises to Sheffield Island 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday May 28 and Sunday May 29
  • Special Bird Cruises departing at 8 a.m. Sunday May 15, Saturday May 28, and Sunday May 29.


Starting in June, Sunset Cruises will run Wednesday-Sunday and three-hour cruises to Sheffield Island and Lighthouse will run on Saturday and Sunday.

Starting June 28, Cruises to Sheffield Island will run twice daily, Tuesday – Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The cruises leave from the Seaport Dock on 4 North Water St., adjacent to the Stroffolino Bridge at the corner of Washington and Water Streets in South Norwalk. You need to arrive 30 minutes before departure time.  Parking at the adjacent lot or at the Maritime Center Parking Garage across the street.

Tickets and more info are at the Seaport website http://seaport.org.

The Seaport Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, founded in 1978.


Planet fitness

Planet Fitness’ “High School Summer Pass” will enable teens ages 14 through 19 to work out for free at a Planet Fitness gym from Monday May 16 until Wednesday Aug. 31, according to a news release.  Planet has more than 30 Connecticut locations.

All participants will be automatically entered into Planet Fitness’ “High School Summer Pass” Sweepstakes, with winners announced at summer’s end.  The Grand Prize is a $5,000 scholarship. One runner-up in each state (and the District of Columbia) will win a $500 scholarship.  The scholarships will be usable for either academic or athletic activities.  No purchase is required.  Full official rules are at Sweepstakes Rules | Planet Fitness

First launched in 2019 as “Teen Summer Challenge,” Planet’s  groundbreaking program has drawn over 900,000 sign-ups.

Fifteen trainer-led workout videos and ten downloadable workouts just for high schoolers across all fitness levels will also be available starting May 16 on the Planet Fitness app and at PlanetFitness.com/SummerPass.

During the pandemic, less than 15 percent of teens met the American Medical Association ‘s 60-minute daily physical activity recommendation according to the AMA journal Network Open.  A national study commissioned by Planet Fitness found that nearly all parents and teens believe that regular exercise and physical activity are helpful in coping with the pandemic’s disruptions.

“High School Summer Pass” pre-registration is available now at  PlanetFitness.com/SummerPass.  Pre-registrants will get a reminder to formally sign up on May 16.  Teens under 18 must have parental sign-off, and can then work out alone.  Participation is limited to a single Planet Fitness gym chosen when registering; the offer won’t extend to other Planet locations.


Horseshoe crabs

Two young volunteers place horseshoe crabs back in the water during a
previous tagging session led by The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. (Maritime Aquarium)

Midnight horseshoe crab tagging at Calf Pasture Beach, an annual event conducted by The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, will take place on various nights during May and June, according to a news release. Volunteers are needed to help Aquarium staff tag the crabs which emerge from Long Island Sound to spawn in the sand each spring.  The crabs’ fearsome-looking pincers and spiky tail are said to be harmless.

Volunteers lacking crab-tagging experience must attend one of the two free in-person training sessions at the Aquarium at 7 p.m. on either Thursday May 12 or Wednesday May 18.  You must be 18 or older.  If you’ve previously tagged crabs, you can skip the training session.    Participants under 18 are welcome if accompanied by a parent, teacher, or guardian.

The tagging is part of an ongoing horseshoe crab census led by Dr. Jennifer Mattei of Sacred Heart University whose work shows a 20-year decline in the Sound’s horseshoe crab population.  Mattei said the decline is causing “a ripple effect on the Sound’s ecosystem, because horseshoe crab eggs are an important food source for migrating shorebirds.”

Factors contributing to the shrinking population include overharvesting, pollution, habitat loss, motorized vehicles on beaches, and entrapment in abandoned lobster pots.

The Maritime Aquarium’s Horseshoe Crab Culture Lab studies population-sustaining techniques.

“Many other species in the Sound depend on the health of the horseshoe crab population” said Dr. Sarah Crosby, Aquarium Conservation and Policy Director. “Juvenile horseshoe crabs themselves and their eggs are a key food resource for crabs and birds, especially migratory birds. Through their feeding activity, horseshoe crabs are also important ‘bioturbators,’ turning over and mixing the top layer of sediments on the sea floor. Their shells are even host to other organisms, like barnacles.”

“Joining this effort helps to provide important data about this amazing creature, which has survived since before the time of the dinosaurs but whose numbers are struggling,” said Bridget Cervero, Aquarium Senior Education Manager. “The tagging nights are also a wonderful community-science activity for parents and kids; to step into the middle of this natural occurrence that’s been happening for millions of years and to play a helpful role for their future.”

Get more details and register for the training session at www.maritimeaquarium.org/community-science.  If you’re an experienced crab-tagger, sign up for one of the tagging nights by emailing  [email protected].

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