What’s up (at the) dock? Island Belle moored in upper harbor

The Island Belle sits in the upper harbor area early Sunday morning.
The Island Belle sits in the upper harbor area early Sunday morning.

NORWALK, Conn. – Guess who cruised into the city Saturday night?

The Island Belle, the Mississippi-style paddle wheel riverboat that left Norwalk after an unfortunate incident during Superstorm Sandy, apparently sailed up the Norwalk River sometime after dark and tied up parallel to Smith Street, near the Norwalk River Rowing Association headquarters in the upper harbor.

The boat remained docked there, lights out, after 2 a.m.

The Island Belle was tied up parallel to Smith Street in East Norwalk.
The Island Belle was tied up parallel to Smith Street in East Norwalk.

An anonymous tip called NancyOnNorwalk’s attention to the boat shortly after 11 p.m.

The Island Belle broke free from its mooring at the Veterans Park visitors dock as Sandy’s winds battered Norwalk on Oct. 29, 2012. The incident caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to the dock. The boat then drifted toward the Stroffolino Bridge before it changed course with the help of Norwalk first responders and ultimately came to rest on the opposite bank.

Boat owner Ken Hart had been ordered to remove the boat from the visitors dock months earlier, and was given a Sept. 7 deadline. The deadline came and went with no action. He was also told by Harbor Master Michael Griffin to move it from the visitors dock with the storm approaching, but he did not comply.

Last summer, the city filed suit against Hart’s company, Sound Charter Group LLC, seeking “more than $15,000” in damages resulting from Hart’s failure to comply with the order as well as the company’s alleged failure to pay several fees from May through October 2012, according to a story in The Hour.

No one was available early Sunday to explain the Island Belle’s presence in the Norwalk River.


6 responses to “What’s up (at the) dock? Island Belle moored in upper harbor”

  1. Oldtimer

    Hart needs a place to tie up the boat and may have found one, depending on who owns the place where he is now tied, and if he has permission. He also needs a place to run his business. That would require a place to tie up long enough to load and unload passengers and supplies and a place for customer parking, much like any business. He got away, with compliance from our parks dept, with tieing up full time at the City’s transient visitor’s dock at Vet’s park and using space in the park for customer parking, apparently without even paying all the dock space rent that had been agreed on by him and Mocciae. Now there is a suit pending to collect the unpaid amount and the damages to City property after his ship took a large section of the dock with it when it when it broke loose after having been ordered off the dock by City officials who knew the City dock was not built to secure a ship that size in a bad storm. There are many reasons why a business should not be allowed to use a City park on a full time basis and many more why the City should not even consider letting this particular business use City park facilities to support a business. If Mr Hart cannot find a place where his ship will fit and there is room for parking, at a price he can afford, he should consider some other business venture. He might look at Manresa where there is a very sheltered place to dock and plenty of room for parking, if he can make a deal with the property owners.

  2. Tobias

    When I went out on this boat 2 summers ago, I did not understand the turmoil. When getting to Vets park to board, I had to pay a $10 parking fee to park my car at Vets even though I was a Norwalk Resident. Where did that money go? Right into his pocket or to the town?

    Glad we dredged out the Harbor so he could get back in….

  3. Benthere Donethat

    This is big news for anyone interested in the Wall St/Head of the Harbor development.
    But, it took The Hour 48 hours to catch up on NON.

  4. Old salt

    Here we go again. Will the tax accessor, health department, fire marshal and Coast guard check this situation before it turns into a problem that cannot be managed? Where is the harbormaster and our harbor commission. I believe they are conspiring to change the dock near the draw bridge to fit this guy in. Is it a coincidence they are just finishing a dredging program that will benefit Captain Hart? I don’t think so.

    I Believe NON reported on a plan by the Recreation and parks front man to change the permitted use of the dock to allow unrestricted commercial use? What is the status of that request? We are loosing control of our public parks. Why is this allowed to happen? We need to hold all of these Commissions and politicians responsible for their incompetence.

    I will be moving my boat to Stamford. They know how to run a harbor down there.

  5. Oldtimer

    The Island Belle did not break free from the City visitors dock. The Pilings that held the dock in place broke and the dock broke and the section of dock, and the Island Belle, went adrift. Norwalk marine police officers were able to board the vessel, get the engines running, and maneuver it across the river, keeping it away from the bridge. Hart would have us believe that the boat was untied from the dock by Norwalk first responders and it was their fault it got loose from the dock. Whatever happened to the lawsuit we were told was filed by the City to collect damages and months of dock fees ?

    1. Mark Chapman


      Nancy and I were there as this happened. As we recall, with the pilings pulling up from the strain of the vessel, the city tried to move the Island Belle using a tow truck, but the tow cable snapped, allowing the boat to begin to drift. First responders were able to direct it across the harbor before it was able to reach the bridge.

      We are attempting to get updated on the suit. As far as we can ascertain from some involved parties, it is still in the courts. But we can find no record of the suit on the court sites. We will have more on this later today or tonight.

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