Aerial shot of Newburyport, looking east from Cashman Park. Photo by Scott Goodwin

This weekend (Sept. 24-26, 2010) marks the continuation of the 9th annual Trails & Sails series of free historical, natural and cultural events, taking place throughout the Essex County, Massachusetts. Coordinated by the Essex National Heritage Commission, Trails & Sails is designed to raise regional awareness of Essex County’s resources, encourage visitation, and foster stewardship and preservation of its heritage sites. Here are some of the coming weekend’s free water-related activities:

Merrimack Coast Guard Station Tour

Motor Lifeboat Station Merrimack River will host an open house event for the public to come down and get a guided tour through the station and down to the docks to look through the CG’s state-of-the-art boats.

  • Schedule: Sat. 25 10:00-2:00 pm
  • Contact: (978-465-5921)
  • Location: 65B Water Street Newburyport 01950
  • Directions: Take I-95 to Exit 57/Rte 113E toward Newburyport. After ~2 mi, turn left onto Green St, and right onto Water St.

Parker River Kayak Tour

Take a kayak/canoe paddle through the great marsh. Refuge staff will lead an informative tour inside this wonderful natural resource. This event is limited to 12 boats. You must bring your own kayak/canoe and personal flotation device, boats will not be provided. Limited Availability.

  • Schedule: Call the refuge to reserve a spot. (978-465-5753 x200) Sat. 25 10:30-1:30 pm
  • Contact: (978-465-5753×200) www.fws.gov/northeast/parkerriver
  • Website: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
  • Location: 6 Plum Island Turnpike Newburyport 01950. 978-465-5753×204
  • Directions: Take I-95 to Exit 57/Rte 113 E. Continue straight onto Rte 1A S, to Rolfe’s Ln intersection. Left onto Rolfe’s Ln and travel .5 mi to end. Right onto Plum Island Tpk and travel 2 mi crossing the Sgt. Donald Wilkinson Bridge to Plum Island. Take 1st right onto Sunset Dr. and travel .5 mi to Refuge entrance. Depart: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Lot #1 Boat launch. Note: Rain date is Sunday 9/26/10, 10:30 am.

Trails & Sails History Tour

Discover the rich maritime heritage of Newburyport, the eastern seacoast’s first major commercial port, and of the Merrimack River Valley. During this tour you will see a unique collection of maritime art, model clipper ships, artifacts, history of the Coast Guard, and more. The Custom House in downtown Newburyport was designed by Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument and U.S. Treasury Building and is now an extraordinary maritime museum, educational center, research facility and meeting place for people seeking a unique venue for professional or social gatherings.

  • Schedule: Fri. 24 1:00-1:45 pm, Sat. 25 1:00-1:45 pm, Sun. 26 1:00-1:45 pm
  • Contact: (978-462-8681)
  • Website: The Custom House Maritime Museum
  • Location: 25 Water Street Newburyport 01950
  • Directions: Take I-95 to Exit 57/Rte 113 toward Newburyport. After ~2 mi, turn left onto Green St, and right onto Water St. Parking available in nearby lots.

Cruising the Essex River

Take a narrated sightseeing tour that winds down the beautiful Essex River aboard Essex River Queen, a pontoon boat. Notice the abundant wildlife and changing landscape along your trip. Bring along your binoculars and sketchbooks. Limited availability. Event capacity: 55.

  • Schedule: Sat. 25 8:30-10:00 am
  • Contact: (978-768-6981)
  • Website: Essex River Cruises and Charters
  • Location: 35 Dodge Street, Essex 01929
  • Directions: Take I-95 to 128N to Exit 15, School St/Essex. Turn left onto Rt. 133 (Main St). Bear right past intersection of Rt. 22. Turn right on Spring St and then right onto Dodge St. Essex River Cruises and Charters is on your right at the Essex Marina.

Fitz Lane’s Gloucester

Join the Cape Ann Museum for a walking tour of artist Fitz Henry Lane’s Gloucester. Stroll through this 19th-century maritime artist’s Gloucester neighborhood. Walk past some of the views captured in his landscape paintings and learn about Lane’s active participation in the community. Finish at the Cape Ann Museum, which is home to the preeminent collection of paintings and drawings by Fitz Henry Lane. Event capacity: 20.

  • Schedule: Sat. 25 10:00-11:30am
  • Contact: (978-281-8079)
  • Website: Cape Ann Museum
  • Location: 57 Western Avenue, Gloucester 01930
  • Directions: Take I-95 to Rte 128N to Exit 14 and take Rte 133 W towards Essex-Ipswich. Turn left at Rt.127/ Western Ave. Metered lots on Rogers St. and near City Hall off Pleasant St. Metered street parking along Main and Rogers St. Limited free parking at St. Peters Square. Public restrooms are at the ending point.

Goucester Schooner Sail

Welcome aboard the Schooner Thomas E. Lannon for a 1.5-hour sail about historic Gloucester Harbor. Help Captain Tom Ellis and his crew raise the sails or just relax and enjoy the views of castles, lighthouses, and the working waterfront. Let your imagination take you back 100 years when Gloucester’s harbor was full of working Schooners. No advance reservations will be accepted. Come to the Schooner Sails shed to get tickets before lining up to board the boat. Event capacity: 45.

  • Schedule: Sun. 26 9:00-10:30 am
  • Contact: (978 281-6634)
  • Website: Schooner Thomas E. Lannon
  • Location: 63 Rogers Street, Gloucester 01930
  • Directions: Take I-95 to 128N to Exit 11 (1st right at rotary), go .8 of a mi to Legion Building and bear right. Take a quick left onto Angle St. and proceed to stop sign. Down hill and turn left onto Rt. 127 (Rogers St.). Schooner Sails office is one of three sheds to right of Gloucester House Restaurant.Parking in the adjacent municipal (metered) lot is $.50/hr. Note: Parking in the adjacent municipal (metered) lot is $.50/hr.

Intro to Rowing

Free rowing lessons with Greater Lawrence Rowing top crew coaches and team members. Open for ages 10 and up. Our volunteers will teach you the basics and get you taking your first strokes in no time. Get started in the fastest growing sport in the Merrimack Valley, or join one of our adult or junior teams.

  • Schedule: Fri 24 6:00-8:00pm
  • Contact: (978-686-9881)
  • Website: Greater Lawrence Rowing
  • Location: 100 Reservoir Street, Lawrence 01841
  • Directions: Take I-93 Exit 47 to Rte 213 take Exit 2 to Rte 28S to Haverhill St. Haverhill St. to May St. Turn right onto May St. and follow to stop sign. Enter rotary and take 4th right onto Reservoir St. Proceed up hill to red brick stable on right. Depart: Red Brick Stable.