Report from the Field: Chester, CT

Paddlers enjoy peaceful Selden Creek
A pair of paddlers enjoy peaceful Selden Creek. Photos/New England Boating

Day One

The finish line has been crossed! The New England Boating TV crew put a wrap on its final shoot of the season in Chester, Connecticut, over the past 2 weeks, and once again we experienced fantastic weather—and fishing!

Big blues with Capt. Dixon Merkt
Big blue with Capt. Dixon Merkt

Local guide Dixon Merkt kicked things off for us by taking me fishing on the lower Connecticut River. The target was big bluefish, which were lurking in the shallow, turbid water near the river mouth. You’d never know the fish were present until they crushed our big topwater plugs. These were 12- to 15-pound “gator” blues that really put on a show for the camera. The wild topwater footage will make for an exciting fishing segment!

That evening I dropped in on photographer Caryn B. Davis and her husband Leif Nilson, who were hosting one of their frequent outdoor concerts in the home-built amphitheater behind the couple’s studio in the heart of Chester village. Leif is a multi-talented guy, and makes his living as a highly regarded impressionist painter. In fact, boaters might see him on the water, as he often paints landscapes aboard his boat. You’ll get to meet Caryn and Leif when the show airs later this fall, and you’ll see many of Caryn’s photos on this website and in the pages of New England Boating magazine.

After enjoying the music, I grabbed a bite to eat across the street at the Pattaconk 1850 pub and restaurant, which, as the name implies, has been around since the mid-1800s. The food was good, as were the atmosphere and wide selection of micro-brews.

The cozy and comfortable Riverwind Inn in Deep River provided crew accommodations
The cozy and comfortable Riverwind Inn in Deep River provided our crew with top-notch accommodations.

Well fed and tired, I checked into my room at the cozy, quaint and historic Riverwind Inn B&B in neighboring Deep River, where owner Elaine Klevens made me feel right at home. She cooks a tasty breakfast frittata, too, as I discovered the following morning.

After breakfast I poked around a bit, eventually stumbling upon the historic Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, which has shuttled people, goods and materials across the Connecticut River for over 200 years. I also checked out some of the Chester marinas, most of which are clustered around the mouth of Chester Creek. From this point it’s about a mile to the village, so transient boaters should consider bringing their bikes. Of course, you can also paddle or row upstream through Chester and Pattaconk Creeks, which takes you right into the village.

Mysterious Gillette Castle
Mysterious Gillette Castle.

Meanwhile, Parker and Producer/Director Gene Allen had arrived to film some segments in and about the village, including an interview with Jonathan Rapp, the creative chef and owner of the River Tavern, and who is credited with starting the “farm-to-table” movement in Connecticut.

Before heading home, I took the ferry across the river to Hadlyme and drove up the hill to Gillette Castle State Park, where guide Paul Schiller told me all about the unusual medieval-looking structure overlooking the river. The castle was built in 1919 by actor William Gillette, who made his fortune playing Sherlock Holmes in the theater. Gillette designed the faux fortress and its many whimsical interior elements, including the “trick” liquor cabinet and ornate wooden doors. As you’ll see in the show, Gillette was an interesting and creative character, and his “castle” is worth a visit.

Day Two

Filming resumed a week later, when the entire crew reconvened in Deep River to launch our C260 Pursuit at the Deep River Town Landing. The ramp is free, with limited parking, and we had no problem launching the Pursuit. Best of all, the location put us within easy reach of our first stop—Selden Creek.

Selden Creek is splendid in autumn
Selden Creek is splendid in autumn.

This beautiful creek winds behind Selden Island, a state park that offers riverside camping (reservations must be made via mail with the DEEP) and hiking trails. The creek itself is a beautiful waterway lined by cattails and filled with wildlife. It’s popular among paddlers, rowers…and a certain local painter. Ah, but I won’t ruin the surprise.

The docks at Hays Haven Marina
The docks at Chrisholm Marina.

After our tour of Selden Creek, we stopped in at Chrisholm Marina, located just north of the ferry. Chrisholm is a full-service marina, and a very nice place to keep your boat for the season or while visiting the Chester area. Like the other Chester marinas, it’s not located near the village, but is within biking distance (the marina staff will also give you a ride into town). This afforded us a good opportunity to talk on-camera about the folding bicycles provided for the episode by Montague Bikes. I can vouch for the high quality of the models we were given (Paratrooper and Crosstown), including their sturdy frames and top-flight components. But see them for yourself when the episode airs on December 22.

The tour boat Becky Thatcher makes her way upstream
The tour boat Becky Thatcher makes her way upriver.

We enjoyed pizza on one of the Chrisholm picnic tables under the hot September sun then motored back to Deep River to haul the Pursuit and put a cap on another fun, fantastic, action-packed second season of filming New England Boating TV. Now it’s your turn to see what we’ve been up to all summer, as the new episodes begin airing on NESN starting Monday, October 6 at our 6:30 time slot.

New England Boating TV, sponsored by GMC and Pursuit Boats and their network of New England dealers. Live on NESN Mondays at 6:30 p.m. and rebroadcast on the following Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

Check out the our Season 2 schedule here.

Watch Episode 1: Quincy tonight, Monday, October 6 at 6:30 p.m. on NESN.
Watch a rebroadcast of Episode 1: Quincy, Sunday, October 12 at 12:30 p.m. on NESN.