January 21, 2022

Estuary Council of Seniors Holiday Craft Fair

The Estuary Council of Seniors will be holding their Holiday Craft Fair on Saturday, November 19 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.at 220 Main Street, Old Saybrook.

Local crafters will display an array of hand crafted afghans, quilts, handbags, scarves, jewelry, photo cards, pottery and much more!

There will also be a wonderful “Bake Shop” filled with homemade desserts and candy for sale.

Call Sandy at the Estuary for more information 860 388-1611

The fair is open to the public of all ages to come and enjoy local hand crafted items for their holiday shopping needs!

A one-two punch from winter weather – Message from Congressman Joe Courtney

Connecticut was hit hard by its second massive storm last weekend – a one-two punch from Tropical Storm Irene, then Winter Storm Alfred. With thousands of families still waiting for power to be restored, including my own, I wanted to update you on what I have been doing over the past few days.

Congressman Courtney joined other members of the Connecticut Congressional delegation and Gov. Malloy yesterday in Hartford to discuss federal aid that will help with storm cleanup.


After the storm hit and the lights went out, my office immediately arranged for a conference call with CL&P and town leaders from across eastern Connecticut. We learned in Irene that communication is key in this process, and connecting CL&P directly with town leaders is the fastest way to get resources where they are needed to deploy town work crews for “clear and cutting.” Despite that initial effort, the allocation of utility line crews has been excruciatingly slow and uneven. One thing that has been flawless though is the effort of countless volunteers and first responders across the district who have come together to keep us safe and warm.

Since the storm hit, I have visited Emergency Operations Centers in Vernon, Stafford, Suffield, Somers, Enfield, and Tolland, as well as emergency shelters. The professionalism and care on display in these town has been inspiring. The good nature of residents at shelters at Vernon Middle School, Suffield High and others was really impressive.

Federal resources to get the lights back on

At the end of the day though, Connecticut needs more crews and we need to get the lights back on. The Connecticut Congressional Delegation has worked with the Department of Energy to get CL&P the resources they need to accelerate the recovery process, turn the lights back on and reheat homes. As a result, the Department sent Bill Bryan, their Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration to Connecticut to help ensure that the federal government is doing everything possible to respond. Still, the onus is on CL&P to take advantage of the assistance they have secured so they can meet their projected Sunday restoration times.

As I write this, my own town of Vernon is still over 90 percent without power, and most of us know people who are struggling. The most immediate priority is getting the power back on, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Connecticut Congressional Delegation and federal officials to help coordinate additional resources, like work crews, to help speed up the process of restoring power.

With nighttime temperatures hovering around freezing, getting to shelters is critical. If your friends or family are still without power, 2-1-1 has a list of shelters and warming centers across eastern Connecticut. Help get the word out and share this valuable information.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office and me if we can be of any assistance.


Joe Courtney
Member of Congress

Frostbite Sailors Brave the Wind and Cold, “all for the love of sailing”

Snow on boats before launching (Photo courtesy of Bob Leary)

In a bright, bright sun, on a cold, cold day, with the wind gusting well over 20 knots, twenty-five hearty sailors raced last Sunday (Oct. 30) for the better part of an afternoon in Essex Harbor.

These Frostbiters, as they call themselves, didn’t seem to mind conditions such as these. For them the more blustery it is, the better. In fact, when it was learned that ten “frostbiting” sailboats had capsized while sailing this afternoon, it was taken as a point of pride, rather than  a demonstration of what some might consider pure foolishness.

Readying the boats in parking lot

There were four kinds of boats in the afternoon’s competition in the cold.  They were: (1) the graceful, 30 foot Etchells, (2) the JY-15’s, (3) the Ideal 18’s, and (4) the one person, single sail Lasers of 13 feet, 9 inches. Most of the boats that capsized during the afternoon races were Lasers, with a few JY-15’s as well.

Single-handed Lasers round a mark

Once a Laser capsizes there is only one person at hand, who can bring the boat back upright, and that is the one man crew. Regular dunking into the water is the primary reason why Laser skippers wear full-bodied wet suits. The wet suit, however, does not keep a capsized sailor’s head from getting wet, and there is always a bit of water leaking down into the wet suit, after the boat and sailor have gone into the drink.

Crew struggles with capsized boat in water (Photo courtesy of Bob Leary)

A Crash Boat, fully motorized, patrols the Frostbite races, manned by  Frostbite Yacht Club Commodore, Scott Baker. If Baker sees that a capsized Laser sailor is having a difficult time righting his vessel, he has the power to send the boat back to the dock, because of the sailor’s evident fatigue. “If they are having trouble, we send them back in,” Baker says.

On this afternoon the Commodore sent three exhausted Laser skippers back to the dock, because of fatigue. In fact, there was such a concern for capsizing Lasers that the crash boat began following them around their course.

The larger Etchells can suffer a variety of breakdowns, such a broken spinnaker pole or traveler, but they are rarely, if ever, ordered back to dock, because of skipper’s fatigue.

As for Sunday’s sailing competition, the Frostbite sailors spoke with real feeling. “It was an awesome, windy day,” said Toby Doyle, who took first place with his Etchells in the afternoon’s races. “We survived,” he added.

An Etchells close-hauled

Other winning skippers were Mathew Wilson, first place of the JY-15’s; Ed Birch, captain of the winning Ideal 18, who is frequently a winning skipper; and Chris Field, the first place Laser skipper, who had only himself to thank for his victory.

As for the weather conditions, Ed Birch said, “It was nasty out there, with big puffs coming up.” A one point Birch said, “We were getting killed out there.”

An Etchells with full spinnaker

For her part Charlotte Posey, who sails an Ideal 18 with her husband, Dennis Posey, she was shocked when her husband said he wanted to go sailing today. They first had to shovel the snow out of their driveway.

The Ideal 18 requires a crew of two, and Charlotte Posey says that she and her husband “are one of the few couples out there who can sail together.”

After the races a former Commodore of the Frostbiters, Rick Harrison, said simply while sipping some hot soup, “It was a day of survival.”

Frostbnite Commodore Scott Baker eating soup after the race

The ultimate arbiter, whenever there is a dispute, is the club’s   Principal Race Officer, Tom Carse. As for the winds this day he termed them, “Very difficult, very puffy.”

Commodore Baker officially termed the day’s weather conditions as, “challenging but not dangerous.” Do the Frostbiters sometimes sail in  “dangerous conditions?” The Commodore answered, “Yes.”

Of the 25 sailboats boats in the races, there were four Etchells, four JY-15’s, 8 Ideals 18’s, and 9 Lasers. After all the boats were pulled out of the water, and stored until next week’s race, beginning at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, November 6th, in Essex Harbor, the Frostbiters retired to a local yacht club and some hot soup. Sailing a boat is always a matter of moods, it seems. This past Sunday was one of just pure excitement.

Frostbiters' Race Committee Boat

Courtney Approves Iraq Withdrawal Plans by President

A message from Congressman Joe Courtney.

Rep. Courtney and Connecticut's Captain Frank R. DuVerger III in Afghanistan this month

Last week, President Obama announced that all U.S. military personnel will be out of Iraq by the end of the year. Many of our servicemen and women who have been away from their families for too many birthdays, milestones and celebrations during the war will be home this holiday season.

President Obama’s decision to protect U.S. military personnel from unacceptable exposure to prosecution in Iraqi courts and instead execute the final removal of American troops from Iraq is the right decision for both countries. This milestone was achieved through negotiations between our two countries that provided a clear path for the transition of responsibility to the Iraqi government. After eight long years, our brave volunteers have given that country the opportunity to create its own future with a sizable security force and the rudiments of democratic institutions.

With the Fifth Fleet nearby in Bahrain and U.S. bases in Kuwait and Qatar, our ability to respond to any threat to American national security in the region is more than adequate. As the President said, our two nations will continue to have a special relationship for many years to come, built on the sacrifice and effort of our troops. Now is the time to pay particular homage to all who served in Iraq and their families – the “one percent” who have stepped up and volunteered to wear our nation’s uniform through a difficult time in our history.

On the ground in Afghanistan

 Of course, even as American troops leave Iraq, our servicemen and women remain on the ground in Afghanistan. Earlier this month, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I visited the country, where I was briefed on operations, met with Connecticut troops and top commanders, and learned more about the training of Afghan police and military personnel. Most importantly, General John Allen, commander of U.S./NATO troops, gave an encouraging brief on the planned draw down of U.S. troops: 10,000 this year and 23,000 by the fall of 2012. 48% of the Afghan nation will be under the control of the Afghanis in the near future, and the transition will continue until full control of Afghanistan’s future is in the hands of the Afghan people.

This was my third trip to Afghanistan since coming to Congress, and the progress was plain to see. More girls and young women are traveling to and from school, the education system has improved, and security forces are better trained and better equipped to keep the peace. While there are substantial hurdles left to clear, these are encouraging milestones that demonstrate movement in the right direction.

But to have gotten to this point – a place where real progress is clear – is a testament to the strength, bravery and resolve our military. As the war in Iraq winds down, their hard work has brought us to a place where, after 10 long years, Afghans are on the brink of reclaiming their country and their future.

Essex Historical Society Presents “Life in a Village”

The Essex Historical Society invites you to attend a program called “Life in a Village” on Wednesday, November 9, from 7-9 pm at Gather, the present name of the Ivoryton Store.

In 1873/1874, Samuel Merrit Comstock built a store in the center of Ivoryton. The Ivoryton Store, later called Rose Brothers served as the anchor for the plan “of a village built around a factory, and a factory around a village” (quote from Houses of Essex by Don Malcarne). The second floor of this structure was known as Comstock Hall where Company and social functions were held until 1911.

The Essex Historical Society invites you to attend a program called “Life in a Village” on Wednesday, November 9, from 7-9 pm at Gather the present name of the Ivoryton Store. The main speaker, Chris Pagliuco, will speak on “putting the transition of Ivoryton from a rural farming community to an industrial village in a larger economic, political and cultural context”. Chris Pagliuco was recently named the Town Historian of the three villages Centerbrook, Essex and Ivoryton. He will contrast the fundamental differences in the pace, routines and relationships of our daily lives with those of Ivoryton residents 130 years ago. This includes “references to many of the features of the village still present today”.

Marie Negrelli, a resident of the area during the World War II era will bring a personal perspective of Ivoryton village. Marie says she will tell of “growing up in Ivoryton, sharing memories of Ivoryton Grammar School, Ivoryton Playhouse, Ivoryton Store, Pratt –Read, Clarks Pond and Jone’s Store”. She will also bring unique memorabilia and enlargements of her own postcard collection. Marie credits Ivoryton Librarian, Robbie Storms with sharing historical documents to give insight from her memories. Marie will be joined in remembering by her sisters Mary Lombardi and Joann Stone.

The Ivoryton Store has changed in appearance, owners and services and goods offered. However, it represents a glorious example of the Industrial Revolution in the lower Connecticut River Valley. So gather with owner Deanna of Gather as she graciously opens, 104 Main Street, Ivoryton after hours on November 9, to a flood of memories.

Love for Grown-Ups at Essex Books-Gather

Join Essex books at Gather in Main Street Ivoryton from noon until 1 p.m. on November 10 for a fun talk by author, Tish Rabe, Love for Grown-Ups: The Garter Brides’ Guide to Marrying For Life When You’ve Already Got a Life, co-authored by Ann Blumenthal Jacobs and Patricia Ryan Lampl, .  Who are the Garter Brides?  A sisterhood of women who all wore the same garter at their weddings and got married over the age of 35! This book is one-stop shopping for the mature woman who wants to meet, has met, or is building a relationship with a mature man!

Ms. Rabe will raffle an autographed copy of  Love for Grown-Ups at our event!

To register, simply click on Register Now below or reply to this e-mail.  Tell a friend… and catch the garter wave!  Register Now!

A $5 admission fee may be put toward the purchase of a book.

Thank you for supporting authors, Essex Books, and Gather!

Essex Planning Commission Considers Resubdivision Plan for Toby Hill Road

ESSEX—The planning commission has begun its review of a proposed three-lot resubdivision of a 12-acre parcel off Toby Hill Road in the Ivoryton section.

Last winter, before a formal application was submitted for the proposed development, the potential need for improvements to the intersection of Toby Hill Road and Pond Meadow Road led the board of selectmen to consider the possible abandonment of the section of Toby Hill Road in Ivoryton.

Toby Hill Road is an old town roadway that extends from Pond Meadow Road north to cross the town line and intersect with McVeagh Road in Westbrook. While there has been residential development and road improvements on the Westbrook side, much of the road in Ivoryton is an unimproved gravel or dirt road.

The applicant, Paul Vumbaco of Meriden, owns a total of 34.7 acres on both sides of the Essex-Westbrook town line. Vumbaco has already received approval for a seven-lot subdivision of the 22 acres in Westbrook. He is now seeking approval for a three-lot resubdivision of the 12.38-acre parcel in Essex.

The lots in Westbrook are located on Joseph Circle, a new road extending off Toby Hill Road. The three lots in Essex would be located on an extension of Joseph Circle that would end in a cul-de-sac while also connecting to Toby Hill Road on the Essex side.

The section of Toby Hill Road in Ivoryton currently serves three homes, one in Essex and two located over the town line in Westbrook. The proposed development would also include a dedication of 6.38 acres as open space land. The resubdivision application also seeks a waiver of town regulations to allow one interior lot that would lack road frontage and be accessed from a driveway.

The planning commission opened a public hearing on the proposed three-lot resubdivision on Oct. 13. The commission discussed the need for improvements to the Essex section of Toby Hill Road and the intersection to Pond Meadow Road with representatives of Vumbaco, including an attorney and local engineer Robert Doane. According to minutes from the public hearing, Doane said the width of Toby Hill Road would be increased to 22-feet, and sight lines would be improved on the right side of the intersection to make a right turn.

The commission scheduled a Nov. 5 site walk of the property, with the public hearing continued to the Nov. 10 meeting. As the Westbrook subdivision was under review in that town last winter, the commission had urged the board of selectmen to abandon the 300-foot section of Toby Hill Road in Ivoryton to avoid the possible need for town-funded improvements to the intersection of Toby Hill Road and Pond Meadow Road. Town Planner John Guszkowski had described the intersection as difficult, with “a steep approach from Toby Hill Road, poor sight lines and unfavorable topography.”

After discussion at a meeting last March, the board of selectmen took no action on the planning commission recommendation to abandon the section of Toby Hill Road.


Pettipaug Yacht Club Still Showing Effects of Irene

Debris taken out of the water by club members

Hurricane Irene visited the Pettipaug Yacht Club in a big way on Sunday, August 28, and the club is still feeling the after effects. For one there is literally a parade of floating logs coming down the river, and clogging up with debris the club’s boat ramp to the river.

“We have to clear the boat ramp at least every two days,” says Paul Risseeuw, who is the Director of the club’s Sailing Academy and informal caretaker of the club.  A pile of the debris that has been collected by club members is kept next to the boat ramp. The sizes of some of the pieces taken out of the river by club members are impressive.

However, as Risseeuw admits, some of the whole trees that pull up at the club’s docks are simply too big to handle, Reluctantly, they have to be pushed back into the river to continue their journey towards the sound.

Paul Risseeuw points high water mark at club

When the Irene’s storm water reached its highest, it was up to the second step from the top of the stairs at the club house. The club house itself is on a platform some four feet above the ground, and no water touched the deck.  However, all the grounds of the club were completely submerged during the storm period.

When the water on the grounds reached a certain point although anchored in some fashion, the boats began to float. (All of the boat’s masts and been removed before the storm.) This meant that some 120 boats were floating around during flood periods. The boats afloat included: Blue Jays, 420s, Lasers, as well as several Boston Whalers.

Although anchored to the ground, because of the leeway in their painters, the floating boats began to sway, and a number of them banged into each other. A few boats were damaged in this fashion. Also, a storage shed, where wind surfers had been kept, was badly banged out by wind, water and swinging boats.

However, saved from banging boats on the flooded grounds, were the small Optimist sailboats. They had been stacked on the floor of the clubhouse and were unharmed.

The story was very different for one boat owner at the club, who decided to keep his boat in the water in spite of Irene. It was a big mistake. Early in the storm the boat was flipped over to its side, and a floating tree coming down the river dragged the capsized boat and mooring down the river, and eventually hung up on another mooring. The owner found his boat after a hunt only to learn that the boat’s mast had been broken into three pieces. The boat owner had to hire a floating crane to get his boat out of the water.

Some club grounds still a jumble

Meanwhile the club’s docks completely avoided any damage, although the poles that are driven into the river bottom to hold the docks in place now appear bent. If the poles themselves had failed, it would have meant the loss of the club’s docks.

With the exception of the single boat left in the water, and the only minor damage caused by the boats anchored on the club grounds banging around, the club got away pretty easily from the visit by Irene. As Risseeuw puts it bluntly, “We got away cheap.”

A second chapter to Irene

There was also a week or so later, a second chapter to Irene. Some are calling it, the “Vermont mud slide.” Because of the heavy rains during Irene, the Vermont shore of the Connecticut River, way up north, flushed an enormous amount of sediment, i.e. mud, into the river.

In fact, there was so much Vermont mud coming down the river, the waters out in front of the club turned brown for a number of days.

Also, according to Risseeuw, there was a layer of Vermont mud dumped on the grounds of Pettipaug. There was also a second surge of high water, but nothing on the scale of Irene.

With its grounds scarcely above high tide levels, it is inevitable that future hurricanes will again completely flood the grounds of the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

Entrance sign of the Pettipaug Yacht Club

Risseeuw says that before another hurricane hits, which is inevitable, the club has decided to order all boats off the club grounds, and moved to higher elevations. Whether that means storing them in private driveways, or even in well elevated marinas, it won’t make any difference. “The boats are not going be allowed to be left here,” Risseeuw says.

Also, there will be strict rule that all boats, when a hurricane threatens, must be hauled out of the water, no exceptions. Some sailors simply have to be saved from themselves.