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City Island …an oasis for sailors in the Bronx !

If someone told you that you could get to your marina on an island in Long Island Sound by subway, you’d probably think they were pulling your leg.  But in this case, it’s true!  City Island is one of the most unique communities in the world.  It’s an island steeped with centuries of maritime history.  It’s also part of the Bronx , one of the five boroughs of New York City

Execution Light guarding the eastern
approaches to City Island.
City Island is located on Eastchester Bay at the western end of Long Island Sound, bordering on nearby Westchester County .  It is accessible by water, by road, and by subway (IRT train #6). By water, the approach from the East takes you between Execution Light and Stepping Stones Light where the scenery is spectacular.  The traffic in the channel can be exhilarating or daunting on a busy weekend, with powerboats buzzing at high speed, tugs pulling barges through the narrow cut, and sailboats vying for depth along the fringes.   It’s the last of the islands along this stretch, just past Hart Island , where the signs warning against landing on the prison grounds keep the boaters at bay.  Coming from the other direction up the East River , it’s directly ahead and to port as you pass under the Throgs Neck Bridge .

Click for enlarged view.

At your first view of the island, you can imagine the first inhabitants, theSiwanoy Indians, thriving on the abundant fish and shellfish of the bay's waters, later replaced by the immense shipbuilding sites where some of the world’s most renowned power and sail vessels were built.  It’s now a bustling community of marinas, restaurants and yacht clubs, and still very sailing oriented.

Anchoring in the Harbor between City Island and Hart Island can be rather challenging, with a number of hazards to contend with.  With the mooring field, wrecks strewn about, a cable and pipeline zone, and various obstructions, care must be taken in selecting a spot.  We used to anchor in the soft bottom near Rat Island (not a welcoming name but we thankfully never discovered its origin) which gave us plenty of depth and access to a dinghy dock at the sailing school’s facilities; that is until we snagged something one day and could not free our anchor no matter what we tried.  So we gave in to the anchor-eating monster and waved bye-bye to our favorite hook as we cut it away.  It’s not hard to imagine that there are numerous uncharted obstructions left behind by generations of sea venturing and shipbuilding endeavors. Now we are more likely to pick up a guest mooring on the Rodman Neck side of the island, watching the depths carefully as we go in.

Arriving by land, City Island Avenue , the main street that feeds onto the island from the bridge, traverses its length through four traffic lights.  The Avenue is lined with marinas, quaint shops, restaurants galore, as well as charming Victorian homes.  In fact, the whole island is dotted with interesting homes built by sea captains and shipbuilders throughout the 18th and 19th centuries when City Island was a thriving sea port and yachting center.  Some of America ’s wealthiest citizens commissioned yachts to be built and docked at City Island , included among them several America ’s Cup champions.   You can learn more about the rich history by visiting the City Island Nautical Museum ( ).

Although the shipbuilding industry is gone now, the Island still has several good quality marinas, two sailmakers, a chandlery, and six yacht clubs - some founded over a century ago.  Sailing still prevails and the Eastchester Bay Yacht Racing Association ( hosts Wednesday night races among other events so you can enjoy the dazzling sight of dozens of white sails racing for the finish line when the wind kicks up before sunset.  In fact, the yacht clubs that make up EBYRA are friendly places to visit if you are a member of a reciprocal club, offering moorings and victuals in choice City Island locations.

A leisurely stroll down the Avenue sends you past numerous waterfront restaurants renowned for seafood and sunset vistas of the New York City skyline, rimmed by bridges outlined with strands of iridescent lights.   Or go treasure hunting in the island’s antique shops, art galleries, and crafts stores.   Stop for an ice cream in the delightful streetside parlor, or plan an evening at Tito Puente’s jazz club.  If you’re sports oriented, you may want to arrange a diving expedition to explore wrecks in Long Island Sound or visit the expert bait and tackle shops to get their advice on what fish are running and how to increase your chances of catching. There is plenty to occupy your time. 

For a listing of resources on City Island, click here.

For a walking guide from, please click here.

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