As the sun begins to dip below the skyline, the Providence River’s surface flares up, tinged with its flickering glow. In the hazy sunset light, a gondola emerges cutting through the still water’s surface, though it’s just as easy to hear as it is to see; as it glides down the river, the boat wafts strains of song from its live accordion accompanist. Led by owner Marcello, La Gondola’s group of gondoliers row with the mission to only furnish passengers with romantic sojourns and to celebrate the riverfront and the city’s Italian ties. Each of his Venice-built gondolas gleams with intricately wrought ornaments and solid brass trim, and at 36 feet, they comfortably hold a gondolier, guests, an accompanying musician, and the occasional hitchhiking tugboat captain. Each gondola trip his company takes gets Marcello’s custom touch, as he tailors every trip to passengers’ desires. “No matter who you are,” he says, “we strive to make you feel like the queen and king of the river.” In agreement with many other residents, Marcello considers Waterplace Park a city hub: “If the park is the heart of the city, the river is the lifeblood,” He says. He hopes the rebirth of the local riverfront parallels a local renaissance for gondoliering as well, which inspired him to plan the inaugural Gondolympics in May.
An Orana Catamaran and fleet of Beneteau sailboats bear the Rob Swain Sailing School and Charters insignia, indicating their status as floating classrooms for the school's pupils. The accredited outfit maintains facilities in Rhode Island and the British Virgin Islands, where it boasts access to steady trade winds and plenty of sunshine. Sailors-in-training can start with the basic keelboat course, learning basic sailing techniques and terminology such as "starboard" and "water" before advancing to courses on coastal navigation, bareboating, and performance racing.
Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures' aqueous instructors equip riders with the building blocks for surfing success with comprehensive courses and hands-on demonstrations. During the two-hour intro-to-standup-paddleboarding class, certified instructors help small classes of students brush up on body-boating basics atop the calm, protected waterways of the Westport River. Armed with top-of-the-line equipment, including boards, paddles, and masks shaped like each rider's favorite waterfowl, students learn how to keep their balance, paddle properly, and navigate eddying currents safely and quickly. Osprey's intro lessons shove off at high tide every Saturday and are calibrated to all levels of surfing experience. In the event of days marred by inclement weather or Loch Ness Monster impersonators, lessons may be rescheduled for cleared conditions.
Save The Bay has held to its mission since its founding in 1970: to protect, restore, and improve the Narragansett Bay region and its coastal waters through environmental action and stewardship. Save The Bay also defends the right of the public to use the Bay, encouraging visitors to act as responsible stewards of the Bay's bounty for future generations.
Today, Save The Bay's staff and volunteers continue their work from their Bay Center that serves as the heart of operations. Its stormwater-management system contains a vegetated roof, a coastal-buffer zone, swales, and basins that can absorb and filter rainwater. Made from recycled steel and metal, the center's interior hosts an array of educational programs for adults and kids. Save The Bay also maintains an Exploration Center and Aquarium, camps, and marine-life tours aboard its 45-foot US Coast Guard–certified vessel Alletta Morris, the 27-foot vessel Swift, or the 46-foot Elizabeth Morris.
A crew of professional mariners at Confident Captain/Ocean Pros prepares students to navigate the earth’s bluest patches with instruction in all facets of boat operation and maintenance. A schedule of classes includes primarily Saturday and Sunday sessions, which take place 9 a.m.–3 p.m. at the Confident Captain Training Center. Soak up lessons in vessel safety through the At the Helm program. Novice sailors absorb the basics of seafaring equipment, security measures, and barracuda-hunting calls from the Brand New Boater course ($95), and the Competent Crew class teaches the essentials of gear stowing, knot tying, and line tossing ($150).
The sight of an 80-foot pilot schooner sailing as it nimbly navigated the water of Newport Harbor was a much more common sight in the 19th century than today. Sail Newport celebrates the majestic spirit of this bygone era by welcoming passengers aboard the Adirondack II, a wooden-hulled, turn-of-the-century-style schooner that wouldn't look out of place 100 years ago—even though it was built in 1999.
The original pilot schooners were built for speed, and the creators of the Adirondack II honored this legacy while still implementing a number of modern touches—including rigging held in place with kevlar shrouds—to better create a swift, safe, and comfortable ship. On days with high winds or an above-average number of people sneezing, the Adirondack II can reach speeds of up to 10 knots as its sails catch the breeze.
For each voyage, as many as 57 passengers can explore the vessel's mahogany-trimmed teak decks as it sets out into the harbor. Cruises can provide guests with stunning views of sights such as Newport's waterside mansions, numerous lighthouses, and a 19th-century fort.