Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On Freedom

We are currently back in Port Washington in Manhassat Bay where this excursion into Long Island started. This is a good spot as it has everything we need to prepare for the next leg of the journey back to NYC, Sandy Hook and the Jersey Coast to Delaware Bay.

From Chicago to NYC I was on a mission. I HAD to get out of the Great Lakes for fear of them freezing over. What the hell kind of night mare was that? Now that we have been and gone from NYC and it is still August (just beat the freeze in Lake Erie I think) we have the freedom to explore Long Island Sound (local pronunciation: Long GUY’ land). We’ve had the freedom to go far if there was wind or to go not far or even stay put if there was no wind. After all, this is a sailboat with an AUXILIARY engine. In the Great Lakes the next place is typically 40 or 50 miles along the shore so if you’re going you’re going to be going for awhile and/or you’re going to be grinding some diesel as we have become fond of putting it. Hey, the FREE in freedom does not include blowing diesel if one needn’t!

With all that in mind we have meandered back and forth along Long Island Sound. Down to Manhassat and up to Mamaronek. Down to Oyster Bay and up to Bridgeport only to go back down to Port Jefferson. Ah, Port Jefferson

We came to Port Jefferson today after a bit of an uncomfortable night in Bridgeport. Wind was out of the south and the anchorage and breakwater there did not provide the protection we were hoping for. Long way into a town which promises little according to the Embassey Guide (more on them later…). So we swung on the anchor and got rolled occasionally by passing power boats or the ferry taking people from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport to gamble apparently. We slept in the cockpit for awhile because when it is rolly the confines of the forward v-berth can be a little, well, sickening. It quieted later and we were fine. Port Jefferson sports a much more protected bay on the southern shore of the sound so it made sense to make the ~20 mile trip there today.

Wind in our face and choppy seas made for a motor and main day but what else is new. The embassy book speaks highly of Port Jefferson and it looks like the town is right near the marinas and so forth and that’s always good for us walkers. The Embassey guides are for cruisers but they are clearly paid by the towns and advertisers. Not too edgy in their descriptions of towns. Every history of a town starts out telling how the early settlers screwed the Indians out of their fishing grounds for a pile of beads, some fire water and two tickets to an Astros game. Nice. Not unlike looking for an apartment, you have to read between the lines. You know how when an apartment ad says, “charming”, you say “dump”? Some towns are described as

Really making great strides since the huge land fill by the chemical plant leaked into the sound. Don’t hardly even smell so fishy anymore. Note the quaint townspeople with their ever present twitch and third eye.

Stuff like that. Anyway, Port Jefferson sounded quaint and, “You can anchor anywhere off of the main channel in the big bay”. No you can’t.

Here’s the big discovery about sailing in Long Island Sound. Look at your charts and read your Embassey Guide. You’ll find lots of neat bays and inlets to anchor in. When you get there don’t be surprised if said bay or inlet has 300 mooring balls with boats attached filling it and you don’t get one! It’s not that you can’t anchor. It’s just that there is more to anchoring than just tossing the hook off of the bow of the boat. Location, location, location. The mooring balls have most of the ideal anchoring locations. Probably got them from the Indians come to think of it!

Bottom line is that you can anchor and we anchored in Port Jefferson ok but about a mile and a half from town. That’s a bit of a dingy ride but, ok, dingy rides are fun too. We have done this A LOT. You dingy in, look around, read signs, ask somebody and eventually find the little dingy dock where you can tie up to visit town. Towns like to do this because once they have you out of your dingy they can sell you stuff. We came into the dock area and didn’t see any obvious dingy dock. We pulled up to a gas dock for the town marina by grabbing onto a wooden ladder about 6 feet below the deck as it was low tide. I climbed up and asked if we could tie up somewhere and they looked at where I was and said, “Oh sure that’s fine there.” Great. A little scary on the ladder but the tide will be up when we leave. As we were tying up, the lady came back over and said. “Ok, that’s going to be $6 an hour.” What? To tie to this nasty wooden ladder?” I said, “No thanks”, and moved on. There was a harbor next door and when we pulled up there they guy said, “Oh sure just pull around there and there and then come up and register”.

“Register?”, I said. “Register what?”

“It’s $6 an hour.” Hmmm…sounds familiar. I said, “Isn’t there someplace where I can just tie up for free to go into town for a couple of hours?” He said he didn’t know of any.

We motored back to Enee. I guess our lives will be unfulfilled because we were denied the experience of downtown Port Jefferson (one of my favorite presidents!). Just think what THEY must have had to offer that all those free towns must not have had. I hope me and my $6 can sleep tonight. I think we will.

I think we will because part of the freedom is the NOT part. I’m NOT on vacation. Port Jefferson was NOT a planned stop for me. I’m now immensely enjoying Port Jefferson by NOT being there. Similarly, I’m immensely enjoying Maine East High School by NOT teaching there! Same with Des Plaines Illinois and NOT living there. There’s a lot ‘o NOT in this trip and I DO remember to enjoy that as much as I enjoy the positives: my boat, my exploring and navigating, my partner, and going places where my dingy can be parked for free!

Tomorrow? Somewhere else. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Mamaroneck to Oyster Bay to Northport Long Island!

Pictures are on their way. Sue forgot to bring the camera and so this entry is sans photos, but believe me there are many photos to come.

Northport: WE are currently on an orange mooring ball in Northport. The killer swans greeted us as we arrived. We took the launch boat into town and after walking in the wrong direction for 4 blocks found the very quaint and friendly downtown. Wifi is free in this coffe shop because someone upstairs is wired. We promise to bring more detail with photos in the next blog. Not sure where we'll go from here. The wind is almost non existent so we may just stay here another day. Stay tuned......

Thoughts from an evening at a mooring in Oyster Bay:

Here we are at CA8. Mooring ball CA8 in Oyster Bay, Long Island.

We left Mamaroneck mid day after talking to a boat broker about selling Enee and buying the next boat then having breakfast at the diner down the road. We talked about the great anchorage we had the night before, though we moved 3 times before finding the appropriate depth needed in the 8 foot tide differential that occurs twice a day at Mamaroneck. Look out for those “Pop Rocks” wherever they may be.

We raised the main at anchor, let the main sheet loose and played with the traveler lines to make sure everything was free and easy. Then up the anchor and off we go. We had the engine running but didn’t really need it. Sure, let’s make that red buoy marking the channel just to be sure about depths. On to the next place. Well the wind is mostly from the northeast so let’s head south to Oyster Bay. What a great sail.

At first we thought we broke the wind and then it picked up and gusted for the next 3 hours as we headed southeast. As it turns out we were on a beam reach with wind gusts of (guessing 15 to 20) and we’re heeled over plenty. Sue thinks 20 degrees. At some point we loosened the main to sail a bit flatter. All in all we cruised (6 and sometimes a brief 7 knots) along the Sound to Oyster Bay. Heading into the bay we sailed with whitecaps and finally when we were in the lee of the shore decided to roll in the genny and a few moments later take down the main.

Hey, that secluded area we thought we would anchor in also has white caps lapping away. Let’s not go that far. Okay. How about taking a mooring ball here at the Oyster Bay Marina. Good idea. Scott calls them on the radio and after two attempts finally identifies a ball that is not already taken. Who could figure out their numbering system!

The wind has subsided, the racing boats have just headed out, and here we are cooking dinner and looking at the sun set. The sky is clear, the water is a blue you can’t describe and the sun is shedding a light that everyone could see with no matter what their prescription (or seeing eye rays).

When do we pay for this mooring ball? There are tender boats about but none come our way. Is this a freebie because of the original confusion of assigned balls? A mystery yet to be solved. Right now, the chicken and left over spaghetti is about ready. Would you like a glass of wine with dinner?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Hi Everyone-

Just a comment on the map above. The keeper of the map....ok that's me, was on vacation for the past week and a half and so wasn't able to update precise stopping points that Scott and Sue had. So I just moved the arrow to about where they are now.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Pictures that should have been in the blog below!

The only wacky guy we saw in New York. We did not pay nor did we tell him off.

Central Park is NOT scary...in the day time. Just a big quiet place in the middle of the busy, busy city.

In Strawberry Fields in Central Park across from the Dakota where John Lennon was shot. A nice peaceful place...Imagine

Goodbye NYC...Hello Long Island Sound

Good bye NYC. Hello Long Island Sound

It’s mid August and the only thing on my calendar is to be around Norfolk VI around November 1st to begin the trek south to Florida. Looking at an atlas I see that in rough numbers NYC to Norfolk direct is about the same as the length of Lake Michigan. ( I refer all distances back to how far things are on Lake Michigan!) Of course we are going to go up Delaware Bay and then down the Chesapeake which makes it longer. Still I have two and a half months. Simmer down NOW! On one hand this means that we could have definitely explored the North Channel of Lake Huron rather than ripping of 50 – 70 miles day like our stern was on fire. On the other hand this adventure was never really about exploring the Great Lakes. That’s where we’re from and we’ve both seen the Canadian wilderness more than once. Now we have the freedom to say, “yeah, let’s explore Long Island Sound before we head for the Chesapeake. So we are. But first…

Final thoughts on NYC… It’s wonderful. My daughter wants to live there which I totally understand and I think she and her husband will make that happen. I hope so…I want to visit! Central Park was immaculate. Riverside Park was too. We only barely scratched the surface of this wonderful town.

On Friday I saw that a particularly ugly yellow Catalina 27 had come in. It was clearly rigged for cruising so I hailed the guy and asked if he had any info on anchoring in the Sound. He did! We talked and poured over charts for a half and hour or more. Admitting that I didn’t have detailed charts of harbors or anchorages, just the big overview chart of the entire Sound, he loaned me his entire chart book! Cruisers are like this. Like when I gave away my guide to the Erie Canal to a couple heading the other way. We made arrangements as to how to give it back to him at the yacht club where he lives on his boat. Yeah, he’s been living aboard that 27 since ’93 . . . or ’83 he couldn’t remember. Odd lot that we are joining!

We waited for high tide on Saturday to make it through the opening to the 79th street Boat Basin. We’re actually heading for Long Island Sound now via the East River but checking the tides and currents table showed there was no way for me to go through a place called Hell Gate off the north end of Roosevelt Island where the current would be 5 knots against me. That’s called being at rest and burning diesel! So, thanks to some cruisers I met while in Castleton (remember that?) I learned that you can anchor off the state park behind the Statue of Liberty. We sailed south down the Hudson amongst LOTS of boat traffic. Huge tankers, barges, power boats, sailboats, ferry boats, Circle Line tour boats, huge cruise ships, and in the distance the big orange Staten Island Ferry. Fun and a little nerve wracking. Nice view of Ellis Island and its old architecture followed by lady liberty. She looks taller on TV. We found the buoys that lead you back to the state park and the launch ramp there. If friends hadn’t said that this was ok I would have never gone back there. The buoys are very close together and it just looks wrong. No other sailboats which always worries me. We got back to a little wider area and dropped the hook. No problem. Nobody kicked us out and it was an ok anchorage. Can’t actually see liberty from here but nice view of the Verazanno Narrows Bridge and all the huge boat traffic in New York Harbor.

In the morning we waited for 10:00 to get going. This would mean that we could go up the East River on the flood tide and get to Hell Gate around slack water. This worked. If you thought, “Wow, isn’t the East River ugly and dirty?” You’d be wrong. It is ugly and dirty with giant boards floating in it! You have to be sharp at the helm. Sue steered.

Around Hell Gate you curve to the east and pass under the Tribourough bridge, go between north and south brother island (abandoned house on the north…looks like an old orphanage or something.) and across the northern shore of Rikers Island of police drama fame. La Guardia Field is right there as well. Two more bridges to pass under and then you are more or less in the sound: Bronx-Whitestone and Throgs Neck. We found a little wind and sailed some finding our way to Manhassat bay

Manhassat bay is bordered on the west by Great Neck and the homes along there are right out of the God Father. No, not homes. Estates! There must be 500 sailboats down in this bay on mooring balls or anchored out. We found fuel and directions to town and the town dock where you can pick up a mooring ball. Unfortunately all were taken due to a race so we anchored beyond the fleet behind another sailboat doing the same. Hey wait a minute! That’s the boat we saw in Castleton. It’s Dan and Judy who live on their 33’ sailboat, Tortuga! We hailed them and had a nice chat. Turns out they were at 79th street the same time we were but were on a mooring ball…for free. How? Take the ball and keep your mouth shut! Who knew?

We’ll spend a day here looking around and taking it easy. Tomorrow we’ll go…someplace else!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

New York New York!

Greetings from New York. The next two blogs are our recent adventures arriving and touring the big apple.
Here we are sitting in Bryant Park by the main public library on 42nd Street & 5th Ave. updating our blog! There's free wireless in this park. Now that's a big city!

After a beautiful anchorage off of Croton we began the final leg of this river trip to New York City. More industrial now as you pass through Yonkers. You can see the George Washington Bridge from many miles away and then…you can see the skyline! You can see the Empire State Building! How exciting to have traveled through 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, 3 canals, mast down, mast up, repairs and so forth and now here we are approaching the Big Apple. This is a great pay off for time spent so far.

We had talked previously with the nice people at the 79th street Boat Basin and were looking forward to taking a slip there. It ain’t cheap but this is New York. In case you’re sailing in it is $2.50/foot + $10/day for electricity. They have a bathroom and shower and free laundry. It is gated and there is someone on duty 24 hours a day to let you in. So in marina terms this is expensive but in hotel terms it’s cheap!. We had planned all along to blow a little cash and enjoy New York.

I knew I was arriving at low tide so after some hand waving and talking with Pedro the harbor master we tied off on the face of their sea wall and waited for the tide to rise enough for us to make it through their shallow harbor entrance.

My daughter, Leah and her husband Jason arrived at the boat basin almost simultaneously by car as they were on their summer driving vacation from their PhD work at Fermi Lab in Illinois. What a fine spot for our first reunion after 66 days away.

There are no words to describe the streets of New York. I’ve spent most of my adult life in and around Chicago and I felt like a hay seed! It is bigger, sure, but that’s not it. It is completely different from ANYTHING! So busy. So many little stores, shops, markets. I love the open fruit markets right on Broadway. We walked and walked and walked! We would stop for beers or snacks or lunch or dinner and surprisingly, I’ve never seen friendlier locals! All the waiters and just people in general are easy to talk to and seem pretty happy with their own situation in the big city.

On Wednesday we took the subway (really easy to figure out) down to Ground Zero near the southern end of Manhattan. From there we meandered all the way north to Times Square! We found the West Marine store on 37th street and bought charts for the Jersey shore and also for Long Island Sound. We may go explore the sound for a bit before turning south again for the Chesapeake. We probably walked 60-70 blocks in all! We took the subway from there to 79th street and then the short walk to the Boat Basin. Good news, the boat basin has a very nice little restaurant and bar right there so that’s where we had dinner. A great day in old New York.

Adventures on the Hudson

Adventures on the Hudson

Sometimes a day seems like two… We were motoring (of course) down the Hudson from Kingston, NY heading for an anchorage near Pollepel Island. Our stores (beer) were low and I happened to see a little gas dock that also said, “Ships Store”. Well, you never know and there were a number of things we could use (toilet paper). So we turned and headed into the little floating dock. A huge motor yacht was passing down the river at the same time but this meant little to me right then as I was focused on the depth sounder, current, and making a nice landing. As we pulled up to the dock, Sue jumped off and some guys there took our lines and then one of them said, “Look out!” I didn’t know what he meant. I soon found out. The wake from the big boat had arrived. It was at least 4 feet high. It washed water completely across the dock to about knee height for the people there and lifted Enee nearly completely out of the water. Sue said she was looking sideways at about the middle of the keel. On board I revved the engine and tried to keep us in front of the dock. At one point I could feel the keel hit the bottom of the river as a trough from the wake passed us. If we had been a shallow draft power boat this wake would have washed us right up on the gas dock. As it was, no damage but a pretty severe scare. Just goes to show two old adages:

  1. Cruising is defined as long stretches of relative peace and boredom separated by moments of abject terror.
  2. Power boaters are assholes.

We found Pollepel Island on which a rich Scotsman built a summer home…castle some years ago! Now abandoned. The walls of the river are steep and high here and it is quite beautiful. Along this eastern shore there is plenty of water fairly close in. We anchored along this shore and because of the nearness of shallows and the reversing tide we set a bow and stern anchor. First time for us and it is a bit of a battle because there is no convenient way to work with a big anchor off the stern. We got it done though and Enee was lying nicely parallel to the current. Too good to be true, right? Right. The wind was really picking up and the weather was predicting some heavy thunderstorms. We were looking right down the mouth of the river with nothing to block this south wind. After a bit we decided to move across the river to tuck in behind Storm King Mountain to get in its lee. Again we tried to set two anchors and we more or less succeeded except this time w ended up more parallel to an east-west shore. So what? We were in plenty of water. About 15 feet when we dropped the first anchor. As the night wore on we were able to “enjoy” a series of lightning storms and some heavy rain. Not much wind with any of this but really spectacular lighting and the anxiety that goes with. Finally it abated and we went to bed. Around 2:00AM I awoke because the wind and waves were now out of the north and slapping loudly against the stern of the boat. She couldn’t turn because I’d set two anchors. I got up and inspected the anchor rodes. The stern line was really tight! I let a little out and then checked the depth…5 FEET! Holy Crap, what happened. I mean I get the tides and all but I was in 15 feet when we anchored. In retrospect it turns out that the wind and waves having turned to be against our beam pushed us into the shallows. The lines a bow and stern couldn’t keep that from happening. Now what. It was fairly comical to see us run to the bow and stern coming up with a variety of plans none of which we were willing to execute! No matter how I thought of it, I’d have to loosen or completely raise one anchor to reel in on the other but if I were to do that I’d certainly be blown into even shallower water before I could do any reeling. I checked the tide tables and realized that we were at or near low water so that we would probably be ok and the best thing to do was to wait for the water to come back which we did. In the morning we were back to 15+ feet of water. The tide had come in and the current that comes with the incoming tide pushed us back out to where we were. Sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing and this was certainly one of those times. Even if we had stuck in the mud we would have been lifted off in a few hours by the rising tide.

The next morning we quickly left the anchorage before low tide caught us in the shallows again. The humidity had cleared and the wind was now from the north which allowed us to sail, yes I said sail, down the Hudson using just the genny. Going with the tide and the following breeze we were cruising at 6 knots. Fantastic. We think this stretch between Storm King Mountain and New York City is the most beautiful part of the river which sharply winds between rolling hills and mountains. And yes it’s true. West Point is spectacular in it’s setting and architecture. As we entered the valley of West Point, the winds calmed and we slowly drifted by seeing much detail of the campus including a sign on top of their athletic building that reads: Beat Air Force! We were indeed not only amazed, but shocked and awed.

That night we found a very nice anchorage in Haverstraw Bay off the north shore of Croton.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

We're in New York!

Hello to all. This is Scott and Sue being appropriarely shocked and awed while passing West Point on the Hudson. We've had a few adventures while travelling down the Hudson that I'll save for another time when I have more time to write. We are moored at the 79th st. Boat Basin in New York City. Nice enough if a little pricey but, hey, it's New York.

We've met up with Daughter and son-in-law here and are having fun exploring New York City. We will be here through Friday and then either we will go explore Long Island Sound or head south for Atlantic City and the Cheasapeak.

Can't really believe we pushed our old '78 this far but all is well with boat and crew.

Thanks to all who write and comment as usual.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Castleton on the Hudson

Sounds nice doesn’t it. I’ll be leaving here tomorrow after 5 days. Let me try to paint a picture of this town.

Castleton is on the east side of the Hudson river about 15 miles south of Albany. I’m at the Castleton Boat Club moored to their pier with a nice view both north and south of the river. To describe the town itself you need to put yourself into the mood. Think of your favorite Steven King novel, an episode of Twilight Zone, or think of any scene from Silent Hill the video game. To get to town you have to cross the Amtrak tracks that run just off of the river bank and are between the boat club and town. A high speed Amtrak train goes through here blowing its whistle about every 20 minutes all day long. When it does the ground shakes and conversations are ceased until it passes. Leaving the boat club then and going across the tracks you find yourself on THE street in town. This in itself isn’t that unusual for a small town but on this street you find that nearly everything is boarded up. There are for sale signs by owner and available by auction on most buildings. There is a nice post office and at the opposite end of THE street is a modern convenience store. In between there is a café with ice cream and coffee treats that seems to be open on occasion. I saw a sign in one of the dirty windows of a defunct business that read, “$500 reward for information concerning the burglary at the fire house.”

OK so nobody lives here, right. Wrong. They come out at night. In the evening the local youths hang out and compare tattoos and nose rings and skate boards. Not real threatening but just depressing. You see people living in second floor apartments and the occasional kid being hollered at. It is so stinking hot here and there is no wind and you can see that many of the apartment windows don’t even have screens let alone air conditioners. You have to wonder about the lives that are populating these few dingy apartments. It would be easy to throw them into the mix in a big city but in a town of maybe 500 people you just wonder when the sun comes up and it’s a new day in Castleton…then what?

I went to the one café in town looking for dinner knowing that they also had advertised live music. The café is actually interesting and most tables were filled. The menu consisted of clams or shrimp. I had a diet Pepsi. The music consisted of a guitar player and a rhythm guy. I won’t call him a drummer since he had no drums. He had what looked to be a practice pad that was miked and played with thick brushes. Not a bad sound actually. The guitar player did a mix of blues, Dylan, and some old standards. Not being fond of shell fish I opted for dessert.

As I was listening to the music I could watch the decrepit apartment building across the street. On the second floor there were about 3 windows and a porch probably leading off of the kitchen. Some guys in giant pants and diego T’s were on the porch trying to not be hot. The screen in the first window was torn and out of the corner of the tear came a half grown black cat. She seemed to be aware that she was on the second floor and probably wasn’t going anywhere. Then, dimly through the screen I could make out a huge arm. The head that went with this arm was above the shaded part of the window so just the arm. The giant arm came closer to the window and then more quickly than you would expect, the giant hand at its nether end swallowed the cat. A little disconcerting but better safe than sorry I guess. Then the arm delivered the punishment.

And again.

Damn cats!

On my walk back to the boat I realized that the entire town is separated from the river by the railroad tracks and the only way across the tracks is the little road to the boat club where the sign says, “Private Club No Trespassing”. If you entered this town from the east you’d never know the Hudson River was even here. There is no good way to get to the river to swim, look for frogs, or enjoy the view. Castleton on the Hudson indeed!

Another strange American town on the banks of one of our old waterways

Another day in Castleton on the Hudson

Not much to report. I cleaned the dingy today as it was blackened from the exhaust from the engine when we pull her close upon anchoring or pulling into a marina. I think I'll take to towing her farther back and then pulling her along side rather then up close to the transom. Looks a lot better.

Also moved one anchor to the aft rail along with its chain and rode in preparation for anchoring in the changing tides of the Hudson. I think I'll try dropping a stern and a bow anchor to hold us in place when we anchor. The tide is around 4 feet in the river and can flow at 5 knots they say although I've not seen that while here. Perhaps further south the tidal current picks up.

Laid in what supplies I could find at the local convenience store. What a scary place that can be. When I went there was guy sitting in a little booth they have there for eating (what?) who was wearing no shirt but sporting about 700 tattoos (why waste 'em with a shirt?) and about 6 teeth. The check out girl talked to me a little but she has yet to master enunciation with her new tongue stud. Ahh...More quaintness along a river. We're not ready for much anchoring food wise but we won't starve. Maybe Sue and I will find more food between here and NYC.

OH and of course I read and napped. Don't want to forget the essentials. Tomorrow Sue returns from Chicago and we'll try to make some distance south before the tide begins to flood. It's been great to have internet every day here in Castleton. Next report could be from the Big Apple! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

It's a sailboat!

Finally! We stepped the mast today and all went well. Mostly. This is an ugly process. I had help from a guy here at the Boat Club and another guy who had just come in yesterday on an old Ericson. I spent the rest of the day getting all the junk off the boat that was for holding the mast while we motored through the canals and scrubbing the bejeezus out of it. Amazing how dirty a boat can get travelling through the canals and all those stinking locks!

One down point - I was working in the few inches between the mast and the deckwhile the mast is hanging from the crane to re-connect the wires for radio, wind instrument, and lights. OK, I'm working there and I'm thinking it is the knot that I tied that is keeping this mast from slicing off my fingers. I hurried. I thought I had it but alas we have no electronic wind instrument at the moment. The only fix is to lift the mast again and I'M NOT! Oh well...Nelson didn't have no stinking, fancy pantsy wind instrument and look what he did! (He defeated the French (HA, that's so hard to do) at Trafalger).

Tomorrow, I'll continue to clean and re-organize the boat now that it is a sailboat again and I no longer have 4 2 x 6's on board to take up space. I'm looking forward to the trip down the Hudson and am gaining information from the local natives (who no longer accept beads for beer!) about anchoring and so forth.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Locks of the Erie Canal

Because of the sheer number of photos we thought a separate little piece on the locks of the Erie Canal would be appropriate. Unfortunately, to really pass on the experience you need an audio recording…

How do they work?
I used to think that there must be giant pumps to move water around but a little thought will tell you that that is not necessary. There is an "infinite" supply of high water on one side of every lock. You just need giant valves to allow the water in or out as needed to raise or lower boats in the lock once both doors are closed. The doors are cleverly constructed so that the high water tends to smash them closed...but they do leak. Alot. That gets your attention as well!

Going Up

When you see the lock and the doors are open it looks like you are approaching the gates of Mordor. You are in a canyon that could be as deep as 40 feet (lock 17 by Little Falls) or as shallow as 15 or 20 feet. There are typically big ropes hanging down and the idea is to have one person hold one at the bow (Sue) and the other (Scott) hold one at the stern. Of course Scott is also trying to stop the boat near these ropes and not leave it in gear (did that) and jump up with the hook and get his line. Understand, that once you pass the back door they pretty much start to close it and let the water in! Oh, and when the back door closes it makes a creaky, groaning sound that fills the canyon. Better than any scary sound in any scary movie I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a few.

Assuming that we each have nice big slimy rope now the water whooshes in from below and sometimes you have to hang on tight as a current will be created dragging you fore or aft. Meanwhile we each have a paddle or pole to fend off the wall. The walls themselves are spectaulary slimy and so are the ropes. Old gloves are a great thing to have!

Going Down

Not much different except now the lock is full of water when you come in and if it is windy you will now catch that wind and if you mistakenly go to the windward side of the lock and grab a bow line you can easily end up sideways in the lock. We did that. Then we ended up backwards. The canalman said just turn it when it is time to leave. Sure. The lock is about 50 feet wide and I’m carrying a 40 foot mast on top of my boat. I almost made it too but half way through the turn I couldn’t fend off my end well enough and sheared the anchor light off the top of the mast. No other damage so that’s good.

The Little Falls lock needs special mention because it is so deep and because it does not have the traditional swinging doors at the end. It has a giant vertical slab with giant chains on it and it makes the BEST scary noise of all.

It was always a bit exciting when you were in the lock but hadn’t grabbed a line yet and always fun to see the doors open up for you. I’ve done it and don’t need to do any more. 38 locks is plenty. I already gave away my Erie Canal book to some other cruisers who were headed the opposite way as us.

Musings on the Erie Canal

Now that I am stationed in Castleton-on-the-Hudson for a few days I can post a couple of musings from our days on the Oswego/Erie Canal. The trip itself will continue on Friday when Sue returns from a conference in Chicago.

The Erie Canal
Scott is hot and bothered

Way back in the winter I ordered and received a very nice publication from the State of New York with all the charts and info you need to navigate the New York Canal system.

The State publication version: (shortened by the author)

The Erie Canal – The historic inland waterway winding through scenic central New York State and passing through quaint towns along the way where you can tie up to the city wall. The water way is now home to many happy pleasure boaters traveling both East and West.

Scott’s Version:

The Erie Canal- An old ditch passing through the same damn bushes and sticks mile after stinking mile. You can stop at one trailer infested, depressed and dirty town after another. You’ll meet the occasional power boat along the way who will refuse to slow down and thereby nearly throw your mast over the side.

This little cruise through the Erie Canal has turned into the Bataan Death March. Large hunks of the canal are straight as an arrow mile after mile and there is NOTHING to look at unless you are fascinated by shrubbery and sticks. At least it is really hot with no wind and plenty of flies.

I’m sorry maybe the tourist information was written with powerboaters in mind. They can go up to the legal speed of 10 mph while we are maxed out at about 6. Powerboats probably also have air conditioning. Maybe we were unlucky as to what towns we chose to tie up to. The State’s version is that all the towns are quaint and you just tie up at any wall. It’s true that you can tie up anywhere but I guess you’d have to think that trailers and carnivals are quaint. Take Rome for example. There was a little new pier to tie up to and a long dilapidated one. After getting stuck on the bottom once, we got tied up ok. We could tell it was a bit of a walk to town but we hadn’t really walked anywhere in a couple of days so that was ok. As we made our way into and around the downtown area we were presented with…nothing. No shops. No little eaterys. Nothing. We finally found a little hotel with a lunch menu and some air conditioning. Quaint my ass. This is Gary Indiana!

Back at the boat it was about 95 degrees with no shade and no breeze. We set up our anchor shade and that helped a little. We also covered the front hatch to try to keep the v-berth cooler. As we sat and read we were visited by a couple of local characters. This is supposed to be part of the quaintness. One was a homeless drunk who seemed pretty harmless. We nodded and smiled to his various mumblings. Best of all though was Bill. Bill looked to be about 19 years old. He had no shirt, underwear pulled way up and giant black bell bottoms slung down about a foot below his underwear. The giant bottoms had long ago frayed away. There was probably room for a couple of sacks of potatoes under those bells. Although he had no shirt on it looked like this was the first time for that this year as he was as white as the belly of a dead fish with about the same muscle definition. The main feature of his musculature would be the two nipple rings he was sporting. Ironically, here we are in the Mohawk valley and sure enough Bill was proudly wearing his orange Mohawk. Bill was as friendly as could be though and he talked with us…on and on. And on and on. He was accompanied by his 4 year old son and his brand new pit bull puppy. He seemed a lot more interested in the puppy but the son did get a hollering at on occasion as he fished off the pier we were tied to. As we listened to Bill we gleaned that he really, really liked video games. He and his ‘fiance’ had an apartment and weren’t really supposed to have a dog. Soon they were getting into a trailer and that was going to be better. Bill said his brother joined the Marines but that he could never work for a guy he couldn’t talk to and he didn’t care for Bush in any case.

Why has Bill stayed with me? You might think Bill is some sort of aberrant American but I think the clothes and Mohawk not withstanding he probably represents the attitudes and thinking or lack thereof of much of middle America. Not much going on. Thinking a trailer is a step up. Thinking $500 is a lot a money. Bill was mildly entertaining and just a little depressing.

So travel the Erie Canal! See sites! Meet interesting People!

Or leave Chicago 3 months earlier and go up the St. Lawrence!

OK, this was written on the fly...literally! I was not so crabby later as the canal turned into the Mohawk River and things cooled off a little. Still...

Monday, August 08, 2005

Brewerton to Castleton-on-the Hudson

Getting caught up now with the travelogue part of this blog that will take you from Brewerton near the western shore of Lake Oneida to the end of the Erie Canal. We have some separate postings coming dealing specifically with hadling the locks and our take on "fun" on the Erie Canal so stay tuned!

August 3 Brewerton to Rome

The big feature of this hunk was a long grind across Lake Oneida. We left at first light to catch a flat lake and succeeded. Like a lot of motoring in the canal, this is a no brainer as there are buoys to follow every half mile or so. Takes about 4 hours to make it across. On the eastern shore is Sylvan Beach where there is a little amusement park and, of course, the ever present trailers. We stopped here for fuel before moving on to Rome, NY

Rome has a fairly nice tie up wall. There is nothing to see right there but a longish walk into town will show you that there is nothing there either! HA! We did finally find a little restaurant in an old hotel and got out of the heat for a little. Still mid 90’s during the day with zero wind. Back at the boat we made as much shade as we could but is was a hot sweaty night trying to sleep

August 4 Rome to St. Johnsville

Back on it at first light to avoid motoring during some of the hot part of the day. The mornings are actually pleasant but after about 10 or 11 it is impossible to get out of the heat. We had planned to stop and Little Falls but there is no overnight tie-up. We did stop briefly and walk around a little. Our early starts allow this and still make more distance in the afternoon. We found a little café for a snack and walked around a little. Another old river town trying to make a comeback and falling just a little short.

The St Johnsville Marina and Campground office!

St. Johnsville is a wonderful stop though. There is a little marina/campground that is neat and well maintained by Bernie the harbor master. He told us what was in town and added that there was an Italian restaurant a couple of miles out of town that he would take us to and somebody there would bring us back. We took him up on this offer and were glad we did. The food was excellent in a little family owned restaurant. Indeed when we were done, Bobby brought us back. I asked him if he was part of the restaurant family and he said no, I’m just a regular.

We had hoped that while we were dinning the boat would have cooled off. No such luck. There is virtually no wind down the canal and we are even tucked in a little off of that. Another hot night. Why didn’t I buy those little fans like I said I was when outfitting the boat?

Harbor Master, Bernie!


August 5 St. Johnsville to Amsterdam

We slept in a little if you call that sleeping. We needed fuel anyway and Bernie was to open around 8. Gave us time to do some laundry and write a little. Another fairly uneventful motor down the canal with the occasional lock. Seems the distances we are covering take us through about 4 locks a day. Following this travelogue there is a larger essay on Amsterdam itself and another on locking. Nuff said about Amsterdam for now. We stayed the night tied to their wall. We were hot.

August 6: Amsterdam to Crescent, NY
The Crescent Boat Club

We had planned to tie up at the wall in the little town of Crescent which would only leave us a couple of miles to the “Waterford Flight” which is the name given to the last 5 locks which you do end to end with no real distance between them. We wanted to do those when we were fresh. The wall in Crescent was pretty scary and mostly taken up by a giant barge so we back tracked (yes, the captain went backwards!) to a little place called, Crescent Boat Club. What a great find! Our hostess, Noreen, shared lots of info about the last few locks and about navigating on the Hudson with the tides. She had crewed up and down the east coast on a variety of boats. Everyone at the club was very friendly and curious about our trip. The farther east we get, though, the less extraordinary our trip sounds to people as more of our ilk tend to pass through on occasion. We used their gas grills to cook up some steaks whose time had come. Finally it cooled off and we had a pleasant night’s sleep.

August 7 Crescent to Hudson River to Castleton

We are on it at 6:30. First locking isn’t until 7 anyway so no point in going any earlier than that. Not much traffic and each lock is green for us and we go right through. We are pretty sick of locks having done 38 of them since leaving Lake Erie through the Welland. They are not that tough but there is always some trepidation about grabbing your line, fending off, stopping the boat, getting a second line. Having gotten sideways and then completely backwards in one lock on a windy day you tend to keep thinking about that one.

At the end of the Waterford Flight there is a very nice visitor’s center. You can stay up to two nights for free afterwhich it is $10 a night. There are basic showers, pumpout but no diesel. Inside they have a variety of brochures for free and two computers for you to use also free. In talking to some other boaters we learned that the tidal current this far north is not that fierce even if you end up against it and that we should make Castleton easily before the tide begins to flood anyway. ON WARD to Hudson River!

The last lock and the visitor's center

Not long after the visitor center you come to where the Erie Canal meets Hudson River. A big sign points you north to Lake Champlain or west into the Erie Canal. Not us! We're heading south to New York City!

Here’s a fun thing to do…when I meet people in New York, especially if they are in canoes, I ask them if they’d like to trade their land for some beads. They just laugh and laugh.

How you can tell you’ve made it out east

  1. The altitude on the gps reads ZERO! We’re essentially at sea level!
  2. We have Midwestern ‘accents’!

Double click for a big version...it really says 0 feet for altitude!

Oh, you can double click any picture to get a big version too.

The river is nice and wide and once you get south of the industrial south side of Albany becomes quite picturesque. There are some mighty big and pricey homes along the Hudson. I’m thinking this is very old money.

By early afternoon we pulled into the Castleton Boat Club. Not unlike the Crescent Boat Club, this place is full of very friendly and helpful people. We can stay tied to their pier for $30 a night and use their crane for our mast for another $50. We had a couple of Labatts (our new Old Style) and two lunches in their clubhouse bar. A true club, they take turns being in charge of the food. Today’s lunch was a chicken breast, pasta salad, fruit salad, roll and desert for $5.00. Nice…oh and the Labatts are $1.00. This will be a fine place for me to work on the boat while Sue goes back to Chicago for a conference. I have many little projects and lots of cleaning to do. We want to look sharp when we hit the big apple in a few days.

We’ve been 55 days out of Chicago. We’ve traveled over 1000 miles. We’ve stopped in 31 different towns. Yesterday as we were leaving one of the locks someone was taking our picture. We continue to meet interesting people with interesting stories to tell. For example yesterday we met Dan and Judy who have lived on their 33 foot sailboat for the past 10 years. They sailed from San Diego through the Panama Canal and beyond. They offered to help us step our mast since they just did theirs that day and felt they had a helping hand to share. Talking with them was like talking with friends you hadn’t seen in years. They are still excited about journeying and we hope to see them again in New York City. We told them we were shopping for a bigger boat and Dan said, “Don’t do it.” They think more boat is just more problems and they have been comfy and safe for all those miles aboard their 33. Hmmm…food for thought.

Later in the day we also met a couple who have been cruising away from the states for 20 years on their steel sailboat. Now that they’ve come back and have cruised up the east coast they find that it is all “ruined”. Although they didn’t seem all that old, they had the attitude of old people who fall into the ‘all change is bad’ routine. They claimed (I sense a little drunkenly) that there is NO PLACE TO ANCHOR anywhere on the east coast of the USA. You just know this is patently false. They also claim that if you do anchor you are treated very poorly. By whom? Did you really expect 20 years to go by and find things as you left them? Expectations like that can only lead to disappointment. The idea of cruising is that things are exactly as they are and you deal with it. Cruising is solving problems. If your favorite old anchorage has been taken over by a marina…find another! I found their information worthless. Not just because I didn’t like what they were telling me but because I could tell it was clouded by nostalgia and of no use to me. It doesn’t matter to me how anything used to be. What can I do with that info? And as to anchoring…well, I just don’t believe them. I’m sure that Dan and Judy would agree.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

End of the Erie Canal

Hello to all! Internet has been rare on the Erie Canal and we are now done with it. We are temporarily moored at the Waterford Visitor Center and will head out to the Hudson River shortly. From there we must go through the Troy Lock and then on down the Hudson to the Castleton Boat Club where they have a crane for mast stepping. Yeah, they have a crane but it is a do-it-yourself deal. Stay tuned for Scott dropping the mast right through the boat like a toothpick in a cocktail olive!

I know have to begin to check my tide tables that I bought in the winter in Des Plaines, IL. What fun!

More about the canal and many pics to post when I have more time. Thanks to all who e-mail and comment. We love both!


Wednesday, August 03, 2005


You just never know when or where you'll get a signal! Moored to the wall in Brewerton, well why not!?! So goes the life of cruising in the 21st century..........

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

15 miles on the Erie Canal

Today we left Oswego around 9:00 and headed down the Oswego canal. This leads to the Erie Canal after about 20 miles. The locks are a bit of a project for us. Many have lines just hanging down for you to hold on to. Others have cables recessed into the wall for you to grab or throw a line around. Some have a combination. In any case when the bow person (Sue) has one line it is an adventure for our intrepid helmsman (Scott) to manuever the boat over so that he can grab an aft line. Must not be a big deal because whether you are ready or not they open the valves and in comes the water. In this pic you can see the water swirling in as we are on the rise. You can also see some of the recesses wherein lie the cables.
A trip down the NY canal system is certainly scenic. On a 95 degree day with no breeze and listening to my engine, though, perhaps I just missed the charm. Sometimes a little wind would come up from behind and I'd mistakenly think, "Mabye a little main sail would give us a push". No, we are motor boat for a few days and will adjust.

So, here's what Enee looks like tied to a wall in Brewerton, NY. I'm sorry but that is just a bad look to slap on a sailboat. I'm already looking forward to SAILING down the Hudson river. But, say, aren't those supporst nicely engineered and constructed! They had a major test today when we crossed paths with our first power boat. Of course he didn't slow down for us and the 3 foot wake just about put the mast over the side. Oh yeah, I gave him and earful and then added about a dozen more lines to the mast! All the other power boaters we encountered seemed to 'get it' and slowed and lowered their wake for us. That costs them about 15 seconds out of their day. Why is that so hard for some (most) of them to understand?

While tied to the wall in Brewerton we noticed the local teens jumping off of the railroad bridge in to the canal. Look and you'll see one of these daredevils in mid leap!


Hi All-

Look Look!!! The map has been updated and just a little bit less detail than what has actually happened!

Scott and Sue are going to make it to Brewerton, NY today. They had an "event" with a motor boat this morning and had quite the adventure with the mast! Yowza. Apparently the driver of said motor boat got quite the ear full from the Captain. All is fine though, the mast however is now attached with many many many ropes. Scott said that they look like a spider web going down the canal.

Stay tuned. Hopefully the sailors will find some internet and update us with pictures and stories.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Unstepping the Mast in Oswego

Little Sodus Bay to Oswego, NY

We left little Sodus Bay at 6:00 a.m. We were up with the great blue heron.

By 9:00 a.m. we were bracing Enee for the big unstepping of the mast event.

Craig and Matt were the dock crew that slowly and gently removed Enee's mast........

Yikes! Hurry up and catch that thing!!!!



In! The pillows were a last thought but a cushioning touch.

Tomorrow we begin our trek of the Oswego Canal leading to the Erie Canal. In the Oswego Canal we'll be going up! Can't be that different than going down, right?
Mary and Don of s/v Merry Mary in Sodus Bay