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Old 07-02-2009, 04:31 PM   #1
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Cruising is too often days upon days of boredom punctuated by a few hours of terror. I thought that now that we are doing such sedate coastal cruising in the civilized world that we wouldn't encounter excitement very much. Well. Read on.

*

On Sunday, June 7, we finally left Mantoloking, NJ - a day late to join the NY400 River Cruise start up the Hudson to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of Henry Hudson's trip up the Hudson. Oh, well, we figured it wouldn't be too difficult to catch up with the flotilla, and it wasn't. At 7 pm we dropped anchor off Beacon, NY, across the river from Newburgh. We had caught up with the flotilla about five miles from Newburgh, and it was clear that Peter was not going to stay with this group. 5 knots is a pain for this nimble power cat; the boats are nice but not really spectacular, and the organizers haven’t made any information available so that boats accompanying the flotilla know where they can anchor or stop at a marina. It was a good idea in theory, not so great in practice.

The weather looked unpromising for a few days, so on Monday we decided to leave the flotilla and head up to Kingston and wait for them there. The flotilla arrived on Wednesday to fanfare and sunny skies. We had dinner just down from the activity at a large converted factory of some sort call The Steel House. Peter and I had very good meals. Lots of locals turned out for the NY400 events, including an amphibious Thunderbird. One of the most interesting sights was the group of small "model" steam-engine driven boats built by local enthusiasts. So charming.

On Thursday, 6/11, we left an hour before the fleet to arrive in Athens, NY at about 2 pm. Overcast and drizzly, it wasn't a great day for pictures, but Athens is really, really lovely. We anchored off the town until noon on Friday when the fleet left, then we went in to the town dock. We tied up, went ashore and had lunch in town at a lovely little restaurant, then came back to the boat to head up the river again. We stopped at Coxsackie, a pretty, tiny town. We tied up at the town dock and stayed the night. Nobody bothered us or told us we had to leave.*

We stayed in Coxsackie, anchored out, on Sunday as well, heading for Troy, New York and our mail on Monday. *We had a nice lunch at Brewer's, and on *Tuesday we left for Waterford, NY - *one lock and a few miles away. *

Many years ago we heard a novice boater ask the US Coast Guard in Sandwich, Massachusetts if there were any signs to direct him to the Sandwich Port of Refuge. *"uh, no, cap, there's not" and since then we have gotten a big kick out of asking each other as we approach a harbor "are there any signs?" *Well, there IS a sign directing one to the Erie Canal. *Turn left and we're in Waterford, NY, the entrance to the Erie Canal.

Waterford's town dock allows us to stay for free for two days, and $10.00 a day after that. For that there is power, a lovely floating dock, showers, and a pleasant little village. We had to do laundry and the Town Dock supplies shopping carts so we boaters can wheel the laundry to the laundromat several blocks away. There is very little in the village, but a short walk across the river to North Troy has most things that we might need. Peter had to take a taxi to the local NAPA auto store to get a replacement belt for the engine. He would have bought two, but they only stocked one. Cruising searches are the same whether in Borneo or New York, I guess.

Laundry done, water tanks full and holding tank pumped out, we entered the Erie Canal on Friday, June 19. *In hindsight, we probably should have stayed another day, because it rained very heavily all Thursday. There was a lot of water going over the falls alongside the first lock (Lock 2 by their numbering system). Had we waited a day we might not have had the trouble we did.

A short explanation about the locks in the Erie Canal. They are old and securing the boat to the walls is done by either holding onto ropes that are hanging down from the top, or if there are pipes or rubber coated cables, one slips a line around them and uses that to hold the boat stable as the water is entering or leaving the locks. The ropes are the hardest, especially this day because of the strong currents flowing into and through the locks. Most of the locks have just ropes, and that is tiring. We had made it through six locks and we probably should have stopped for the day then, especially when we got to lock 8 and saw the violent roiling of the water and the cross-current.

But we continued on, and I drove the boat right into the concrete wall at the entrance to the lock. A loud "crunch", the port bow buckled, and we bounced off and entered the lock. It looks bad with a stress crack all the way down the bow to the waterline, but we were not taking on any water and so we decided to keep going and find a yard on our way to fix the damage. We now had two more locks to negotiate before we could stop for the night. These locks also had just ropes and with all the water rushing through it was very difficult to hold onto the ropes. We made it through, though, and stopped in Amsterdam for the night. Nice tie-up, water, electricity and showers, $1 a foot per night. *

By this time I was feeling pretty awful as the adrenalin subsided. *A nice boater helped us with our lines and told us that in his experience*the Winter Harbor boat yard in Brewerton, NY was an excellent yard for the kind of repair work we needed. Brewerton was 120 miles away, about 2 or three days of motoring, and so we decided that we would head there.*

Saturday I was still pretty shaky, though, and so we stayed in Amsterdam for a second night, leaving on Sunday, June 21. This was another decision that in hindsight wasn't so great. Saturday turned out to be a decent day and we could have made good mileage with a relatively lower river, but then it rained all night and so on Sunday morning the water level was again up about a foot. We had more strong currents and potential problems with bad currents entering the locks, but as it turned out we went through 9 locks, including the highest on the canal, a forty-foot lift, with some tricky currents but without any problems. We learned from one of the lockmasters that 5 sluices open was bad, and Lock 8 had six sluices open ("oh my" he said). Darn!

Sunday, June 21. We went through locks 11 through 18 today, and though the current was swift, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as what we had on Friday. We stopped at a free dock in Herkimer, NY. We went into a restaurant right at the dock, the Waterfront Grille for a nice dinner of seafood (about all that pries us off the boat to a restaurant nowadays). I had broiled Haddock, Peter had baked Scallops. Nice meal.

Monday, June 22. *Only four locks to traverse and then we stopped for the night at Sylvan Beach and their free docks. *On Tuesday we got an early start for Brewerton to cross Lake Oneida before the wind picked up.

The Erie canal is very pretty, extremely rural, and just a nice trip. Had the weather been better we probably would not have had any dramas at all. But Murphy never rests.

Arriving at Winter Harbor, we learned that the damage was structural, not just cosmetic (well, we expected that), and it is not going to be finished until sometime between the end of July and the middle of August. *

That spells the end of our plans to do the Great Loop this year. *If we have enough time we'll cruise a bit in Lake Ontario before turning around and heading back to New York and the ICW south to Florida. *A big disappointment, but ... Oh, well, it could have been worse.
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Old 07-02-2009, 06:00 PM   #2
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What a bummer Jeanne!
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Old 07-02-2009, 07:00 PM   #3
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J--so sorry to hear that you'll miss the Great Loop this year I was looking was looking forward to your stories of the Loop, too!)

But, very happy that your boat can be fixed and you two experienced no personal injury while dealing with those ropes. I can't really envision the situation--do you have to just stand there and hold? no other way? When the water is rising can you place a rolling hitch on their line (with your mooring line to a cleat) and push your line up theirs? Or is their line just too large for that? Or do things move too fast -- as the rolling hitch must have tension released in order to move so you've got to be able to stay ahead of the game with one hand holding onto their line?

I hope that the rest of your summer is enjoyable while you wait for the boat to be repaired--Have you considered a side trip (driving trip) to some interesting nearby areas that you wouldn't have seen on your boat?
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Old 07-02-2009, 11:30 PM   #4
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This was a frazzled summer to begin with, so driving trips are definitely on the agenda until the 'Melon is fixed. *It's because we have to be in New England the middle of August for a wedding, and again in October for 7 to 10 days that we know that we won't have time to make it anyplace acceptable by November. *Or we could rush helter-skelter, but what's the fun of that?

Instead, we will probably take a train/car trip. *We do like trains. *And lots of people have stopped by the boat to offer condolences and suggestions on some short cruising in the area once the boat is fixed. * Maybe we will get better ideas for next year's summer trip.

The locks that just have ropes are the most difficult, but if it's calm - no wind, no hard current, they really aren't that bad. *The problem was that the water level was so high that the water was coming in faster than normal. *One of the locks had bollards inset into the lock walls, so Peter was able to lasso the bollard to hold the boat, but when we lifted above that bollard, I still had to hold on hard until we could secure a line around the next bollard. *However, the worst lock didn't have anything except the ropes hanging down - the ropes are 1" (approx.) diameter, and hang approximately 32' or more apart - holding on to two ropes wasn't really possible on our 34' boat because the ropes were at the extreme ends of the boat - not much leverage when the current was strong. *

The locks that had pipes or plastic-covered wire running up the wall were easy to use - we'd run our line around the wire or pipe from midships and it woud slide up as the level rose, loosely secured to the mid-ship cleat.. *There just weren't many of them.*

But the problem for the boats was getting into the locks through the nasty currents. *Some locks were protected from bad currents because the dam spillway was separated from the lock by a breakwater or even an island or spit of land. *I think that only Locks 8 and 9 were exposed to the worst of the currents from the dam runoff.* Once inside the locks, things were generally calm, and only in a few locks was the current strong enough to cause some discomfort.

The locks in the Gota Canal in Sweden were much more difficult, but the approach to them was calm and safe. *Live and learn.
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Old 07-03-2009, 07:14 AM   #5
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The Göta Canal is known colloquially in Sweden as "Divorce Ditch" just because of the problems associated with the locks and the fact that in many cases the husband/captain is standing on the flying bridge of his big motor cruiser shouting at the wife and kids to hold fast/fender off. This mostly due to his inadequacies in boat handling.

I am very please this did not happen to you Jeanne and Peter.

Nevertheless, yours was a sad story even though many parts of the trip sound delightful.

Good luck with the repairs and with finding a pleasurable alternative for your summer activities.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 07-03-2009, 11:39 AM   #6
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The lockmasters in the Gota Canal were all students working for the summer, and some were very good, some not so great. *The difficulties in the Gota Canal were generally that of unrestricted flow of water into the locks making it difficult to hold on, and one had to have lines secured fore and aft. *A good lockmaster could make the locking up or down much easier if he slowed it all down. *The first boat into the lock got the worst of the violent water flow and it took significant strength to hold on in a few of them. *The 11-lock transit day was exhausting, but usually with only one or two locks to go through in a day it wasn't so bad, and one never had to go through whirlpools to get into the lock.

The beauty of the land along the canals, both Erie and Gota, are what make these transits worthwhile. *One could spend an entire summer just cruising through these canals and stopping at the little villages along the way. *Then the locking up and down isn't so stressful because one only does a few locks a week. *It's those with too short a holiday who probably have the most stress. *

Our accident hasn't soured me on doing it again. *But we may want to do it differently. *Regroup. *That's the plan.

*
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Old 07-03-2009, 01:17 PM   #7
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Poor 'Melon! Sorry to about this - particularly as I know that surreal feeling of the accident and how it leaves you shaken up! I hope that sometime soon you can relegate this memory to the "been there, done that" locker.

Do you have documentary pictures of the ‘Melon for us to commiserate over with you?

Kevin
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