Join Date: Jul 2004
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.