Saturday, Brewerton, NY

October 3rd, 2009 john

Day: 350  Miles: 23   Total Miles: 3284  Locks: 41

Today was the day of days.  The crew woke up at their leisure, had breakfast and by 9:00 we were all ready to depart on the last leg of this years journey.  We pushed off the docks at Sylvan Beach and immediately went out into Oneida Lake.  This is a beautiful lake with vistas on both the north and south side.  We had to travel the full length of it, 20 miles. We went right down the middle following a set of markets that were set about a mile apart, which made it a little challenging to see them. However, the day turned out beautiful, our first bright sunny day in over a week and the temps almost made it to 70.  We were overjoyed.  Even Peggy came out from under her “layers”.

At the west end we reentered the Erie Canal and went under three bridges and entered the marina where we are going to store the boat for the winter. 

Here is where today’s story lies.  We had made a reservation for winter storage at a marina called Ess-Kay Marina, here in Brewerton NY.  The boat would be pulled out of the water, all systems winterized, and the boat would be stored indoors, but not heated.   When I started making a list of all of the things that had to be winterized, we started really getting nervous.  For example, the list starts with heads, sinks, holding tanks, fresh water tanks, bow wash, cockpit wash, engine wash, hot water tank, the washing machine, the refrigerator, the water maker, the engines, the generator, etc, etc, etc.  This list was getting pretty big and scary.  And then we would have to reverse it all in the spring and hope we did not miss anything.  And then there were supplies on board.  Which ones would winter and which ones would freeze, or mildew.  You get the picture.

Prior to reserving a spot at Ess-Kay I had called anther marina, Winter Harbor Marina, just down the river also in Brewerton.  It offered indoor “heated” storage, the only heated storage in the area.  It was more expensive but what a different in boat prep not to mention peace of mind.  Anyway, they were already full when I called them in August, so I was put on the waiting list.  Would you believe as I motored from the lake today starting back into the channel, I received a call from Winter Harbor.  They had a cancellation and in fact we were at the top of their list of 52 boats on the waiting list.  We were in luck.  We were within three miles of our destination when they called.  Talk about timing.  Thank you Lord.  Who says I am not a believer.

So straight to Winter Harbor we went, and are now tied up at their dock and starting to clean the boat for the winter.  I called Ess-Kay and needless to say they were not very happy, so I will loose a large deposit.  But again for piece of mind, I am very happy with our decision.  Now all we have to do is to clean up the boat and take off those items that we really want to bring home with us.  What a difference.

Monday morning we have arranged for a rent a car and Peggy and Barbara and I will drive back to NJ and drop Peggy at home.   Then on Tuesday, we will drive both the rental car and our car back to Brewerton and finish off loading the boat into our car. (It is substantially cheaper not to have a one way rental.)  Then Barbara and I will start our long way home via New Hampshire, stopping to see a couple of friends along the way.

This is a very sad moment for me.  Not only am I putting the Emery El to bed and leaving her in the hands of others. (Very traumatic!); but I will be ending this blog for this year.  I never would have believed it but the sharing of this blog has become a integral part of my life and this trip.  When I think of all the friends that I have been able to stay in contact with and have received emails from, it is overwhelming.  I have done more communication this year then at any time in my life.  That in itself makes the expense, the traumas, and the enjoyment of the trip worth wile.  We have traveled 350 days together and each of them belongs to you.  Thank you for listening. 

As to my knee! I have cheated you a bit by not mentioning it.  It is not doing well.  I have an appointment back in Memphis to see what if anything can be done.  But don’t fret.  As my dad would have said, “Come hell or high water” I will be back and the trip will continue.  Just pray that I can convince my only Mate to come back with me.  She has been great on the trip.  (I think she’s hooked.)

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Friday, Sylvan Beach, NY

October 2nd, 2009 john

Day: 349  Miles: 14   Total Miles: 3261  Locks: 41

The weather still is not great but we have to move on.  The charts show a weather front moving in but we wanted to move the short distance to Sylvan Beach before the front crossed and then we would be ready to make the run at Oneida Lake.

We moved to Sylvan Beach and another free dock.  Looking out the pilothouse window you can see Oneida Lake maybe 500 yards in front of us.  As we came through the last of two locks we passed, the lock master said that today looked like a good day to cross the lake.   I looked at my Garmin XM weather and just did not agree.  It will take us approximately three hours to cross the lake and by that time we would be racing a weather front with rain and wind.  We will sit here today and wait for a better weather day tomorrow.

The two down locks were a great ride.  When the locks are lowering you, there is very little current in the lock as the “plugs” are pulled.  The boat stays still and down you go; a very gentle experience. 

Oneida Lake is three miles wide but twenty miles long.  It is pretty shallow and when a west wind picks up, it can get real nasty out there.  Hopefully tomorrow the winds will be light and not out of the west and we will make the 20 mile run.

We sure are enjoying that generator.  We have run it a lot this week, but prior to the Erie Canal, I bet we did not have 6 hours on it.  With the last few days in the forties we have run it extensively for heat not to mention the recharging of our three battery banks.  But to remain safe we turn it off at night and crawl under the comfy covers.

Barbara has cooked several real good meals.  We are trying to unload the freezer, so we are eating well. 

Crossing the Erie Canal has been a very pleasant experience. We have seen a lot of little towns, 22 locks, and some very friendly people.  What has been impressive is that there is always a beautiful little park with cut grass, flowers and picnic tables at each of the little free docks as well as at each of the locks.  If the locks are close to a town, you will often find a lunch crowd walking down to the locks and sitting at a table for their lunch.

As we sit here at the edge of Sylvan Beach all is quiet, because of the time of year.  But there is a street full of little shops, and eateries as well as a little amusement park.  Unfortunately it is all closed for the winter.  I bet this could be a hopping place in the summer.

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Thursday, Rome, NY

October 1st, 2009 john

Day: 347  Miles: 00   Total Miles: 3247  Locks: 39

We woke up this morning to more rain.  It was no surprise.  I then got busy doing computer work and we ended up staying on the boat the entire day.  It is just too nasty and cold to go sight-seeing.  What a shame, for there were sites to be seen.

Another long generator day! That is one thing about the free docks.  They may be free but if you have to run your generator for heat then it’s not really free.

Another small fact!  As we sit here in Rome NY we sit at the highest river elevation on the East Erie Canal.  All 20 locks that we have gone through since the Hudson have lifted us to a final elevation of 434 feet.  We have two more locks tomorrow but they we start us down, 16 feet each to the level of Oneida Lake.

This is why Rome was the location of a famous Revolutionary War Fort Stanwix and the site of an America victory over the British.  Before the Erie Canal was built, Rome was the portage point between the Mohawk River and Wood Creek, a tributary of Oneida Lake heading west.

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Tuesday, Herkimer, NY

September 29th, 2009 john

Day: 345  Miles: 00   Total Miles: 3224  Locks: 37

The weather looked like more rain and wind so we decided to stay put.  However, it looked nice outside so Barbara and I took a quick walk to Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and the Posts Office, (about 2 ½ miles).   By quick walk, I felt like I was in a three-legged race. 

When we walked out of the post office it started to pour.  We were soaked by the time we got back to the boat.  Made us feel like kids again.

Then I spent the rest of the day on the boat, working on the computer and just relaxing.  Free docks sure are nice.

I did sneak off the boat at 6:00 to get a few beers and a great steak at the Riverside Grill.  And of course I met some more 5 minute friends.  Two bought be a drink and one invited the three of us to be his guest at the Elk’s Club dinner the following night.  Wasn’t that nice!

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Monday, Herkimer, NY

September 28th, 2009 john

Day: 344  Miles: 07   Total Miles: 3224  Locks: 37

Woke up this a.m. and looked at the weather.  The Internet services all said 80% chance of rain but it was not raining.  Then I turned on my online weather on my chart-plotter and saw that the weather front was moving in towards us, but that it did not look like it would hit us until in the afternoon.

We had a group discussion and decided to move on to the next little town.  The Skipper Bob guide book stated that there was a Wal-Mart in that town within walking distance and that did it. 

Off we went through one more lock.  Up we went another 16 feet, for a total of 397 feet since the Hudson River and sea-level.

Seven miles later, we entered the town of Herkimer NY and tied up to the free wall.  Again we are the only traveling boat here. (Are we doing something wrong?  All the other boats that we have seen are going south.)

There is a cute little restaurant right at the dock along with a very nice gift shop, selling products from over 70 local vendors from the Mohawk Valley area.

Rain was threatening, so I quickly lowered my bicycle to the wall and off I went to Wal-Mart and then to the liquor store for a re-supply of Grey Goose and Capt Morgan for the ladies.  The Wal-Mart truly was not that far away but the electric bike was great for my knee.  I got back just before the rain, only to find out that the girls had ventured out on their own as well.  Not to be out done, I went into the little restaurant for lunch and sat at the bar.  Soon I was joined by six business men from the local community and of course we started “Looper Talk”.  (Good thing Barbara was not there.) 

The locals were very interested in our trip and even though they live and work here they were not aware that this was part of a venture called the America’s Great Loop.  They asked many questions and it was very enjoyable.  When I went to leave, one of the gentlemen picked up my tab. He simply would not let me pay.  See there are still great people to meet!.  (More five minute friends.)

Later in the afternoon, Barbara, Peggy and I ventured over to the gift shop. It was a very interesting shop set up just like some of the antique stores in Memphis, but these were products not antiques.  There was an elaborate display of jewelry, including some custom made pieces from a local diamond mine, seven miles away.  I knew then that it was a mistake coming to this store.

We then had dinner at the Riverside Grill and it was spectacular.  Peggy and I had fresh broiled scallops and Barbara a very good steak, tender, seared on the outside and done as ordered on the inside.

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Sunday, Little Falls, NY

September 27th, 2009 john

Day: 343  Miles: 20   Total Miles: 3214  Locks: 40

Well, plans change.  We were going to stay an extra day in Canajoharie, but when I checked the weather there was a front coming our way and the captain decided to move on and try to make some progress before the front came in.  The morning forecast looked good so we shoved off.

We passed through three more locks today with the last one being Lock 17.  It is noted for three things. First, it is the lock with the highest lift on the Erie Canal, 40 feet.  It looked tall, but then Barbara and I remembered we had been through the Wilson Lock on the Tennessee River when we started our trip and it had a lift of 97 feet.

The second note about this lock was that it has a Lift Gate.  Most locks have a miter gate, that is the doors swing closed and meet at an angle to stop the water from seeping through.  This lift gate is overhead.  You have to drive under a concrete wall and into the lock; and then they lower it into the water to act as a gate.  The locks look small when you are trying to drive a boat into them but they are all actually 328 feet long and 40 feet wide. (That’s almost the length of a football field but only a quarter as wide.)

And third, this lock is notorious for having the roughest ride. It is so turbulent that they force you to lock through on the south wall (port side).  That way the water doesn’t push you off the wall, but into the wall instead.  We were the only boat in the lock, as usual this trip, and I asked the lock-master for a “slow lift” and he said no problem.  We had a “long” but smooth ride up.

Just after this lock we arrived at the town of Little Falls, NY.  It was a quant little area, with a walk of just 1 mile to reach the town, but we did not see much of it because just after we tied up it started to rain.

We left our plans open for the next morning because the weather forecast looked pretty grim.  I don’t mind rain, but thunderstorms and high winds make me want to hug a dock.

We spent a quiet night aboard and retired early.  Again a great sleep with the pitter patter of rain drops on the boat.

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Saturday, Canajoharie, NY

September 26th, 2009 john

Day: 342  Miles: 23   Total Miles: 3197  Locks: 36

When we woke up in the morning in Amsterdam there was a beautiful fog all over the river.  I will try to download the camera and see if I can get some pictures included at bottom of this email.  We did not mind the fog because we had planned a short day, so there was no hurry to depart.

If fact, the captain put on a different hat.  Since the captain tends to get up regularly at 5:00 a.m., he quietly arose and allowed the ladies to sleep in.  He then took the laundry up to the dock facilities and did two loads of wash, took a shower, and read his book.   On this boat the captain does the laundry and the mate paints the boat.

Uh oh, now that I am in trouble; I should tell the truth.  This is the only time the captain has done the laundry and the mate still paints the boat.  

The fog was just tumbling down the river and finally lifted at about 10:00 a.m.  We were on our way at 10:20.  Oh, something else I must tell you, the captain finally broke down and put on a pair of blue jeans.  It was too cold for shorts.  But by afternoon, I had shed the pull-over and was at least in shirtsleeves.

As we journeyed west we passed the little river town of Fonda, NY.  Yes, it is the home town of Henry Fonda.  After three locks, which we managed like pros, we came across the little town of Canajoharie, NY, our destination for tonight.

We were planning on pulling up to the town docks which was a little river park with a 200 foot floating dock.  However there were already three boats on that dock and, of course, they were not exactly packed close together which meant they took up the whole dock.  I idled awhile and discussed options with the crew and we decided that it was early in the day so we would just move on.  As it was, the next lock was in sight, so I called the lock master on the VHF ti ask for a lock through.   I know the previous lock master would have told him not to expect us because we were planning to stop.  The lock masters really communicate very well with each other as to the expected arrival of the next boats. The lock master came back on the radio and asked if we were going to stop at Canajoharie. I explained that the docks were full and he said that there was a large wall just inside a little inlet adjacent to the town dock and sure enough it was free.  I asked about the depth and he told me that it had just been dredged this year, no problem.

Ok, let’s try it.  We flipped the boat around, went back, and eased VERY SLOWLY into the little channel and moved up to the cement wall.  We have good large fenders so the cement wall was not bad but it only had big bollards on the top of the wall spaced about every 80 feet.  I assumed these were left over from the “barge canal” days.

I eased up and Barbara laid a line around the bollard like a pro.  We backed up using it like a spring line from our mid cleat and eased right up against the wall.  We then had to double up all the lines to make them long enough to reach the two bollards fore and aft.  As we were tying up, two other boats joined us on the wall.  Timing is everything.

We were snug for the night but no electricity.  It was a free dock, no problem, just a little generator time.  Actually, I ran the generator one hour before we went to bed and then an hour and a half in the a.m.

Just about the time we finished tying up, Peggy and I sat down on the aft cockpit (cigar room) for our end of the boating day cocktail.  We were located just at the corner of the park where the river meets the little inlet and, of course to the NY Canal Corporation standards, the park was beautiful with flowers and plants and a nicely cut lawn with flags a flying on the flagpoles.  Then, about 20 people walked up and they started to have a little country wedding, right about 50 feet from our boat.  The bride and groom were dressed up but the rest of the people were wearing clothes for an afternoon outing.  We sat there and listened to the ceremony and then clapped when the couple was introduced as husband and wife.  See, you just don’t know what you get involved in while on the “loop”.

The biggest difficulty with being on this particular wall was getting off the boat.  I had managed to do it when we first docked and then got back on board but with my knee (and my size) it was not easy.  The ladies changed from their traveling cloths and for their trip into the little town.  There they go, two sisters on an adventure.

Upon their return, Peggy was really excited.  There was a large motorcycle group in town, visiting the Irish Pub and she wanted us to go back to take pictures.  I thought about getting off the boat again and discovered that with the wall being so high that it would actually be easier for me to get off the boat from the bow.  This was a first.

Into town we ventured and took some pictures of the town as well as the motorcycles.  None of us were brave enough to actually go into the pub so we turned in the other direction and went to a little family run Italian restaurant where Barbara had chicken parmesan and Peggy and I split a pizza.

Back to the boat, we all retired relatively early since we were conserving on power.  Then it started to rain.  It was just a soft pitter patter all night long.  What a great night’s sleep.

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Friday, Amsterdam, NY

September 25th, 2009 john

Day: 341  Miles: 37   Total Miles: 3174  Locks: 33  

Well, what a day.  We woke up early to try to be the first boat through the lock heading west.  We were successful.  At 7:05 we were in Lock #2 on the Erie Canal.  At Waterford there is a flight of 5 locks, all very close together.  In fact the five locks occur within the first 1.5 miles, locks 2-6.  We made it through with no problems, but it sure was cold.  Peggy took the bow and Barbara the stern and I ran the engines and helped where needed.

The locks on the Erie are different then the locks we have in Tennessee.  These, the Erie ones, either have a recessed pipe or plastic encased cable running down the wall that you have to put a line around to secure the boat, Some just have ropes hanging.  The big secret is that you really need gloves.  Talk about yucky.  But we were prepared. 

Then after lock 6, at the top of the flight, the Erie opens up into the Mohawk River.  It is a winding river with a channel that you have to pay attention to.  It is extremely pretty with mountains, homes, small towns and the start of “leaf peeping” season.  That is, the fall colors are just starting to come out.

We continued on west and passed through locks 7, 8, 9, and 10, each approximately 5 to 10 miles apart.  We only had a problem in lock 10.  We had to use their ropes and they were not long enough so we could not get them through the hawsers and around a cleat.  Poor Barbara had a struggle trying to keep the stern from swinging out into the lock as the water rose.  Oh, buy the way; we were the only boat in all of the lock-throughs.  There just weren’t many boats going the way we are headed this time of year.

Yep, nine locks in one day made us feel like we had accomplished something when we pulled into Amsterdam at 3:00 p.m.   The town of Amsterdam doesn’t have too much to offer the boaters, but they have built a beautiful town dock, and charge a very reasonable fee.  We pulled up and we were the only boat there.  Later, we were joined by two southbound Canadian sailboats.  It was kind of funny because I told the lock master that we may be stopping at Amsterdam, (they normally call the next lock to let them know we are coming).  Evidently this lockmaster had called the city dock because by the time we reached Amsterdam, the dock-master was standing on the hillside with a VHF radio asking if we needed assistance coming into their dock. 

We pulled in with no trouble and the young gentleman was so pleasant.  The city has built a park on the river which is very modern and attractive.  Then at the top of the slight hill overlooking the river is a café.  I walked up to the café and they took me right into the kitchen to signup for the slip.  Then they gave me a tour showing me their spotless bathrooms, showers, and laundry mat.  And before I could leave they showed me their menu.  It was alfresco dinning only, (and a bit cool out) but a very beautiful site.  I went back to the boat and told the ladies that I think their hearts would be broken if we did not eat at their restaurant.

Dinner was excellent and we all left stuffed.  Of course, Barbara and Peggy had to bring a take home dessert to the boat.

The only downside to this dock is that there is a train track right next to the river.  Lucky for us, our boat is really very sound resistant.

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Thursday, Waterford, NY

September 24th, 2009 john

Day: 340  Miles: 00   Total Miles: 3137  Locks: 24  

It was another lazy day in Emery Elville.  We slept late, read books and in general just had a lazy day while enjoying the beautiful little town of Waterford.  I walked back up to McGrievy’s and had lunch.  Again, it was very good.

That was about the high-light of the day.

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Wednesday, Waterford, NY

September 23rd, 2009 john

Day: 339  Miles: 04   Total Miles: 3137  Locks: 24  

Yes, it was 4 miles today.  You say: “What are you crazy?” or “Did you have another breakdown.”

No, it was a glorious day.  We departed Troy at about 8:45 after calling Lock 1 (The “Federal” Lock) on the VHF radio and checking its schedule.  He said: “Come on up, the gates will be open for you.”  We pushed off the docks, and all gears worked perfectly.  I really felt good about that.  We proceeded the one mile up to our first lock in many months.  This is the only lock on the Hudson.  In fact it is considered the headwaters of the Hudson and just north of it the water is considered the Champlain Canal Waterway. Then two and a half miles later there is a sign.  This is one of the few signs you see on any waterway.  It said go straight for the Lake Champlain and turn left for the Erie Canal. 

We turned left and entered the mouth of the Mohawk River.  We were immediately faced with another lock.  Just before the lock, on the right side, are the Waterford Free Town Docks.  Because they are nice as well as free, they are sought after by the cruisers.  This is the reason for the short day.  If I had skipped the Troy docks and had come on to Waterford, I would have arrived late in the afternoon and there probably would not have been space.  So I decided to plan my arrival for early in the morning just after any departing boat would have left.

Even when we arrived, the long dock was very full of boats.  We finally squeezed in at an area that normally is restricted due to the Pump Out machine.  However it was broken and they said we could stay there.  At noon the boat in front of me departed, so I was able to pull the boat forward and then dock legally.  The NY State law says that you can only stay at any one free dock for 48 hours or you get a ticket.  However they don’t enforce it very heavily.

Barbara, Peggy and I walked three blocks into the little town of Waterford.  It was very cute with a few stores and several restaurants and bars.  We antique shopped, then settled into a little bar for a drink.  I got to talking to others in the bar, speaking “Loop Talk” as Barbara puts it, so the girls decided to leave me and go back to the boat.  Three hours later they returned, shocked to find that I was reasonably sober.  We then had dinner.  The restaurant, McGrievy’s, was excellent.  I had a Seafood Cioppino made with scallops, shrimp, lobster, and claims that was extremely good.  All of our meals were excellent.

When we retired to the boat we found that we had a new neighbor.  A 50 footer had come in and tied up on the yellow line right behind us.  Of course there went the “Loop Talk” again.  It was past my bedtime but Loop Talk comes first.  Most of the people just find it hard to believe that we came from Memphis Tennessee.   No one thinks there is any water near Memphis to allow boating.

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