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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Tuesday, Troy, NY

September 22nd, 2009 john

Day: 338  Miles: 00   Total Miles: 3133  Locks: 23  

Did not sleep well.  I was up all night thinking about the different possible causes for my port shifting problem.  Up at five I worked on my computer and planning the Erie portion of the trip.  Then finally the ladies came to life and I went to work on the boat.  I looked in the engine room and all looked well.  Then I crawled behind the driving station in the pilothouse and found that the port shifting cable was loose.  Ah!.

Then I went up to the fly-bridge and crawled behind the steering station and found that the port shift cable had come completely out of the control unit.  I could just try to put it back, but decided against it.  I called for a mechanic.  With tomorrow starting us back into the lock business, with approximately 20 locks to go through in the next week on the Erie, not to mention marinas, etc, I decided that I wanted to make sure that that was the problem and that it was put back exactly right.

I sat around all day waiting for a mechanic to come.  First it was 1:00 and then it was 2:00.  He arrived at 3:00.  But you have to remember that everything runs on BOAT TIME.  You just have to roll with it.  He arrived.

I was correct as to what was wrong, although I was very happy to pay for a service call.  I was comfortable with the way he diagnosed the problem.  It turned out to be just what I thought it was.  (Thank goodness it was not the transmission.)  While he was there he took apart the actual control units and tightened the adjustments and found four screws loose. (Another problem waiting to happen.)

So we are sitting for a day and just relaxing.  Barbara and Peggy walked up through town and enjoyed it very much.  It is an old town but very interesting.  I talked the dock master into driving me over to a grocery store for some provisions.  We’re not going to run out of beer or diet coke.

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Monday, Troy, NY

September 21st, 2009 john

Day: 337  Miles: 41   Total Miles: 3133  Locks: 23  

We had a leisurely departure at around 08:30 and headed north up the Hudson.  We pretty much had the river to ourselves all day; maybe saw four boats.  The tide was against us giving us a negative 1 knot current, which just made for a little longer day and a few more gallons of fuel.  It was either buck the tide or wait until 2:00 pm with a late evening arrival.

The day was a bit cool, but from inside the pilothouse it was not a problem.  I am a diehard and am still wearing shorts.

We passed through Hudson NY, Albany NY and then arrived in Troy NY around 3:00 in the afternoon.  Just as I was coming into the docks my port transmission went.  I was having a difficult time getting the port engine into reverse.  I got it in just in time to back forcefully off the dock and back into the middle of the river.  Something was definitely wrong with port side reverse.  I eased her back toward the dock and slowly brought her in.  Tied safely along the long wall at Troy Docks, I was ready for a rest and a beer.  Barbara made a good supper and we just took it easy.  I would address the problem in the morning.  Peggy and Barbara make fun of me.  As soon as it turns dark, I am ready to sack out for the night.  I actually enjoy doing about an hour of reading before I go to sleep.  On the other hand they are up watching TV.  Our boat is really very sound resistant, so I can not hear the TV but I do hear them giggling, as sisters will do.

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Wednesday, Rome, NY

September 20th, 2009 john

Day: 346  Miles: 23   Total Miles: 3247  Locks: 39

The weather has been a little inconsiderate.  A could front has stalled coming down from Canada and it is rain, rain, rain.  Since the forecast is the same for the next week, we decided to go anyway.

It was not raining when we left the dock so we had a good get-a-way, but then the showers were upon us.  It rained off and on all day but not very hard, just a constant sprinkle.  And to make matter worse the temperature dropped. It has been running about 50 degrees all day.  Of course most of our travels are operated from within the pilothouse which was not too bad,

The captain has it best in that he is inside most of the time.  We had to pass through two more locks today and Peggy and Barbara were wrapped up in their long sleeved shirts, sweaters and jackets, out tending lines.

We passed one dredge today.  The operator called us on the VHF and gave us strict instructions to pass VERY close to the dredge and to honor the little red float they had put out, keeping it to our starboard.  It did not leave a lot of extra room, but we had no problem.

We passed by Utica NY and then arrived at Rome NY at 1:35 p.m. and tied up as the only boat at their free dock.  There are two bridges, a double guard gate, and a waterfall right next to the little park where we sit.  But that is it.  No restaurants or facilities.  I tied the boat up secure for the night.  With Peggy and Barbara wearing their jackets inside I immediately started our generator and turned on all three heating systems so we are toasty right now.  I think this will be a long generator day.

Rome has several attractions to see by cab ride.  The first is Fort Stanwix, a Revolutionary War wooden fort. And the second is the Erie Canal Village, a 1870’s village depicting early life on the Erie Canal.  I am hoping to talk the crew into exploring these sites tomorrow

As I sit here writing this and commenting about the cold, here comes a school crew team, practicing down the river.  They stop right next to our boat, take their sweaters off, turn their boats around and continue their training with a coach boat with a megaphone right next to them.

Hey, as we have said before, “cold” is a relative thing.  Yow, I just looked at a weather report.  The high today was 49 and the low was 38.  No wonder we are cold.  It is supposed to stay cold tomorrow but then warm up by the weekend.

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