The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Friday, June 17, 2011

Starting the Erie Canal

*Blogger’s note:  What some of the marinas bill as “Wifi” must be connected by two cans and a string to reach the internet.  Without good internet speed, downloading pictures is painfully slow, often impossible.  That is the reason I have not been able to fill you in on our progress these last several days.  Only pictures can tell the story of the Erie Canal. 
We left Rondout Creek (Kingston) on the 12th of June and headed up the Hudson past several small towns and then through Albany, the NY State capital.  As the Hudson narrowed we were excited to know that Troy and Waterford, NY were getting closer.
A typical small town along the Hudson

We passed our friends in Tropical Breeze somewhere around Catskill
We also passed Albany, New York's Capital
We cruised on past Troy through the first lock of the Erie Canal and into Waterford.  This is where the eastern part of the Erie Canal really begins.  There are not too many “road signs” on the waterway, but this intersection is one to remember. 

Some loopers are headed up to Montreal via the Lake Champlain route, however we have chosen the Erie and the Oswego canal route up to Lake Ontario where we will make some decisions about what is next for us.  The Lake Champlain route has been closed due to high water causing a backup of boaters in Waterford, but it recently re-opened, so we found a spot on the Waterford City Dock wall with no problem. That is me waving from the cockpit and if you look forward you will see the lock entrance gate beyond the bridge.

We were up early the next morning and began through what would be the first of nine locks for us that day.  It was a fairly nice day, and our early start gave us little traffic.  We were the sole boat in all but two locks.  We shared one with a sailboat and one with Veronica, whose crew we met at our next stop in Amsterdam.  They are a couple from Berkeley, CA ,and we enjoyed our visit with some fellow Californians.


The locks differ quite a bit from one to the next.  Some, like the one above, have an easy entrance, others have current swirling around and combined with the wind can move your boat places you don't want to go.  They also differ in the height they raise or lower you, from as little as eight feet to I think forty feet in one or two cases.  Here are some photos of what it looks like inside and once you get to the top:
Looking backward towards the now closed lock doors behind us.  Kind of eerie (no pun intended).

Looking forward towards the doors that will eventually open and let us out!

In the photo above, my first mate has to wrap a line around the pole and hold it tight as the water swirls in and lifts us up.  My "pole dancer" comment got me "the Mom look"!
Once those gates with the yellow fence on top open, then out we go!
Only to enter another lock somewhere down the road, maybe a mile, maybe ten.
And do the whole thing all over again.  This lock has lines down the side where we both hold the boat in place.  Tricky sometimes, and a great shoulder workout after several locks a day.
These intimidating looking devils are called guard gates.  Carrie kept speculating on what would happen if...
Off early again the following day we managed another six or seven locks (mostly in the rain) before stopping for the night at Little Falls Harbor, NY.  We were happy to see several loopers we knew, including Free to B and Lady Jane.  We had snacks and drinks aboard Free to B and a quiet meal alone on Once Around. 
The following morning we found about a gazillion of what looked at first like giant mosquitos covering our boat.  We spent about an hour spraying them off every inch of our decks, helm and fly bridge.   According to an anonymous expert on the dock, we had had misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Apparently they were May flies, which come only one or two days a year in this part of the country.  Great…

Ugly little buggers these Mayflies
We were then off again continuing through the East Erie.  We were following the advice of Skipper Bob (for you non-loopers, it is a detailed publication about marinas, anchorages, etc., along the loop) and planning on tying up for the night on the lock wall on the east side of lock 21, which was the highest point on the canal.  However, the lockmaster there pointed out that the wall was pretty badly beaten up, and combined with the stiff breeze he suggested we continue on and tie up on the west wall of lock 22.  We took his advice and locked down through the last locks prior to Lake Oneida.  As we were entering lock 22 we noticed someone a mile or so behind us so we told the lockmaster we were in no rush, he could wait and hold the lock open for them.  Glad we did, as it turned out to be Barb and Doug on Tropical Breeze.  We both tied up for the night and they invited us over for drinks and munchies.  Carrie quipped that if having drinks on the docks are "docktails", then here we must be having "locktails".
Turns out Doug is Italian and we enjoyed some of the best sausage, cheese, artichoke hearts and olives we had had in two months…not to mention the red wine.  When Doug gets a little wound up in conversation he jumps up, waves his arms around and talks with his hands in true Italian fashion.  I felt right at home, but explained I was only half-Italian, so I only got up and waved my hands and arms half as often.
That night, inspired, I made my famous bacon pasta for my bride, and after a little more vino, we slept like babies.  I promised the Admiral she could sleep in the next day, so up early, I watched Tropical Breeze depart and Free to B pass by after locking through, before she crawled out of the stateroom with her “thank-you-good-morning-smile”.
Above is Tropical Breeze nose to nose with us on the lock wall.
Carrie had taken about a bazillion photos of the Geese which strolled along the grass behind the lock wall. 

She thought they were beautiful…right up until we found that they had boarded us during the night and left tracks of goose mung everywhere.  Rule #3 of boating:  Never trust a goose, especially on a boat!

The scenery along the canal was spectacular.
Here a group of schoolkids waved to us with enthusiasm.
Leaving the canal for a while, we had a great cruise across Lake Oneida to Brewerton.  The lake is about as long from end to end as Lake Tahoe, but narrower.  The 22 mile trip in the sunshine was enjoyable, and we took this shot of Free to B as we passed them just prior to entering the channel into Brewerton.

Free to B on Lake Oneida
So, we find ourselves at Winter Harbor Marina in Brewerton, NY.  This will be our home for a few days as we wash off goose mung, get the engine oil changed, do a few other honey-do’s and a bit of sightseeing by car.  It is Friday, and we have flights home on Tuesday to see our kids and grandkids for the first time in two months and then all go to Carrie’s niece's (Jackie’s) wedding in Oregon.  We plan to be back here Tuesday the 28th and continue our loop through the Oswego Canal into Lake Ontario and onward...
In case you were wondering, Winter Harbor has great Wifi, so I must apologize for the length of this post.

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