We are feeling like we are truly on our way to fulfilling our Loop! Losing five weeks of cruising due to the condo sale and road trip, and not wanting to feel pressured to ‘make time’, we’ve changed our plans. I keep repeating the mantra “this cruising is all about the JOURNEY and not about the DESTINATION!” We are both tired of this fast pace, long days and no time to rest while cruising.
So, a BIG change in plans. Looking through all my files (I clip and save everything of interest.....just in case!) I found my notes from a lecture we attended at Trawler Fest a few years back. Ah ha! There is something called a Triangle Loop allowing you to meander through centuries old Canadian canals with hand cranks opening the locks. You tie your boat up along these canals anywhere you want AND you cruise through cities such as Ottawa, Montreal and onward through the St. Lawrence Seaway to Quebec if you so choose.
|Our original plan - The Great Loop|
Note the map below is the entire Great Loop. The TRIANGLE LOOP is the NE corner of this map...see the odd shaped 'triangle'.
|Did the TRIANGLE LOOP|
Minor problem, however -- we must get our air height from nearly 24' down to 22' in order to make it through many of the bridges & down to 17' to clear the last bridge in Lake Champlain. Humm, we need a plan. Ah ha! That fancy big arch on top of the boat that holds our radar & satellite dome, plus antennas is HINGED. That means it comes down somehow.
Done! Figured it all out. We are now going to cruise the “Triangle Loop” and not the “Great Loop” we started out to do. We are no longer heading west to Chicago and down and out through the Gulf of Mexico.
We will now cruise further North, planning to spent most of our summer in Canadian waters. We’ll go only 160 miles westward along the Erie Canal, then turn toward Canada at Lake Ontario. From there, we’ll cruise North across the eastern portion of Lake Ontario and then turn due East into the St. Lawrence Seaway, taking in the lower portion, cruising among the Thousand Islands. From there, we’ll turn back slightly to Kingston, Canada, and up the Rideau Canal North to Ottawa; then East along the Richeleau Canal to Montreal, on to Sorel and then head back South through Lake Champlain along side the state of Vermont & NY and through the Champlain Canal back to Waterford and Troy, NY where we started this Loop from. After that, we will retrace our path back down the Hudson River to NYC.
After that, it’s back South and on to the Keys for the winter months. This will allow for a much more leisurely trip for us, with plenty of time to play and sight see. We feel like the pressure is now truly ‘off’. We've ordered all the new charts, with drop shipment of them to a marina up our path. Nothing like being flexible. This is a much better idea
An uneventful day aboard with Chase, our grandson,who flew into Newark, NJ yesterday from Oklahoma City to spend the remainder of the summer with us as we meander along, going through over 100 locks in Canadian waters over the next couple of months.
|Chase taking the helm|
We cruised up through all of the lower NY Harbor on the Hudson River, gawking at the views. The city disappears rather quickly as we passed northward into the Palisades area. The Palisades, composed of 300 – 500 foot columnar basalt cliffs and green hardwoods is so what I remember from my elementary history books. One can almost visualize from those old memories and books the Indians in their canoes paddling along!
|View from bow of Finally Fun on the NJ side looking at NYC|
|Chase as we cruised up the Hudson, leaving NYC behind|
|The Palisades on the Hudson River|
|Cruising up the Hudson River|
We cruised on past Peekskill, and Dunderberg Mountain with its beautiful parks (want to stop to hike next time we are cruising past here!) and West Point. West Point, our US Army Military Academy looks nothing like I thought. It’s a huge fortress built right down to the water’s edge – very Moorish and formidable in looks.
|West Point Military Academy|
|West Point Military Academy off the Hudson River|
|Cliffs along the Hudson River|
|So many funny boats along the way!|
|One sees all types of boats along the way!|
|Love the lighthouses in the Hudson River|
July 3, 2009 Friday
More beautiful leisurely cruising up the Hudson River. Given that this is the 4th of July weekend, we are a bit leery that we might have problems finding a place to dock, again given that there is no safe anchorage in the Hudson due to the swift currents.
|Such charming lighthouses!|
|Watch out for the REALLY big boats!|
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Departing Rondout early, we arrived at the Albany Yacht Club, just across from downtown around 3 PM grateful yet again to another dock master who re-arranged his docking plans to squeeze us in over this busy Fourth of July weekend. He even lent us his car so we could drive into downtown across the bridge to see the local street festival underway. We spent a fun couple of hours eating our way through the street vendor’s various and sundry foods and watching the people, bands and events. Chase and Andy pigged out on Indian milkshakes, crepes of chocolate and whatever else struck their fancy.
Later that evening Albany’s beautiful fireworks show was just across the river bank from our boat. We shared our deck space and some wine with Jim and Michelle Brown, who were docked in their smaller boat with two of their boys just in front of us. They loved the higher ‘perch’ from which to view the festivities!
July 5, 2009
Arriving in Waterford, NY, at the edge of the Erie Canal, I feel as though we are really on our way now!
|Finally Fun w Steamboats in front of her|
|Old old old steamboat!|
A weekend steamboat festival had just ended so we were able to snag space at the free dock wall, right at the edge of the city.
|Look at that equipment to propel the boat|
|These steamboats are so impressive!! Amazing!|
We hung out in Waterford for 3 nights, shopping for groceries, watching the Lock, chatting with numerous people and staying that additional day due to the predicted bad weather.
|Chase trying to figure out how to do a lock - @ Erie Canal|
We purchased the seasonal canal pass ($100) which will allow us to travel the entire NY Canal system (we will travel half of Erie; Oswego and the Champlain Canals in the NY system) and to tie up free along the way at various locks and city docks. Pretty good bargain.
|Sawhorse propping up radar arch on fly bridge|
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Up we go, officially into the NY Canal System, beginning our travel through the famous Erie Canal traveling with Dan & Lynn Broadway and Lynn’s Mom, Jessie aboard the DANLYNN, whom we’d met at the dock in Waterford.
|In a lock, along with other boats|
In spite of my reading and re-reading how to lock through, it is still a somewhat scary experience at first. There are 3 kinds of locks: one with fat pipes running down the lock wall that I have to get my line around as Andy tries to get the boat close to the wall so I can reach it; another type has a small round cable much like the pipe one, but harder to grab to run the line behind and through. Once I secure the boat amidships at the pipe or cable, I temporarily cleat off the line.
|The lady has placed her line behind the small cable running down the lock wall|
|Sharon on the bow trying to keep us by the lock wall|
This line is now supposed to move upward (or downward depending on which way we are going) sliding along the pipe or cable. If it should hang up, we could be in serious trouble. I keep a sharp knife handy just in case of such a problem.
Now, after getting the boat secured amidships at the pipe or cable, I race forward to grab a rope that hangs down the wall so I can stand there holding it, keeping the bow parallel to the wall til we are to move out of the lock. I never take my eyes off that cleated line amidships, making certain the line is moving smoothly along. And I struggle to keep the bow and the boat parallel to the wall.
|Lock filling up with water|
|I moved him UP from this position. Too easy to swing OFF in the lower cockpit area!|
As the lock fills with water (we are only going UP for the next few days), turbulence is created, making it even harder to hang on to the boat. Our bow thruster makes it much easier to get the bow back parallel to the wall as there is no way I can physically pull this 60,000 lb boat in toward the wall very well. I figure by the time this summer is over, I’ll have the strongest arm muscles ever! I’m also grateful I’d been warned and had 3 pairs of gloves ready. Those ropes are slimy, wet and dirty….just like Chase and I when we finish for the day! Chase amuses himself as the boat slowly moves upward along the wall searching out the bubbling life forms along the slimy wall!
|Chase in the rear cockpit - lock filling up behind him|
Meanwhile, Chase is at the aft deck, grabbing for another hanging rope so he can keep the boat from swinging out away from the wall at the rear. A little tricky…if I pull too hard at the bow, Chase ends up fighting his line and we go back and forth like a seesaw trying to keep the boat parallel.
I keep having visions of him swinging OFF the aft deck holding the rope, just like a monkey, due to the gyrating of the boat. I did move him from the aft deck down lower into the rear cockpit just to get that vision out of my head!!
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Safely through NINE locks today and 37 slow miles – whew, a LOT of locking! No mishaps and perhaps a sigh of relief (but it ‘ain’t over til it’s over!), as we pulled into Amsterdam, NY, tying up along the free dock by their city park – translate to dog walk place. Nothing much here.
|In a lock at full pond - unusual looking boats everywhere!|
|DanLynn cruising in front of us|
Friday, July 10, 2009
Amsterdam to Canajoharie via only two locks and 23 miles, passing thru Fonda, NJ, home to the original Henry Fonda clan, including Jane. Still traveling with the DANLYNN, we spent a delightful time here. This town was so friendly, I wrote the following letter to the editor, describing our travels along this route.
A THANK YOU to the Citizens Along the Erie Canal in Albany, Waterford, Amsterdam & Canajoharie
Have you ever wondered about all those boats that cruise slowly along your Erie Canal? Those funny looking sailboats with the mast down and lashed to the deck, the power boats of all shapes, sizes and types with fly bridges and tops lowered and lashed down?
Ever been curious about the small flag flying from the bow of many of these boats that has an outline map of your waterway along with other waterways of the USA on it and the letters “AGLCA”?
Ever wonder why your town or village provides a wall along the waterway by which we can tie up FREE and do you wonder why we stop? Do you wonder who we are and what we are doing?
We’re individuals from all walks of life, from all parts of the United States (and other countries as well!) who share a love of the water, a curiosity about this country and its people and who share a common sense of adventure. Many of us retired in order to partake of this lifestyle; many others stop and start their boating adventure over a period of years and anything in between….whatever works for each.
Many of us are members of AGLCA – the America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association --- hence that flag with the map flying from our bows. We are fondly known as “Loopers”.
We travel the Great Loop for many months to a year or more, cruising up the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway (also known as the ICW), up the Hudson River from NYC, across the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes and down various inland rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, “crossing our wake” back along the Atlantic ICW. Many also cruise the “Triangle Loop”, along the same route as the Great Loop, except we head North at Lake Ontario, cruising up to Canada via the Rideau Canal from Kingston to Ottawa, over to Montreal and South down Lake Champlain and the Champlain Canal. We cross our wake again at Troy, NY, cruising back down the Hudson and along the Atlantic ICW again.
An incredible journey, but more importantly, an amazing experience due to those of you we meet along the way. Our travel through Albany, Waterford, Amsterdam and Canajoharie over the past few days has been an awe inspiring reinforcement of the kindness and friendliness of the American people….small towns and villages at their best. For instance:
1. In Albany, during a casual conversation with a couple we’d just met at the marina dock, we mentioned our struggle to lower equipment on our fly bridge, (so one can travel UNDER all your 20’ bridges!) commenting that in retrospect this task might be easier if we had built some type of saw horse for support of the equipment, instead of utilizing our davit for support. To our utter amazement, Jim and Michelle Brown from Stillwater, NY, showed up the next day in Waterford (where they knew we would be tied up to the city wall), hauling lumber, screws, hammer, drill and a saw. Jim quickly built a perfectly sized wooden support on the spot, helped us lower and lash the equipment, taking only our profuse thanks in return.
2. Thanks to the Albany dockmaster who lent us his automobile so we could visit downtown and the festival that was underway!
3. In Amsterdam, friendly townspeople took a break from exercising their pets, welcoming us at the city wall. We docked overnight, along with another trawler we’d just met cruising northward, the DAN LYNN. We stayed overnight based solely on Dan & Lynn Broadway’s recommendation that we should visit the local Farmer’s Market being held the next day. Sure enough, the two vendors at the Market the next morning had more than enough fresh local produce to satisfy the needs of both boats AND to provide a learning experience for the grandson aboard. (“Peas come in long shells??!! Wow, thought they came in cans!”)
4. Canajoharie took the concept of welcoming tourists to the highest level imaginable. Eager to see the sights, we quickly tied our boats to the city wall off the Canal.
|Finally Fun & DanLynn tied to the wall in Canajoharie|
While the men did their man things aboard, the women aboard Finally Fun and the Dan Lynn took off to sightsee. Manning the local Tourist Information Booth, Jim Gallo regaled us with historical stories of the area, whetting our appetites for the places to see and things to do. Jim’s response to my innocent inquiry, “Where is a local beauty shop where I can get a haircut?” was to load me in his car and DRIVE me to the local shop so I could make an appointment. (He could not remember the exact name of the shop, only its’ location.) Later in the day, walking the long distance from the city dock to the local grocery story, Lynn, from DAN LYNN and I, aboard FINALLY FUN, were suddenly surprised by a dark van pulling alongside… Jim Gallo again! Not content with driving us the remaining distance to the store and back again, Jim insisted he show us and our families the beauty Canajoharie and the surrounding countryside had to offer. The six of us spent a delightful four hours visiting Ames, Sharon and other beautiful villages, learning from Jim the history and culture of the area and developing a deep appreciation for those of you living in this area.
An amazing experience thus far – we’re grateful for the ability to dock easily in your towns and villages, giving us the opportunity to meet so many of you living and working nearby. We love sampling the food in your restaurants, stores and markets and so appreciate the many courtesies extended by all who cross our paths.
Our boating community, though vast, is relatively close knit. Most of us never meet one another, but we communicate much information regularly via blogs, emails, websites, association newsletters and meetings. We talk about the good, the occasional bad and the very rare ugly that we encounter along the way, freely sharing experiences and tidbits such as where to stop, where to shop, where to eat, etc.
Thanks to all of you we’ve encountered along our way. You each have contributed toward making our journey through your community a wonderful warm memory we will treasure forever.
Sharon Larrison Stepniewski
Aboard Finally Fun, a DeFever Trawler
July 11, 2009
|Dan, Lynn, Jessie, Sharon, Chase, Jim Gallo, Andy|
|Sharon, Jim Gallo our 'tour guide', Jessie|
|Sharon, Dan & Andy departing our breakfast stop|
|Sharon's namesake town|
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Based on Jim, “our tour guide’s” recommendation, I got a hair cut and color at Amy Monks “Just Your Style” salon in Canajoharie. Great! I smiled all the way back to the boat. Her salon is in a hundreds year old house that use to be a brewery. Beer was stored across the street, thru a tunnel. She does her laundry in that tunnel now! The old stones are something to see! And the hair color wasn’t ORANGE or BLACK and the hair cut wasn’t WACKED
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Early pull out, headed to Herkimer, 5 locks and 26 miles away. Lock 17 at Little Falls was VERY different in that not only is it the highest lock on the Erie Canal, it is believed to be one of only two locks in North America where the entrance gate is lifted ABOVE the boat (other is Ottawa River in Canada that we will also go through), rather than the gate swinging OUT like a regular door opening. At Herkimer, still with the DANLYNN, we hiked to Walmart for some provisioning.
Would you believe, I just had to buy coffeepot number 4 or 5 since we started living aboard last July. Some gremlin is still shorting this thing OUT. We plug the pot in ONLY to make coffee and then unplug, but still somehow, something happens. Remember, I blew the first one the day after 3 electricians had ‘fixed’ our problems last October 31. I figure I am out over $300 for coffeepots alone (plus two irons, hair dryer) and am highly annoyed. Andy has gotten really good at boiling water on the stove and then pouring it slowly a million times into the coffee grounds in the busted coffee pot until it makes coffee. Me, I don’t get out of bed until the process is complete and I smell coffee and hear no more cursing. He just won’t admit he is as annoyed as I am.
Monday, July 13, 2009
|Oh God...Do you think we will FIT through???|
We’re anxious to get Chase to Sylvan Beach for some fun as this place promises an amusement park and swimming beach. It is good to get to these free docks early in order to secure a space, especially with our 50’ length and even more critical now that we are traveling with another fifty footer – DANLYNN.
Well, after arriving and ‘re-arranging’ ourselves along the dock twice, we hopped off for the amusement park. What a bust. The place is zillion years old, hardly anyone there and the wind was blowing the sand making it feel like needles sticking in our legs as we walked along. The air was freezing. Could not believe a handful of people were actually IN the water! Chase and Andy gamely rode some rides and at the end of it all, we still had 3 tickets left to spend as neither wanted to ride anything else. Even the carnival food was lame…so disappointing.
A city councilman and his wife were in a small boat behind us and kindly had moved their boat to give our boats more room, so we invited them over for Lynn’s famous margaritas. They regaled us with stories of the area and we all had a fun cocktail hour. All along the wall, people kept stopping to say hello, welcome us and chat a bit. We still are so in awe of the friendliness of everyone we’ve come into contact with no matter where we’ve been.
We plan a very early departure across Lake Onieda, weather permitting. If it is like today, it is a NO GO as the Lake is all white caps and froth. We’d bounce all the way.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Off the wall at 5:45 AM with good weather, no white caps in sight, but weather on the way. DANLYNN in the lead, we crossed the 20 mile lake with no problems at all.
We both plan a stop at Winter Harbor Marina in Brewerton as they have the cheapest fuel. We will top off so we won’t need to purchase expensive fuel while in Canada. Andy also wants to have the boat hauled to check the prop ding just as a precaution. Remember that BUMP that resulted in nothing but a loud noise? A diver, cleaning our hull recently, mentioned the slightly bent prop blade he saw. It is giving us no problems, but Andy noticed what he thinks is a slight vibration in one of the shafts, although we feel nothing while underway and neither did Rick, (who commissioned the boat) when he was aboard in the Chesapeake recently trying to fix the ChartPlotter.
|Hauled OUT. Not a good thing.|
Another NOT A GOOD DAY this has turned out to be. The Marina hauled the boat out of the water in short order and began the task of pulling the prop off for repair. Long story short, there is a major problem with the shafts that is creating grief among the workers. Seems no one can GET THE PROP OFF because the shaft won’t turn properly. Three workers, one pull truck, much grunting and groaning, oil, soap etc. and many tools in use, no one could get the thing off. Bottom line, we are here for ‘awhile’.
|Grunt, Groan, Cuss, Cuss|
Friday, July 17, 2009
The end of Day 4, high in the sky, high and dry out of the water still. Still working on the problem – we have a manufacturing problem in that someone put on the WRONG size cutlass bearings. They are so tight, the shafts do not turn properly, are impossible to get off (finally have today). We will be in a cat fight, but I expect that boat builder to make us whole for the $5,000 plus bill we expect to get .for all this.
|It is the 'swinging over' of the legs that is scary.|
Interesting experience…going up a tall tall ladder to get in/out of the boat. At least we have a bird’s eye view of everything as we sit propped up on what I call ‘boat stilts’.
Unfortunately, we can’t use water aboard as it would drain on the ground onto the worker’s heads! We do the dishes after dark and Andy goes below the boat with a budget, bangs on the hull and I release the water. He catches it in the bucket and dumps it in the Erie Canal. Our cabin head is FULL UP (we were to pump it after the quick repair ) so we can’t use that toilet now. We utilize the showers provided by the Marina…sorta like camping out –hiking with your towel and soap…
|Chase, Andy, Sharon living on the 'high'|
|Workers under Finally Fun|
There is nothing to do around here, even with the loaner automobile….Andy & Chase are getting fat going for ice cream, just to have something to do….I know Chase is bored…as we all are. He stays busy with computer games, some DVD movies and texting friends.
BAH. Disappointed that we did not get back in the water today as anticipated. Should be in the morning – I hope, or we run into Sunday, a day of no worker bees to bang on the boat. I’ve recalculated our trip to Montreal where we must put Chase on a plane back to Oklahoma City on August 14. We are still OK on travel time, baring any major weather to cross Lake Ontario into Canada as that can be a dangerous body of water in the wrong conditions. I’d allowed 5 days or more in Ottawa and Kingston and about 7 in Montreal, more than enough needed to sightsee…that’s where I am making up the time.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Hooray! At about 3:00 we ‘launched’ our boat back into the water and took her back to Lake Onieda for a short trial run. All seems to be well. Tying back up at the same Winter Harbor Marina, we spent the remainder of the day washing and scrubbing the boat inside and out, mostly trying to work off my anger at someone else stupidity. The repair bill was over $10,000! We hired a professional surveyor to take stock of the situation and document all – the good, the bad and the ugly so we will be in a strong position to fight the builder if it comes to that. This should not have been! No one can explain why the shafts were nearly impossible to turn. It took several guys, using a 'pull along' to begin the repairs.
|Finally Fun headed out of the full lock|
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Early OFF to Lock 23, our last lock heading west, toward the 24 mile long Oswego Canal which heads north to Oswego, right at the southern edge of Lake Ontario. Like the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal started as a ditch dug alongside the Oswego River which carried barge traffic pulled by mules and horses. Today, it is much larger and deeper and drops from 363 feet above sea level to 245 feet above sea level at Lake Ontario via 7 locks. We started locking DOWN today for the first time and it is much more difficult than locking UP. Our boat is so large and the freeboard so high off the water that we cannot reach the cable or pole that we have to thread the line through in order to hold the boat next to the wall. Both Chase and I struggled to secure the boat, even lying down flat and reaching out across to the wall. Very difficult but we managed each time…finally.
Arriving into Oswego, we tied up after Lock 7 along the city wall, with a number of other boats already there. Chase and I spent an interesting couple of hours or so hiking to and touring Ft. Ontario State Historic Site. This fort (and the first fort Chase had ever seen) is called “The Fort of the Six Nations” as many nations had a hand in both destroying it and then rebuilding it! First destroyed by the French, rebuilt by the Brits, destroyed by us Americans, etc. it went on and on until it was last rebuild between 1839 and 1844. The buildings and houses depicted the soldier’s life as it was back then, complete with clothing, furniture, cannons and cannonballs. A very interesting place to wander.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Up at 6:30 to be first boat in the last Lock in the Oswego Canal - headed for the wide open Lake Ontario with good weather promised for most of the day. We don’t want to be caught in bad weather on this body of water as it can turn deadly rather quickly.
Arriving in Cape Vincent, NY around noon, we again tied up at another free city dock. We’ll head out tomorrow for the Canadian side, traveling through the lower part of the 1,000 Islands to Gananoque where we will clear customs and sight see yet again. We changed our route from entering Canada in Kingston to Gananoque for a couple of reasons. One, to see a bit of the Thousand Islands and Two, we understand Gananoque is MUCH easier to clear Customs from. Kingston is the home of Customs & Immigration and one can expect to be boarded for certain and searched. In Gananoque one can make a phone call to Customs to clear. Given that we have cases of wine and lots of liquor aboard (ship's stores it is called), we are well over the limit of what is allowable to bring in. The cost per liter OVER the 1.5 liters allowed would make us pay double or more for our old booze. Remember, we had sold the condo and brought aboard all that liquor from the condo - stuff even like Melon Liquor from some party years ago, etc. We've got stuff we will never drink, but here it is, on board! Now we are in a hum! What to do?
Not much to see here, in spite of walking all over. Again, these waterway guide books certainly verbally flatter a number of places. The reality, however, is vastly different. Translate ‘quaint’ to ‘nothing happening around here’.
Our VHF radio is not working properly – we can’t hear anyone unless they are very close and vice versa. That AFTER we just had it worked on while ‘on stilts’. A knocking on the port side was heard from the engine room while underway today – no, we did not leave a repairman stuck in there…After conversations with Winter Harbor Marina, we will trouble shoot with them while underway in the morning on Lake Ontario. If all else fails, repairmen will need to drive to us immediately to fix this. I’ve had it yet again with things not being fixed properly or things never working properly…Andy better warn the repair folks to NOT say within my earshot, “well, it’s a boat”. Those are fighting words with me that make me see red in a split second now… Just DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME PLEASE. Why is that so much to ask?