Sunday, June 22, 2014

Finishing up the Erie Canal

It has been a rough, rough week.  After getting thrown around by the turbulence in Lock 9, I managed Lock 10 well, then was thrown around again the next morning in Lock 11.  Four of us went through Lock 11 together, and I could not control my boat to keep it against the wall with the rope, which hangs vertically, and doesn't give any horizontal leverage.  I decided to "take a moment" and anchor between a couple small islands before heading to Lock 12.  I felt helpless and defeated by the locks.  The only saving grace was that the next couple locks would have poles, which I could do. I also knew I had to come up with another strategy to get through the rope locks, two close calls were more than enough.  As I pulled up my anchor and started heading toward Lock 12, I got a radio call from the lock master at Lock 12.  This is how that conversation went. "Annabelle, Annabelle, this is Lock 12". "Annabelle, we have poles in Lock 12, and you will get through safely."  I think he meant to say "Sweetheart, it will all be okay." 

I emailed and texted my friends who had gone through the locks. I also spoke with the lockmasters, who were truly wonderful for the remainder of my locks on the Erie Canal.

After Lock 13, a few of us stayed in Canajoharie including Summerland, Attitude Changer, and Shiver Me Timbers.  We had a pot luck dinner, and discussed our plans.  In the morning, after Attitude Changer left, I walked over to Lock 14.  I was given helpful information about how the locks fill, and also told I could request an "Easy Lift", which is where the lock master fills the lock at a third of the normal rate, which reduces the turbulence. There are no guarantees, and it is up to the discretion of the lock master and depended on the lock traffic.  In addition, he radioed ahead to the upcoming locks and gave them a heads up about my little boat.

As I was walking back to my boat, I ran into a gentleman working on his beautiful stone house.  We talked for a few minutes and I went back to my boat.  A couple hours later, he showed up with a friend of his, Michael, who had been in the Coast Guard, but had never been up the Mohawk River and done locks.  I agreed to take Michael with me for the next couple locks and drop him off at St. Johnsville with his friend.  Meanwhile, Mike, from Shiver Me Timbers offered to come aboard for the rest of the locks in the Erie.

The remainder of the Erie Canal locks went smoothly... very, very smoothly.  The combination of picking up Mike and Michael, the lockmasters, and the easy lifts made it all work out!

Approaching Lock 17, known as the "Guillotine Lock", because the gate comes down to close the lock.  It is a 40 foot lift with just ropes.

Lock 17

At the wall after Lock 18, to spend the night.  I took this from Shiver Me Timbers.

Sunset at Lock 18. A peaceful evening, after a good day of locking.

Shiver Me Timbers - the sailboats can't keep their masts up through the canals.  Some sailboats carry the mast with them, others ship the mast.  Andy is having his mast stored.
As much as I had a difficult, challenging week.  It was difficult for a couple other boats as well.  Freedom, the 53 foot boat, which was behind me at Waterford and then again at Riverlink Park, had problems with their throttle.  The electronic throttle control failed Martha and Cary in Lock 16, and they headed straight into the Lock, and then hard into the far gate.  It was hard to see them on the wall at Lock 16, waiting to figure out how they would repair their boat.
Freedom, at Lock 16 wall. Martha and Cary started the Loop in Charleston, SC.
Other friends, Sylvie and Michael, had engine problems with their sailboat, so were towed to Brewerton for repairs.  Their sailboat was in front of mine in Waterford and they were also at Riverlink Park.  With any luck, they will be back on the water soon.

Last night, I docked at Mariner's Landing in Sylvan Beach, NY, at the eastern side of Lake Oneida.  I needed fuel and needed to do laundry.  When I arrived, I was told there wasn't any available space. However, other boaters, from the marina, pointed out that a friend of theirs was anchoring out for the night, so I could have his slip.  I dropped Mike off at Shiver Me Timbers, on the free dock, and headed back to enjoy the evening at Mariner's Landing.

This morning, I headed out for the last stretch of the Erie Canal to take me to the Oswego River.  I crossed over Lake Oneida.  In Brewerton, on the other side, I briefly met up with other Looper boats, as we went through Lock 23 together (7 boats locked through, 5 of us were loopers). The other loopers were headed to Oswego, but my destination was Phoenix, a little town known for their hospitality to boaters.  Phoenix is the home of the Bridge House Brats, who will help with docking as well as take orders for breakfast, which they pick up from local restaurants and deliver to your boat.  It is not the Phoenix that I have known for so many years!

Tomorrow, I will head to Oswego, and meet up with Barb and Ross, from Attitude Changer, and we will move forward from there, and hopefully end up in Canada within the next few days.

Meanwhile, here are a few random pictures:

Saturday fishing.

Mike took this picture.  Hair and makeup have not been a priority on this trip.

Oneida Lake, first thing this morning.

The fork in the water... Erie Canal turn left, Oswego turn right.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Locking Through and New Challenges

Every day seems to bring a new challenge on this Loop Adventure.  Yesterday, the locks opened.  The Waterford Visitor Center dock was overflowing with boats.  Three "looper" boats were rafted onto other boats.  We celebrated and said our goodbyes, as half the boats headed north towards Lake Champlain, and the rest of us headed west, through the Erie.

Getting ready for a new day.  Attitude Changer, Limelight, and Panacea are rafted to Navigator, Summerland and Above Average Looper.  My little Annabelle is in front of Freedom.

We were all very excited about Tuesday, as it represents a point in the Loop, where one decides which direction to go.  It was hard for me to watch many of my friends head north, while I headed west.  I even called the Canada Canal System, verifying I needed two people aboard throughout the province of Quebec.  I just couldn't take the chance, and once again chose the safe plan.

First thing yesterday morning, I decided to watch as other people went through the first "locking" in Waterford (Lock 2).  Amongst the seven boats in the lock, was "If", with Tom and his grandson Tim.  Tom is one of the oldest "loopers" and will be 80 in November.  They were the last of the boats heading into the lock.  Tim was at the helm and Tom was reaching out with his boat hook to grab the cable, when Tom fell into the water in the lock.  I think all our hearts stopped for a moment.

"If" has entered the lock and Tom has just fallen in, "Man Overboard!"  Nothing we can do but hope for the best, and start breathing again.

Tom swam to the swim platform and Tim is helping him.  Meanwhile the sailboat crew is yelling at Tim as his boat moves forward and is about to hit the sailboat.

With Tom safe on the swim platform, Tim has gone back to the helm to move the boat.

The lock doors are closing, and soon the chamber will be filling with water, raising the boats to the upper level.

Watching the lock fill with water.  In a few minutes it will be full.  The volume of water put into the lock can be over 1200 cubic feet per second.

Almost there... still filling.  The dimensions of the lock are 328 ft long by 45 feet wide.

Tom, still smiling, and considering the benefits of life jackets.  We were all smiling to see him safe aboard his vessel.
My friend, Jim, from Waterford offered to go up the first "flight" of locks with me.  I explained he could come with me, but I had to do everything myself.  He agreed, and we shared ideas about how to lock through, comparing our different boats and the different tools we each had to work with.  He has a twin engine or "double screw", while I have a single engine.  I have both bow and stern thrusters, and he has a bow thruster.  His boat is longer than mine, but his engines not as powerful.  Other considerations include being alone on the boat, versus having crew.

My plan for my boat, being singlehanded, was to reach out my window next to my helm, so I could still control my boat.  Then, put a loop around the cable, then hold myself against the wall by using my bow and stern thrusters as needed.  This is the plan that worked.  My secondary plan, which was my initial plan when I left Southport, was to grab the cable from the back of my boat, and use my bow and stern thrusters to keep me next to the wall.  The secondary plan did not work as well, since I lose forward and reverse control of my boat by not being at my helm.  With my helm station being on the starboard or right side of the boat, this limits me to tying up to the starboard wall of the lock, to have control of my boat.

After lock 6, I dropped off Jim and was back on my own again.  I had successfully managed the 5 locks, constituting the "flight".  I had one more lock to go before stopping for the night at Schenectady Yacht Club.  Row and Gus from Summerland made a great spaghetti dinner, and we checked weather and planned for today's journey.

Today, brought on new challenges.  Instead of cables, we only had ropes to hold onto.  The ropes are not attached at the bottom, like the cables, so they are not as effective at holding the boat near the wall.  It was windy and there was a strong current at the locks.  Lock 8 went well.  I tied to the starboard wall, fought off some wind, but managed to do okay.  For Lock 9, it didn't go as well.  Summerland and a sailboat were on the portside wall, with the wind holding them against it.  I was on the starboard side wall with the wind pushing me away.  I was doing well with my thrusters until the lock started filling with water.  The stern of my boat was over a filling pipe, which pushed my stern out to the middle of the lock.  Imagine ten times the power of a firehose, and you can imagine the force of the water.  I let go of the rope and re-positioned myself.  It all happened so fast.  One second I was next to the wall, the next second my whole boat had flipped around and I was perpendicular to the walls.  Fortunately, I have a small boat, so I didn't hit either of the other boats.  It was a close call.  I recovered and moved up a little on the wall, as the lock continued to fill with water.  We had one last lock, which was much better.

By 1:00, we docked at Riverpark, next to a good restaurant.  Other loopers shared their locking problems in the same lock.  One looper was grateful they were the only ones in lock 9, when they lost their lines, sure they could have hit someone.  We are all safe and sound once more. Annabelle is docked in front of Freedom, the big green yacht, like we were at Waterford.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

At Waterford, after a long week.

I wish I had more pictures, but it hasn't been the best of weeks and I forgot to put the memory card back in the camera! The pictures I thought I had, were just thoughts of pictures!  What can I say?  Not every week is a "good" one.

Here is the one picture Jan and Tom, from Navigator, took of Annabelle, with all her gear, ready for the locks!  She has five fenders on each side.
Annabelle, ready for the Federal Lock in Troy, NY
So, for a run down on the week - I stayed at Shady Harbor Marina in New Baltimore, NY for almost a week.  While I was there, I decided to order some things for the boat, and take care of anything which needed taking care of before the locks, and before Canada.  My toilet hinges had broken, and although my temporary solution of using super glue is working now, I decided to order new ones.  I was two fender lines short, for my ten fenders for the locks.  A bigger deal was cavitation, which was irritating me, from when I changed the pitch on my propellers.  Cavitation is when the propellers are causing and moving air bubbles instead of just water.  Based on how my hull is shaped, my ideal prop is 17 inches with a 17 degree pitch.  So, I arranged to have my spare prop pitched back from 19 degrees to 17 degrees.

Simple, right?  Well, some days, nothing is really simple.  Wednesday, I sent my prop out to be re-pitched and Thursday went to pick up the prop an hour and a half south of the marina.  About a half mile from the prop shop, I got into an accident, in the "loaner car" for the marina.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt.  Nobody was cited or ticketed either... and it is unclear whose "fault" it was.  Maybe it was mine, maybe it was his, but either way, I think we both did our best to avoid what could have been a serious accident.  While waiting for the police to arrive, I had the flashers on and the lights were on, because of rain.  The battery died in the car.  So, once all was said and done, and I was going to drive the car back to the marina, I couldn't start it.  So, the police officer called a tow truck, and the tow truck driver said he couldn't jump start it, and began hooking up the car, before I even had time to catch my breath.  The prop guy was going to deliver the prop to the corner, I was trying to contact insurance, and working with the marina... and meanwhile the guy was wanting to take the car.  I was still shaky from the accident.  So, the tow truck driver took the car and me to their shop.  Meanwhile, the marina wanted me to have the car towed north and west of the marina another 45 minutes.  They actually texted me this:  "Tanya, the company that will give you the best rate to tow to Frank's body shop in Scotia is Interstate Towing... We can pick you up at Selkirk exit."  They wanted to pick me up at the side of the NY thruway!  Also, I was told that it couldn't be fixed in the town I was in, because I would be responsible for getting the car to and from the marina.  Meanwhile, I still don't know if my insurance will cover this, and I was charged for the towing, when all I needed was a jumpstart.  So, I had the towing company, repair shop, jumpstart the car, and I drove back to the marina.  I didn't pay the $650 for the long distance towing and did not get dropped at the side of the highway like I was asked to do from the marina.  UGH!!!!

The following day, Friday, I went with the marina manager, to Franks Body Shop for an estimate.  The car was not only drivable, but was used by other people from the moment I arrived back at the marina.  The damage estimate was $2300, with damage to the headlight and front fender.  Tomorrow, I can call my insurance carrier and see if they have any new information, and whether it is covered or not.

The good news was that the propeller guy had my prop delivered to the first car repair shop, so I was able to bring it back to the marina with me.  It was a simple switch from one propeller to the other.

Friday night, after a long, exhausting day, I went in to take a shower, and SPLAT!  Dog shit!  Seriously?!?  Apparently, someone had brought their dog into the shower, the dog pooped in the shower stall, and it was not noticed, until I stepped into it.  Fortunately, I was wearing my flip-flops.  I am sure, the owner of the dog had no idea about what their dog had done, or they would have cleaned up the mess.  I tried, but kept gagging.  I told the marina manager, and he had someone clean up the mess.

So, this bring me up to yesterday, Saturday.  Although the winds,tides and currents were against me, I left Shady Harbor and headed north!  At times, I was just going over 3 knots.  It was a slow, slow day.  I only had twenty miles to go.  When I got to Albany, Larry and Jan from Panacea hailed me.  They were with Barb and Ross from Attitude Changer.  I stopped and tied onto Panacea, and stayed for a cup of coffee.  I felt good to be on my way, up the water from Shady Harbor, and with friends.  I wasn't exactly getting anywhere very fast.

From Albany, I went the next ten miles up to the Federal Lock in Troy.  I was avoiding floating trees and debris the whole way.  At the Federal Lock, "Lock 1", there was three feet deep of wood and debris for me to plow through, the winds were gusting and the current was strong.  (Other boats had decided to wait at the Troy City dock until today, when the weather was calmer.)  I was asked to wait ten minutes for the lockmaster to prepare the lock.  I waited, with choppy waves and water pushing my boat every which way.  I made it into the lock and was there by myself, no other boats.  Having been told the middle is the best place, I headed to the pole marked with a 3 (of 5).  It was difficult, and after trying and trying to put my rope around the pole, I headed onto number 4.  I finally managed to grab the cable with my boat hook, out my window, and then get my line around the pole.  The lock master filled the lock, raised me the 15 feet, and I was on my way to Waterford.

Larry and Jan had called my friends in Waterford to let them know I was on my way.  Mark and Jane, from Average Looper, scoped out a place on the floating dock for me, with power.  As I headed into Waterford, I made my way up to the front of the visitor's center, docked my boat, and breathed a sigh of relief.   I am in a great place, with great friends, and Shady Harbor is behind me.

Today, we are all here, waiting for the Erie Canal locks to open.  Locks 7 to 22 have been closed due to high water.  Between locks 6 and 7, the wall for tying up our boats is full of other boaters, so there is no room and no reason to let all the boats here in Waterford lock through.  Locks 2 through 6 are considered a "flight", meaning you get them all done and the next place to stop is before lock 7.  The floating dock and wall are full here.  Tomorrow, there are three more "looper" boats expected to come up here: Panacea, Attitude Changer, and Limelight.

Tonight, we will be having "docktails"... another way to celebrate and enjoy the many people we meet along the way.   We had a farmer's market here this morning.  I picked up a "Berry, Berry Pie", which I will bring to "docktails".

Tomorrow is another day...
Lock 2 in Waterford

All our boats on the floating dock in front of the Visitor's Center

Waterford Visitor's Center

Some "loopers" have big boats, some have small boats.  We all fly the same burgee.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Heading up the Hudson


The Hudson Valley is incredibly beautiful.  The river is deep, and there are not enough words to describe it , so this will be mostly pictures... and maybe a story here and there.

Grandpa showing his grandson how to feed the geese.  The geese have been migrating north.

I thought of my friend Susan, when I saw this waterfall.

West Point, US Military Academy.

West Point has castle-like architecture

1828 Kosciusko's Monument at West Point - He assisted the Continental Army during the American Revolution.  This memorial is perched on a hillside, overlooking the Hudson, on the northern part of West Point.

I didn't realize the Army's rival was the Air Force.

Castle Ruins

Castle Ruins

Clearwater, an educational sloop and symbol of environmental awareness.  She is a 106 ft replica of a tall ship.

This little tug is smaller than mine!

It is unusual to see a megayacht pulling a dinghy behind it, like this yacht was doing.


John, on Endeavor.  Another looper.

At Norrie State Park, where they have a marina.  Looking out from my slip.
Average Looper and Dream Chaser, two other Looper boats, with me at Norrie State Park

Bruderhof - The Mount Community   
 This castle-like structure across the water from Norrie State Park was originally built by Robert Livingston Pell, who raised apples and grapes.  he was known for developing the Newton Pippin apple.  Then, the property became a Redemptorist Retreat, which was open to all faiths and was called Mount St. Adolphus.  About three years ago, the Bruderhof bought the property and turned it into their highschool.  The Bruderhof are a communal religious group, who have Anabaptist origins.

Esopus Meadows Lighthouse

Kingston Rhinecliff Bridge

Rondout Lighthouse

Quiltwork Barns?
This heron was marking a floating log for me.  Or maybe he was just enjoying his little island.

Saugerties Lighthouse

Hudson Athens Lighthouse
I am south of Albany.  I have bought my season pass to the NY Canals.  I will be staying put for a week, while waiting on some packages in the mail.  This is the last stop before heading through the locks.  Once I am into the locks, I will be staying at town walls, doing some sightseeing, but moving almost daily and into Canada.  This is a major deciding point for most Loopers.  We can go north through Lake Champlain or west through the Erie Canal.  For most Loopers, the deciding factor is if their boat can make it under the bridges.  For those of us, who are singlehanding, there are restrictions in the St. Lawrence Seaway and Chamblis lock, which require more than one person aboard.  Although I have had offers of people coming north with me, my boat is small and not conducive to having another person aboard.  So, the decision is made!  I will head west!