Friday, June 30, 2006

Stuck in Phoenix

Virtually the entire NYS canal system is shut down due to flooding. At lock 10 on the Erie, the entire control house at the lock was washed away, taking the transformers with it. It will be out at least a month.
I'm now on the Oswego canal, near lock 1. The Oswego is shut down until Monday or Tuesday to let the flood waters abate.
At least I'm in a pleasant spot to get stuck.
There are reports of whole docks floating down the Hudson River, some with boats still attached to them. At other places, boaters are stranded on docks that are now under water with no way to get ashore except by dingy. I'm guess I'm lucky to be where I am, with the Bridge House Brats taking care of me.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

More on the Bridge House Brats

I had a chat this afternoon with one of the adults who supervise the Brats. The story of this program is even more amazing than I had thought. The kids (7,8,9 years old) do EVERYTHING! They plan the program, they raise the money, they develop the budget, they buy the equipment, they do all the work. Everything that's painted, is painted by the kids, and the kids bought the paint. All the flags, tables, chairs, umbrellas, awnings, etc that you see in the picture - all bought by the kids, set up and maintained by them.
The kids have a "Brat Shack" which is their headquarters. They meet, they plan, they add new things to the program, all on their own.
Not only is this a fantastic boost for what otherwise would be a dying little town along the banks of the Oswego Canal, it is wonderful experience for the kids. Once a kid spends a summer or two in this program, he or she will likely not be intimidated by anything he or she might be challenged to do.
At least one Bridge House Brat went on to be president of his class in a university, one got to meet the President of the US.
More communities should start programs like this. It really is one of the best volunteer programs I've ever seen. And it's all run by little kids. Go figure.


Finally, a town does it right. Phoenix, NY has done a great job of running their waterfront. The complete opposite of Utica. The town dock is pleasant, with a little waterfront park, trees, picnic tables, etc. They also have a crew of kids called the Bridgehouse Brats that help with docking, bring free coffee, run to local restaurants to get meals for you, take you on free museum tours, etc. A lot of fun.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Slight change of plan

I've decided to hang out in Brewerton another day, and head for Phoenix tomorrow, and then on to Oswego later. I think it's going to be too crowded there for the holiday weekend. I needed to do some laundry, shopping and a lot of cleaning up around the boat, so today will be a good "chore" day. Tomorrow I can set out with a clean, freshly provisioned boat and take my old sweet time getting to Oswego. The weather looks promising for a Lake Ontario crossing around mid-week next week, if it holds.
It also seems like I made it here just in time. The locks from 22 down to Waterford are CLOSED due to flooding. One of the locks actually had it's control house flooded last night! And several of the other locks have their doors open, top and bottom, to let the excess water drain.
So far, the locks west of here are still open, but if we get more rain, that could change. Keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be able to head out tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The ice finally broke

One of the things that had worried me since the start of my trip was that I had not picked up the guitar. Not once. Didn't even take it out of the case since the night of my retirement party (which migrated from "Cheeseburger in Paradise" to "Whispers.")
I don't know why, I just wasn't in the mood.
Now I think it may have been the strep. Today was the first day that my voice sounded normal to me, and I haven't coughed once. So this afternoon, sitting below (it's raining) suddenly the mood to pick a few tunes hit me. So out came the guitar (and the tuner - man! was it out!) and I entertained myself with some Buffett, some Bertie Higgins and some John Hall. My fingers hurt like hell (from not playing in so long) but at least I'm back to feeling the muse. I guess it's one more sign of recovery from my long, nasty bout with the strep.
Ain't azithromycin wonderful?
Oh, and just for fun, here's a shot of Lake Oneida.

It's about time

You can't imagine the trouble I've had getting to the internet. The cruising guides are proving to be quite inaccurate. When they say a marine has internet access, or wi-fi, I get there to find out "Oh, we've been thinking about putting that in, but..."
Very frustrating, to say the least.
Well, finally, after miles and miles, I found a place that does have acess. So now I have to give you multiple updates at one time. Where did I leave off? Oh, yeah.

June 21, 2006
A great day! Ran locks 2,3,4,5,6,7 plus ran a total of 15 nm. Stopped in Schenectady. Walkure has a few scratches from my inexperience at "locking through," but otherwise, she's doing fine.

June 22, 2006
I thought the day was going to be a washout, but after chatting with the dockmaster, I set out. He told me that if there was too much rain, the locks might close for days or weeks, and then I wouldn't get anywhere. So I went and ran locks 8,9,10,11,12. I stayed at the upper wall of lock 12. A total of 23.3 nm run today.

June 23, 2006
T'storms predicted today, so I set out early to get ahead of them. Ran 22.6 nm to St. JOhnsville. Locks 13,14, 15 today.

June 24, 2006
Ran locks 16,17 & 18 today. Lock 17 is one of the highest in the world at 40.5 feet lift. Logged 17.9 nm today.

June 25, 2006
Ran lock 19 and stopped at Utica. I have mail waiting for me at the Post Office in Utica. The town dock at Utica is a bummer. It's free, but that's all I can say for it. No attendant, no bathroom, no shower, no electricity, no fuel, no pumpout - all of which were promised in the cruising guide. It seems it's a local political boondoggle. The taxpayers spent millions building the facility, but then it was leased to a guy who uses it as a catering business and pays no attention to the boaters. And he rents the facility for $150/mo including utilities! Somebody's gonna be voted out on that one.

June 26, 2006
What a hassle! I ended up taking a cab to the post office to pick up my mail, because, of course the "general delivery" post office was miles and miles away. It rained the whole day and by the time I reached Sylvan Beach I was exhausted. A gruelling day in the rainsuit all the way. But I did manage to run my first two "down locks." And I made it to the shore of Lake Oneida.

June 27, 2006
What a change from yesterday. Today was glorious. I ran the 18 nautical miles across Lake Oneida without a hitch. The lake is big enough that you can't see from one side to other, so I had to use my navigation skills to make it across safely. I watched the sky for a break in the weather. Then at the first sign of blue sky, I set out, the rain clouds behind me all the way. The wind was at my back, and I surfed on the rolling waves and made the whole trip in three hours. Tomorrow - Oswego!
I stopped for tonight at Kay-Ess boat yard. Nice place, a good ship's store where I bought some of the Canadian charts I will need. Canadian charts are expensive, over $150 just for the Trent-Severn Canal. (I paid about $50 for the complete NY waterway system.)
The Picture posted here is of the Hudson, NY lighthouse. Hudson - the little town with the big red-light district. For more pics, see the Yahoo group photo section.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

And the adventure begins!

This update will cover a very eventful few days.
Friday, June 16:
I left Kingston around 10 AM. By noon I had made it to Saugerties, which had been the farthest north this boat had ever been. I continued on until I reached Coxsackie, about 32 miles out. Not bad for the first day, considering I was nursing some serious injuries from a bad fall (ribs? knee ligament, rotator cuff?)
I anchored behind Coxsackie Island and had a very quite, pleasant night.

Saturday, June 17:
Just as I weighed anchor, it started to rain. I had to break out my rain gear and spent the whole morning slogging upriver in the rain. I made it to Albany Yacht Club (which is in Rensselaer?) a total trip of about 17.4 nm. My son and his girlfriend Kari took me out to dinner for Father's day, gave me a really neat book and a cute card. Mike helped me take the masts down. By Sunday I was feeling really rotten and didn't quite know why. My son insisted that I go to the doctor, and he dragged me kicking and screaming. Turns out I have strep - can you imagine? So...a trip to the pharmacy for antibiotics and an extra night at the Albany Yacht Club to let the meds kick in and now I think I'm on the mend.

Tuesday June 20:
Finally on my way again. Since the masts are down, there's nothing to do but motor, so I go up river to Troy and my first try at "locking through." Having never done this before, I think I did OK. Got a slight scrape in the paint in a spot where I never thought to put a fender and the bronze rub rail took a beating, but that's what it's for. Had to submit to a "national security interview" by the Coast Guard, but they were pleasant and got it all done in the time it took the lock to fill so no time was lost.
Now I'm tied up at the town dock in Waterford. This is really neat - it should be this way everywhere. There's no charge to dock for 2 nights, $10/night after that, and they provide free electricity (yeah, I know "tax dollars at work." 'Bout time I got something for all those taxes I've been paying all these years.)
Tomorrow, if my health continues to get better and the weather holds, I will run the "flight locks." This is a series of locks, one right after the other, that raise the boat 169 feet in less than 2 miles. This is highest flight of locks in the world. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tomorrow's the day

Well, finally, today I go to the lawyer's to sign the papers. The buyers can't make it until Tuesday, but I can't wait that long. So my lawyer will have to handle the closing without me. I will stop by his office today to sign all the papers. I'll make one last stop at the house to pick up the DSL equipment I have to return to the phone company, then I'll be leaving the keys with the lawyer. I guess I'm officially homeless.
I've set myself an abitious goal for my first day out. I'm starting a little later than I had planned, so I have to make up some miles. I have to be in Albany sometime on Saturday to keep my schedule, so I have to make it half way there on Friday. It means about 38 miles. That's a long day. And given the prevailing northerly wind here on the Hudson, I'll probably have to motor most of the way. So be it. I need to be in Albany this weekend to turn over the keys to my car to my son.
This is it, it's really starting. I still have to pinch myself. It's actually happening. As of tomorrow I'm officially a "voyager." My next update will be from Albany sometime this weekend. Wish me luck.

Monday, June 12, 2006


What a blast! Took the boat out to do some testing of the rig at higher wind speeds. The winds were predicted to be 20-25 mph, with gusts over 30. I put 2 reefs in the main and went out for a couple of hours. WOW! I knew we were blasting along, but when I got pack to port and reviewed the GPS log, it registered a maximum speed of 9.5 knots. Even if you figure that I had the current in my favor, that still means a through-the-water speed of over 7 knots.
Not bad for a home made boat, huh?
The people who are buying my house are closing on the sale of their old house this Tuesday. This means we should be able to close on my house Wednesday or Thursday. Later than I had hoped, but still within my window. It will mean that I have to finish getting the boat ready in the next couple of days, so I can set out as soon as the house closes.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A little more progress

Yeah, I know it's been a while since I updated you. But, hey! I'm retired. I'm not on a timetable.
I have been busy. During the past week I finished cleaning out and closing up the house. Now it's just a matter of waiting to get a closing date from the buyers. The exact closing date has always been a matter of contention. First they said June 15, then they changed it to June 1, then back to the 15th, now they say "within the next two weeks." At least the lawyer has finally cashed the downpayment check.
I had a chance meeting with the buyer's wife this week. She drove by to measure the kitchen. She and her kids seemed really enthusiastic about the place.
I've also been busy trying to find a place to stow everything on the boat. The first two weeks aboard were really cramped. I had "stuff" piled everywhere. Now, Finally, it's starting to look civilized in here. Just one more section, the port side settee, to organize. Then a few things that are still in the car will be brought aboard and a home found for them.
The dingy is aboard, and seems to fit nicely on the foredeck. It covers the forward hatch, but there's enough of a hollow under the dingy to allow the hatch to open even with the dingy in place. It actually makes it a tad cooler inside as the dingy blocks the direct sun from getting in though the hatch. I just need to rig a lashing system to prevent it from moving when the boat's under way.
The solar panels are working well. Even on a cloudy day, they provide a couple of amps of power, enough to run the autopilot without draining the batteries. I have also found that I can watch the TV a couple of hours each evening, and the panels will recharge the batteries the next day. I guess that was a good investment.
Another good investment is my new Magma BBQ grill. It is a wonder. I cook on it every chance I get. It never flares up, never burns the food and so far has produced two of the best steak dinners I've ever had. The secret seems to be the dome-shaped burner element. As grease drips down onto the burner, it runs off into a pan under the grill. This seems to prevent major flare ups. The heat just churns along at a nice even pace, allowing very precise control of the cooking.
The weather has been evil. The first week here, I froze each night as temps dipped into the 30's. Then it rained. And rained. Then poof! August came and it was 85 and humid, then just as fast, we're back into another rainy pattern. Very few chances to take the boat and put her through her paces. I did get her out for two days of trials last week, just enough to get the sailing gear in proper order.