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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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Tonawanda to Lockport
Temp in the 70s mostly sunny during the day clouding up this evening
08/27/2008, Lockport, NY

This morning after some coffee, Wayne took his test, and then we walked to Walgreens after calling the doc. The numbers are good cherubs - no worries.

We lazed along the Erie up to Lockport - this is where we'll go through our first locks and begin the trip through all the lift bridges and through the little towns along the way. We've just started the canal transit and I'm already impressed with it just thinking about its history and seeing all the wildlife along the banks and in the water. It's kinda cool passing by Victorian bed & breakfasts and a couple of quaint canal side inns, parks and small marinas. Saw a few blue herons and the males are really pretty - blue tinged; The geese are starting to flock and practice their v formations and I'm hoping that I got a shot of a solitary heron sitting on the branch of a dead tree - I couldn't quite see it in the viewfinder. Saw a lot of turtles sunbathing on passing branches and on the logs/rocks near the shoreline, and the wildflowers were breathtaking in places. One depressing part was seeing some of the maple trees starting to turn bright orange & red in splotches.

When we got close to Lockport the transportation dept was working on one of the 5 bridges right before the lock and a cable was hanging low and across the water, so we swung around and tied to the north canal wall. It's kinda isolated here, but definitely in walking distance to the locks (34 and 35) so we walked up to the locks to see what we needed to do and pay for a season pass ($75) so we can lollygag through the towns without rushing. It was impressive watching the locks operate - we watched the lockmaster open and flood the locks for 2 boats (1 canal rental and 1 tour boat) passing through and chatted with him about procedures and the history of the locks. He showed me how he seals them, and works the controls to flood and empty them then gave me some maps and brochures and talked about some of the places along the way and the lift bridges. It was fascinating to watch and to listen to him.

Anyhow - a little history from the Lock Master at Lock 35: The Erie Canal opened in 1825 and connects with hundreds of miles of lakes and rivers across the state of New York, linking the Great Lakes with the Hudson River and 5 other waterways in Canada. It's quite a marvel - It took 7 years to build and was really the engineering marvel of its day having been constructed without one single professional engineer! It cut through 363 miles of wilderness, featured 18 aqueducts and 83 locks, with a rise of 568 ft. from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. We all agreed that we need more Teddy Roosevelt's - he really left a wonderful legacy of parks and water passages that we wouldn't otherwise have today. A lot of the lock master and lift bridge tenders are positions that have been passed down among families. There's a lot of family pride along the Erie Canal and I can see why.

After a tour of the bridge operations we walked back to the boat and poured over the brochures and maps, then made dinner (BBQ pork chops, broccoli slaw and sweet corn). I'm working off battery power again so this won't get posted until tomorrow. It was exhilarating watching the locks operate and knowing that tomorrow we'll be going through them. There are two back to back here, each with a 25-foot drop. Spectacular to watch those boats go through - I'm glad we stopped to watch first - thanks NY transportation dept. We'd have gone right through if not for your low cable! Two guys fishing on the wall across from us were catching some small perch shaped fish - I know what they're having for dinner tonight!

The picture above is of the Lockmaster at Gate 35

08/31/2008 | Jackie Yaroch
Hey guys. Not sure about the Lions, but I know that U of M lost by only 2 points to Utah on Saturday. Glad to hear all is well there. Kids start school on Tuesday and it is supposed to be 90 degrees, but they insist on wearing their new jeans and new shirts. I said, okay, but you guys are going to SWEAT!!! They are so funny sometimes. Luke and I painted his room last weekend. I should say he painted for about 10 minutes and I did the rest. Reminded me about painint the fence at the lake, boy was that a trip, UGH. Talk to you soon!!!

70's, sunny, beautiful
08/26/2008, Tonawanda, NY

Lazy day today; After coffee we were going to walk to the pharmacy, but met Bob and Hilda from Ombre Rose - a 1988 Gozzard 36 - very pretty boat and a very nice couple that's been sailing a bit longer than us. We learned a lot about the canal stops and they were wonderful to chat with. Walked up to the pharmacy to see if they made contact with our doctor - nope; bought a paper for Hilda & one for Wayne to read the paper while I updated our website, then we walked to the supermarket (Tops). Very nice place - they had more food than Meijer's back home. We walked about town and got Chinese food for dinner - avoided the one that had Chinese food and pizza, and probably should have avoided the other also but I was craving Chinese & hoping that they had a decent Chinese restaurant here. It was a very nice, uneventful day to rest my sore body and walk about exploring the canal area.

Finally there
Mostly sunny, 70's
08/25/2008, Tonawanda (again)

Got up at 6:00, put the coffee on and thought about all the teachers convening on the building today to begin their in-services as well as start working on their rooms, etc... It feels strange not to be there this year. I'd be making and copying my syllabus, handouts, etc., etc., etc., and instead I spent the dayin my own personal "in-service": being hoisted up the mast to put the bridle for the hoist around the spreaders so that when they lift the mast out, they don't break the radar, ("hey can you see the mist from Niagara Falls?" "No, hoist me higher" D'wayne (the crane operator) said: You should be able to see the mist from the falls now!" "Okay" "Okay guys - I'm ready to come down now!" Hello? Hey no coffee breaks!" "Honey... Honey..."); helping to unstep the mast; settling it in on the deck; falling down the cabin stairs; then finally riding past Wardell's and going under the 17 ft bridges to finally - at long last - entering the Erie Canal.

It finally feels like we're on our way. We are now officially out of the Great Lakes, and I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. We tied up on the Erie Canal and ran into Tonawanda (okay walked...) for pop, beer and to find a pharmacy.

I can't begin to tell you how great the guys at Rich's Marina were. I wish I'd have gotten all their names but the only one I know is D'waynes because when they called him I thought his name was Wayne. They assisted, when needed, and I learned a lot about the crane operations there. They didn't mind my questions and didn't rush us.

After we tied up on the Canal we walked to the Walgreens, Burger King, and the Beverage store. I walked over to the old lift, Railroad Bridge that goes over the water and climbed it to take a picture of Wayne sitting by the boat. I thought that it was no longer in use, but hour after I came down, an Amtrak train came speeding across, then later a long train carrying all manner of ores, etc..., glad I wasn't up there when they came by, I'd have been in the drink instead of having one with my hon...

Sat and watched the world go by for a bit on the park bench before going below. Wayne got the TV on and we were able to watch a couple of channels -it was good to see the news again, it's been awhile...

By the way - I've posted pictures and will add more today. The one on the blog is one Wayne shot of me attaching the bridle to the mast

08/26/2008 | Jackie Yaroch
Hannah says thank you for the warm wishes. She had a great 13th. Glad to hear from you guys. Keep up the writing. The kids and I are enjoying it. Stay safe!!

08/27/2008 | Ashley Smith
Hey Mrs. Aben, Wow sounds like your days are definitly being differnt but it sounds like you are haveing a really good time to :) Thats awesome! School will definitely be different with out you there but everyone would much rather you be happy where you are! School will always be apart of you and you can take all of us with you where ever you go in your heart and mind! We miss you and are so proud of you! Thank you for keeping us informed on whats going on and can't wait to read more! Have a wonderful day!! Stay safe love ya Ash

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