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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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Lockport to Medina
Cloudy, drizzly to light rain today, High: 68-72
08/28/2008, Medina, NY

Made a Sausage/egg and fruit breakfast after coffee this morning, then, when we went up top I saw a lumber barge was parked down the wall from us. It was the same one we passed on the way here that was cutting branches and trees along the canal. Wow - We both must have been sleeping like logs to miss that guy coming in and tying to the wall last night. Talked to Penelope this morning and let her know that all's well. She called me her wandering little sister; She's always been my Rock of Gibraltar. I got all choked up thinking about her (and Wendell) - our lives and all the paths we've been down as kids and adults. I love you (both)...

Onward to the Locks - It was exciting - my first lock in the Erie Canal - Lock 35. Armed with mooring lines and boat hooks in hand, we took a portside stance and listened as the doors clanked shut with a creaking groan. The water level started dropping and we dropped the first 25 ft. As the next doors opened there were 2 boats waiting on the same side of the wall as us (one a large tour boat and the other a canal house boat) so we entered the next lock (#34) around them to the starboard side and then they came through into the lock we vacated. Another 25-foot drop and we have now officially transited our 1st two locks on the Erie Canal. The Lock Master told us he'd let the Exchange Street Lift bridge operator know that we were coming, and informed us that the same bridge tender operated the Adams Street Bridge too. So there was only one operator for both bridges - good exercise I guess... It was funny because as we got to the first lift bridge it started opening like magic as we approached. The next one we called to make sure he was there and he told us to come ahead - it'd be open as we got there.

The countryside along the canal is breathtaking in spots. Wildflowers, apple orchards, farms (one farmer was spreading manure from his tractor and some kind of spraying, throwing equip. that jettisoned the cow manure from a trailer attached to the tractor) older homes and newer ones, parks and a few small marinas were scattered about. Sections of the canal were aqueduct and I couldn't get over how in spots, when you looked to the north, the canal was higher than the surrounding landscape. You could look north and see the tops of the houses and waaaaay below, huge fields of corn and orchards. It felt like we were suspended in air looking down on the landscape. I couldn't believe we were - in a boat - in water, but higher than the surrounding landscape. It felt totally bizarre.
Seeing all the beautiful apple trees along the way (wild ones just as lush in their fruit bearing activity as the orchards) made me want an apple so it was apples and oatmeal cookies for lunch LOL. All along the way I kept seeing this incredible sandstone that was strewn along the canal walls, some red, some grey/tan. But it was the same type I have back in my classroom with ripple marks, some quite large. According to the charts it comes from the Medina quarries, which has shipped it's sandstone all over the world. Buckingham palace was one place it was used, that stood out in my mind, along with the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.

We tied up along the south wall of Medina, east of the Medina lift bridge. The bridge tender asked if we'd like the code to use the facilities here and we told him yes, thank you very much. They have free showers (very clean), power, pump out (do it yourself for donations), and water along the south wall. The pump out station looks like an outhouse with a moon cut out LOL - very cute. They also have a small farmers market set up today (Thursday) along the south wall too where the local farmers were selling their fruits and vegetables. We walked through town in the rain and of course I had to ohhhhh and ahhhh and take pictures of all the old architecture, built with the sandstone. They have quite a few churchs here, quite beautiful, and the downtown had made extensive use of the sandstone. Oh, the graffiti on one bridge was quite interesting - very anti-Satan - and I'll leave it at that. We crossed over to the north side - there are tie-ups there for boats that are free too but there's no power or amenities - and followed the canal wall. You could hear it before you could see it - the sound of rushing water. As we rounded a bend you could look down about 100 ft and see forest and a river below the canal, and further around the bend was a waterfall! A river passes under the canal with a waterfall right under the canal!!! It's like the canal truly is suspended over the whole countryside here! Amazing... I can't believe that there were no professional engineers that had a hand in building this canal, aqueduct marvel!!! Further up there's a place where a road goes under the canal. It only has 7 ft clearance, but it's the only road where you can drive under the canal (it crosses over Culvert Rd on an aqueduct). After wandering the town and canal wall we came back to the boat, shook off the rain, and tried to pull in the Lion's game. Reception was bad and we couldn't pull in any channels on the T.V. so we put the T.V. back away after moving it to various places in the boat. In a couple places if you held the end of the antenna you could hear parts of the game over the static, but I wasn't going to stand there acting like an antenna attachment to "listen" to the game... Salmon burgers, salad and oranges for dinner and time to download my pictures...
I'll try and post them in the next few days.

09/02/2008 | Mother Mary
Guess what? It is the first day of school and Elaine is there without either of us....I know you must be feeling it this first year but just look at what you are accomplising......ENJOY
Tonawanda to Lockport
70s and sunny
08/27/2008, Lockport, NY

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!

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!!!


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