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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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Ilion to Little Falls, NY
92 and sunny
09/05/2008, Little Falls, NY

Wow - forgot to mention the trains here! There are an unbelievable amount of trains that follow the river system and canal system in this part of the trip. Longggg and louddd but really kinda cool! Everytime I hear them coming I run for the camera to get a shot of the triple engines roaring past but it's to late (thought Blade would like a pic but I don't think it's going to happen!). They stack the cars up on each other so I can see why they need 3 engines to haul them!

Ilion was a pretty nice place - it looks like a lot of the retirees come here for the summer months in their RVs and then head back to Florida for the winter. I chatted with one older female that has pots of geraniums and other flowers around her RV and felt bad because she looked so crest fallen to find out that we were leaving today. She told me how she used to make sails in her younger days (even for some of the America's Cup winners) and how she'd never been on a sailboat in her life. Amazing... I'd have invited her aboard but she looked so frail.

We went to Herkimer from Ilion - somewhere I always wanted to go to dig Herkimer Diamonds but it was so bloody hot, I didn't have the energy to take rock hammer to the stones or go through the mine tailings. We did tie up to the dock and visit their giftshop though - the air conditioning felt marrrrvelous! I wasn't up to a 7 mile hike to visit the mines but the shop had tailings and rocks from the mines surrounding it so people were scouring around the shop grounds. You can rent tools and from what I understand specimens are easier to find since they blasted part of the mine.

From Herkimer we came to Little Falls and decided to put in here. Not sure if it's only for a night or for two nights, depending on what Tropical storm Hannah is bringing here. The prediction is rain and winds so we'll see. If it's raining tomorrow we'll probably stay and work on things that need to be done around the boat. If it's not bad we'll probably head on to Amsterdam (birthplace of Kirk Douglas - seriously - that's what it's known for), which is about 34 miles.

It's pretty nice here - in a valley so no cell service and no wireless but my broadband sprint card seems to be able to access the internet, and I have 30 amp POWER!!! This is one of the nicer stops, on the south side of the canal. It's a 1918 Barge canal terminal building that's been renovated - it has an office, meeting room, showers, restrooms, laundry, fountain (not running due to low water) and rumor has it that you can get a lift into town to the restaurants and back (they'll pick you up). It's a little under a mile to the center of town, with supermarkets, CVS Pharmacy, movie, Dollar General, etc... Nice place. I gave Wayne a haircut in the park here then we went for a shower and read in the shade.

There's a young man here that's bicycling to Florida that the Dock Master is going to take into town for some dinner. It's cute - he has his laundry all over one picnic table to dry. Odds are he'll get there before us - we saw one jogger a few days ago, jogging along the canal and she caught up to us, paced us and passed us over the course of 3 -5 miles. We think she was training for a marathon - you go girl! It was neat when she pulled ahead of us and... just keppppt going, and going, like the energizer bunny....

The next lock we come to is a mile away - Lock 17. It has rope handholds and lowers us 40 ft. This one is the largest single step locks on the Erie and from what I hear the east gate of the lock is pulled up over the canal and you go under it... If it's hot as today, that might feel pretty good to get dripped on, even with canal water... According to Skipper Bob's book, not only is it the highest lift-lock, it's also one of only 2 locks in N. America where the entrance gate is lifted above the boater.

In looking at the charts, the locks start coming closer and faster. The last 5 on the Erie are called "The Waterford Flight of Five" because you must do them all together. These 5 will drop our boat in elevation 169 feet in less than 2 miles - YIKES - no stops permitted on these locks (#s 2-6). The first lock on the Erie is #2. There is no lock 1 or 31 for some reason... That will be an interesting day! Depending on whether it's 3 days away or 4 (weather, etc...) Mary I may not get to wish you a Happy Birthday. I know it's coming up (Tuesday) so just in case: HAPPY BIRTHDAY WOMAN! Did you know that you're a Saint? See my pictures on the website.

Sylvan Beach to Ilion
90 and hot
09/04/2008, Ilion, NY

We were originally going to Utica but ended up in Ilion. I really needed a shower, and power to catch up on my journal and pictures. We covered 4 locks today; two up and now back down again. Lock 22 carried us up 25 ft, then lock 21 another 26 ft up. Sore, sore, sore... But at least the rest of them are going down so we don't have the turbulence to deal with. Hey guess what... they're right, after 20 locks its old hat!

Long day - but beautiful. How can I describe it for you. It was like we were alone on this long winding river and canal, except for a barge and tug here and there. The colors are on the verge of changing. The smells are incredible, sweet wildflowers, the aroma of pine, cedar, and burning campfires all hint at fall. Trees are tinted yellow, and leaves dance on the surface of the water, and the fish... the fish are huge and jumping. Bushes and scrub with red berries line the waterfront, ready for the geese and ducks to start harvesting them. The reed grass and small bamboo grass break through the surface and ripple the water as the wind dances across them. Now that the wild humans are gone the blue herons are along the waters edge hunting for their feast of minnows in the shallows. Ducks and cormorants act as vanguards and swim ahead then part to the side to let us pass almost as if to say, "you lead" and "farwell"...

Some of the old pilings stand entwined in cable in the water - sentinels of days past when they held up old piers perhaps, now at haphazard angles in the canal. Graceful in a sad way...

There were several barges and tugs along the canal today. Some were inspecting bridges, some dredging, some harvesting wood and trees that had fallen into the water. One barge/tug (Erie) that we came up to were getting ready to close the canal behind us to work on a bridge and had heard we were coming so waited for us to pass before closing it. It was funny because it was a beautiful tug (The Erie) so I had to take a picture of it as I passed. After I did, I noticed the tugboat captain was taking my picture in return, and the guy on the barge was snapping a picture of us with his camera phone. We all cracked up - it was funny - I guess you had to be there.

The lock tenders are curious about us and quite courteous. They're quite a breed apart - very special people. I'm convinced they're the friendliest people on earth. Everyone we've met so far has been so wonderful - it amazes me. They take care of you - like you're family - they radio ahead to let the next lock or lift bridge know that you're coming. One couple got yelled at the next day because they didn't show up (decided to stay the night somewhere) so the lock tender was quite concerned about them LOL.

It was hot getting in tonight and after tying up, a shower was in order, then we made Thai peanut chicken for dinner, only I couldn't find my peanuts so used cashews in place. Didn't turn out bad... It feels good to get caught up on the journal...

There's more to Ilion than meets the eye. The Marina and RV Park where we stayed has newer facilities as a result of a grant through a member item from Senator James Seward and other programs from the village. Wi-fi (which I'm currently using to catch up on my journal, grills, blacktop, washers and dryers (pay type) a Veterans Memorial wall and a few other things to attract the RVs and boaters to the village. Very nice - I might add.

A little history of Ilion (a Village in Herkimer County). Ilion (pronounced Ill-E-on) is a name for the ancient city of Troy. It was settled by Palatine Germans around 1725 along Steele's Creek that flows through the village into the Mohawk River. After the American Revolution the community started to flourish with mills, etc. but went through a name change of New London and some of the buildings still have London on them. In 1816 Eliphalet Remington created his first gun, later to become Remington Arms Company and the village continued to grow when the Erie Canal was finished in 1825. In 1843 the citizens wanted a post office but Remington rejected the use of his name for the village so the name Ilion was eventually decided on. So anyone wanting to know where Remington guns began? Yup, right here...

09/05/2008 | Bill
Good Morning, Just thought I would let you know I love reading the blogs, please keep them coming. Us at work are trying to follow your course on the map. We found Ilion but cannot find the lock you are describing. Pictures are awesome. I close my eyes and try to imagine the wind on my face and a full sail then I realize its my coworker blowing on my forehead. LOL take care and I will try and respond to the blogs more often. Bill
Crossing Oneida Lake
Partly cloudy high 80s
09/03/2008, Sylvan Beach

Partly cloudy but calm out this morning. We didn't leave until 9 am but the lake was pretty calm all the way across. There was mostly fisherman out today, and mostly in the channel where we had to stay. We got across the lake in 3 hours (hey that was pretty good - 5-6 knots is our cruising speed remember). After getting in we tied up to the wall and I was amazed at the place.

As you approach Sylvan Beach, it looks like a carnival is set up on the port side of the boat. There's a long stretch of beach, boardwalk and an amusement park. It's a quaint little coastal town with a feeling of "the past" about it. Where we tied up there were cottages just down from the small, deserted amusement park. I was shocked to find you could actually walk through the park while there was nobody there. We wandered through it - it had a fun house with huge scary clown faces painted above it looking down at you, a target shooting gallery, arcade, roller coaster, tilt o wheel, tea cups, gravity drop, carousel, Ferris wheel, etc... like the old Edgewater, or Coney Island. As you walked through it- it was eerie seeing all the lemonade stands, cotton candy and ice cream stands just sitting there empty. It left me feeling sad to see it standing so empty. I can imagine this place in the summer when it's open and the beach is hopping! Everything is filled to capacity.

They have a couple of very nice restaurants right in front of the amusement park on the canal and we at at the Canal View Café (they have a wonderful view of the lake for sunsets - glorious). It's a wonderful old restaurant with memorabilia going back to the 1800s of life here along the lake and canal. Full menu with lots of nostolgia and atmosphere - the bygone days of Sylvan Beach. We both got the clam dinner with potatoes, salad and rolls - very reasonable price $9.99 but the beer was $3.50 and ice tea $2.00 - yikes - if you come here great food but check out the drink prices before ordering.

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