Oswego proved to be the most trying part of our whole cruise. We had hoped to get our mast stepped on Sunday giving us six days to get back to Toronto. The Port Authority marina, the only one with a mast crane, doesn't provide this service on weekends, and only from 8am to 2pm on weekdays. So we stayed Saturday night at the yacht club, taking the opportunity to dine at Azteca, our favourite Mexican restaurant integer whole world.
We hadn't counted on enduring a sudden northeasterly gale with gust over 35 knots which slammed us against the dock, the harbour has a good breakwall system that stops the big waves, but it's completely open to any wind with north in it, north easterlies being the worst.
Sleep was impossible, but thanks to our thick dockboard that we picked up in Rimouski and used to protect Dragonfly against rough docks in fishing ports and lock walls, we came through unscathed. The boat sharing the north side if the dock with us, a gorgeous old wooden Abeking & Rasmussen ketch called Yankee, popped a fender up on the dock and acquired a nasty scar in her top sides before three of us managed to push her off enough to drop a couple more fenders in....
The wind moderated somewhat towards dawn and we did get some sleep. We decided to have breakfast ashore and went to Maria's on West 2nd for a great one followed by church at the local Episcopal Parish and a little gift shopping downtown.
We returned to the yacht club to find a stiff breeze still blowing straight onto the dock although the waves were much reduced. We carefully used lines to position her and then successfully motored her off the dock to head over to the Port Authority marina to prep for mast stepping first thing Monday. About 2 minutes out there was a sickening crunch and the boat came to a sudden stop. We had be going between 3 and 4 knots and had run straight into the unmarked end of the wave attenuator/breakwater that protects the Yacht Club slips. The deck of this structure is about sixteen inches off the water and the corner fairly sharp and unprotected, we hit it season punching a four-inch high, eighteen-inch long hole to light through the hull on the port side forward of the mast.
A flurry of activity followed, Heather confirmed that we were not taking on water, we took a deep breath (all three of us being severely surprised and freaked-out by this) and motored over to the Marina the examine the damage and assess the situation. We confirmed that the hole hadn't done any structural damage and contacted a fibreglass repairman recommended by the marina and called the insurance company. The adjuster was great and the fibreglass guy made an appointment for first thing Monday morning. We clears all our clothes out of the lockers that were in front of the hole and Heather took everything to the laundromat,
So at 8:30 on Monday, instead of having her mast reinstalled, the wounded Dragonfly was being lifted in the slings with Gary optimistic that he might have her fixed in time to have the mast stepped by 2 pm. While that turned out to be optimistic, Gary turned out to be a wizard at fibreglass repair and about 3:00 she went back in the water with the only discernible difference being that the new fibreglass was way whiter and cleaner that the rest of the boat.
Cara and Heather arrived back from the public library where they had spent the morning, and a girls lunch at Azteca and we got to work vacuuming fibreglass am dust and putting things back together. I made a big Mushroom Alfredo pasta with salad and good bread and we went to be intending to move her to the crane at 7:30 am.
The weather had other plans.
About 6am a huge front thunderstorms crossed the lake and slammed into Oswego with intense lightning and torrential downpours that lasted until almost 9:00. We weren't putting the mast up in an electrical storm!
We finally got the mast stepped and all the rigging assembled by about 11am, got a pump out and departed in glorious sunshine about 11:30. We headed for Sodus Bay, arriving at the Yacht Club around 4pm.
In the course of the afternoon it became apparent that Heather had come down with a bladder infection that was causing pretty significant pain and discomfort. There was, of course, no medical facility closer than Rochester and no pharmacy either, so Cova and I set off in a long, blistering hot walk in search of cranberry juice.... An hour later we returned with a supply and Heather took some Tylenol and was able to pass the night without debilitating discomfort, but it was clear we needed to get her to a clinic.
Wednesday morning I was up at 6, made coffee, walked the hound and cast off at sunrise (6:45) with the rest if the crew still asleep. We headed for Rochester. We were tied up at Rochester Yacht Club by 12:30, had a good lunch and Heather had a doctor's appointment for late afternoon.....
Tomorrow, Oak Orchard if all goes well!
We departed Waterford around 2pm on Tuesday, Sept. 3rd and headed west. In rapid succession we locked through 4 licks, lifting us 150 feet above the Hudson and into the Mohawk River.
The locks are part of the third Erie Canal completed on 1917. This third canal was build to accommodate large commercial barges towed by tugs as opposed to the previous canals which used draft animals to tow barges from a shoreline tow-path (hence the mule named Sal of folk music fame). The licks are in communication with each other so most of the time the next lock is open and waiting for you. A 10 day pass cost us less than$5O and included free mooring (often with electrical power) at many lick stations. The locks were operating from 8am to 6pm.
The first night we made it through lick seven. There was a quiet, protected tie up inside the upper approach wall and we tied up in plenty of water with one other boat for company. The lockmaster was very friendly and helpful, showing us the power outlet (15 amp) on a light post and inviting us to use the washroom at the lock house until he closed up at 10pm. It was a restful night.
After a good breakfast, making a thermos of fresh-ground Starbuvks Pike's, and raking the dog for a giod walk, we were away from the dock by 9:15. This section of the waterway follows the Mohawk River with water levels controlled by dams with lick stations at each dam. There was much evidence of the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene last fall and by serious flooding this past spring. The Erie was closed for seven weeks this summer.
The waterway is paralleled by the New York Thruway on one bank and the tracks of the former New York Ventral (now CSX) on the other. It's a very busy traffic corridor.
We passed through the industrial city of Schenectady, once home to four GE plants, stopping at the yacht club for ice and a pump out. In contrast to the struggles we had over finding pump outs in Quebec and Nova Scotia, most American States have implemented programs to install them everywhere. In Nee York City they were free, elsewhere in the state they were $5.
We travelled through locks seven through fourteen and stopped at the town of Canajoharie about 5:30. Canajoharie has a lovely floating dock with about 7 feet if depth, free 30 or 50 amp power, very close to downtown in the town's waterfront park. It's very pretty, but a little noisy thanks to the railway and freeway. We had a good walk, found free wifi at the library (it was closed, but there was good signal on the front steps) and hit the sack.
Thursday, sept. 5th we got up and away in good time, even though we found ourselves stuck in the mud. The water level had dropped overnight, one of the lock masters we talked to said it was likely due to work being done by a repair contractor. We wiggled and pushed and got the boat out of the muck and proceeded upriver. At lock 16 we were into the first section
Of dug canal. The waterway departs from the Mohawk in several places to follow a man made ditch dug straight as an arrow.
We were also passing through the original homelands of the Six Nations and their presence is felt in the place-names and in the history. Five nations of the Confederacy sided with the British in the American Revolution and left their homelands at the end if the war to take up reserves in Ontario and Quebec.
We stopped for the night near Utica, another mud-state city, although it is invisible from the water and had no marine services. We stopped for the night on the up side if Lock 20 in Canal Park, a large municipal park with restrooms, a small floating dock (5-9' draught) and free 15 amp power. We passed a quite night.
We left Canal Park at 7:15 as we wanted to make an early crossing of Lake Oneida, which has a reputation for building up a nasty chop.
The morning was spent traversing the longest stretch of dug canal which carried us out of the Mohawk/Hudson river watershed and into the Oneida River watershed. We were now licking down towards Lake Ontario. We entered Lake Oneida about 11:45 and it was as smooth as glass.
During the crossing a part on the pump for the head snapped... I was not looking forward to the consequences, figuring I would likely have to install a new head as this one is 40 years old.
We decided to stay in Brewerton on the west end of Oneida and pulled into the highly recommended EssKay Boatyard. This place was amazing. Diesel fuel was $3.69 a gallon, 60 cents cheaper than normal, pump out was free, they offered use of a courtesy car and their slip fee was $1/ft. And their marine store (one of the most complete I've seen, a the replacement part I needed for the head!
Having arrived at EssKay about 3pm, Heather and I borrowed the courtesy car and took a sort trip to the grocery store in nearby Syracuse. We had a great dinner, a great sleep and recommend this place to anyone.
We departs Brewerton about 9:15 and continued down the Oneida through our last Erie lock (number 23) to Three Rivers, where the Oswego Canal branches off to head north..
The Oswego Canal, built a little later than the Erie, connected Lake Ontario to the system and allowed relatively inexpensive shipping a passenger travel from Ontario to New York City. The canal is about 25 miles long, drops through seven locks and follows a historic transportation route that dates back millennia. The village and forts built by the British here were destroyed by French forces in Montcalm in 1754, the British rebuilt, have to the Americans , reluctantly, after the Revolution, took it again in 1814, and gave it back. Fort Ontario, on the east bank overlooking Oswego Harbour, had been restored and is worth a visit.
At 4:15 Saturday we tied up to the guest dock at Oswego Yacht Club, back on our home waters of Lake Ontario for the first time since May. OYC is a great place, we adjourned to the clubhouse for Draught Guinness and the first two races of the America's Cup on the big screen.
The Hudson is a huge ditch of a river flowing south (the wrong way) though for periods each day it reverses direction. The river is tidal all the way up to Albany, 150 miles north of New York City. In the early 1600's, about the ssme time that Samuel de Champlain was poking around Quebec, Henry Hudson sailed up it all the way past Albany in search of the elusive Northwest Passage. Alas, China was not around the next bend and he eventually sailed north, almost making it before his crew mutinied and set him adrift in the bay that also bears his name.
The Hudson was crucial in making New York the prosperous port it became. It provided easy transportation into a huge hinterland rich in resources. By 1830 the state had constructed the first Erie Canal that stretched from Albany to Buffalo on Lake Erie. There was now a continuous water route between New York and the west. Grain and coal came east, settlers and manufactured goods went west.
This is our route home. We travelled up the Hudson for several days, dodging large tugs with loaded barges and powerboats out for one last fling on the long weekend. The scenery was quite spectacular through the sections around Bear Mountain and West Point with large mountains soaring right out of the river. We stopped at Poughkeepsie Yacht Club on Friday evening for two nights. Folks at the club were very friendly and helpful and the place was very laid back. The docks, however, are very exposed to wakes from passing traffic. The worst offenders were large power yachts running at top speed.
On Saturday morning we jumped into the dinghy for a one-mile run to West Park Monastery where the Order of the Holy Cross has its main house. The prior, Br. Scott, is an old work colleague. We went to Diurnam in the chapel and then had lunch in the stunning refractory, a modern, round structure cantilevered out over the valley slope with great views of the Hudson below. We had a tour of the place and a great chat with Scott after lunch.
Sunday we travelled up to the town of Catskill where we had a Monday morning appointment to have our mast in-stepped. We arrived at Riverview Marina in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day removing sails, the boom, loosening and detaching shrouds and building a cradle to hold the mast out of free wood left by other boaters having their masts put back up. It was a very hot, sticky day and after a refreshing shower we headed to a waterside restaurant for a great dinner.
Next morning was slow getting started, there were a few staff who didn't make it in and we were delayed, so Heather and I got a cab to the grocery store and did a major re-provisioning. We finally got to the mast about noon and were on our way north by about 1pm.
We stopped for the night at Coeyman's Landing Marina which is unusual among Hudson Marinas in that it has a break wall! The entrance is a little tricky and the depth is only a out seven feet at low tide, but they were welcoming and it's a great little facility. We got takeout from the great restaurant next door.
Tuesday we motored up through Albany. There are no marinas anywhere around Albany for quite stretch, which is the reason for our stop a Coeyman's. We arrived at the first lock in Troy around lunchtime. Licking though was smoot and quick and we were on our way up. No more tide. We stopped briefly at the visitors centre at Lick 2 on Waterford on then proceeded on up the Erie Canal.
After months of cruising in rural and small town settings, New York was a bit of a shock.... On Monday the 26th we headed over to LaGuardia to pick up Cara who was returning to the cruise after a two- week trip to the UK with her Pathfinder group. Apart from a mis-directed cabbie all went well and we were back to the boat for lunch.
We departed around 2pm in order to make Hell's Gate at slack water, this is important as the tidal current in the East River can hit 6 knots and kick up very turbulent waves. Our timing was perfect and we had an incredible site-seeing cruise down the river past the Upper East Side, Manhattan, the UN, the Battery, Statue if Liberty and on up the Hudson to the West 79th Street Boat Basin.
We lucked out and got a transient mooring ball that was the closest to the marina. The current at flood was 3-4 knots and the wake from passing ferries, commercial shipping and pleasure boats have earned this place the nickname Armageddon on the Hudson. The marina was also badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy last fall and hasn't completely recovered. The location is wonderful, the staff are terrific, it's in the middle of dog-friendly Riverside Park and a mooring is only $30 a night. We stayed 3 nights.
The first night I headed up to Broadway to replenish our beer supply and get some munches for happy hour and we had a good dinner aboard. The night was pretty bouncy but it did settle down enough to sleep. I wouldn't wantbto be tied to a slip in the marina, though, as those boats really get slammed....
Next day after a good breakie, we headed into New York. Spent the morning wandering around Central Park and then Heather and Cara went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I met a colleague for a great, long lunch at the Boat Basin Café right at the marina. Freshly reprovisioned, we had a good dinner aboard and settled in, night two was remarkably calm.
Wednesday we got up early, had breakfast and then grabbed the subway to Times Square where Cara and Heather lined up for rush tickets to a show. I ran some errands and walked around...... Tickets for an afternoon performance of Newsies in hand, we window-shopped and had dinner at a Chinese buffet (Cara's preference). While the girls were at the show, I went to a chandlery, walked around a bit, tried to watch Obama's speech celebrating the 59th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have A Dream speech on the big screen at Times Square.... Ultimately the crowds and the insane commercialism along with the latent aggression all around me got the better of me and I found a good brew-pub (the Heartland) and then I went to a great supermarket, did major reprovision, hailed a cab and retreated back to the boat. On returning from the show we had happy hour including oysters on the half shell and a good BBQ dinner followed by the quietest night yet.
Thursday morning dawned warm and sunny, after breakfast Cocoa and I went for a good long stroll on Riverside Park and, around the turn of the tide at 10am, we slipped the mooring to head north up the Hudson River.
Saturday, Aug. 24th, sunny, hot, windless.... And a weekend on western Long Island Sound, crazy busy... We discovered that, despite the assurances of the Yacht Club staff in New Haven, we were aground in the muck.... Much rocking and swaying ensued and, after about 10 minutes we were away.
We had an uneventful trip down the Connecticut shore and then across to Oyster Bay, NY on Long Island. We decided to go right into Oyster Bay and motored past massive water-side mansions, gorgeous old wooden boats and the storied Seawanahka Yacht Club and anchored off the town beach. There was still 5 or 6 feet of tide so we were careful where we dropped so as to avoid a repeat of the morning's adventure.
A quiet night and a good run on the beach with Cocoa and we we off to NYC. The trip from Oyster Bay to Flushing only took 4 1/2 hours. But it was busy. The Worlds Fair Marina was built on the site if th '39 ang '64 World's Fairs and sits between Citi Field (aka Shea Stadium) and LaGuardia Airport, it's not a quiet retreat, but at $2/foot it's the cheapest tie up anywhere in Ling Island Sound.... About 25 minutes walk brought us to a great supermarket in the middle of a Latino neighbourhood.
Back at the boat we had a great happy hour listening to the roar of the crowd at the Mets game and the roar of the Jets at LaGuardia.
We spent the morning cruising up river to Fall River, Mass. where the USS Massachusetts, a WW2 battleship, is stuffed and mounted along with a destroyer, submarine, landing craft and, of all things, a cold-war era eastern bloc Guided Missile Gunboat.... We continued around the top of Aquidneck Island and Dow the sound to Newport.
Newport was surreal. We hailed the Ida Lewis Yacht Club and got a mooring right off the clubhouse and directly in front of the New York Yacht Club digs. The mooring cost $65 a night but included launch service. We settled in, hiked into town for groceries. We walked by the offices of J-boats, Sparkman and Steve's, International Yacht Restoration School.... The town exists for sailing, there must be well over 1000 boats moored in the inner harbour. We came, we gawked, bought groceries, used the showers and free pump out and left.....
Next day we motored across an annoyingly choppy Block Island Sound. There was a fair amount of traffic but the chop as mainly due to a southwesterly wind against tidal current, we put into Stonington Connecticut and got a mooring at Dodson's Boatyard. Nice people, ok facility, $47 mooring, including launch. There are no grocery stores anywhere nearby but the had a laundromat (2 washers, 1 operative dryer) which we were in desperate need of as we had taken a wave over the foredeck that popped open the hatch and soaked our bedding. The mooring field is quite open and experienced quite a lot of rolling, this isn't a great stopover.
Slept in the next morning and then sailed (that's right, SAILED) to Mystic, motored up the river in time for the 12:40pm lift bridge and the. Headed to our reserved mooring at Mystic Seaport Museum, the holy Mecca for wooden boat lovers.
We were tied up in a slip right by the restoration shipyard where they are completing a total rebuild of the Charles W. Morgan, a ship-rigged whaler. When we went to register $4.50/ft, includes admission for those aboard) we found out that foreign-flagged vessels get their first night free! We immediately signed up for a second night.
Heather called the place "Dave Disneyland" and she wasn't far wrong. We spent almost two days seeing everything on the sight. In addition to about a dozen restored larger craft there are dozens of small craft in use. Buildings with shipbuilding or nautical provenance have been brought to the site and a whole pioneer-village-of-the-sea constructed with knowledgable interpreters everywhere. Being Mystic, we also had to have pizza, forgoing the touristy Mystic Pizza, we went to a highly recommended place called Pizzetta, also had some quite decent local brew.
Wednesday morning the forecast indicate potential for thunderstorms, but we set off downriver and caught the 9:40 bridge opening. We stopped at Brewer's Boatyard just below the railway bridge and filled the fuel tank and pumped out, the sky was turning very black and then the Coast Guard issued a warning, so we opted to stay put for a few hours (for which Brewers charged us $20).
The front went through and the rain stopped so we headed out and motored to New London. The city of New London has sunk a lot of money into rejuvenating their waterfront. There is a half-mile promenade with piers for folks to fish or sit on. There's a marina, which appeared unused and there are about 40 gorgeous moorings with a dinghy float and a marina building with heads, showers and a laundry, but it was a ghost town..... No one ever did show up, we enjoyed the mooring, I went ashore to do some shopping and a couple of times with the dog.... The town has obviously seen some hard times but the downtown shows signs of new life. The moorings were great and, apart from the wash from ferries, calm. We did decide to move from a mooring close in to one further out as the local inhabitants of the shore after dark were a little menacing and we thought it best to make it a long swim... Oh, and the Amtrak mainline runs right along the waterfront, there are two crossings that every train whistles for and an alarm on the swing bridge nearby that goes off every time the open or close the bridge..... It was not a restful night.
Got away on Friday by 8:15, there was no way we were sleeping with all the trains going by.... Sailed for most of the morning making 8-9 knots with the tide and arrived off New Haven about 2:30. Finally sorted out a mooring with possibly the most disorganized yacht club yet (Pequonock YC in New Haven) we descended on the bar and restaurant to celebrate Heather's birthday.