This turned out to be a pretty good day. We waited until a bit after 9 AM to leave, as small thunderstorms were passing over. It was still supposed to be very windy but we only planned to do 3 locks and 7 miles to Minetto. Bud checked the fuel filters and there was again air in the tops, so he filled each with diesel, as the Rookeys had shown him. We called the first lock and they said they'd be ready. Our new friend Al, the one with the wooden ketch he made himself, helped us out of the slip in the gusty wind and off we went. There was a big powerboat in the lock waiting, so we pulled up behind and on the opposite wall. There were ropes hanging down to hold on to. I grabbed the one Bud wanted for a stern line and walked it back to Bud. He had to leave the helm to take it. I hurried back forward and grabbed the next one up as the boat floated forward. The only problem was that our clear deck is on the port side (the starboard side has the main and boom alongside the cabin and it's pretty hard to move quickly forward and back) and when Bud uses reverse to stop the boat (remember, no brakes) the prop pulls the boat to starboard. So as I'm going back forward to grab my line, the boat is drifting away from the wall. In one lock I had to lean out as far as I could with my "boat hook" (more on that later) to get the line. If the lifelines had broken I would have gone swimming!
In any case, the lock filled, we managed not to do any damage or look too stupid and it was on to the next lock. That lock was just a few hundred yards up stream and was open and waiting for us. Again, the powerboat took the starboard wall and we took the port wall. The powerboat was having no trouble. It was a huge boat, very new, and had bow and stern thrusters, so he could go forward, back or side-to-side. The lock workers waved as we left and said the next lock knew we were coming. This one was maybe a half-mile beyond, but as we approached we saw that the lock doors were still shut. We had to hang out for a few minutes in the wind while they emptied the lock and opened the doors. Bud said it actually wasn't too hard, as the current and wind were opposed. We were going into the current, and that made it easier for him to steer. I don't think it helped when he had to reverse a couple of times though! Anyway, we got through, and as we left, the powerboat zoomed away, and we took it easy (not that we have much choice). We decided to let him get far enough ahead to lock through the next lock alone.
About 6 miles up we came to the 4th lock of the day. Just past this lock were Minetto and the free town dock. We locked through successfully, the lockmaster told us where the town dock was, we managed to get tied off on a low floating dock with the wind pushing us away from the dock and all was well. When we got off the boat, who should appear but the brothers Rookey. They weren't actually ready to work on our boat, but had seen us on the canal and came over to check with us. They warned us that the power was wired incorrectly, so when the dock was wet, the ground fault often tripped as soon as you plugged in. They said they'd be back later to check the fuel system since we planned to stay there. Bud plugged in the electric and I walked Fuzzy dog. I was on the phone with our daughter when Bud came back ashore. He, Fuzzy and I took shelter in the doorway to the Ladies Room as we watched another little storm cell pass, this one with hail! Then I found out that Bud was waiting for me to get off the phone so we could move the boat back to reach the other power outlet, as the first had indeed tripped as soon as Bud turned the battery charger on in the boat. So we moved the boat, plugged in, turned on and the power blew again!
We checked the chart. Another couple of hours of motoring and 3 more locks ahead was the Phoenix Free Dock. Reportedly with 15 AMP power. At least we hoped our little box heater would work. It was 1 o'clock then, so off we went. While we were at the Minetto free dock we saw Al and his wife go by. We waved them out of sight. Not long after we started out again, Al called to check on us and we told him we were coming along, now behind him.
The next two locks were interesting. These locks did not have ropes hanging down like the first three we did, they had vertical nylon covered cables in recesses along the walls. You had to wrap your own line around the cable and let it slide up as the lock filled and the boat rose. Now the prop walk (tendency for the boat to move starboard in reverse) was a real problem. I hooked a cable; Bud left the helm and threw a line around it. I went forward as the boat drifted away to grab the next cable. Now my makeshift boat hook comes into play. I was using an extension handle for painting, with a pretty sturdy four- inch roller screwed to the end. I reinforced the joint with super tape and taped the roller to the handle so it couldn't move. It was working quite well for grabbing the lines, although the reverse end was a bit slick when I used it to fend off. This time, though, I had to grab that cable and pull the front of the boat back over so I could get a rope around it. As I was pulling, the handle suddenly started to extend! I had to let go or I would have pulled the handle into two pieces (and one of those pieces would have been hooked to the cable). So I called to Bud that I had to let go, Bud tried to readjust and use his real boathook to get us back to the wall, but in doing that he dropped it into the lock! So I had to use my fake boathook to fish it out. Meanwhile, the boat is drifting steadily away from the wall. Good thing we were the only boat in the lock. At that point, Bud gave up and went back to the helm and eased the boat up and over to the other side. I was able to grab a cable, he also grabbed one, but now our dinghy had blown forward between the boat and wall and was getting squished. Bud had the makeshift boathook at that point, and darned if that didn't go over! I managed to get the other boathook to him and he fished it out. We finally made it up and out.
That was one of two locks in a set, so almost immediately we were back in another lock. In between I tried to shorten up the towline for the dinghy. The next lock was the same type, so we immediately went for the starboard side of the lock. The lockmaster told us to pull forward of an overhead bridge. We picked out our cables and each had managed to secure our line around one when the lockmaster called out, "I said forward of the bridge." We looked back and our stern was still under the bridge. We looked up and realized that when the lock was full the bridge was only about 5 feet above the waterline. That wouldn't work. So Bud sheepishly moved the boat forward and we repeated the whole exercise.
We looked and felt foolish. The top of the mast, which sticks out behind the boat, had just touched the wall in the first lock, but not hard enough to do anything to it. The bottom of the mast, out in front of the boat, had just touched in the second lock, again with no marks or damage. So nothing was hurt but our pride.
Happily, there was about an hour to the next lock (the last of the Oswego Canal and the last of the day) so we could recover. We called the lockmaster on the radio about a mile (10 minutes) from the lock. There is also a lift bridge there, just before the lock, so we asked if we should tie up until he lifted the bridge. He said we could grab a rope on the wall approaching the lock, another boat was there and he'd lock us through together. It was Al. The siren for the bridge sounded as we were approaching, so Bud just slowed way down and we went right past Al and into the lock. This one had ropes and we managed to lock through without screwing up. Al hollered over and asked if our engine was running OK. We said yes, he pointed out the town dock as he went on by and we waved good-bye again. He told us to call if we got stuck. Cruisers are great people.
We explored the town dock and found if we pulled the boat all the way back to the end closest to the lock there was a 30 AMP outlet. We tried it; it worked! We can run the reverse cycle heat/air and the little box heater, so the boat is toasty.
And, we called the Rookey Brothers and they said to check the filters again to see if there was air built up. They thought the air must be out of the system by now and not actually leaking in any more or the boat wouldn't have run. So Bud took the tops off the filters and there was almost no air there. He called the brothers back to report his findings and find out what we owed them. No charge!! Wow!
Then, walking back from a Laundromat/convenience store trip, who should pull up but Jon and Arline. They'd read my blog about the continued fuel filter problems and come looking for us to make sure everything was all right. We spent a few more minutes exchanging stories and renewed our intentions to meet again in Stuart. Cruisers are great people!
So a free dock, with good power, a free repair and new friends. And 22 miles and 7 locks behind us. A pretty good day.
OK, this is going much more slowly than we thought. We spent the morning trying to figure out what was causing the air in the fuel lines. I took another walk to NAPA and bought 12 feet of fuel hose and we ran it from the inspection port of the starboard fuel tank directly to the Racor filters in the engine room. Turned on the little fuel-polishing pump, and voila, bubbles! We decided there was something wrong with the filters, but didn't know what. The picture shows the offending Racor fuel filters. I also added a picture to the gallery of the galley and nav station areas with the floors opened up and the bypass hose in place. It seems we spend as much time with things torn up like this as with the boat put together.
At that point we called the local experts, the Rookey Brothers. About 2 hours later they showed up, took a look at things, said it looked like our assessment was correct, but they would like to do a vacuum test on the whole system just to make sure. Then they left to go across town to get their other brother (so they said). Another two hours later and they were back. Bud and I were in and out and didn't really see everything they did, but they ended up carefully cleaning the surfaces of the Racor filters where the gaskets fit, applying petrolatum as a sealant and putting them back together. They said they'd come down to the free dock about 7 miles up the canal in Minetto and check on the system. It was after 3 then, there are four locks to go through before the free dock and the canal closes at 5 PM. We decided we should wait until tomorrow as two hours for 4 locks and 7 miles is really pushing it.
The free dock at Minetto is a big deal, because not only is it free, there is electric available. Having electric means we have heat. Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and rainy again and tomorrow night it's supposed to snow!!! Heat is a necessity. I know our slow pace will seem much more frustrating in the rain and snow than it did today in the almost warm sunshine.
Amidst our work on the boat, we helped a dock-mate with his boat. It is a beautiful gaff rigged ketch that he built himself. He also sails it solo a lot on Lake Ontario. He was preparing it to have the masts unstepped, and Bud helped him here and there with the sails. He's been bringing it through the canal to Waterloo for the last few years to store it for the winter. He usually has help all along, but this year he was alone for this part. His wife is joining him tomorrow and they are setting out up the canal. They can get to Waterloo in two long days. The masts are down now, and he, too, is ready to go.
After all was done, Bud and I took another walk to NAPA and this time got a couple of replacement belts for the engine (they had them!) and asked about the petrolatum (they didn't have that). We walked back a different way and stopped at the car parts store the brothers Rookey use, but they didn't have petrolatum either. At least it was a nice day for a walk; it must have been over 60 and sunny, though a bit breezy.
When we got back we ran the fuel pump again and again saw bubbles! Many fewer now, and the Rookey boys said there may well be air caught in the lines, from all the messing we've been doing with the system. I think Bud is somewhat skeptical, but we plan to make the run to Minetto and see what we see. So the chances are good that our position will change, at least a little bit, tomorrow. Hopefully we'll soon have things straightened out and start to make steady progress. Winter is coming!!
When Bud was working on the engine he used the system he has set up to polish the fuel. That draws fuel from a tank, through the fuel filters and back into the tank. In doing so, he saw air bubbles in the fuel filters. Not good. We spent several hours checking the fuel system to try and find an air leak. Bud even emptied the fuel lines from the tank to the first filter and pumped air in, while I used soapy water and a flashlight and mirror to try and detect bubbles from air leaking out. The only bubbles we found were at the end of the line, by the tank, around our makeshift plug. Monday he unscrewed the fuel distribution manifold and pulled it away from it's mounting spot to check the back for cracks. He saw a rusty area on a weld and covered it with Marine Tech Epoxy. Last night I screwed it back in place.
This morning there was a break in the weather, as we had hoped. So at about 6 AM, Bud started the fuel pump again and looked for air bubbles. There they were! But we wanted and needed to make the run to Oswego. So we readied the boat. We had yet to see any effect of the bubbles on the way the engine ran, it ran fine in and out of the dismasting slip, and we knew there were air bubbles then. We figured we'd head out the harbor, and if it seemed to be running OK we'd make the run to Oswego. At just after 7 we headed away from the dock.
The engine ran fine. The wind was from the southwest, the waves were down and we had a pretty easy ride. Bud started out northeast, but the waves were from the northwest, from the previous wind, so the boat was sideways to them, and even the small rollers (1 - 2 feet) were really rolling the boat. So Bud headed straight north, quartering across the waves, and the ride was smooth. When we got far enough out to make a 90 degree turn to the east and lay Oswego, Bud turned. Now the waves were on our stern (back of the boat) and again the ride was good. We had the engine at 2700 RPM. We ran at that into the waves and wind on the way to Little Sodus Bay and were making 5 to 5 ½ knots. Now we were making 7 knots. By 9:15 we were in the harbor, by 9:30 we were at the dock. The picture is Earendil making good time with no sails and the mast down.
Now we have a new port in which to work on the boat. First we took a walk through the cold rain to get oil filters at NAPA and a few groceries. Then after we were cold and wet we got to start the work.
Bud changed the second fuel filter today. I looked on-line to find information on the Racor filters. The instructions from Racor I found said not to use Teflon tape on the fitting threads. In 2008, when we replaced all the fuel lines we used Teflon tape on everything. We had asked someone then, and they said it was OK. We asked two other people and they said Teflon tape was OK, but folks at a nearby marine repair place said definitely NOT to use Teflon tape. So I made a second hike to NAPA for Permatex liquid thread sealer and we redid all the threads between the fuel tank and the filters. Got that done at 7 PM, so another late supper, at least we had good leftovers.
Bud just started up the fuel pump to see if we've solved our problem...we haven't!!! Still air bubbles. I think we'll call the marine repair folks tomorrow. We aren't the only ones with problems. A couple next to us were ready to give up and have their boat hauled and stored somewhere here and go back to Toronto. They had a bad leak in their stuffing box (the seal where the propeller shaft goes through the hull of the boat). They had it repaired and set out, but it was still leaking. While I was hiking to NAPA, they found someone up ahead on the canal willing to pull the boat and fix the leak. Hopefully they will make it there OK and get the repair done. We may meet them on down the way.
Meanwhile, we're stuck at this mediocre expensive marina with an unreliable fuel system. Boating is great!! Tomorrow we will call around and see if it is reasonable to go to Minetto to the free dock (reportedly with power, so we can have heat) and have someone work on the boat. Minetto is only about 7 miles and a few locks away, so maybe three or four hours more on the engine.
I put a picture of Oswego in the gallery. The sun came out and it would have been a beautiful day to explore the town. I got to see it again from the dock to NAPA and back. At least, as you can see, it was a nice walk this time!
10/18/2010, Still at Little Sodus Bay
We had our first guests aboard as cruisers. Sorry I forgot to take a picture! The work got done at a reasonable hour and the wind was still blowing so we weren't going anywhere. We were finally able to have Jon and Arline over for supper, as we had promised two days ago. Jon and Arline are the couple who work here at Fair Point Marina in the summer. Last year they took their boat, Kasidah, an Erikson 36, down the intracoastal to Florida and across to the Bahamas. They cruise with two little dogs who once went about 36 hours without peeing!
You can imagine what a great time we had talking and discussing plans. This year they left their boat in Florida, so in a couple of weeks they will drive down and move back aboard. I am pretty jealous. I would love to be able to drive down to Earendil, and have her already in Florida. Oh well, if we did that, we'd miss all the great learning experiences and tales to tell that I'm sure we'll gain.
Jon and Arline would start talking about all the things that happened to them, and then would stop and say, "Oh, but really, it was all good. The bad times weren't that bad and all the stuff we aren't telling you about are the easy sails and quiet days. Don't worry." I think I believe them. Anyway, they said they have confidence that we'll do fine and we made plans to get together again in Stuart, at a great mooring marina they use. If it's bad weather we'll eat again on our boat with its big salon, but we hope to be sipping drinks and soaking in the sun on their boat, with its big cockpit. That will be something!!
10/17/2010, Still at Little Sodus Bay
After two days of pretty steady work we are almost ready for our next leg. On Saturday Bud changed the oil in the engine and worked the rest of the day on the supports for the mast. Arline, here at the Marina, took me to town and I picked up a few things we needed. I tried to get the oil filter, but it seems old Peugeot diesel filters are not regularly stocked. The nice guy at the Fulton NAPA had the Oswego store order the two that are at the regional warehouse in Syracuse. They will get there Monday afternoon. I expect we will get there Tuesday morning.
This morning, for a little while, it was still. We'd seen 40 knots Friday night, and it blew all day Saturday (but at least it stopped raining), so it seemed nice not to have the wind howling. Bud and I took the opportunity to haul the genoa and staysail out and fold them. We have our forward cabin back.
Once that was done we took the main sail and the boom off the mast. We left the main sail in it's stack pack on the boom, used the main halyard (line that pulls it up the mast) on the back of the boom and an extra halyard on the front of the boom and managed to disconnect everything and lower it to the deck without hurting ourselves or breaking anything. To separate the main and boom from the mast you first have to disconnect everything that's connected from the mast to the boom or sail. For us that means:
Forward reefing lines get removed
Rear reefing lines get pulled through and fixed to the boom
Boom vang is disconnected
Topping lift is disconnected and brought to the mast
Lazy jacks are released, pulled through the pulleys on the mast and tied up with the sail
For anyone reading this who isn't a boater, it's just a lot of stuff... and it all has to be reconnected when the mast goes back up on the Hudson.
By the time we got the main down it was getting a bit windy again. The wind never blows when and where you need it! So we had a dicey (to me) trip from the dock to the slip where they have the crane to pull the mast. Bud had me take the helm while he tried to release lines. The wind was blowing away from the dock; I was trying to use the engine pulling against a line to bring the boat close enough for Bud to get aboard. Me, alone on the boat with the wind blowing it away from the dock, was not a comfortable feeling. Happily another guy came out to help, I did manage to get the boat close enough to the dock and Bud got aboard. They had about 6 guys lined up at the slip and we got in it without any trouble. We were happy for the help, as there was literally room only for the boat and the fenders.
It took quite a while to lift the mast. The wind was blowing it so we had to use the forestays to pull it towards the wind so it would come up out of the cabin straight. Once it was out, they dropped it onto 3 horses on the far side of the boat. Bud and I finished installing his supports as quickly as we could. In the end, it was all done, and at least reasonably tied down, by about 6 PM. Another long day.
We're back at the dock, now facing the opposite way, and the wind is howling again. We can't say exactly how hard it's blowing because our windex that was at the top of the mast is now hanging off the stern and not connected to anything. It sounds bad, though, especially through all the lines that are hanging everywhere. I had said something about leaving in the early morning if there was another lull in the wind, but soon realized that is not going to happen. We still have a lot of tying to do on the mast, not to mention that the dinghy is now on shore and has to be put in the water and set up to be towed. (We decided having a mast, boom and main, and dinghy on deck would be an invitation to disaster. Bud doesn't trust me not to fall in working on clear decks.) We also have to stow the genoa in the forward cabin. We left it out after we folded it until we got done with the tools that go under the bed.
We're hoping tomorrow is a bit more relaxing day, and we can pull out Tuesday morning, when there is a predicted break in the wind and waves.
10/15/2010, Still in Little Sodus
So the first relaxing day of our cruising life begins. We are safely in port and it's blowing like snot out there - about 20 to 25 knots with gusts above that. It's spitting rain and about 50 degrees. We are warm and snug and have nothing to do but...
Try to figure out the leak at the mast (it's not the boot) to stop the relative flood coming in on and around the dinette.
Change the engine oil
Do the laundry
Build the mast support
When the wind and rain stops we have to fold the genoa now stuffed into the forward cabin (see photo in gallery). Bud decided when we started underway that we should try and take down the foresails, to get them inside while it was still dry. It was a good idea, but our visions of being able to nicely fold the genoa on deck, around the trash, while underway even at low speeds, were definitely wrong. We settled for stuffing, but on top of the other things in the forward cabin, and the staysail, which is itself only kind of folded, we were lucky to get it in and get the door closed.
The dinette is still getting wet around the pot. I'd put one of our spare towels there to catch the water, but they are all in the cabinet over the bed in the forward cabin...
Bud asked me when the relaxing part of retirement started. I told him I thought we had chosen interesting rather than relaxing. I think it's probably a good thing that we would never get our investment back out of the boat. Otherwise it would be too tempting to sell it and buy a tiny cottage with matching rocking chairs somewhere.
And it's only the third day out!
On the other hand, we have a secure dock at Fair Point Marina while the wind and waves howl on the lake (see photo gallery). The folks here are awesome! Without us requesting it they lowered the docking rate, since we're kind of stuck here. The man who's the main help here cruises in the winter with his wife and they are offering advice and help and trips to town to get the oil filter we thought we had but didn't. Maybe we did make a good retirement choice!