10/26/2010, Waterford, New York
We got a late start this morning. Actually, we got two late starts. The first time was after 9, when we thought the fog had thinned enough to see. We took off with me on the bow looking for the next buoy and pointing it out to Bud. This part of the canal is in the Mohawk River, so you have to watch for the channel markers. The GPS is not accurate enough to steer by - it would consistently show the boat on the edge of the canal or the wrong side of the buoys as we were proceeding nicely down the channel. Radar would have shown the buoys ahead like light posts, but our radar is lying down with the mast. The chart plotter is helpful, even if the icon for the boat is slightly off it does show you where the channel is and the buoys. So Bud was using that and I was using the chart book to decide where to look for the next buoy, but still we were almost on top of them before you could see them and if there was any distance at all between them you were going blindly. After less than a mile of that Bud said. "Let's go back. We don't need to be doing this." Just then I saw the next red buoy. "Can't we just keep going slowly forward?" This from me, the one who is usually ready to give up. We went maybe three more buoys when I conceded that this was crazy and we should go back. We turned around, and it was so foggy that is was almost as hard to find our way back. We left again at 10:45 as the fog really was lifting. This time Lost Navigator came too. At first I was still sighting buoys, but the ones that had seemed miles apart we could now see were pretty close together.
Before long the last of the mist cleared and it started getting warm. I took the bib overalls from my foul weather suit off. Then I took the jacket off and had on just three layers. By the time we reached the famous "Flight of Five Locks" that was too warm, but I didn't want to change. The locks really come one right after the other. The longest distance between two locks is .6 mile, but most the rest are less than a quarter mile apart. The picture is looking out from the second of the five locks when the lock was still full. You can get some sense of the valley you're entering. It's not a great picture because I was taking it with one hand while holding the locking rope with the other, and hurrying to get the shot before the bow drifted in too far towards the lock wall. I always have one hand on the rope and the other on the boathook, to push the bow off the wall. The last thing I wanted to do was get distracted and let the mast sticking out the front of the boat get over the edge of the lock so it got caught as we were lowered.
In short order we'd locked through all 5 locks and were in Waterford by 2 PM. We got through the canal in 6 days; we still had four days left on our 10-day pass. We have to lock through the Federal lock at Troy as we head down the Hudson, then we are done with locks until we decide to do the Panama.
There is a free dock here. The book said to tie up to the floating dock so you had power. There are also restrooms and showers. Wahoo! It really is pretty, but the power was pulled yesterday! And when we took a walk this evening and went to use the restrooms, they were already locked for the night. At least there's WIFI and it's still on.
We walked up to the post office to see if our Racor filter gaskets had arrived. We got there at 2:45 only to find out that the window was closed from 2 to 3. So Bud and Fuzzy and I took a bit of a walk along the old Champlain Canal. It was sunny and so warm that we were in short sleeves. I took a picture of the canal; it's in the gallery. I thought as we were walking that this is what it might be like once we get out of the cold, so we don't have to push so hard. A leisurely stroll in the sun, what a treat.
Then Bud reminded me that we had better hurry if we wanted to rebed the stainless ring where the mast enters the deck. We figured out that was the cause of our leak in Little Sodus. Remember the pot on the dinette table? We haven't had to deal with it because the hole where the mast comes though is covered while the mast is down and the life raft is over it all. But if we wanted to fix it we needed to do it while the mast was down. So after finding out that our package hadn't arrived, Bud went to do the grocery shopping and I came back and started working on the stainless ring. I was still cleaning the old bedding material off of everything when the sun started to go down. It was getting cold!
Bud came back with a whole cart full of groceries. There are at least two stores right across the Hudson (and the Hudson isn't too wide here) that will let boaters take carts back to the town dock. There are carts lined up like in the cart corrals. The stores come and get them on Saturdays.
Once the groceries were put away, Fuzzy fed, and dinner started, Bud came out and helped me set the stainless ring back in place with its new Boatlife caulk. We bolted it back in place, and hopefully, once the mast goes back up, the leak will be gone.
So here we are spending a third night without power. Tonight it's warm enough that we didn't even use the generator. We did turn on the inverter to use the microwave and charge up the phone and the hand held VHF radio. The wind has picked up, so maybe the wind generator will help keep the batteries charged. The solar panels might even have helped today! This whole thing might work after all.
10/25/2010, Lock 7
We did 48 miles and 7 locks today. It was almost warm and it was almost sunny. What a difference! We started out in the fog, but the fog gradually cleared and we saw the closest to sunshine we've seen since the snow day.
We had so much confidence in the generator (and the moderating weather) that we set our sights today for another dock without services. Last night worked out pretty well. It was frosty by morning, but we turned on the generator enough to take the chill off again and make coffee. Then we took off into the mist. We had just cleared Lock 14, so before Lock 13 I went down and took a shower. The engine heats the water, so hot water was no problem. Then between Lock 13 and Lock 12, Bud took a shower. His was a bit rushed, because at first I was reluctant to helm on my own because it was so hard to see the buoys. But soon it got easier and he got a shower.
The day kept getting nicer. There are a few more pictures in the gallery, both because the lighting was better and because my hands were warm enough to not wear gloves, so taking pictures was easier. It's very pretty along the canal and today I could almost see why people would do this for fun. The picture at the top of this entry is of one of the NYS Canal tugs. This was the Governor Cleveland. It was a good-sized boat and was moving right along, but didn't make much wake, so didn't jostle our boat much at all.
Our timing was definitely off, not only for the time of year, but also for the runs we ended up making. We had to wait in Brewerton to cross Oneida Lake, so we couldn't get as far as we might have. We passed two places that would have been really nice to stay, but they were either too short or too long a day for us. The first was Little Falls, the picturesque town with the 40-foot deep lock. We have been playing leapfrog with a guy in a homemade trawler called the Lost Navigator for the past couple of days. Today we ended up tied at the same lock (you'll see a picture of his boat coming out of the lock in the gallery). He told us he spent the night in Little Falls and they had 30 AMP power. Again, in the season they charge, but Nelson spent the night free. Another picture in the gallery is of the free dock in Amsterdam. It looks like a beautiful facility and they, too, have power.
We're finally getting the whole locking thing down to a science. We check in the Skipper Bob book to see how great the drop will be and whether the lock uses pipes, cables, ropes or a combination. We're getting good at getting our rope or whatever. We know when the lock is all the way down, because every lock has a line of zebra mussels that starts about a foot above the low water line. I took a picture of it, and that's in the gallery, too.
The one nice thing about doing this as late in the season as we are is that there aren't a lot of other boats to deal with. The locks are usually all set for us as we come up to them and the facilities that aren't closed are pretty empty. We did miss out on staying at the Schenectady Yacht Club. I called yesterday hoping someone would be around on the weekend, to see if we could stop there. They were there but they we pulling their docks out! We went by today and all the docks were gone.
The day went so well that we went on to Lock 7. We locked through and then tied to the downstream wall. There's a picture in the gallery of Bud putting a chafe guard on the spring line with Lock 7 behind us. Just after we tied up, Lost Navigator came through and tied behind us.
We're at mile 12.6, so tomorrow we have to go just under 10 miles and then do the flight of 5, 5 locks that take you down further in a shorter distance than any other canal in the world. I'm actually looking forward to it. I'm not promising pictures, because although it's supposed to continue to warm up, it's also supposed to rain.
10/24/2010, Canajoharie Town Dock
Today we did more locks and fewer miles, but still made decent progress. The Utica dock did turn out to be free since no one came out to collect any money. Our goal for the day was the Canajoharie town dock, which was listed as free with 30/50 Amp power service.
We started fairly early again. We left the dock at 7:25 AM. Bud felt we could have seen well enough to leave at 7 AM. We weren't pushing too hard, but we are both waking up early. I couldn't sleep because I was worried that the wind had come up and we wouldn't be able to get away from the dock (or else the boat would get away quickly, but since the dock was so low it was hard to climb on the boat, I wouldn't be on it). Bud said he was worried about things down the line. When I asked him if he should tell me or if it would make me crazy to know, he said it would probably make me crazy to know. So I didn't ask, I know my limits.
Anyway, it turned out to be easy getting away from the dock. Which just underlines what I try to keep telling myself, that there is no sense in worrying because you are almost certainly worried about the wrong thing.
We went through some pretty places today, but I didn't get any pictures. I noticed that the most picturesque places were always right at the locks where I'm busy with boat hooks and lines and so forth. The prettiest place was Little Falls. The canal walls were solid rock with moss and ferns. There was a lot of wooded area and above the woods you could see the old buildings and houses of the town. That was another place I was worried for nothing. Little Falls has the highest lock on the canal (40 foot drop) and even though we were going down I was worried about it. Turned out to be the smoothest lock we were in, it felt like going down in an elevator.
The whole locking thing is getting much easier. For one thing, we're going down. For another thing, we gave up on coming in on the port side of the locks. Having me able to walk the rope back to Bud didn't offset the problems of having the prop push the boat away from the wall. So now we come in along the starboard wall, I grab a rope at the bow and Bud stops the boat and gets his rope. Seems to work just fine.
We made good time today. No problems with the engine, and we arrived at the Canajoharie free dock about an hour earlier than we thought. As we docked, a man from the village drove down. He told us to keep to the center of the dock where it's deepest. We asked where the power was and he said "Oh, that was washed out in the last flood. That's the second time a flood took it out and the town wouldn't pay the $1000 to replace the posts again."
So, after freezing all day, our warm free dock is just a free dock. The picture is of the boat at the very pretty little riverside park with no power. What the picture doesn't show is the Thruway right behind that pretty little building and the two very well used railroad tracks on the opposite bank of the canal. I also have to confess that I enhanced the colors in the picture, which makes it look like a brighter day than it was.
We definitely need some heat, so Bud checked out the generator. Now we've only tested the generator a couple of times since we bought the boat and we've never actually used it. We never even checked it out this season, since our list of things to fix was so long. Before we used it Bud wanted to check the oil and antifreeze. A simple thing, except it's a boat. The dipstick for the oil is behind the generator. To access it you have to empty everything out of the wet locker (where you hang your soaking foul weather gear, etc.) and remove a panel on the aft wall of that compartment. You can see the top of the dipstick to remove it, but once it's out you can't even see the hole where it goes back in.
Oil was OK, water, OK. Bud held down the preheat switch and you could hear the little priming pump working. Then Bud held down the start switch and nothing happened. Nothing. So out came the electric multimeter. We tried to check the voltage at the starter and weren't measuring anything. A little more investigation and we found the actual ground cable, so I used that instead of the generator body as a ground, and we measured 12 volts. Then we noticed a little wire on the top of the starter solenoid that was loose. We put that on better and tried again. It started, but was running slowly. We turned the switch to power the boat, and the gauge showed only about 75 Volts. A minute later the generator died. Bud poked around again while I consulted the operator's manual. Bud tried tightening the loose wire, and then just tried to start it again. It started, it produced 125 Volts, it ran the reverse cycle heater, the battery charger, the outlets and the microwave. I wouldn't let Bud use the microwave and the box heater at the same time - that seemed like it would be pushing it.
So we're sort of warm (we are only running the generator part time, we sailors are getting mighty tired of constant engine drone) and Bud is fixing roast turkey and baked potatoes for dinner. Once dinner is done and the oven is off, we'll probably turn the generator back on and heat the boat back up and then go to bed. I think this might all be fun if only we were somewhere WARM.
10/23/2010, Utica Marina
We left this morning at first light. Since it was an overcast morning that was about 10 after 7. We got off from the dock without too much trauma, considering I was at the helm. We may have woken up our neighbors, because I was yelling for Bud to get on the boat. He was fending us off the dock while standing on the dock, and I was worried that he was waiting too long and he'd get left behind and I would have to get the boat back to him, and that would not be pretty. Bud thought I should take the helm because there was no wind and "there's almost no current". I don't know why I bought that, as the day before we'd been talking with the mechanic there about how surprisingly much current there was. Anyway, I tried to just ease it back from the finger dock into the canal and the current took the stern and pushed it towards the dock and the fender board caught on the dock and the base of the mast, sticking out front, rubbed on the tall piling between the slips and I yelled. But no real harm done and we were underway.
We wanted to leave as early as we could to make sure we crossed Oneida Lake before there was any wind. It was really hard to see the channel markers when we first got in the lake, so I think we did start as early as we could have. The wind stayed down, the engine ran fine, the fuel filters continued to bubble and not only did we make it across the lake, we took the time at the far end to recalibrate our course computer, as the last time we tried it there was a bit too much wind and it was still not correct. You have to drive the boat in slow circles to calibrate it, then drive a steady straight course for a few more minutes. We got it very close this time. We stopped at the wall at the far side of Oneida and pulled the stern over close to the wall. I put the protective cap on the socket for the windex. Bud had taken the windex off in Phoenix, but I didn't know and didn't tell him there was a cap to go over the socket. We also checked the filters. They had seemed to be bubbling a lot but the diesel wasn't down much.
So off we went and did another 25 miles and 3 locks to get to the Utica Marina. It's a municipal marina. We weren't sure if the power was still on as no one answered the phone number given for it, which turned out to be the Parks Department. The lockmaster at Lock 20 asked us if we were going to try to make Lock 19 that day. We told him we wanted to stop at Utica if the power was still on, but if there was no power we'd try to go on. He called us on the radio when we were a few hundred yards beyond the lock to tell us that he had phoned and the power was still on. That was nice! I guess he knew who to call.
Another nice thing is that we are now starting to go down in the locks, and it's down all the way to the end. There is much less turbulence when they drain the water than when they fill it, so it's a lot easier to keep the boat off the walls.
The picture is of Earendil at the marina. It's kind of strange, the building says Utica Historical Marina (built in 1999?) but the whole building is now a restaurant. The book said docking was $1/foot and a sign said the same; the sign had the restaurant name on it as if they were the ones to pay, but when Bud went up no one was there. There now seems to be a banquet going on and no one is asking us for money, so we're hoping this becomes another free dock.
We debated on whether we should just push on through lock 19, but decided not to for three reasons:
1. The engine was running a little hotter than it had been after we went through an area where they had been dredging. Bud asked me to look at the raw water filter for the engine and I could see a lot of weeds. We didn't want to push it without stopping to clean that filter.
2. They now weren't expecting us at lock 19.
3. It was a good run for the day and it would be nice to give Fuzzy a break.
So when we got here and the dock looked decent, we stopped. We made 50.8 statute miles, 44.7 nautical miles for the day. We checked the fuel filters again and although every time I had checked they were bubbling, Bud had to add almost no diesel. I'm starting to be a bit more comfortable.
Another good day and another warm night, and maybe free. Not bad, not bad.
10/22/2010, Brewerton, NY
A short run today and a short entry, too. We went from Phoenix to Brewerton, from the free dock to another Marina, Ess Kay, recommended by Jon and Arline. It's only about 12 miles and one lock, but we planned for that. It was supposed to be cold, possibly snow (that is something very close to snow on the cockpit cushions) and very windy. For the short trip here there was no wind, until we were about a half-mile from the end. Suddenly the wind came up. We needed fuel and a pump out and a dock, and of course we got to do all of that in the wind.
A highlight of the day was rescuing a frog in the lock. Bud realized the poor thing was trapped in the lock. I tried to reach him with my makeshift boat hook, but even extended all the way out I couldn't. But as we started out of the lock and were passing him, I reached down with the fuzzy part of the paint roller/boat hook, and he grabbed right on to it. I pulled him up on deck and then managed to get him in my cupped hands. When we got out of the lock where there was a swampy edge to the canal I leaned way over and let him plop back in the water. The last we saw he was headed for the swampy edge and hopefully some nice mud for hibernating.
Oh yes ...the air bubbles are still with us. The nice folks here gave us a few more suggestions; we've added a second hose clamp to all the places where there are hose clamps in the supply side. Bud decided there might be strain on the short piece of hose between the two filters, so he replaced that with a loop to relieve any strain. The folks here gave us the number for Racor tech support. I called them, from my description he said it definitely sounded like a vacuum leak, and the only place left is the junction between the part that holds the filter element and the clear bowl below it on the filters. We haven't found anyone who sells the replacement gaskets, so the Racor folks are sending four to us at the Waterford post office. If we can get the boat to run the next 150 miles to the end of the canal, we will pick them up there. Again, no charge! All we've paid for so far is the hose clamps. If we do manage to fix this it will be the most time and least money we've ever spent on a boat fix. (Usually we manage to spend lots of time and money on boat fixes.)
Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer with very little wind, so we hope to be able to cross Oneida Lake. We'll see, we might make some serious miles if the weather and engine both cooperate.
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.