10/30/2010, Indian Kill
This morning we put on both foresails, decided the baby stay was too loose and tightened it up again and put on the staysail again. At least the staysail is easy to work with, and for once there was almost no wind. I hooked up the line to the backstay antenna while Bud ran the reefing lines. It all took morning to do these things and clean up the boat to get it ready. It's nice to have it back as a sailboat. We don't even have the extra lumber on the decks.
We were anxious to get off so we left as soon as we were ready, even though it was already 1:40 in the afternoon. Out on the river there was a strong breeze against us (of course) and not much help from the current or tide. We were only doing about 5 knots and at times less than that. We looked for a place to stay about 20 miles down river. We wanted a marina or yacht club because it's supposed to go down to the upper 30's tonight, so we wanted power for heat. I checked our "Skipper Bob" book and found a marina with a pump out (we need to pump our holding tanks, too). They said they monitored VHF channel 16, but this time of year we're finding that's not too reliable. Happily, we have the computer and internet access, so I went below and Googled them and found the phone number. I also checked out their website and it said they could accommodate boats up to 160 feet. The man at the marina asked me to call back at 4:45, since they close at 5. I called, at 4:45 we were just about to turn into Rondout Creek and go up to the marina. Bud had noticed a bridge in the distance. I was sure it wasn't a problem because neither the guide book nor the website had mentioned any bridge clearance. I asked, the bridge clearance was 56 feet. Our mast is 63 feet off the waterline. We weren't going there!
Now it was already 5 o'clock and we had no place to stop. I asked the man there if he knew of another marina. He said there were none near-by, he thought that the closest one was already closed for the year. He said there was a good anchorage on the east side of the river behind Esopus Island.
We headed down the river. I called Poughkeepsie Yacht Club, they had just finished pulling their docks. I tried to call the Norrie Point Marina but their phone was not in use. That usually means it's a seasonal phone that has been shut off. We started to plan to anchor. We got out a length of nylon dock line to use as a snubber. That's a line that's attached to the anchor chain and led to a cleat. Then as the boat pulls, it's pulling on the cleat and not on the windlass that raises the anchor. The only problem was we weren't sure how to attach the line to the anchor chain. I checked two of our reference books, but neither helped. So Bud suggested I call Jon and Arline. Jon described a knot, and told me to look up taunt line knot for better instructions. I found instructions on how to tie it on the internet. Then Bud asked me to make sure the end of the anchor line was secure in the anchor locker. I had to move two sails, two folding boat seats, Fuzzy's unused Pup-Head and a basket of miscellaneous stuff to get at the anchor locker, but I managed it. The anchor was secured.
When I got out on deck we were approaching the area the man at the marina described. He said we'd see other boats at anchor and on mooring balls. There was nothing. There was about 16 knots of wind coming straight through with no shelter. We continued to look for a likely spot. We saw one boat that might be at anchor, but it was well past the island. Bud headed towards shore, I went out on the forepeak and got the anchor ready to drop. Suddenly Bud slowed way down and turned back out towards the river. We were almost aground! The water went from 30 to 40 feet deep to 7 or 8 feet deep in an instant! At that point I persuaded Bud to go back about a half mile to the Norrie Point Marina. We had passed it, and there were still a few boats tied up, but there was no one around that we could see and they looked like pretty small boats. The guide said they had 6 feet of water at the approach and docks. That's not much more than our draft of 5' 8". Plus with the wind blowing towards the shore Bud wasn't sure he'd be able to maneuver to a small dock. It now seemed like our best chance, so we got to try it in the dark! (Oh, yeah, it was now dark.)
Bud turned the boat in circles out in the river as I got fenders and docklines set up on both sides of the boat. Then he sent me forward with a flashlight and told me to tell him loudly if I saw a dock. We still had 16 knots of wind. Happily, as we came through the flashing red and green entrance lights I made out their gas dock. Bud headed for that. I got off and got a line around a cleat. The gas dock sits right at the entrance, so with the wind angling across the river there is no protection. However, our slip at TYC gave us lots of practice in tying off against wind. About a half hour and 8 docklines later we felt pretty secure. Best of all, there was a 30 AMP working plug on the dock, so we even have power and heat.
Bud said he would just as soon not do something like this again tomorrow; I heartily agree.
I'll post a picture of the boat at the dock tomorrow, when I can see it.
10/29/2010, Still at Catskill on the Hudson
Today was another day of work. This retirement thing is not what it's cracked up to be! We started before 8. We moved the boat into the slip where the crane is to lift the mast. We took the leaf off the dinette table and then pulled the table and set it off to the side to keep it out of the way when the mast is placed. The boat has a metal piece bolted to the top of the keel where the mast sits. It's actually called the step, I think. Anyway, we have always had trouble getting our mast tuned right (that is getting it held up straight and centered on the boat). Bud and I both looked down at that step and thought it was crooked. Mind you, we could have looked down at that step at any time since October 16, when the mast was unstepped. But no, we waited until an hour before it was scheduled to be put back up to decide that it was crooked and really needed to be fixed. We scrambled and got the step loose, cleaned it and the giant screws that held it in place and put it back in with new caulk. We broke the caulk gun doing it. Bud thought he might have been able to move it a little bit, as the screws went through slots on the step. The slots were actually fore and aft, and we needed to move it a bit side to side, so we're not sure if we changed anything, but we felt better for trying.
Shortly afterwards the marina folks came and set the mast. It all went very smoothly. Once the mast was up off the center brace, we had to partially disassemble it to get it off the mast pulpit and out of the way. Then they dropped the mast down through the hole in the deck and we had to take the tape and bag off the bottom and uncoil the wires and feed them through the holes in the side of the mast near the bottom. I did that, so I was below when Sean, who runs the marina, put the mast in place. I couldn't believe how they did it. Their crane does not move from side to side. They had tied the boat off so the hole for the mast was pretty close to directly under the crane. Once they had the mast suspended and down through the hole on deck to within an inch of the step, Sean tells them to move the boat, just a little aft and a little in towards the dock. They did, and they dropped that mast exactly in place! I would never have thought they'd move the boat instead of the crane, and I'd never have thought they could be so quick and accurate.
Next we had to pin back all the shrouds and the two forestays and the aft stay to hold the mast in place. If you're not a sailor, these are all the metal cables that hold the mast. After that, we could move the boat out of their slip so they could do the two other boats that were waiting.
For Bud and I the fun was just beginning. First we had to tighten all the shrouds. As I said, we've not been satisfied with the way our mast was set, so we wanted to do a really good job. I read one of our cruising how-to books and we carefully followed those directions. We tried to center the mast from side to side by tightening and loosening the top shrouds first, the cables that go all the way to the top of the mast. Our mast seemed to be leaning quite a bit to port, so we tightened the shroud on the starboard side to try and bring it over. After over half an hour of adjusting, we looked up the mast from the base where it was obvious that only the top of the mast was moving to starboard. The mast had a distinct bend in it about two thirds of the way up. This is not good. Anyway we loosened things back up, literally pushed the mast over where it came up through the deck and put some wedges in to hold it, and tightened some of the lower shrouds until we had it straight. We also took up on both of our head stays (the ones that run to the front of the boat). Since both of those having furling drums on them that involved a lot more work. While Bud finished those up and then tightened everything up evenly all around, I went down and reconnected the wires from the mast. I had to hook up the radar, TV antenna, Windex, tricolor light on the top of the mast, white anchoring light on the top of the mast, steaming light and deck light. Hallelujah, everything works! Then there was the boom, and the main sail to get back on. We ended up having Brittany and Scott help us with the main. It all came off so easily, still in the stack pack, but getting it back on was another thing entirely. Of course it got windy as soon as we started to work on the sail. At the end of the day, Bud hoisted me up the mast and we reattached the lazy jacks, lines that keep the main on top of the boom as it is lowered.
We finally quit after dark, which is when I took the picture. It's hard to see, but the mast, boom and mainsail are back in place. Bud was exhausted. We still have to reattach our reefing lines, put on both our headsails and hook up the backstay antenna to the SSB radio. I'm guessing the way things go that's another three or four hours of work. But then we can SAIL...SOUTH...where it's warm. (Did I mention it was pretty cold out there today?)
10/28/2010, Catskill, NY
Cruising so far has been a lot more work than we expected and more rewarding than we expected. We were up early again today and decided to try to beat the wind to Hop-O-Nose Marina in Catskill on the Hudson. Our first task was to extricate the boat from the line-up in Waterford. Bud tried to use the engine off a spring line to pull the bow in and the stern out. When that didn't work I tried to pull the bow in. In the end I pushed the stern out and then went down to the uncrowded end of the dock and Bud picked me up. The current there was stronger (we have to get used to those currents) and continued to push Bud against the dock. The only casualty was a crack in our fender board, but since we had only the Troy lock to go we weren't worried.
The Troy lock turned out to be the trickiest one yet. First Bud had a hard time holding the boat in the current at the approach (those darn currents again). Then there were only cables in the lock and they were so widely spaced we could only secure one. That's supposed to be all you need, you hold the cable at midship and let the boat slide down against the fenders. We've gotten into the habit of keeping the boat off the fenders, but with just two of us, Bud was holding the cable and trying to fend off and I was going from bow to stern pushing one out and then the other. Eventually, Bud ended up close to the bow with the cable and I fended off the stern.
Once through the Troy lock we really started to move. The current and ebbing tide (oh no, wind and currents and now tides!) were both with us, so the knot meter was reading about 5 knots and our actual speed over ground from the GPS was about 8 knots. It was a beautiful trip. I put pictures in the gallery of Albany from the river and a tug and barge we passed.
We were almost there when the cell phone rang. It was Jon and Arline, our new friends from Fair Point Marina in Little Sodus. They were on their way to Connecticut and had thought they saw us as they crossed the Hudson. They were thinking of stopping to see us at Hop-O-Nose, but weren't sure if there was a good route back. If they didn't come here, they said they would look for us on the Chesapeake.
We arrived at Hop-O-Nose at about 1 PM. We didn't see anyone around, so Bud brought the boat along one of the docks and tucked it nicely between a powerboat and a cross dock. We (mostly Bud) really are getting better at this. We walked up and found one of the Marina guys and he said they could do our mast later that day or first thing in the morning. They preferred first thing in the morning because they were busy shrink-wrapping boats for the winter that afternoon.
Bud started to untie the mast, getting ready to step it. We also took off one of the fender boards and put the Windex back on the end of the mast. We needed to pull the stern of the boat right over to the dock to do the Windex. I climbed a stepladder on the dock and attached it while Bud held the stern in against the wind. We also got all the hardware ready for tomorrow and finished the repair where the mast goes through the deck.
While we were working on those things the head of the marina came over. He had a message from Craig and Barb on Freedom Quest, who'd been docked behind us at Waterford. They hadn't seen us before we left in the morning and wanted us to have their contact information. So I gave Barb a call and we exchanged email addresses also.
Since Hop-O-Nose doesn't have pump-out facilities, we were reminded that we thought there was a problem with our aft toilet. We ended up disconnecting the line from where water to flush comes in through a fitting in the hull to the toilet and pumping air and water through it with the dinghy pump (that dinghy pump has been useful!). We got the toilet working, but you can imagine the mess it made. We had just finished cleaning that up and Bud was washing his hands at the galley sink when I heard water running. I checked the aft head to see that the sink faucet had been bumped on. That drain is slow because the check valve sticks (we need to fix that again) so the water was running all over the floor. And oh, yeah, we're down to our last tank of water and have to refill the tanks tomorrow.
Just as the constant work, repairs and reminders of repairs to come were becoming overwhelming, a young couple stopped by who'd come in after us and are also getting their mast stepped tomorrow. We chatted a while; they said they were going to shower, then go have a couple of drinks in the restaurant at the marina and invited us to join them. We walked to town, fed Fuzzy and then went to see if they were still at the restaurant. They were so we joined them for dinner. They are Brittany and Scott Meyers from Chicago. They had transmission problems in Buffalo and docked at RCR Yachts, where we had done the initial work on Earendil, and Andy, our favorite mechanic, tried to help them. They ended up staying a week while they shipped their transmission to Florida to have it repaired. Soon after they got to Buffalo, Bill Fleming, Commodore of Tuscarora Yacht Club, came by. He'd been following their blog and emailing them. He saw on the blog where they were and went to check up on them. He brought them food and introduced them to Todd Ciehomski from the club. Todd and his girlfriend semi-adopted them and gave them a place to stay for a few nights. Bill told them to be on the lookout for a couple from TYC heading down to Florida. Bill sent our blog address, but they hadn't had time to check it out before they came into Hop-O-Nose. Wow! We had a great dinner and after I asked them to come aboard so I could take their picture for the blog today. So Bill or Todd, if you read this, you will recognize Brittany and Scott who are sitting in our salon with Fuzzy.
We have read that it's the fellow cruisers you meet who make cruising so rewarding. Now we're experiencing that first hand. Three different couples all reached out to us in one day, and completely took away the pain of stopped toilets and overflowing sinks.
P.S. Please note that we have finally moved a degree south!
10/27/2010, Still in Waterford
We stayed at Waterford another day. Two boats left that were at the side of the floating dock that still had power and we managed to squeeze three sailboats in the space. The picture is of the line of floating hobos headed south. Lost Navigator is by himself on the end of the dock without power. Now we have power, but we're out of range of the WIFI. I'd rather have power as we have an air card for our computer and are paying for Internet access anyway.
We stayed for two reasons. First, our package again did not come. Second, we had been warned about a front that came through back home with 65 mph winds. The forecast here said chance of thunderstorms with the possibility of 45 mph winds with the storms. We inquired about the package and found it had been sent via UPS to the General Delivery address at the local Post Office. The Post Office refused it. Our very accommodating technical support guy at Racor redirected it to Hop-O-Nose Marina, about 5 hours south of here where we're going to have the mast stepped. I don't know if there were thunderstorms in the area, but although we heard some distant thunder it was a beautiful day here, partly sunny and warm. So we really could have gone on to Hop-O-Nose but it was nice to have a day off.
In the morning I did the laundry. I was thinking of doing that at the marina, but our guidebook (another Skipper Bob book) said the nearest laundry to Hop-O-Nose was 5 miles. This one was two blocks and the folks at the Welcome Center said I should just use one of the shopping carts, so I didn't even have to carry the clothes. Bud put some epoxy on the wood under the trim where the mast had been leaking, as the plywood there had started to delaminate. He glued and clamped it.
In the afternoon we again played tourist. I persuaded Bud to walk the other end of the Old Champlain Canal Trail. We followed it down to the Mohawk River, which had a dam and some impressive rapids. It was a nice walk with the autumn colors.
We've been talking to our fellow boaters, and two of them are having alternator problems. One boat out of Toronto has been here a couple of days. He will be here at least a couple more, he thinks, as his alternator is shot. Today he pulled it out of the boat. He is having a new one sent. The sailboat that left this morning is back. (We shuffled all of the boats closer and squeezed him back on the end of the dock with power. There are now 5 sailboats lined up. We're tied so close that one boat needs to have its bow in and the other it's stern out so our masts don't hit.) He has an alternator that also acts as his engine starter motor. It's working as a starter motor but won't charge his battery. He made it down to the federal lock in Troy (about 3 ½ miles). He was on the Internet searching for parts for his unusual motor/alternator. Our air bubbles that don't appear to affect anything seem less worrisome when you see the troubles others are having.
Tomorrow it's on to Hop-O-Nose, hopefully. We expect to overnight there, maybe even two nights. Then we'll set out and try to make some serious time south.
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.