Dagny's Winter Cruise

07 April 2017
06 April 2017
03 April 2017
29 March 2017
26 March 2017
23 March 2017
21 March 2017
19 March 2017
14 March 2017
12 March 2017
10 March 2017
03 March 2017
02 March 2017
01 March 2017
26 February 2017

We’re Home At Last

14 June 2019
Allan Gray
Finally after a 3 week delay in Waterford NY, the Lake Champlain Canal opened for the season. There are 11 locks in the canal, however, the first 7 are actually on the Hudson River and that's where the trouble lay. Heavy spring rains, rapid snow melt combined with the need to drain a large reservoir created dangerous river currents that prevented the Coast Guard from installing the navigation marks. Tuesday June 4th dawned bright and sunny and the crews finally got the green light to start installing the marks. As the first barge load of marks passed through the harbour they were greeted with a rousing cheer by the stranded sailors.

Early on in our stay when it became obvious that we could be delayed for a couple of weeks Larry went home for a few days and returned with his car. This allowed us to shuttle crews back and forth from home every few days giving us all a chance to take care of things at home. The canal finally opened Thursday afternoon, June 6th, and the mass exodus started immediately as soon as the official announcement was made. Bev and the gang arrived by train on Friday afternoon and we prepared the boats for an early Saturday morning departure. Our timing was great, the backlog had cleared out and we managed to clear through 9 locks on Saturday and the last 2 early Sunday morning. The weather was perfect for our trip up Lake Champlain allowing us to sit back, relax and reflect on our second a Bahamian trip as we motored the last 80 miles home.

Everyone usually tries to pick a highlight of a voyage, however, after so many miles and countless new and renewed acquaintances we couldn't put our finger on one specific moment. Instead we focused on what we learned on the trip and the people who made our days memorable. As always the weather controls when and where we go, despite the difficult spring and fall weather we were happy with lessons learned and our improved decision making. I have always maintained that I learn something every time I go sailing and I learned a lot this winter. Through it all our boat handling, anchoring techniques and understanding weather forecasts have greatly improved. The new windlass we installed prior to departure worked flawlessly making launching and retrieving Rocky the Rocna easy. More importantly the new refrigeration system was great, there was lots of room to freeze all the fish Bev caught and there was never a shortage of cold beverages. Dagny performed great as always and returned home unscathed and is happy to be back in fresh water.

In closing we would like to thank everyone for following our blog and thank all the people we've met along the way who enriched our lives. We had a blast, oh sure we had some challenging days but I would often think of a quote from a cycling website, adversity turns to adventure after a hot shower and a cold beer.

Today's picture is of us arriving at Mooney Bay

Stranded in Waterford

25 May 2019
Allan Gray

The general consensus last week was that the canal system would be open for the Memorial Day Weekend as it marks the unofficial opening to the boating season for many Americans. However this was not to be, the high waters and strong currents that have plagued the area continued throughout the week making it impossible for the Coast Guard to install the navigation marks. They did manage to open some sections of the Erie Canal by Thursday afternoon, which allowed some boats to move a little further upstream and relieve the backlog at the Waterford Welcome Center.

When we first arrived here on May 14th we expected to be delayed a few days before we could carry on. However as the days passed it be apparent that we would be here for awhile so it was decided that we would take turns going home for a few days to tend to personal matters. While we were away this winter my mother broke her leg and had to spend 3 months in a convalescence home recovering, I managed to get home in time to spring her and help get her back to her condo. After a whirlwind couple of days of sorting mail, taking care of paperwork, helping mother and cutting the lawn I returned to Dagny on Thursday afternoon so Bev could go home for a few days.

Fortunately the harbour is well protected so it’s not a big deal to leave a boat for a few days. Mark and Megan had to go home (some people still work) so I’ve been watching Jazzy Lady as well. With the exception of tweaking a few dock lines tending to the boats is easy.

I brought my bike back with me from home on Thursday and today rode north up the Hudson River to visit a few lock stations. As is often the case the front line people are more in touch with current events then the pencil pushers. I discovered that the problems have been caused by 3 things, heavy spring rains, rapid snow melt and the need to dump water from an overflowing reservoir. Apparently the reservoir is under control and water levels have stabilized and are now dropping. As the water currents decrease they can start laying the marks in the river. There are no guarantees but it looks like we will be on our way by Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.

In the meantime life is good at the Waterford Welcome Center. Yesterday one of the staff set up his electric piano outside the Center and entertained us for an hour at the end of his shift. I finally found time to do some re wiring of our chartplotter that I had put off for 2 years. As always, the sun is very hard on the boats so I brought my buffer back with me and hope to get the deck buffed and waxed while we’re here. There are so many little things that get pushed aside, but the next week will be the perfect opportunity to get things done.

Speaking of done, this will be the last blog entry until we get home to Mooney Bay. For now the trip has ground to a halt so there’s not a lot to report but we will do a wrap up when we finally get home.

Today’s picture is of a Snapping Turtle crossing the driveway at Lock 3, I found it fitting that her lack of speed matched ours over the past week.

Still In a Holding Pattern

22 May 2019
Allan Gray
When we awoke Monday morning it was raining again, the water level had gone down over the weekend but unfortunately it was back up an inch or two overnight. The long range forecast calls for warmer temperatures but also includes some rain most days. All I know is that if a guy named Noah pulls up in an ark we're all in trouble. In the meantime, it is hard to get any accurate information on a projected opening when Mother Nature is in control. So needless to say the rumour mill is going fill speed. However the first promising sign is the planned opening Wednesday of a few more locks on the Erie Canal which will allow boats to get to Amsterdam NY.

In the meantime we have continued exploring and enjoying the area. There is a beautiful island park that forms the south side of the harbour and it has a great walking trail network. The other day while walking the 2.5 mile perimeter trail we came across a a guy with a large viewing scope with an I phone connected to the eye piece. He invited us to watch a Mother Bald Eagle feeding her young chick from our vantage point across the river. The conservationists have been working hard to clean up the river and are ecstatic that there are 4 new eagle families in the area this spring.

The Welcome Center staff continues to take great care of us and ensure we have everything we need. Although the staff had a very busy weekend hosting the 2 day Canal Fest they still found time to treat us to a free BBQ lunch on Monday! If you have to be stuck, this is the place. The harbour wall has been full for a while but as new arrivals show up the canal staff allows them to moor between the first couple of locks in the Erie Canal. I'm guessing there must be 40 boats in the area now and the marinas downstream are full. Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching and for many people it is the unofficial opening of the boating season, the consensus is they will do everything possible to have the system open by then.

Today's picture is of a pair of eagles perched right across from Dagny.

So Close But So Far

20 May 2019
Allan Gray
The official opening day for the New York State Canal system has come and gone but we're still here in Waterford, waiting. The cause of our delay is the high waters on the Champlain Canal which have prevented the Coast Guard from installing the navigation marks in the Hudson River. Although the Champlain Canal officially starts in Waterford, the first 6 locks are actually in the Hudson River, so until it is open for navigation we will be stuck in Waterford. The water has dropped a foot and a half since we've been here and the general feeling is we should be on our way by Thursday or Friday.

In the meantime we've been keeping busy with various activities as well as making new friends with the crews of the other 21 boats that are tied up here. The town hosted it's annual Canal Fest this weekend with something for everyone. There were free boats ride on a solar powered boat, a fishing derby for kids, tours of the locks, live music all day Saturday as well as numerous food kiosks and craft vendors. The Welcome Center staff has bent over backwards to ensure our stay is as pleasant as possible and numerous local residents have stopped by and offered rides to the stores.

Besides doing odd jobs around the boat Bev and I make sure we get a good walk in daily while exploring the area. Yesterday we walked the old towpath along the canal with Megan, Mark and their kids and then headed off to visit the local museum. Although the displays were limited in scope they were well presented and informative. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of foresight that some of these people had.

Our surprise of the day came when we arrived back at Dagny and received an email from two former co-workers. Catherine follows our blog and as they were driving home to Montreal from a cruise ship holiday out of New Jersey they realized that Waterford was on their route and that they would stop by. As I was composing a reply to them I heard "Bonjour Allan" and much to our delight they had found us. They have been good friends of ours since our ATC days in Winnipeg and it was a great to see them.

Today's picture is of some of the 22 boats patiently waiting at Waterford.

Mother Nature Wins Again

17 May 2019
Allan Gray
Monday morning dawned cool and cloudy but luckily the rains held off and we managed to get Dagny's mast down by 10:30 without any issues. Mark and Larry had arrived in time on Jazzy Lady to give us a hand with the final preparations making the task that much easier. The goal was to get Jazzy Lady demasted as well so we could both continue on towards Waterford on Tuesdsy morning. However, the rains returned after lunch making deck work a little risky so once we had all the new supports built we elected to call it a day. Everyone was tired, wet, and cold so the safest thing to do was regroup and finish the job on Tuesday morning.

Despite the unfavourable forecast we managed to find a break in the rain and had Jazzy Lady's mast hauled and secured on deck by 9:00 a.m. We were all concerned that the free wall would be filling up at Waterford so Bev and I headed out at 10:00 a.m. to try and secure a spot for both boats. We rode a favourable tide for the first half of the 35 mile trip but then gradually started to fight the tide and river current. As in most areas of the northeast spring floods have caused lots of problems and this area has not been spared. We were constantly dodging debris in the water and the closer we got to the dam at Troy the worse it got. During our final 2 miles to the lock we saw numerous trees and deadheads of various sizes but managed to miss everything and with a huge sigh of relief entered the lock unscathed. We quickly locked through and motored the last 2 miles to Waterford where we managed to find a few empty spots on the wall.

As has often been the case during our journey north Mother Nature has intervened to change our plans and today was no exception. Normally we can get home from Waterford in 2 days, the canal was scheduled to open on Friday the 17th so we figured we would be home by Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon at the latest. WRONG. Due to high water levels from heavy rains and heavy snow melt the canals are closed until further notice. Currently there are 21 boats tied up here with more to come over the next few days.
Luckily the town of Waterford has a great Welcome Center at the locks and as news spread that we're all stranded the locals are bending over backwards to help. There is a 2 day festival here over the weekend to celebrate the canal as well as numerous other activities to keep us busy.

Bev and I have already walked the towpath along the old Champlain Canal as well as hiked up to the waterfalls at Cohoes. The down time will give us the opportunity to do a lot of small chores that always get pushed aside and of course we'll have lots of time to walk the dock and talk. With any luck we'll be on our way sooner than expected, in the meantime we'll enjoy the great hospitality.

Today's picture is of the waterfalls on the Mohawk river at Cohoes.

Another Home Run

14 May 2019
Allan Gray
One of our goals on this trip was to stop and visit towns we had bypassed during our trip of 2016-17. As we looked over the charts and read some reviews we decided Kingston NY might be a nice place to stop so, we plugged it into the chartplotter and wound our way through the narrow entrance to a well protected harbour. We had left Atlantic Highlands with a renewed faith in mankind but we were not prepared for what we would find in Kingston.

When we arrived we elected to tie up at the Ole Savannah Smoke House restaurant which is housed in a beautifully restored brick building from the 1800s. The deal is if you have dinner, overnight docking is free. Kind of a no brainer, so we secured Dagny and went for a walk around town before heading back for dinner. Fortunately, there was a table on the terasse overlooking the water, and as we settled in the table next to us started asking questions about our boat. They were intrigued with our trip and were keen to hear about our winter adventure. By the end of the evening they had offered us the use of a car the next day as well as inviting us to be their overnight guests. We gratefully refused but did take up an offer for a one hour guided tour of the area on Saturday morning which included a stop at the local farmers market. The historic Center of Kingston is enjoying a rejuvenation as it draws attention to the many area attractions.

We had intended on staying here until Monday morning but once again the terrible spring weather that has affected this area came into play. We had relocated to the dock at the Hudson River Museum for Saturday night so we could visit the museum on Sunday as well continue exploring the town. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain on Sunday morning so we decided to move on once we visited the great little museum. News was spreading that northbound boat traffic was starting to back up at various marinas so we decided to head to Catskills and get the mast down a day or two earlier than planned. The goal is to get to the junction of the Erie and Champlain Canals in Waterford while there is still room to tie up at the town Welcome Center.

By the time we left Kingston the showers had turned into a steady downpour, this combined with single digit Celsius temperatures and a 15 knot wind made for a miserable afternoon. We felt like the 18 mile trip to Catskills would never end but all was forgotten once we arrived, plugged in, and got the heat going. In between the rain showers we got Dagny ready for dismasting before calling it a day. If all goes well we will be ready to travel by day's end on Monday with everything secured on deck.

Today's picture is of me at"The Wheel" in the Hudson River Museum.
Vessel Name: Dagny
Vessel Make/Model: Sabre 402
Hailing Port: South Lancaster On
Crew: Allan Gray and Bev Bethune
About: Allan is a retired Montreal Air Traffic Controller and Bev is a retired Elementary School Principal.
Extra: After many years of local cruising and Etchells racing we are living our dream of sailing to the Bahamas. Allan enjoys golfing, cycling and skiing. Bev is an active cyclist, runner, aerobics participant and cross country skier.

Who: Allan Gray and Bev Bethune
Port: South Lancaster On