Monarch's Big Year

02 August 2020 | Schenectady Yacht Club, Rexford, NY
01 August 2020 | Schenectady Yacht Club, Rexford, NY
31 July 2020 | Waterford Harbor Floating Dock, Waterford, NY
30 July 2020 | Waterford Harbor Floating Dock, Waterford, NY
29 July 2020 | Catskill NY
28 July 2020 | Catskill NY
27 July 2020 | Kingston NY
26 July 2020 | Newburgh NY
25 July 2020 | Bear Mountain State Park, NY
24 July 2020 | Croton-on-Hudson, NY
23 July 2020 | Croton-on-Hudson
22 July 2020 | Atlantic Highlands NJ
21 July 2020 | Atlantic Highlands NJ
20 July 2020 | Atlantic City NJ
19 July 2020 | Woodland Beach Delaware
18 July 2020 | Sassafras River, MD
16 July 2020 | Selby Bay, Edgewater MD
30 June 2020 | Edgewater MD
17 April 2020 | Carolina Beach, NC Mile 295.1
16 April 2020 | Carolina Beach, NC Mile 295.1

Prop Work / Bike Ride

02 August 2020 | Schenectady Yacht Club, Rexford, NY
Mike
August 2, 2020 Sunday

In the morning with Sharon watching from above I put on my SCUBA gear, tied several tools to the vest, and went in the water to remove the zinc and set screw from the propeller in preparation for removing the propeller. The work went well but I was low on air now and needed a pipe wrench to hold the shaft while I tried to unscrew the prop nut. We had met the fellow they called Roadkill to see if he could help but he looked very busy with his own projects and didn’t have his scuba gear with him, but offered to help if he could. I decided to try and do the work myself.

Sharon and I took a bike ride on the Hudson-Mohawk Bike Trail that was just across the river and followed the trail into Schenectady. We stopped at the hardware store to buy a wrench but it was closed despite the flashing OPEN sign and what the website said. We went to look for a place to have lunch but every restaurant we checked was closed. So, we rode the trail back to the marina and had lunch on our boat. The trail is paved and follows the old tow path for over thirty miles all the way east to Albany. The bike trail is the kind we love, fairly flat and straight, and we plan to ride again tomorrow.

We went to the swimming pool in the afternoon to cool off, on the way I stopped to watch a band playing at the picnic pavilion. With five guitarist and a drummer they did very good covers including Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and Eagles songs. We had met the lead guitarist the day before at the swimming pool and he told us about the free concert today and how the band used to tour and now played locally but with the pandemic, music venues are mostly closed down. While only a few people showed up to hear them play they didn’t seem to care in the least and just wanted to jam together for the fist time in a while.

A dive shop that I had emailed for help getting my air tank filled took an interest in our mechanical situation and late afternoon he drove over on his motorcycle with a full air tank and swapped it for ours and told us to contact him when we got to lock 9 and he would bring our tank back to us filled. We found out the guy no longer had a shop but had taken an interest in helping us out and even offered to help with the project if I didn’t have any luck and offered some great advice on the procedure to use in working on a propeller underwater.

After returning to our boat, one of the volunteers from our arrival yesterday came by to check on us. I asked if he knew where I could borrow a pipe wrench? He didn’t have one but he figured Al on a boat three down the dock would and sure enough he soon came back with a wrench and I had what I needed to try again tomorrow to replace the propeller.

Everyone we have met here has been extremely generous with advice and offers of help and tools. They have been great to a transient sailboat with trouble!

Lots of Locks

01 August 2020 | Schenectady Yacht Club, Rexford, NY
Mike
August 1, 2020 Saturday

A group of three boats was ready to do the five locks that make up the Waterford Flight at seven in the morning so we untied from the dock, and joined then, leading the way into the first lock. These locks are about thirty-four feet of lift each, far higher than any lock we had done before and now we had five of them in a row. I had a nagging feeling that something was not right with our propeller but I could not figure it out and ignored it, which was the bad decision to make as the day would prove.

When the downhill gate closed the water came boiling into the lock and it took the two of us to keep the fenders from getting stuck between the boat and the concrete lock walls as the boat rose in the turbulent water. We used our gloved hands to hold onto the ropes that are mounted along the walls to hold the boat as well as a short rope cleated around a cable that was mounted in a recess in the wall.

The second lock went alright but I was having a hard time slowing the boat down and stopping it. As we went to stop in the third lock Sharon missed the cable and I couldn't slow the boat and going two knots we slammed head first into the concrete wall that sits below the west side lock gate. Luckily no one was hurt and being the first boat in we didn't hit anyone else, the only damage was a box of pasta that went flying down below and a good scratch in the concrete and a bend in one of our anchors.

We warned the other boats, while we rose in the lock, of our problems with our propulsion and when the lock was filled, we told the lock keeper who said, "So that's why you ran into the wall."

When the lock gate opened, we gingerly confirmed we still could go into forward as we finished going through the next two locks without incident. When the final lock opened in the flight, we waved the other three boats to go out ahead of us and we slowly followed.

There was some confusion on the radio about our situation, which it seems was reported as disabled, but we slowly continued on our way. After the lock flight there is a "Guard Gate" that lowers down to block the canal to limit water flow and as we approached it, suddenly five east bound boats got a surprise to find us headed west. There was plenty of room to fit side by side under the gate but the east bound boats hadn't expected us and their neat parade devolved into a mess as they all hit the brakes and tried to hold position. After Monarch pass the gate the east bound boats resumed their orderly parade to the Waterford Flight.

We pulled up to a wall along the canal and secured our boat to first have breakfast and then to get out the scuba gear and take a look at the prop. Sure enough, one of the three blades on the propeller was loose and helped explain the boat's strange behavior in reverse.

Back on board I called several marinas shown in the area and only got through to one, Schenectady Yacht Club, who after passing the phone around to a dozen different people decided that we may just be able to fit into the their canal and they could lift us out of the water. Since the only other option was to go back down the five locks, plus one more, and travel down the river to Albany, we decided to give the yacht club a try.
We left the wall and slowly continued west in the Mohawk River enjoying the beautiful waterway and in a couple of hours we arrived off the yacht club.

Following directions from the staff to enter an old section of the original Erie Canal that ran behind the yacht club we ran aground. They sent a work boat out to pull us off the silt and after several tries, we were free. The staff decided that getting to their boat lift was out for our deep draft and offered us a slip. We took a slip at the YC and bumped into the dock as we entered it resulting in a small amount of chipped wood. Once tied up I wanted to don the scuba gear and try working on the prop but Sharon wisely decided that I was way too tired so we went to the yacht club pool instead and made the best of a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Everyone we met at the yacht club was super friendly even with the social distancing requirements. Some of the staff was full time but most were volunteers doing the required hours of time for the club. The manager promised to send a diver to us to handle changing out our propeller; I am not a professional diver that knows much about working with tools underwater. The diver couldn't come this afternoon because he was drinking celebrating his birthday, he was a retired guy named Terry, but they called him Roadkill, and we would recognize him by the back brace he wore. It was becoming clear that there were limited marine services available on the Erie Canal.

Waterford

31 July 2020 | Waterford Harbor Floating Dock, Waterford, NY
Mike
July 31, 2020 Friday

I took a row in the morning up the Mohawk River along Peebles Island Park on one side and a couple of factories on the other side. The water was clear and I saw a 3’ snapping turtle swim by. I also saw an eagle and a blue heron. I went until I could see the dams and the current picked up against me. The morning was cool and clear but that was set to change as the weather headed for the nineties again this afternoon.

When I returned, we decided on a treat, breakfast out, so we walked to a small local diner named Don & Paul’s. The meal was good and a welcome change from the usual oatmeal, Sharon had eggs and toast and I did the same but with home fries and sausage links added for good measure.

I was working to reconnect our VHF radio to a spare antenna on the back railing when I found it was no longer working. We had to take an expensive Lyft ride to West Marine in Lanthum to get a new antenna and while we were there, we picked up a chart pack for the Hudson River and the NY Canals. It was not the detailed set just for the Erie Canal but it was the only thing we could find so we will make do.

By mid-afternoon when we returned to the boat, the temperature outside was well into the nineties and we decided to hide out in the air conditioning until five when we rode our bikes across the Hudson River to a Hannaford grocery store. On our return we got engaged with a couple walking the waterfront and we learned about the local area and their suggestions for stops along the canal including hiking the gorges where the local rivers drop down into the Mohawk River, Watkins Glen being one of the most famous. We exchanged contact information and made plans to catch up again on our return in September.

Demasting Part 2, now a Canal Boat

30 July 2020 | Waterford Harbor Floating Dock, Waterford, NY
Mike
July 30, 2020 Thursday Waterford Harbor Floating Dock

Before eight we were up and had moved the boat to the slip where the ancient crane stood that the marina crew would use to take our mast down and then we went to look for the crew.

By eight-thirty we had the two marina workers and the owner at the boat ready to take down the mast. The owner shimmied up the mast and attached a new looking choker to the mast above the first spreaders and then he slid back down to the deck to supervise the lift. Except with some challenges getting the pin out of the headstay, the release of the stays went without trouble and soon they had the mast in the air using the ancient stiff leg derrick they had for a crane. The crane looked like it was bought used back in the thirties and while not filling me with confidence it did the job without difficulty. The owner did have to show one of the crew how to switch the drive to lower the boom but it was early in the morning after all.

We were going to stick around until they had lowered the mast but Sean the owner agreed to take care of a few items for me on the mast to protect it so we passed the crew a tip and they released our dock lines and we headed out onto the Hudson River with the mast still in the air. I should mention there were some reviews online reporting the marina had dropped their masts so those reviews would explain why we were a bit nervous but they did a great job.

We rode the tide up the Hudson River all the way to the first lock at Troy, New York. We had to keep reminding ourselves we had no mast and therefor no wind instrument, no horn, no radar, and we didn’t have to worry about bridge clearances anymore. We also found we were rocked a lot more by the wake of passing power boats.

This section of the river does not have the views of the mountains and is much narrower; we saw no commercial shipping and only a few power boats passed us. The amount of development is much less along the river front until you get to Albany which has a lot of commercial docks for ocean going ships and tugs. We stopped at the Albany Yacht Club for fuel, a pump out and ice which went very well. The fuel dock was getting very little business due to Covid so we didn’t feel any pressure to rush our stop as we often do on busy fuel docks.

The waterfront in Albany has a lot of potential for leisure focused development but like many cities in America they built a highway along the river with lots of overpasses that visually cut off the waterfront. The only public amenity on the waterfront we noticed was a boat ramp which seemed like a real shame for the seat of such a powerful state capital.

An hour beyond Albany we came to the first dam on the Hudson. After 150 miles we were still at sea level with the same five-foot tide as there was at the river mouth. Now we had to enter our first lock and finally get above sea level. The lock was a large massive structure and after a wait of fifteen minutes while they emptied the lock, we were instructed by radio to enter the opening gates. The lock master was very helpful and talkative and seemed glad to have a customer come along. We attached a line to a pipe that ran up and down the wall and prepared for our lift.

The gates closed with a tremendous boom as the last of the incoming tide pushed them shut and after a long pause the water started to fill the lock. We had prepared ourselves with gloves which we needed to push Monarch off the concrete walls as she tried to swing in the current. When the filling was complete and the exit gate started opening, I took the helm and motored out into the now calm river with no current to deal with. Dark storm clouds had been building for a while and we watched them carefully for signs of lightning.

We soon came to the intersection of the Hudson and the Mohawk River and we turned left in a rain shower and entered the Erie Canal, and after waiting for the rain to letup, we proceeded under the railroad bridge to the free dock in the town of Waterford. There were a dozen other boats tied on the floating dock as well as the concrete wall section. The town had done a nice job making it a pleasant park space.

The visitors center had a sign “closed until three-thirty” so we walked up and visited the series of four locks we would be taking to rise up to continue on the Erie Canal and we talked with one of the lock keepers. Lock one we had already done and was 15’ of rise, lock two through six were all together at Waterford and will raise us - Lock 2- 34’, 3-34’, 4-35’, 5-33’, and 6-33’ - to 184’ above sea level.

The visitors center opened back up but because the canal had been closed, they for some reason forgot to order the chart books for the canal that we wanted to guide us. Well we will just have to manage without a good set of charts and rely on our increasingly temperamental chart plotter. We paid a ten-dollar fee for electricity and for a key to the showers.

Demasting Part 1

29 July 2020 | Catskill NY
Mike
July 29, 2020 Wednesday

We spent the morning taking the head and main sails off, removing the battens, flaking the sails on the dock, rolling the sails up and putting them in their respective bags and then finding room to store them in the vee berth. We got an early start to avoid the heat of the day.

Sharon took a folding bike to the grocery store while I removed the backstays and pulled all the retaining pins on the standing rigging turn buckles. I pulled all of the halyards out of the line brakes and secured the lines to the mast. I took the rolling furler apart to access the headstay turnbuckle. Last I took down the boom. It was afternoon by the time we finished and we were both hot and tired and looking forward to a swim in the pool.

Sean, the marina manager/owner, came down to make sure everything looked ready for pulling the mast in the morning. Around two Sharon and I went to the pool and spent the afternoon reading and swimming.

Hop-O-Nose Marina

28 July 2020 | Catskill NY
Mike
July 28, 2020 Tuesday

After pulling anchor we headed north into a cloudy day that promised to have a little less killer heat than the last several days. The scenery continued to be grand and you could see why the famous Hudson School of Art was so inspired to paint landscapes. The few structures on the river banks ranged from huge mansions spaced about a quarter mile apart to little river fishing camps and the occasional rock quarry and factory.

We were against the current of a knot or two most of the morning and afternoon until we turned into the Catskill River to wind our way up to the Hop-O-Nose marina. After securing the lines and getting the air conditioning running as it was hot again being off the big river, we went to visit the swimming pool. Lounging in the swimming pool made us wonder why we didn’t do this more often as we soaked away the heat from our bodies.

After our time in the pool we took a stroll into the town of Catskill to check out the old buildings and get an ice cream cone. The historic section of town has a lot of character with many brick buildings topped by ornate metal eaves. Numerous storefronts are vacant not likely helped by construction of the Walmart a mile away. I believe we will see a lot more vacant storefronts as we travel the Erie Canal through areas where industry long moved away and tourism hasn’t required all the remaining real-estate.

While Sharon cooked dinner I disconnected the electrical cables that run to the mast in preparation for taking the mast down on Thursday. Tomorrow we take the sails and boom off and Thursday we take down the mast. (I checked out the antique crane they use to take the mast down and it did not instill confidence so fingers crossed)
Vessel Name: Monarch
Vessel Make/Model: Hunter Legend 40 1988
Hailing Port: Mayo Maryland
Crew: Mike & Sharon Crothers
About: We left our jobs and have headed out to explore, starting with the East Coast of the US in our sailboat.
Extra: We are looking forward to exploring towns we have never been to or seeing familiar places in new ways, having conversations with strangers and making new friends, seeing natural and man-made beauty, history, and life.
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