Friday, July 21, 2017

Green tunnel, locks and canals

July 8, 2017
       Future planning doesn’t work very well on boats.  We played golf at a very nice course on Saturday, between thunderstorms on the front and back nines, and spent some time talking to the locals waiting for Uber.  Fortunately Uber just started in the small towns along the New York Barge Canal so we can get transportation from the boat into the towns, which is more necessary than I had thought.
       I had a vision of small historic towns all along the canal, but the present canal is not in the same place as the original.   I read a great book, The Wedding of the Waters, which explained the history and politics of the building of the original canal in 1817-25.  That canal was dug separately from the rivers, specifically the Mohawk, in the area and just used the water to fill the canals.  That’s the canal of the song about mules pulling barges along the tow path.  The next canal was an enlarged version of that, about 30 years later.  The present canal moved to the actual rivers and dammed them and built locks around when the potential for hydroelectric power was realized in the early 20th century.  The original canal was an incredible feat of engineering for its day, through virgin forest of huge timbers.  So the bottom line is that trip up the Erie Canal was a lovely boat ride through a green tunnel.
         As to future planning, when we got back to the boat after golf we found out that the canal locks were opening a day early so we planned to head out the next day.  We also blew something in our 50 amp power cord, so we would be off of shore power until we could get it fixed.   Not too much of a problem since there are not too many marinas along the canal where we can plug into anyway, but we have a generator and are pretty self-sufficient.  We were a couple miles from Schenectady but there was a really good Chinese food place that delivered so we were set.

July 9, 2017
       We were off the next day to more green tunnel interspersed with hard work catching and hanging on to the ropes in the locks but we were getting the idea pretty well.  Our biggest problem is to communicate with each other.  We had a set of two way head phones but John dumped his set in the lock reaching for a rope, so we figured out a way to use our phones, which worked pretty well.   The locks are 300 feet long and 40 feet wide and often there a two or more boats in them.  A group of boats kind of convoys up the canal and locks together, and then while we’re waiting for the lock to fill or empty as the case may be we can talk to the people on the other boats.  The way were moor in the lock is either by catching a rope off the side, the easiest, or wrap one of our ropes around a cable or pipe in the wall if they are available.  We usually have to use a boat hook to catch the rope because it is hard to get too close to the wall since we have to have big fenders on the boat to keep it from scraping along the wall going up or down.  We went through 6 locks the first day and 6 the second.  Above and below most of the locks there are concrete walls we can tie to for the night, if I can catch a rope on a cleat and jump off the boat to tie it up.  So far I haven’t landed in the water, but we are being much more careful about wearing our life jackets now.  We stopped in Fort Plain New York and a pretty little park.   I rode my bike into town to mail Louis’ birthday card and see what there was to see.  I was a pretty sad little town with lots of old buildings and houses that weren’t being used.  This is really Trump country with all of the industry that grew up around the Erie Canal long gone.   There was a nice park with a decorated gazebo and people waiting for something so I asked what was going on and was told an ecumenical worship service was going to start so I stayed and sang some camp type bible songs to the accompaniment of a banjo and listed to a sermon on Romans 6:14, since I hadn’t been to church that Sunday.
         Back at the boat we had left over Chinese for dinner, and a gentleman who had seen me at the park came by to talk about our trip and drool over the boat.    I keep telling John he is really lucky I thought the idea of this trip sounded fun, cause there are a lot of guys out there who would kill to do what we’re doing but their wives aren’t interested.

July 10, 2017
     Next day was another green tunnel along the canal and 6 more locks and we landed in Rome, NY.   This town seemed like to be trying harder and doing better than some we had seen.  They are building a marina to attract the boaters to stop.  This was pretty much at the top of the canal.  We were now about 420 feet higher than where we started on the Hudson River.  This park/wall that we tied up to had some grills so I cooked a pork loin on the hibachi.  Still having trouble getting the interior temp right but it tasted good.

July 11, 2017
      Had our first try at locking down.  This is a little harder for us because it is hard to pick up the ropes since the deck of the boat is 4-8 feet above the wall of the lock, but I can go down to almost water level on the back swim platform and catch a rope and then John stops the boat and catches one from the top with the boat hook.  We had been calling ahead to find a boat yard that could fix our electrical problems, not too many have services on the canal.  We talked to the people at EssKay Marina in Brewerton and they thought they could help.  That was good because our right engine started overheating the last 10 miles into Brewerton and we had to limp in on one engine.  Brewerton is a small town part of the Syracuse metro area.  While John worked with a mechanic on our boat problems I went into town with some other people in the marina in the courtesy car the marina lends people and got groceries for the rest of the canal trip.    Real good mechanic got us going the next day.

July 12-13
     We left Brewerton and a few miles later turned off of the Erie Canal and went north on the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario.   (For the story about why the canal was built to both Buffalo on Lake Erie and Oswego on Lake Ontario read the book.  Politics haven’t changed much in two hundred years. )  One note is that this is the 200th anniversary of the start of the canal project, so all of the locks are free this year.  It’s also 150th anniversary of Canada so the Canadian parks and locks are free too.  They don’t actually cost too much normally.
         We were afraid that we wouldn’t make to it the last lock these were all down locks and into Oswego before it closed, but following a local boater who called ahead to the locks and had them ready as we came into sight we made it with 15 minutes to spare.  Last lock through on Oswego is 4:45 pm.   We stayed at a marina that was right on the patio of a really good restaurant and had a lovely dinner and both agreed that we were going to take a day off whether there was anything interesting to see  in Oswego or not.   Actually the next part of the trip was 48 miles across Lake Ontario and the wind was kicking up the water pretty good so staying in port was a good idea. 
         I left the boat for a latte and pastry downtown and a little shopping the next morning.  First time for a while.  John took his bike for a tune up since the gears weren’t working too well and made a tee time for the afternoon, but the skies were threatening and I think he was too tired even for golf so he cancelled.     We went to a nice Farmer’s Market Friday afternoon and a short bike ride around the shore of the lake and listened to a band concert on the boat from across the river that evening.  Oswego is another town that is really trying to reinvent itself after the loss of all the industry in the area. 

July 14, 2017
    The winds were down and the lake pretty calm so we headed to Canada.  The border is somewhere in the middle of Lake Ontario.   Out in the middle of the Lake is pretty boring, but pretty.  We made it to Kingston, ON and fell in love with the city.  This was one of the first that we had seen that was built on the lake at the head of the St Lawrence River and really oriented to the water.  We found a pub that had Guinness on tap and poutine (fries with melted cheese and gravy) a Canadian specialty.  Both took long naps after two pints of beer and then I went back to a wind symphony concert at the City hall plaza.  Pretty much Symphony of the Valley without the string instruments.  Lots of people and the rain held off. 
July 15, 2017
       The next morning I went for coffee and a little shopping, all very close to the marina and happened upon a wonderful farmers’ market set up in the city hall market square. And found a perfect T shirt for my quilt.

July 16, 2017
        Sixty miles along the north shore of Lake Ontario until we could find a marina in Belleville, ON, made a long day, but the marina was next to a park and the town just across a small bridge.  There wasn’t much open when I rode into town after a tour of the regional park, with parts still under water, but there were two sushi places and I figured Canada was probably pretty good for Sushi, so I got some take out.  Next morning I tried the Tim Horton’s across the road from the marina, for coffee, since our Wisconsin friends always raved about it and wasn’t impressed, but they did have a great chees biscuit and a raisin bran muffin.  The donuts also looked really good but I’m not much of a donut person.  Too many calories for too little food.  Even a Snicker’s bar is more nutritional.

July 17, 2017
          A short hop to Trenton (Quinte West) and we were at the entrance to the Trent Severn Waterway.  240 more miles of rivers and locks.   We met some other Looper couples in the Marina and got together to share stories over “docktails”.  Every time I get on someone else’s boat I realize we really got the right boat for John and me.  One of the couples had lived in Aspen, the wife lived in Carbondale for 30 years.  I rode up the Trent River 2 miles to the first lock to get the charts for the waterway that we needed.  We like to have paper and digital charts of everywhere we travel.e

A rotisserie chicken and salad for dinner and we slept great before the next great section of the trip.  Actually we have both been sleeping really well on the trip. 

  That is until we had a mosquito attack last nite.
  I'm going to publish this section of blog now, without pictures because the internet speed we're getting in Canada is not good enough to download pictures.  I'll add pictures when we get back to the states.

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