Saturday, September 6, 2008

From the Erie Canal to Hudson River

As of September 2nd, 2008, we had completed 340 miles of motoring down the Erie Canal. We allowed seventeen days, giving us time to enjoy the little towns, architecture, historic sites and fellow cruisers. Near B uffalo, in Tonawanda, NY, we dropped the mast at Wardell's. It was a group effort that went well. Moving east, at Middleport, we stopped at the free villlage wall with power, water, pump out, and showers. What a deal! That place introduced us to the friendly local friendly attitudes we encountered everywhere. The town of Brockport was sparked with the high energy of college students, Wifi everywhere, a fine Greek restaurant, and the Java Junction, where we could count on the lively discussion found in university towns everywhere.

We met Gayle and Jesse Johncox in Brockport, on Sea Gayle. Since it was registered in Hobbs, NM, we couldn't resist asking...our Traverse City neighbor David Bump works and lives in Hobbs for part of the year. Sure enough, David, Gayle and Jesse do business together!

Farther east we enjoyed several nights in Fairport where $8 a night facilities were excellent. There were restaurants, a used book store (ever so welcome), and their annual Music and Food Festival. During the festival, with boats and people lining the canal, a large bloated white tailed deer, long dead and unmercifully stinky, floated eastbound, bumping against yachts and wedging between lines. As a frantic boater poked and pushed at the puffy carcass, we made haste for the nearest path away from the water.

We met Sandridges at the Fairport wall. They will boat school their two teenaged daughters during the next year. We were surprised to find they had stowed tenor and soprano saxophones, a clarinet, a flute, and a keyboard! We enjoyed a short recital in their cockpit and look forward to more. Maybe we'll add our harmonica and penny whistle!

After a long day, we had to raft off a canal tug. Those vintage tugs are crispy clean, most of them freshly painted, so it was a pleasant spot. The foggy morning kept us tied up longer than usual, so we met the friendly and proud crew.

Some stops were simply along city walls, free but with no services.We often tied up near the Thru-Way and the busy railroad. While the many miles of rural stretches, preserves, and small towns were fascinating, the urban areas were generally dirty. Water quality was poor and we saw few swimmers. In the canal, water was coffee and cream colored, cloudy brown, or covered with growth. In spite of that, awesome Great Blue and White Herons sent us scrambling for binoculars and cameras many times a day.

There were sixteen lift bridges, all on the Western half. We had to call the bridge tenders, then wait while traffic could be stopped. The bridges moved up to let us pass, accompanied by lots of waving and good cheer. There were thirty-four locks in the Canal, forty-five wide and three hundred feet long containing one million gallons for every 10 feet of depth. In general, eastbound traffic dropped... we dropped between eight and forty feet at each lock, secured (sort of) to the slimy walls by gooey green ropes or cables that we caught (most of the time) with boat hooks. We learned the routine quickly, treated our work gloves with reverence, and had a good time. When we felt particularly cool, we left finger painted messages in the slime, ala Gotta Life, the boat housing those creative teenagers.

The canal walls are meeting places for boaters heading south, many of whom we expect to see often during the next year. In that micro-community, there is an urgency to learn a lot about people in a hurry to talk about everything imaginable, to jump in when someone needs help needs help with lines, directions, or boat projects. When we meet in another little town, we greet as if we are old friends. Email flies through the ether, sharing news about good marinas, boat yards, grocery stores, water hazards; one person even mentioned the informal book clubs that
spring up here and there. This part of the experience has been wonderful, and has helped us to endure being away from the supportive network of friends we leave at home.

One more Small World tale is worth sharing. Last night we talked to Al Schwartz
for an hour before he mentioned that he owned a little marina boatyard just southeast of Sault Ste. Marie. As it turns out, he is the man who helped our friends, Russell Schindler and James Kurtz, when their boat needed major repairs last summer. Al seemed to think they were fine fellows.

1 comment:

Gottalife said...

Your pictures are Awesome, love the nighttime shots! Hope to see you soon.