Done with American locks for a good while

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We know from experience how hard it is to get girls up in the morning, so no surprise that there weren’t visible signs of life aboard Mystic Pearl when we shoved off from Schuylerville yesterday morning.  We figured they’d catch up and pass us soon enough anyway.  (Before leaving, however, we answered the question that at one time or another everyone asks.  Yup, Schuylerville, New York, indeed was the site of the first flax and linen mill in America.)

Anyway, we had the second half of the Champlain Canal to run.  Seven more locks, some up, some down.  Plus some gorgeous straightaways.

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It was so peaceful and smooth that busting out the drone seemed like a good idea to Doug.  It even was so peaceful and smooth that Dana was ambivalent about the drone idea, rather than just grumpy.

There actually ended up being a few near disasters captured on video, but those clips will remain in the same dustbin of history as the photos of Doug with an Afro and Dana with braces.

Wait, did we just mention that some locks went up and some went down?  We’ve questioned before how this is possible, but we have an answer for the Champlain Canal.  This nondescript little channel comes off the Hudson at the canal high point and feeds water in both directions.

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At least that’s what the lock guy told us, and since we previously had delivered the phone charger he left at Lock 1 up to where he was working at Lock 2, we figure he wouldn’t mislead us.

The last Champlain lock is Lock 12, which was about three feet from New Whitehall Marina, where we stopped last night.  Whitehall claims to be the birthplace of the United States Navy, because Philip Schuyler—whose home we visited in the town named after him—built some ships that Benedict Arnold (before he turned bad and tried to surrender West Point) used to smack the dirty Brits around on Lake Champlain.  The new owner of the “marina” is trying mightily to make a go of it.  We hope he makes it.

Since the drone was warmed up anyway, Doug flew over the town for a bit.  Dana read.  Oscar slept.

The coolest part of the marina is the Tavern at Lock 12.  Owned by the same guy who bought the waterfront.  We popped in for an early dinner.

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The bartender loaded up the country music for us, somehow claiming that upstate New York is no different than Texas or Tennessee.  We humored him.  The two dudes at the bar chatted with us for quite awhile, either because they were interested in our boat trip or because they liked talking to a pretty girl and were willing to put up with Doug to do it.

Although Whitehall is considered the southern tip of Lake Champlain, for about four hours today Lake Champlain looked pretty much like a river.

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Apparently there are some good spots to fish down on the skinny bits of the lake.  Even our navigational chart identified a good spot to wet a line.

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Locals must use the same charts, because lots of folks were out.

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We’re not going back just to clarify things with the bartender, but the fact that folks were out fishing proves without a doubt that upstate New York absolutely is not like Texas or Tennessee at all.  In Texas or Tennessee, they’d be fishin’.  In the spirit of reaching across the Mason-Dixon Line to honor fishermen South AND North, however, we offer a little Robert Earl Keen, from College Station:

It was kind of cloudy and dreary most of the travel day, although the predicted thunderstorms never appeared.  The many faces of Lake Champlain still were pretty cool.

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At one wide-ish spot, we were cruising along, minding our own business, when a boat came zooming towards us.  Is he going to hit us?  Is it a ranger?  Should we make a  run for Canada?  Oh wait, it’s just one of our buddies from the bar stopping by to say hello.

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In addition to bass and walleye, Lake Champlain is full of history.  Hey look!  Off to starboard is Mt. Independence, where the good guys staved off an early Limey invasion.

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Off to port is Fort Ticonderoga, which was used by the bad guys until they lost it to the Green Mountain Boys, led by Vermonter Ethan Allen before he started what his marketing department calls “a high-end chain with stylish & traditional furniture & home accessories, plus design services.”

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Ok the bridge might not have historical significance (or maybe it does), but it’s aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.

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Depending on what source one trusts, the old lighthouse on Crown Point either is called the Crown Point Light or it’s called the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse, both of which are misleading because it hasn’t been used as a lighthouse since 1926.  But Sam de Champlain managed to explore some stuff and kill a bunch of savage Mohawks along the way so clearly he deserves a memorial, no matter what it’s called.

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When we reached the first fat part of the lake it looked like it might rain after all.

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But nope.  The sun popped out, kids jumped in the water, and all was good after we finally got tied up in the narrow slip where Basin Harbor stuck us after forgetting that Misty Pearl is sixteen-feet wide.

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This is the first time either of us has been to Vermont, but we know a bit about it because we watched Dick and Joanna run the Stafford Inn (with Larry, his brother Daryl, and his other brother Daryl) until Bob woke up with Suzanne Pleschette and it was all a dream.  Plus we like maple syrup on pancakes.  Today we learned that by water, Vermont is pretty cool even if eleven months out of the year all the water is solid.

The sun stayed out, which actually made cleaning Misty Pearl a bit more unpleasant but was better than rain.  We’re pretty sure the crazy kids whose wedding we stalked from the bow would agree.

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We’re going to go pull Mallory off the trail for a day or two—by car not boat—but will be back to Basin Harbor by the end of the week, ready to get on up the lake.  We haven’t had a day off since we left Atlantic City and probably need a break more than Mallory does.  We’ll get back to the blog after we do or see something noteworthy.  Right now it’s raining.

And now for something completely different

Last night we got a rainbow, which probably is just the full spectrum of visible light being refracted through water droplets but also may signify that a leprechaun is going to deliver us gold or something.

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We figured the latter is unlikely, however, so we decided to move on this morning.

Since that time we hoisted the Gold burgee at green 69A, we’ve mostly been seeing stuff we saw last year.  Fun stuff.  Cool stuff.  But old stuff.  Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.  So today was a good day because we’re now into new stuff.  But first, one last time through the Federal Lock at Troy.

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At the junction of the Erie Canal and the Champlain Canal (via the Hudson River), this time we took the path less traveled.

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The area isn’t exactly a yellow wood—although there’s still wood floating along around us—but we think old Bob Frost would approve.  At least from the perspective of seeing the new stuff, the Champlain route will make all the difference.

Just like that, we were all alone.  The river narrowed.  And shallowed.  And was awesome.

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On the first Erie lock, we did a time-lapse video on an iPhone.  Looking back it was a pretty rudimentary job.   For the first Champlain Lock, we busted out the GoPro Doug bought back in Fort Lauderdale.  Much better.

Ordinarily this would portend good video to come.  Alas no.  Mallory is snaking the camera to use on her AT hike.   Regardless, we cruised through the first four Champlain locks almost without slowing down.  (We do admit it was kind of sad though, going through locks without Second Wave pinballing around and firing cleats ahead of us.)

The only slightly scary part of the day was the railroad bridge with the 17-foot clearance.  It even had some sort of cross to mark where it kills radars and KVH antennas.

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Back at Shady Harbor we got Misty Pearl down to a few inches below the steel scalpel, so feel like we pretty much stuck it to the entire state of New York.

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Mostly, however, the river was gorgeous.

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Just short of today’s destination, we passed the backside of the Saratoga battlefield.

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This is where a plucky band of underdog agrarian malcontents defeated the imperial redcoats, setting the stage for us to use real money rather than that colorful nonsense with Queen Elizabeth—who we calculate must’ve been about ten years old in 1777—on it.  God’s currency is in dollars, not pounds or euros, and everybody knows it.

Schuyler’s Yacht Basin—where we stopped for the night—is, um, not exactly what one might expect from something called a “Yacht Basin.”

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That said, it’s our kind of place.  Small and quiet.  Almost like an anchorage, except with a dock and a restaurant and an easy walk into town.

Before we rounded the last bend in the river, we saw the top of a monument of some sort.  We asked our waitress about it.  In fairness, she was (1) young and (2) only recently moved here.  Her guess of “World War I, or World War II, or maybe World War III” still was pretty farfetched, although Dana thinks maybe she was being funny.  We walked up to the monument to find out more.

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Not surprisingly, the monument actually is for that same victory over the British.  Just down the hill, a much smaller marker celebrates the spot where the big losers actually put down their arms in surrender.

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Woah!  Arguably this is the most important site in American history (although the qualifier “near” is a tad ambiguous.)  And yet, the marker is just plopped in a parking lot.  What’s worse, the folks at Byron’s Market—who apparently own the parking lot—threaten to impose a $20 fine on anyone who stops but doesn’t patronize the market.  That’s not just rude, it’s downright unpatriotic.  Hell, they probably accept pounds and euros.

Anyway, we’re tied up for the evening.

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Then, just before dark, another boat docked in front of us.  We didn’t pay much attention until they stopped by.  No joke, it was Mystic Pearl, carrying a cute family up from New Jersey on vacation.

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They locked through all day just behind us, which apparently caused a combination of confusion and incredulity for the lockmasters.  Just for fun we’d travel with them tomorrow except that they go about a zillion times faster than Misty Pearl can muster.

Hey Charlie and Robin, we’re getting the band back together!

Last year we left Half Moon Bay in what turned out to be big wind.  Yesterday no wind.  Instead, constant drizzle, mixed with some decently heavy stuff.  But rain doesn’t faze Misty Pearl when, like Jake and Elwood Blues, we’re on a mission from God.  Let’s go!

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Ok, yuck.  Low clouds and mist might make cool photos, but the cruising is pretty unfun.

This is supposed to be one of the most beautiful stretches of river in the country.  Last year we missed it entirely, because the waves and the wind were beating us like red-headed buck-toothed step-children.  This year, foiled again.  We couldn’t see a damn thing.  For example, up to the left somewhere is West Point.

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Off our stern, Sigourney Weaver—as Dian Fossey—probably was up on the mountains teaching algebra or some such thing to gorillas.

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Even worse than the rain?  We fought the current almost all day.  Mallory’s probably hiking faster than six knots up and down mountains on the AT with a 40-pound backpack.  Shannon’s second-grade campers probably can do better than six knots on stand-up paddle-boards.  But six knots was our cross to bear.

The good news?  No wind.  Flat calm, even at that churny point just past West Point that the navigational charts blithely call “World’s End.”  More good news?  The little marina at Shadows was awesome.  Plus we could keep an eye on the boat while eating a delicious meal at the restaurant just in case someone tried to kidnap Oscar.

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Heck, the clouds even parted in time for a sunset we could watch from our flybridge.  Somehow that was enough to make up for everything else.

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Another early morning today, but at least we weren’t the only fools.  And we weren’t rowing.

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No rain or clouds today.  No wind either.  Instead, we got a river with what looked like telephone poles.  Or more rowers.

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Upstream flooding tends to deliver downstream crap in the water.  We didn’t hit anything, however, which is good because we got to enjoy the Hudson.  Truly a gorgeous river.

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We’ve been trying to stop at different places this time through, which put us at Shady Harbor.  Nice marina, good restaurant, dropped the mast again, blah, blah, blah.

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The best thing about Shady Harbor was reconnecting with Forever Friday.  We’ll never forget Mike and Mary greeting us with champagne in Everglades City on Christmas Day.  Or the dinghy ride from hell.  Or Mike’s biscuits and gravy.  Or cruising the mangroves in Marathon.  Or all the other bitchin’ memories.  Come to think of it, them coming over to Shady Harbor by dinghy was kind of fitting.  All we needed is The Lower Place.

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Loopers Scaliwag and Alysana also popped over from their anchorage.  Good times.

Magic is docked just behind us.  Terry—who prefers “Captain Crusty”—and Dorothy were on the fence between a third Loop and the Down East Circle.  They claim they’re going to put up the DECL burgee tonight and travel with us.  We’ll see.

Tomorrow we’ll transit the Federal Lock plus a few more on the other side of Waterford.  New stuff to see.  Wooooo!

 

Almost done with salt water (until Canada)

If any newcomers to this blog expect zany excitement, it’s probably best to move along for now.  Basically we just want to get north of the Erie Canal so we can see some new stuff.  But since this is our cruising diary, we might as well make a few notes.

Last time we did the trip up to Great Kills, we still were full of pie-eyed wonder.  It didn’t help that the group generally (1) was traumatized by the AC/DC tribute band and (2) was terrified of the Atlantic.  Ahhh, what a difference a year makes.  This time we knew we weren’t fooling around with the Manasquan Inlet, so we left shortly after dawn, mostly confident we could make it.

Mostly we were confident we’d make it because we anticipated smooth seas.  Last year, the Absecon Inlet was a horrendous mess, directly responsible for our bonding with Second Wave.  Yesterday?  Scarcely a ripple.

In fact, the entire day gave us nothing more than 1-footers.   Beautiful.  All ten-plus hours of it.  Not much to see from three miles off the Jersey shore, but nice and easy.

Well, nice and easy unless your boat is Troublemaker.  We don’t know that boat, but along with everyone else on the Atlantic coast with VHF marine radios we got to listen in to the drama, which started when they radioed a Mayday because the boat was sinking some sixty miles offshore.  (We’re guessing the small waves and blue skies weren’t much consolation.)  Anyway, the Coast Guard dispatched a rescue ship, but said it would take more than TWO HOURS to get out there.  How is that possible?  Dozens of the noisy annoying stupid cigarette boats in the Farley Marina could’ve been there  in half that time.  The Coast Guard ordered radio silence for “search and rescue operations.”  High drama indeed.  The radio chatter was constant as those involved raced against the clock.  Would they make it it time?  The Coast Guard told the captain to keep the boat on plane, conjuring up images of Sandra Bullock trying to keep the commuter bus from exploding.  Then the helicopter reported that it was overhead.  Thank goodness.  By now we felt we knew these people.  We couldn’t wait to hear the story.  How’d the boat take on water?  Did the crew have to jump overboard?  Was everyone rescued?  Nope.  Nothing other than that at one point the Coast Guard had lassoed the boat and was pulling it towards Manasquan.  It was like they ended the book without writing the last chapter.  Doesn’t the Coast Guard care that we were emotionally invested?  This just isn’t right.

At least in the midst of the chaos, Old Barney stood proud, beckoning the Troublemaker to safety, just like he’s done since the beginning of time.

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Just before Sandy Hook, we moved close enough to see the crowded beaches.

It’s kind of hard from the water to see what they’re all doing, but we assume the children are collecting hypodermic needles and used condoms the way children in, say, Florida collect seashells.  “Hey Ma!  I found a purple one!”*

We made it in to Great Kills Yacht Club, had a great dinner with Linda Anne, Jadip, and Antonia, and collapsed.  We were extra glad to see Mark and Lezlie.  We last saw Antonia at the Old Henry Lock Wall.   Good times with old friends.  Of course, we forgot to take any pictures and we couldn’t take one before we left because they still were asleep when we left.  At 9:45.  Too bad, because Mark’s beard has become epic.

So off we went to The Big Apple again.  This time, we put on a Pandora station playing Broadway show-tunes.  As  an aside, Broadway shows seem to have an edge to them.  For example:  “When push comes to shove, I’ll kill all your friends and family to remind you of my love.”  You can’t get away with that in real life, but put it to happy music and you can make a fortune.

Under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, where even at 11 o’clock the poor slobs were bumper to bumper.  And for that privilege they apparently pay $19.   As the girls would say, it sucks to suck.

No traffic for us though.  Unlike last year, there was no jet ski parade.  The ferries were sparse.  The tourists mostly were elsewhere.  We just cruised up easy as you please.

We barely had to slow down while Dana took Linda Anne’s Statute of Liberty Money Shot.

Wait, this is new.  If you live in one of the densest cities in the world but need to work on your golf game during your lunch break, what can you do?  Apparently just head on down to the Hudson River.  Maybe we just missed it last year though, because Kate Beckinsale put her hand in the gross gum wad that Jonathan stuck under a seat in a place just like that.  Serendipity baby.

Hey is that a cruise ship around the corner?  Why yes it is.  Turns out Antonia isn’t the only familiar boat we’ve seen in the past couple of days.  Right there docked in Manhattan was the Carnival Sunrise.

We last saw her spinning in circles in Norfolk.  We figured the Captain probably recognized us as well but we missed seeing him wave hello because we needed to get on up the river.

Another little something we didn’t recall from last time was the Frying Pan.  Dana snapped a photo.  Thank goodness.  It’s a boat.  It’s also a restaurant.  Which isn’t really all that cool by itself but becomes much more cool in context.

Because a couple of hours later we reached the Tappan Zee bridge.  Where a car exploded or something.  Big fire on zee bridge.  Dana snapped a photo.  Thank goodness.

That’s right people.  Soak it in.  We literally went from the Frying Pan to the fire.  That’s just damn funny right there.  And we have the photos to prove it.

We stopped giggling at the absurdity of boating through a cliché long enough to pull in to Half Moon Bay.  We’re in the exact same spot where Doug helped tie up our friends John and Marilyn on Blue Goose last time around, after Steve the Dockmaster had an emergency and shoved his radio in Doug’s hand and disappeared.  The Loop is great for making friends, and for making memories.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to storm, but tonight we got another sunset from the flybridge.

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* Ok, we know that’s sort of a cheap shot.  The Syringe Tide—no joke, that’s what they called it—was a few years ago.   But anything that becomes scarce makes a good collectible, right?

It’s time for the slog, or “Down here it’s just winners and losers”

Apart from that one time between Key Largo and Miami when we thought in one order or the other we’d be pitching cookies and calling for Coast Guard rescue, we’ve basically had a good relationship with the Atlantic Ocean.  The main thing is it’s about like crossing the Gulf of Mexico: something to be endured, not enjoyed.  But it has to be done if we want to see Quebec.

Thursday morning Misty Pearl left the southern tip of the Garden State.

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Headed out between the fishing boats.

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And returned to the mighty Atlantic for the run up to where The Boss said the sand’s turning to gold.

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We don’t really see the gold part.  Mostly Atlantic City is just a pit, but we can’t make it to Staten Island without the pit stop.

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Between the loud music, the cigarette boats, and the people who don’t look like they can afford to be giving money to the Golden Nugget, we’ve had about all we can take, although we did get to the boardwalk early enough to avoid the worst of it.  We were a bit surprised to find that Park Place isn’t blue and Indiana Avenue isn’t red.

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An evening with Escapade and an evening with Jadip, Escapade, Gallus, and Linda Anne probably were the highlights of our three days at Farley State Marina.

Tomorrow, we’re outta here.