These little town blues are melting away

By getting to Waterford this afternoon, we finished our last stretch of the New York State Canal System.  Hell, after the Federal Lock tomorrow we may be done with locks forever.  Fine by us.  But before exiting the Erie Canal today, of course, we first had to leave Little Falls.

The Beast.  The Guillotine.  The dreaded Erie Lock 17, with fierce winds, strong current, and asymmetrical filling that pinballs boats around wildly no matter how seasoned the crew might be.  We lived through it going up with Second Wave, but just barely.

Lock 17 was the first lock we faced Wednesday morning, after a disappointing meal in Little Falls Tuesday evening.  We chose to believe that a heron on a lamppost brings good luck, however, and headed in.

Meh.  Going down in Lock 17 is a big nothing-burger, although the specter of a chain breaking and dropping the blade on our heads was momentarily chilling.

Absolutely gorgeous day to Amsterdam, with a few highlights along the way and only those stories about Amsterdamers untying boats in the night to dampen our spirits.

Corn?  Where we’re from you don’t hear much about the rolling cornfields of New York.  Do New Yorkers even eat corn?

This is Herkimer Home, built in 1764.  Not surprisingly, the Herkimer Home State Historic Site webpage asserts that General Herkimer’s courageous performance at the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777, was “a significant turning point in the Revolutionary War.”  This claim seems a bit sketchy, however, since nobody has ever heard of the Battle of Oriskany.  The house looks cool from the river though.

Then past the bucolic village of St. Johnsville.  Beautiful setting, although we skipped it this time.  By the way, the sad tree to the right of the little lighthouse might look all nice and innocent, but it isn’t.  That tree is evil.  Just look at those claws.  Anyone flying a drone near that tree better have easy access to Brent, Chief Weaver, and $500 for the St. Johnsville VFD fundraiser.

The paucity of boats on the system allowed us mostly to cruise right through the locks without waiting.  You radio ahead, the green light pops on, and then you go.  Easy.  We did have to wait a few minutes at Lock 12, however, for the dude in a homemade sail/rowboat.  Took him a good while to maneuver out.  The Lockmaster told us his dog jumped overboard in the lock—which might’ve slowed progress—but it was a cute dog in a neon life jacket so we didn’t get too worked up.

Amsterdam is a hardscrabble kind of town, with those nasty but true stories about local hoodlums setting boats adrift.  The pedestrian bridge across the river, however, is as pretty as any you’ll find.

Maybe the hoodlums all are in prison or found consciences, or maybe our decision to loop lines back to boat and leave the lights on worked, but either way the anchor alarm didn’t go off and we woke up right where we were supposed to be.  The worst thing about the stop turned out to be the trains, which thundered and whistled through our cabin all night.

Thursday brought a quick hop down to Schenectady, after the unexpected fog cleared out.

Three uneventful locks and fifteen uneventful miles to Mohawk Harbor, but more cool scenery.

Here’s the iconic abandoned remains of a coal-fired power plant built by Adirondack Power & Light in the 1920s.  Shortly after constructing the magnificent facility, the foolish folks at APL realized that using the adjacent river to generate hydroelectric power was way more efficient than burning coal that arrived by rail, one carload at a time.  Duh.

Back in the day, we both loved to waterski.  Our last boat before Misty Pearl was a Supra.  What we never did with any of our ski boats, however, was pull a wakeboarder directly across the path of a 32-ton trawler in a narrow river, because that’s just stupid and annoying and you never know if the trawler people might be looking down at the Wordle or something when the guy on the board falls off.  But Dana allowed that they couldn’t be all bad because they had a cute dog.

Hey look!  That gorgeous Marlow behind us in Mohawk Harbor is Magic Jeannie!  Art and Jeannie were looping when we were—in different boats—and we met up with them several times along the way.

Also, that’s an odd collection of flags on the marina flagpole.  The Star-Spangled Banner and overly-busy New York state flag make sense, but that teeny blue flag underneath them?  That’s an AGLCA sponsor burgee, which implies that we should’ve received a discount but didn’t.

The closest we’d been to Schenectady before Friday was the Schenectady Yacht Club fuel dock.  We missed out that time.  Schenectady may be awkward to spell but it’s an awesome little city.

Schenectady is home to Union College, founded in 1795.  The Garnet Chargers.  Cool campus.

For a tiny school nobody outside of New York knows about, Union College has pumped out an amazing number of big shots.  Scores of federal and state legislators, judges, governors, academics, generals, and Chester Arthur, who is one of those random Presidents you forget when trying to name them all.  This boulder celebrates William Seward—Union College Class of 1820–who orchestrated the deal that brought Alaska into the United States.

Contrary to the opinion of people who despise Sarah Palin, buying Alaska wasn’t a folly at all because without it the Paxtons wouldn’t have become rich and Andrew wouldn’t have had a place to take Margaret before Gammy faked the heart attack and then true love prevailed.*

Schenectady’s big claim to fame, however, is its glorious history of industry.  GE’s factory buildings once covered a huge chunk of the city.  Thomas Edison waged the “Current War” with George Westinghouse from this massive campus, until they ultimately joined forces and formed the heavy metal band AC/DC.

The rest of the city was covered by railroad stuff.  The Schenectady Locomotive Works—later folded into American Locomotive Company—provided train engines during the Civil War.  The most well-known of ALCO’s 90,000 locomotives—actually the only one anybody can identify by name—was Jupiter, which was the first to cross Promentory Summit that day in 1869 when the two halves of the transcontinental railroad were mated.

We celebrated all that history stuff with Magic Jeannie and Wine Down at the yummy Italian place.  Nobody had corn.

Yesterday one of us watched replays of Tennessee football victories, while the other one Ubered to Troy with John and Felicia for the massive Farmers Market.  Troy is famous as the home of the original Uncle Sam, and for cool old buildings.  And for the massive Farmers Market.

We all reconvened at sundown for docktails and insightful stories about St. Augustine.

This morning’s trip to Waterford was mostly locks, although we again found some cool scenery and interesting sights along the way.

We thought this might be the roofline of a grand hotel, or maybe an administration building at another small college nobody has heard of.  It’s neither.  We looked it up.  It’s a five-bedroom private home.  15,000 square feet, but only five bedrooms.  Plus a lovely green lawn extending out into the Mohawk River.

About that crap.  It’s everywhere.  This poor couple with his and her pontoon boats has to plow a path just to get to shore.

Maybe everyone up here is so used to clearing snow all winter that it doesn’t bother them, but it bothers us.  This big clump got caught up under us in a lock, and only came free after some maneuvering that shouldn’t be necessary on a narrow waterway.

Anyway, now that we’re done with Erie locks, we might just throw away the gloves we used to hold the lines.  The gloves are disgusting, because the lock lines are disgusting.

Disgusting or not, at least we can report that we did the entire run from Oswego to Waterford and didn’t lose a single one.  Not everybody can say that.

Unlike Sylvan Beach, Waterford’s restaurants are open on Mondays.  But we’re here on Sunday, so obviously Waterford’s restaurants are closed on Sundays.  Grrrr.  We’re ready for a city that never sleeps.  Tomorrow we hit the Hudson River again.  Hopefully we’ll reach the Big Apple by Friday.  If we can make it there, we’ll make it anywhere.


*“Do you prefer to be called Margaret or Satan’s mistress?  We’ve heard it both ways.”

4 thoughts on “These little town blues are melting away”

  1. Correction … Schenectady’s claim to fame was actually winning ncaa div 1 frozen four where the captain of the hockey team named Mat Bodie was actually from east St. Paul manitoba and happened to be the nephew of Brenda and Trevor Westwood…. Everything else about Schenectady is “meh”

    1. Wow! Our fact-checking confirms that Union College indeed has had some impressive hockey teams and that Mat Bodie was a stud. (We’re not sure how a Canadian can qualify for an All-American team, but apparently there’s a loophole.) We can’t independently verify that you and Trevor are related to him, however, although we assume you’re not the types to fabricate stuff like that just to make yourselves look important. Very cool info either way. We hope all is well in Winnipeg, and look forward to pickleball and drinks when we’re all back in Scottsdale.

  2. Okay, I’m about to become that guy who takes pleasure in pointing out minor details that only geeks and nerds care about and everybody else rolls their eyes.

    First point is that if you are planning on taking the ICW south from Norfolk then you will traverse at least one more lock, either the Great Bridge Lock or the lock on the Dismal Swamp Canal. Granted, after the impressive engineering marvels that you have traversed in your travels, you can be forgiven for derisively laughing at term “lock” used to describe either of these ICW speedbumps.
    From the city of Chesapeake website on the importance of the Great Bridge Lock, “On one side of the lock, freshwater flows from the Currituck Sound in North Carolina. On the other side, salty water flows from the Elizabeth River fed by the Chesapeake Bay. Most plants and animals are suited for either fresh or saltwater. Not both. The mix caused harm to the ecosystem.” The lock exists primarily to maintain water quality on either side of the lock,

    The second point is that the Battle of Oriskany was sufficiently important to have a post-WWII Essex class aircraft carrier named after it. USS Oriskany (CV-34) saw some action in the Korean conflict and in Vietnam. In 1966 while on deployment off the coast of Vietnam, Oriskany had a devastating fire break out in the hangar bay when a magnesium flare was mistakenly ignited. 44 sailors perished. Oriskany is now an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico and is a popular destination for recreational divers.


    1. Meh. In our world, locks require fenders. The Great Bridge Lock doesn’t. It has rubber rails, and lifts/drops about six inches. I think we both slept through it the last time.

      Second, we give you the submarine USS Plunger. If you want to argue that the Battle of Oriskany was as significant as a toilet implement, I guess we’ll have to concede.

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