Taming the Beast

Because we don’t get much news anymore, we only learned today of the world’s tragic loss.  So wherever you may be, a moment of silence as we mourn the passing of the great John Ward, without whom it never would have been “Football time, in Tennessee.”

On to Looping.  Little Falls, N.Y. is a picturesque village along the Erie Canal.  It’s apparently quite popular.  We planned to give it a pass on our way to Utica, however, because there are too many other picturesque villages along the Erie Canal.  We can’t stop at all of them.

FBA22DE4-279C-415A-80F4-29A672682AF5From our perspective, the most significant thing about Little Falls was the giant protective maw that confronts travelers heading west.  Erie Canal Lock No. 17 is the highest lock in New York, and is one of only two guillotine-style entries in the universe unless there are some on other planets.  (The quality of the photo is crappy because it’s a frame from the time-lapse video that occupied one phone, while the person who owns the other phone and the camera was busy worrying.)  Here’s  one taken just before we started the worrying.  003a1181

The guy in charge must get perverse pleasure from watching unsuspecting boaters confront unexpected current, because he didn’t bother warning either of the two boats to be ready.  Turns out the front boat gets the worst of it.  Thankfully for us that was Second Wave.  Thankfully for Second Wave they’re experienced enough to wrangle things safely.  For a moment, however, we feared for everyone in the lock.

Things calmed down the rest of the way.  Dana bagged a great Great Blue Heron.  The Canal straightened out for several miles.  The restaurant at the wall in Utica was delicious.

Yup, things’d be perfect if not for the whole John Ward thing.




Erie Schmerie

We rode the Hudson River for the last time, passing through Albany and Troy on our way to the Erie Canal.  Troy claims to be the home of the original Uncle Sam—personification of the United States government—who was a meatpacker or some such thing.  We didn’t stop to determine if the claim is valid.  We had narrow canal locks to master.

003a1104It turned out to be a long day.   More work than fun.  Seven locks.  90° and 200% humidity, and that was before the downpour.  But we made it to Schenectady.

Here’s the first Erie Canal lock in 26 time-lapse seconds.  In real time it took what seemed like 26 hours.  Lock No. 2 actually is Lock No. 1.  That federal lock on the Hudson is called Lock No. 1, however, although it is not on the Canal at all.  Go figure.

003a1098Perhaps the highlight of the day was Dana finally seeing American bald eagles.  And having the presence of mind to whip out the camera.  Maybe Uncle Sam is from around here after all.

About 100 yards before the entrance to Lock No. 4, we spotted a deer that either was swimming or drowning, depending on who you ask.  One of us wanted to drop the anchor, grab one of the boys’ life jackets, and somehow strap it on the poor thing.

003a1108 One of us was worried about getting into the lock without turning sideways, however, then finding a line, and not smashing the boat and his pride into smithereens.  We opted for telling the lock-master, who assured us that the same deer had been in there before and knew how to get out.  Whew.

We reached the “Schenectady Yacht Club” just about the time it started to rain, then waited out the rain to take on some fuel and find our, er, “slip.”  We reached the pool deck with snacks just about the time it started to rain.  But we enjoyed drinks with Second Wave and the first couple we’ve met who started their Loop after us.  They didn’t have boat cards and we can’t recall their names right now, but they seemed very cool so hopefully we will cross paths again.

We’ve got ripplin’ water to wake us

After the thoroughly enjoyable dinner with Tom and Susan last evening, we checked the conditions again.  Sunny and warm.  A good tide and current window if we left at about 8:30, so not too early.  Wait, wind at 20 knots gusting to 30 knots?  That’s nots for us.

We awoke to the sound of wind and waves, confirming that it’d be a scary day to travel.  Doug returned to sleep.  At about 8, however, Subject to Change met Dana on the dock.  They’d talked to a friend up the Hudson, they said.  The wind was bad at Half Moon Bay but no place else, they said.  No wind at Kingston, they said.  We’re going and you should join us, they said.  Twenty minutes later we were on our way out of Half Moon Bay.

We thought Half Moon was the shape of the harbor.  Turns out Half Moon was Henry Hudson’s boat when he explored the Hudson River in search of a northwest passage to Asia.  Of course, it probably wasn’t called the Hudson until later.  It seems unlikely that Hank would be exploring a river someone already had named after him, but who knows for sure?

Half Moon Bay really was blowing, but things calmed down pretty quickly.  We fired up some NGDB and urged High Cotton to leave as well.  Spread the love, right?  Things started off great.  We were congratulating ourselves on a shrewd decision as we reached West Point again, this time by water.


And that’s about where everything turned to crap.  Just past the place where we took the scenic photo in yesterday’s post, the wind whipped the river to an angry froth.  Subject to Change’s anemometer registered gusts of 38 knots.  It felt like 60.  We passed through what the Waterway Guide said was the prettiest stretch of river in the country.  We didn’t notice, and dang sure didn’t take any pictures.  After about 2 hours of terror, however, things calmed down a bit.  The CIA main building appeared right where it was supposed to be.  Still impressive.

003a1021The Esopus Meadows Light may be the coolest lighthouse we have seen so far.  And it’s fairly important.  It sits right in the middle of the river.  Going upstream, immediately to the right the channel is about 80 feet deep.  Immediately to the left, the water is about 1 foot deep.  That’s a big deal when Misty Pearl has a 5-foot draft.

Fortunately we guessed correctly and made our way to the Kingston City Marina.

When we landed, Kingston seemed like an artsy town with a cool vibe.  The museum already was closed but looked interesting.  After dinner with Second Wave, Subject to Change, High Cotton, and Nautical Dreamer, however, the vibe had changed to ghetto.  We may sleep with the flare gun out tonight.

And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for? or Go Army Beat Navy

img_3667As a Tennessean and a Texan, we never thought we’d admit it but part of New York State is awesome.  At least in June.  Except for ticks.

Off we went in our rental car to explore Hudson Valley areas not visible from a boat.  Much of the scenery along back roads in upstate New York looks a lot like scenery along back roads in east Tennessee.  Right down to painted barns, tractor warnings, farms, country churches, deer processors, and taxidermists.  It’s not exactly the same, of course, because the people in these parts talk kinda funny.  There’s also a notable lack of kudzu.  img_3670We stopped along the Bear Mountain Parkway to photograph a shallow and narrow pass that we’ll confront tomorrow by water.  Hopefully it’ll feel as peaceful as it looked from above.

Last year we visited Lubec, Maine, to watch the first sunrise in the United States.  Campobello Island was close by so we hopped into Canada to see Franklin Roosevelt’s summer home.  Public Service  Announcement no. 1:  Even though the U.S. Park Service jointly manages Campobello, your U.S. phone provider will start hammering you well before you get to the bridge.  Make sure to have an international plan or shut off your phones.

img_3657Springwood, where FDR was born, raised, lived during his presidency, and is buried, is up the road a short piece from the marina here.  PSA no. 2:  If you use Google Maps, don’t sucker for directions to “FDR Historical Site Viewpoint.”  And if you do, when your spouse says “Are you sure we’re supposed to cross the river” don’t confidently say “Yes.”  Because you’ll end up on the wrong side of the Hudson, miles from Hyde Park, at a private road with big No Tresspassing signs posted by someone who’s probably pretty angry with Google Maps.  Fortunately Dana wasn’t in a finger-pointing mood.

img_3659A little known fact about FDR is that he was a huge fan of fairy tales, to the extent that he designed his gardener’s quarters to look just like the cottage where the Big Bad Wolf ate Little Red Riding Hood’s poor near-sighted granny.  Ok we made that up, but it certainly looks looks like it could be true.

The roses in the private garden—where the former President is buried—were in full bloom.  Unfortunately an endless stream of elementary school kids on field trips literally prevented us from stopping to smell them.  That’s a true story.  In any event, we learned that for us at least, two FDR home tours is exactly one FDR home tour too many.


If there existed a list of bizarre things we’ve done that turned out great, visiting the CIA would be near the top.  Not the CIA that gave us Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal, of course, but the one that gave us Anthony Bourdain (RIP) and other great chefs.  That would be the Culinary Institute of America.  Our lunch was fantastic.  They don’t accept tips.  The massive grounds were pristine.  The views were better than FDR’s.  Everyone was running around in white chef aprons.  There were funny signs at the crosswalks.  What more could one want?

img_3666Actually, we wanted one more thing.  We wanted to buy some local wine, so we drove over to Millbrook Vineyards and Winery.  More beautiful grounds.  Despite the sign with the tick warning we walked the boys past ponds and vineyards before buying a few bottles.  We’re partial to the softer California grape so the bouquet may be a little too robust for our liking, but we’ll see.  (That’s the last quote from The Parent Trap you’ll read on this blog.  Promise.)

The New York State Thruway was not closed, man, so we drove the 90 minutes to what used to be Max Yasgur’s dairy farm.  That trip was, well, a real trip.

img_3678The Woodstock museum alone made the visit worthwhile.  Dana bought her first souvenir shirt.  We seriously contemplated going back from Albany to a Steve Earle-Dwight Yoakum-Lucinda Williams concert on Friday but concluded we couldn’t possibly stay awake long enough to drive home afterwards.  Regardless, walking where Arlo Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe McDonald, The Band, Janis Joplin, and others performed at one iconic event was way cool, even without the free love.

img_3692After seeing an iconic memorial to the anti-war movement of the 1960s, we turned to one of the iconic symbols of the American war machine on a visit to the United States Military Academy at West Point.  What a juxtaposition.

The Naval Academy in Annapolis is austere and cold.  Very intimidating, but not particularly beautiful.  West Point is just as impressive, but also with million dollar views.


We walked where George Custer, Jefferson Davis, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, and William Tecumseh Sherman—later known to history as the Bastard Who Burned Atlanta—once walked.  Way cool.  PSA no. 3:  General William Tecumseh Sherman should not be confused with Colonel Sherman Tecumseh Potter, who took command of the 4077th MASH unit (much to the lasting dismay of Major Frank Burns) after the departure of Colonel Henry Blake (RIP).  And his all-girl orchestra.

img_3701When they were kindergartners, Mallory and her friend Elizabeth Fountain were Ironbirds together.  In theory it was a t-ball team.  In reality it was a stare-at-clouds-and-search-for-ladybugs team.  A couple of years later the Fountains moved to New Jersey, reasonably close to Croton-On-Hudson.  Tom and Susan made the trip to visit us aboard Misty Pearl tonight.  It was great to catch up with them.

Really about the only negative thing about the stay at Half Moon Bay is that we had to carry the boys up to the road each time they walked.  Apparently the condo complex owns what grandly is named Riverwalk but really is just a poor-quality asphalt path with a construction cone in a pothole.  These people suck.  They also clearly have chosen to spend eternity with Satan and his dog-hating minions.

Tomorrow we’re cruising up the Hudson to Kingston.  The map doesn’t suggest that there’s too much to see from the water other than West Point, but maybe we’ll spot an eagle or something.  Dana will have the camera ready just in case.

PSA no. 4:  Poughkeepsie is just as fun to say as Yonkers.

Start spreading the news


An action-packed yesterday means an action-packed blog post today.  We started pretty sedately, however, with a chance to sleep in.  Until 6.  Dana spotted a Black-Crowned Night Heron on the dock beside us and Doug spotted a regular old deer in the Great Kills Yacht Club garden.  Despite the fence we swear it wasn’t in a zoo.

Then off to the north.  The plan to leave at 11 looked sketchy as we bucked current through the Verrazano Narrows and into the main channel.  Back when Don Vito Corleone unsuccessfully tried to bring the Five Families together for the common good of organized crime, New York City was a different place.  At least it looks different from the water.  For one thing, there are a lot more boats.  Everywhere.  Huge boats.  

F5D39425-814A-43A2-9D28-56B4706127F2The purple areas that make the approach look like the Arizona state flag are Traffic Separation Schemes—superhighways for commercial vessels—each wider than Manhattan.  And the unofficial but practical Rule of Gross Tonnage says we need to stay away from those commercial vessels no matter what.  They go faster than we do, and as sluggish as Misty Pearl may be those 200-meter behemoths are much worse.  Becoming a cargo ship hood ornament would be an embarrassing end to our Loop.

img_3601Knowing that photo documentation would be critical to the mission, our team photographer got the bow assignment.

As we approached the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Coney Island passed off to the right.  Coney Island is famous for hot dogs and as the home turf of the Warriors, who Luther falsely accused of killing Cyrus and who then bravely fought their way back to their beach until the Gramarcy Riffs finally realized it was Luther all along.

We were lucky enough to be going past Manhattan on the day of a jet ski parade, which frankly seems like a really dumb idea for a parade.  There indeed were lots of jet skis but not many more than a busy day on Lake Pleasant.  The bigger issues were ferries, and tour boats, and tugs with barges, and sailboats, and power boats, and more tour boats.  Sully was a hero for landing a US Airway jet on the river and saving all the passengers, but what truly is amazing is that he didn’t wipe out 100,000 bug-eyed tourists.

003A0801We were traveling with Second Wave so that we both could get the obligatory photo in front of the Statue of Liberty.  Rumor has it that if a Looper boat fails in this regard, AGLCA repossesses the burgee and strikes your membership.  Getting a clean shot, however, is not that easy given the traffic, currents, and every other stooge looking for a good view.  The black line shows what we were supposed to do to get up the Hudson.  The yellow line shows what we actually did in order to photograph Second Wave.  Second Wave did the same, which yielded the photo above for which Karen gets the credit.

Cruising through Manhattan—even on a hazy crappy day—is something everyone should do at least once.

As cool as Manhattan was, however, we were glad to be moving on.  Karen and Dana’s assurance that the afternoon current would be favorable proved spot-on as we started picking up speed at the George Washington Bridge.  The George Washington Bridge is famous for Bridgegate, but yesterday traffic seemed to be flowing nicely as we came up alongside Hoboken on our left.  The north end of the Harlem River is just beyond the bridge.  The Harlem River is famous for making Manhattan an island.  We were surprised at just how big the island is.  The Natives who struck the deal to sell it must really have wanted those beads and trinkets.

Pretty quickly the scenery changed dramatically.  Huge building gave way to huge cliffs and shorelines.  And trains.  Lots of trains.  We continued on north past Yonkers.  Yonkers is famous for being a fun word to say.

003a0948Just north of the Tappan Zee bridge is the place where Ethel and Julius Rosenberg lived and died.  The name Sing Sing comes from Sinck Sinck, the tribe that sold the land.   Hopefully the Sinck Sinck were a tad shrewder or less desperate for crap than the Manhattan sellers.

Second Wave led us into Half Moon Bay on the eastern shore of the Hudson, roughly 46 nm from Great Kills.  Bucket List helped with our lines, and we all took off together for dinner.  We plan to stay here for a few days to clean up Misty Pearl—this is the last time we wash salt off her until November—and explore Croton-On-Hudson and surrounding area.