Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, 30 May 2022, and we are observing it on the Erie Canal, firstly at Lyons and then via our sailing to Fairport.

This morning, Mark and I walked the short distance to the town park where people were congregating. The bunting and flags were in abundance in the bandstand. The fire department arrived with three trucks. A scouts group formed up in lines. A few ex-servicemen assembled to re-tell old times. And a few citizens gathered to applaud the marchers as they passed. It was a small affair, but heartfelt for those who served and in remembrance for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Late morning, we set sail, passing through Lock 27, with the wonderful Bob Stopper farewelling us and taking action shots. Thank you, Bob, for sending them to us, as it is quite rare we have photos of us actually sailing.

Through more locks and under more low bridges, Bushranger sailed to Palmyra for a lunch stop. We wanted to boost the local economy, but alas, all was shut and the streets deserted for Memorial Day.

Westwards, ever westwards, Bushranger’s nose pointed towards the setting sun. We sailed on the stretch of the Erie Canal where many relics and ruins of the original canal are easily seen. It is exciting to see the towpath and buildings of the bygone era.

We have now reached Fairport, the furthest west we will venture. This is a town made by the canal. It runs right through the middle and dockage is available in downtown. The bridges are a hoot, with one bridge a lift bridge with unbelievable angles. It is raised by a bridge master after boats have radioed they need to come through town. When down, the bridge is only 5-6 feet above the water. On the signal of hooter blasts, plus a lowered boom gate with flashing red lights, cars and pedestrians are stopped. Then, when the bridge is fully raised, pedestrians can cross via stairs, whilst the boats sail underneath. It really is a buzz!

It is so lovely here, we may even stay two nights. A little bit of down-time, plus a little bit of boat sprucing up, not to mention boosting the local economy, would not go amiss!

Such is Life!

A lesson in history of the Erie Canal

When the Erie Canal officially opened on 26 October 1825, it was 363 miles long; 40 feet wide; 4 feet deep. It had 18 aqueducts to carry its waters across rivers and 83 locks to raise and lower boats a total of 682 vertical feet from end to end. It cost just over $7,000,000.

From 1905 and 1918, an entirely new and enlarged canal system was created. Major course changes were made and most of the original man-made channel was abandoned as rivers that originally had been avoided were ’canalized’. One hundred years after its creation, the Erie Canal has become 125 feet wide; 12 feet deep; with 35 locks.

Today, we sailed past aqueduct ruins.

And the remains of bridges.

We ducked under extremely low bridges.

We were enchanted by the white puffs of pollen which rained upon Bushranger and the surrounding water like snow.

All the while enjoying this magnificent waterway.

To finally dock at the Lyons welcome wall, where all is free: showers, electricity, pump-out.

And the best part – being greeted by Bob Stopper, a wonderful ambassador of the town and canal. A lovely way to end a full day of exploration.

Such is Life!

Around the world

Who knew that travelling the Erie Canal we would visit places named for far flung parts of the world?

So far we have visited Turkey – Troy; Netherlands – Amsterdam; Tunisia – Utica; Italy – Rome and Syracuse; England – New London; Jordan – Jordan.

In the coming days we will be visiting Scotland – Clyde; France – Lyons; Syria – Palmyra; Greece – Macedon!

We have just spent a few days at Winter Harbour Marina in Brewerton, on the western side of Lake Onieda. The night before the 2.5 hour crossing of the lake we docked at the town wall in the very friendly town of Sylvan Beach and had a delightful evening with fellow sailors.

At Brewerton we restocked the galley with the welcome aid of the marina’s courtesy car. Laundry was completed. And we lowered the mast and folded the bimini to reduce height to allow us to travel on the western areas of the Erie Canal. Here, there are fixed bridges with only 15 feet clearance.

Now, Bushranger looks like a racing goanna! She is ready for ’fast’ and sleek sailing. It worked, as today we overtook two boats in our westwards journeying!

And tonight, we reside securely tied to the Baldwinsville town wall, right beside the very picturesque cemetery. It is very peaceful here!

Such is Life!

The Eerie Canal Symphony

Words cannot adequately describe the sounds of a voyage on the Erie Canal. However, sit back and listen as you enjoy the Eerie Symphony.

The concert hall is hushed. It is early morning, cool, few people or boats are about and a low fog sits on the canal. The first violinist taps his bow. Or was that the sound of the boat hook tapping the deck?

The timpani open the day with low rumblings, as the engine coughs to life. A squeal from the viola is snuffed as the oil pressure alarm briefly sounds, then the snare drum begins its ever present murmur. Think of this drummer. She keeps up this rhythm all day. Think of Bolero, ever present as the orchestra plays its Eerie Symphony. Her forte rises and falls with the day’s passage but she never falters. She is well known in boating music, she is Madame Yanmar.

Tchaikovsky could not have timed it better. Three loud trumpet blasts announce the opening of the Eerie Symphony, as the boat gives warning that she is backing out. The snare drum increases tempo.

As if this is an awakening, other notes can be heard: a staccato from the clarinets with gentle drumbeats beneath, as a flock of Canada geese take flight. The audience is mesmerised by oboes in clarion call with the bassoon as a distant train gives its distinctive two-tone warning. Again. And again. And again.

As the fog lifts, sounds become clearer. The flutes and piccolos interrupt the steady snare drum with birdsong, the cello releases long mournful calls of a bird of prey.

The first movement nears completion as the susurration of the drums lowers to a murmur. The lock is opening, heralding the second movement.

The bass drum booms. The flutes shriek with startled birds as the lock doors slam shut. The snare drummer takes a well earned break as the boat gently floats up the lock accompanied by scratchy tones from a base violin as the fenders drag up the wall. The movement finishes with discordant notes from all the strings, competing to turn off pumps and open gates. The timpani and snare drum resume.

The contralto in her first role for the day, sings her thanks to the lock master.

The second movement, as they often are, is a bit dreary. The drone of the strings, the sleepy horns lure the audience into a somnambulant state. Then – Ba Dum Ba Dum Ba Dum, the kettle drums and cymbals announce a turn in the canal, a bridge with roaring traffic, with trucks hitting air brakes on the interstate.

Our Eerie Symphony ends with discordant notes. It must be a modern symphony! The bass competes with the viola which compete with the muted oboe. Adjusting the radio squelch gets a clear call to the marina who welcome us in.

The contralto sings the closing stanza. Thanks for your help! Great to be here.

The final squeal is that of the viola as Madame Yanmar is silenced, sounding her oil pressure alarm for the last time today.

Risk Management

Risk Aversion versus Risk Minimalisation

So, being together on Bushranger, really being together, has heightened our differences in style of risk management.

I like to be prepared:
– Fenders deployed
– Boat hooks in position fore and aft, (also known as bow and stern thrusters)
– Lines secured and ready for deployment
– Galley secured
– Heads secured
– Grab bag ready
Basically, I try to think ahead for any adverse situations which may arise.

Mark’s style is different. He is:
– Methodical in maintenance
– Religious in completing checklists
– Logical in potentially adverse situations
– Insistent that he is always correct

Where I see disaster, Mark is calm and measured (really annoying on occasions when I want action NOW!)

Where I worry, Mark reasons.
For example: I steer away from logs and debris, Mark reasons logs and debris will move aside by our bow wave.

In this somewhat limited space, our foibles (ok – I have more) and idiosyncrasies (and yes, I have more of these, too) surface and are on display.

Which just goes to show, after almost 44 years of marriage, we have a great partnership, many discussions and harmonious resolutions.

And Mark still insists he is always correct!

Such is Life!

Little Falls, NY

We have reached Little Falls, 80 miles along the Erie Canal.

So far we have tested our skills in 17 locks, and dressed for the occasion each time. Lock E9, which we locked through yesterday, today has a mechanical fault and will be closed indefinitely. How lucky were we to get through!

And even luckier getting under these bridges!

We stayed in Amsterdam last night. (No, not in the Netherlands!) Unfortunately, the write-up about the town is more flattering than in real life. We did, however, walk across the pedestrian bridge which had interesting historical plaques, statues and mosaics. As nothing was open (on a Monday the USA closes), we invited fellow loopers on board for spaghetti bolognaise and convivial chatter.

The Mohawk River continues to delight us.

And now we are in Little Falls, where the Mohawk River has a series of rapids. The Erie Canal digressed from the river to avoid the turbulence. We sailed through the manmade section (hewn in 1775 or thereabouts under the supervision of General Schuyler – of Revolutionary times) and docked at a lovely Rotary Park close to the historic canal centre. Mark and I walked into town and dined in a quaint canal-side restaurant.

And now? We are in a food coma having eaten too much, listening to the honking of the Canada geese.

Such is Life!

Low Bridges on the Erie Canal

Low bridge, everybody down. Low bridge, yeah we’re coming to a town… If ya ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

We sailed 19 miles on the Erie Canal to a place called Schenectady. We rose via 6 locks, the first 5 locks within one mile. And our locking skills from sailing in the South were flexed once more! All the locks on the Erie are gravity controlled/fed with no pumps at all. An engineering marvel!

The locks are very well kept with friendly and charming lock masters. We gave a plate of biscotti to our first lock mistress who was having a few problems closing the lock gates. Little did we know it was her first day on the job, and she was most taken with the gift. We just wanted her to know we appreciated the work she was doing and the problems she was solving. The other gentlemen lock masters were jovial. They picked us as Aussies and soon gave us tidbits of advice – a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Sailing through these locks we saw parts of the old locks of a bygone era. These were rock-hewn, narrow locks, some with tow-paths alongside.

The Erie Canal encompasses the Mohawk River, a truly beautiful and enjoyable river to navigate. I kept a lookout for bears, but to no avail.

The weather again today was hot – 36C, but with little to no wind. The higher we climbed in the locks, the hotter it became. Once on the Mohawk River, (what an evocative name), the wind picked up a little, as did the temperature. We decided to head for the Schenectady Yacht Club, a huge drawing card – it has a lovely swimming pool. And yes, we used it before the afternoon storm struck.

Oh, and did I mention those low, low bridges? I may have, or not, said a rude word on one or more occasion!

Such is Life!

15 miles on the Erie Canal…

No – not yet! Just sitting at the town wall of Waterford which is the start of the Erie Canal.

We set out in ideal conditions, which turned into unrelenting heat. Yesterday we had temperatures of 22C and chilly, blustery winds. Today we reached 36C with no wind for relief. I am starting to think you either freeze or boil here!

As we approached the Port of Albany, the Hudson River became more industrial.

The Hudson River is still very much a working river, even way up north, close to the outskirts of Albany.

We then sailed passed Albany, capital of New York. Skyscrapers came into view first, then churches, impressive edifices and motorways.

Then back to the scenery of the ’virgin’ riverbank. We sailed past the town of Troy to our first lock. Beyond this lock, the Hudson River is no longer tidal. Even though we have locked through on the Tennessee River and Tenn-Tom Waterway many times, our first lock in the New York Canal System was, to say the least, ugly! More practice required, of which we shall get plenty!

We arrived at Waterford to a two-day festival in full swing. We received lots of comments on how pretty Bushranger looks. We agree!

We went for a pleasant stroll to Lock E2 – the start of the Erie Canal. Beside the beautiful modern lock is the original small, rock-hewn lock with tow-path. I do love history!

Yesterday, in Shady Harbor, we caught up on domestics – shopping, laundry, varnishing and baking. I was so excited to start baking bread again, but left the galley to check on filling the water tanks. Big mistake!

Such is Life!

A windy interlude

Today we sailed 42 miles in 5 hours to reach our destination of Shady Harbour Marina, just short of Albany. We had a ’fast’ sail, peaking at 10 miles per hour, with the flood tide enhancing our speed. Unfortunately, we headed into strong blustery winds making the trip both chilly and bouncy – bronco bouncy! But let me start at the beginning of the day…

In Kingston, we had stayed the night at the dock of the Hudson River Maritime Museum. The museum was closed, much to our disappointment. However, before we left this morning the harbour master opened the museum just for us and we were given a guided tour. It was sensational! Kingston was such a thriving metropolis with steamboats and paddle wheelers, some boats having 5,000 passengers. The information and exhibits were quite breathtaking – who knew about ’ice yachts’?

Out on the Hudson River, we passed more impressive lighthouses at Saugerties and Catskills.

The Hudson River is a wide and beautiful river, dotted with villages and mansions of the Gilded Age. But it is also a working river with tugs and tows moving huge barges up and down the river. On the banks are industries associated with mining stone, limestone and concrete. Ruins of bygone industries dot the water’s edge. And the ever present, ever sounding trains hurtle non-stop – all with the glorious Catskills as a backdrop.

And just a couple of fun facts: This is the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Near here is where Washington Irving ’set’ his story.

’Kills’ in old Dutch means creek. Catskills Mountains were named due to the cats (bobcats) in the mountains which had many creeks.

Such is Life!

Land of the lighthouses

Guess we must be in the land of stunning lighthouses…

This beauty is called The Maid of the Meadows. It was erected in 1871 to warn mariners of the mud flats known as the Esopus Meadows.

This lighthouse guided us into the Rondout Creek, entrance to Kingston, the first capital of New York. The British burned the capital in 1777.

We are securely tied for the evening to the revamped historic waterside.

Looking forward to discovering more lighthouses tomorrow!

Such is Life!