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June 13 - 19 Upper Hudson and Erie Canal to Oswego, NY

June 13 Half Moon Bay to Rondout Creek, NY

We had a challenging time getting turned around in a narrow alleyway with a lot of wind, but Jason did a great job. It was a beautiful day to go up the Hudson and it was truly gorgeous with the stone bluffs and the Catskill mountains. There were lots of large and fancy houses of all types along the river banks, many obviously very old estates. We came up on West Point, and were surprised by its very fort like appearance. One of the buildings (Thayer Hall) had a twenty story retaining wall built into the cliff bluff. It made me sorry that I had not taken a tour, but we thought it would be a standard college campus from the pictures. We passed by Frederick Malek stadium as well as the Malek Visitor Center. Nancy's family had many wonderful Christmas eve dinners with the Maleks.

We pulled into Rondout Creek as a barge was exiting the narrow channel adding a little spice of excitement. We docked right in front of a historic McAllister Tug that was up on land. It had a window into the engine room and the original steam engine was massive --8 to 10 feet tall, so was the propeller. After getting the boat ready for the upcoming locks, checking that our mast still lowered and figuring out bumpers for the locks ahead, Nancy took Radar for a walk in Kingston, NY, while Jason took a nap. Kingston was a nice little town, but at 4 pm there was not a a single store or cafe open.

Nancy walked Radar around the Hudson River Museum, which was also closed and ran into 3 other looper couples. We exchanged gossip and origins and destinations. Turns out that they were going to open the museum exhibits just for the Loopers. Nancy returned Radar to the boat but decided not to wake Jason up for the museum, which looked pretty small on the outside.

It was a really good museum with all sorts of cool displays and models and explained the history really well. Nancy should have woken him. Turns out that the lighthouse at the entrance had a female lighthouse keeper for 50 years, the widow of the original lighthouse keeper, and when a new lighthouse replaced it, her son took it over. On a side note, it turns out that the reason we had seen so many places called Half Moon, was because that was the name of Hudson's ship that explored the river in the 1600's.

June 14 Rondout Creek to Rensselaer, NY

It was a lovely ride up the Hudson past several interesting lighthouses and we passed by several large freighters and barges. If the prior day's scenery had been majestic, today's scenery was more pretty, with rolling hills and a softer, gentler landscape. We ended up in Rensselaer, NY, right across the Hudson River from Albany, and spent the night at the Albany Yacht Club (150 years old). see pic below.

We took an afternoon Uber to the local West Marine store that was 20 minutes away to have a third boat hook for the locks, Jason not liking the one that was mailed to us. We, of course, picked up several other supplies while we were there. We dined at a small but enjoyable restaurant named Illusive, which had excellent burgers and loaded tater tots.

June 15 Rensselaer, NY to Schenectady, NY Locks 1-7

We left Albany Yacht Club, bright and early, nervous and excited to go through the first few locks on the Erie canal. Just as we were approaching the first lock at Troy, NY we took a call from our electronics guy because the ship's Wifi went out the previous eveing. Nancy drove up and down the top of the Hudson for 30 minutes while Jason tried to troubleshoot it using a laptop to no avail.

We took my brother's advice and covered our bumpers with trash bags, not the best of looks, but we had heard that the walls of the canal could be quite slimy and that the bumpers were hard to clean afterwards. The first lock of the Erie Canal, known as the Federal Lock, is actually on the Hudson River just north of Troy and we went through with no issues. Nancy had a scheduled zoom call, so we decided to tie up to the free wall at the entrance to the canal in Waterford, NY, where we had good wifi signal.

It takes both of us to do a lock because the lockmasters require the boats be secured in two locations, without being cleated, meaning you ended up holding the lines manually while Jason is also using the remote control to hold our position inside the lock.

At 1pm, we set off and got down to Erie Canal business starting with what is called the Waterford Flight. This is a series of 5 locks within 1.5 miles of each other with a total elevation gain of 169 feet. We learned very quickly that all locks do not act alike and these 5 locks proved to be very challenging. As the water filled the chamber from underneath your boat, it swirled and changed directions quite rapidly, pushing our 60,000 lb. boat around like a dinghy.

It was a 'handful', as they say, trying to keep the boat properly positioned against the lock wall without allowing it to slam into or off the wall all while it wanted to pitch forwards or backwards. Oh yeah, and not into the other 4-5 boats that are in there with you. Stress level? High. Thankfully, the boat and both of us survived The Flight and one additional lock and we tied up at the Schenectady Yacht Club for a pleasant evening. A nice caveat to staying there is they give all their transient 'Loopers' a copy of The Erie Canal, a coffee table book that had some great information about the history behind the canal.

June 16 Schenectady, NY to Little Falls, NY Locks 8-16

We woke up feeling a little apprehensive and beaten given our experiences of the day before. It seemed like: Erie Canal - 1, Team Sullivan - 0. Hard to plan your day when you're not sure how the canal is going to treat you but as it turned out, all that pre-stress was a waste of time. We started at 8am and wound our way westward through a surprisingly scenic 53 miles of canal on an overcast day while passing through 9 locks without a hitch.

Most of the canal seemed very river like with sequential gentle turns, however some portions were long and straight.

Most of the locks only had 12-18 feet of vertical lift and were much smoother than the larger ones of 25-35 feet we encountered the day before. Some light showers at the end of the day coupled with a ton of debris in the canal from earlier storms made slow going of the last 4 miles. Jason had really want to complete Lock 17, the lock with the highest vertical lift at 40 feet, today but it was closed by the time we arrived so we spent the night tied up at the lock wall.

Here is a video compilation Nancy made at one of the locks--it is hard to handle the lines and video at the same time!

We had ended up locking through the entire day with Capt. Dean on the Invictus whom we had become acquainted with the previous day. He was like a guardian angel to us (more on that later) as he navigated the debris and provided us a fairly clear path. The days true excitement came when Nancy took Radar out for his last walk of the evening. The lock walls where we were tied to were very tall, the top being approximately 6 feet above water level. Capt. Dean had his boat Invictus, a '06 Cruisers Yachts 420 Express, tied up 50-60 feet directly in front of us.

Nancy exited the salon only to come right back in because she was concerned about a car that had come into the area near us and she wanted her phone on her as it was dark. Not 2 minutes later, Jason hears Nancy screaming at the top of her lungs. Jason goes flying out to the deck assuming that she is being attacked only to find out that Radar has slipped off the top of the wall and is now in the water 6 ft below! It is pitch black outside so Jason ran in and got a flashlight. Coming back out and lighting up the scene, he sees that Nancy is still holding the retractable leash and that Radar is still attached, alive, and swimming away from the front of the boat like a champ. (So much for that breed not being water dogs!)

Luckily, Nancy's screams also woke Capt. Dean and he came out on the back of his boat to check things out. With Nancy gently guiding, a steadily paddling Radar managed to get to the back of Invictus where he was scooped out of the water by Capt. Dean. Slightly traumatized but very happy to be out of the water, we got Radar back onboard and gave him a nice, warm, soapy shower out back and then a few treats for good measure. Just another day on the Loop! (See pic of the lock wall below):

June 17 Little Falls, NY to Sylvan Beach, NY Locks 17-22

We dropped our lines at 7:55am, ready and waiting for the 8am lock opening and the opportunity to tame The Beast, Lock 17, with the 40 foot vertical lift. We could only assume it being even worse than the smaller 30 foot lifts on the Flight, with water swirling around even faster, like some giant whirlpool, and our boat being flung around like a toy. Unfortunately, the lockmaster on duty may or may not have indulged in a little too much of Friday night, so he didn't come rolling in until about 8:30am. We were not impressed, we had a lock to tame. Anyway, although it was incredibly imposing to be floating around in the bottom of a concrete and metal box with 45ft walls, and feeling more than a little anxious and less like some new age explorers, the experience was, sad to say, rather anticlimactic. Lock 17 turned out to be a gentle and kind lock, allowing us to rise and pass through it with our dignity, pride, and boat intact.

The rest of this rainy and windy day had us covering 5 additional locks, including our first two lowering locks, and over 40 miles of canal, through Utica and just shy of Sylvan Beach, to where we tied up on the wall on the west side of Lock 22. Due to the wind, it wasn't prudent to try and cross Lake Oneida today so it will wait for tomorrow. Thankfully, there were no unscheduled swimming events this evening (Capt. Dean started calling Radar Mark Spitz), just a peaceful night on the Erie Canal. Nancy can't get over how scenic this waterway is as she was expecting something a lot more industrial in appearance and feel. So far, the canal has had a little bit of everything to offer with a healthy dose of old time Americana thrown in for good measure.

See some of the cool tugs working on the Erie Canal:

June 18 Sylvan Beach, NY to Phoenix, NY Lock 23

Today brought a mix of sun and clouds and a little more warmth than the previous two days, although the high temps up here remain in the low 70's. We started out around 8:30am with a few more miles of canal speed travel i.e. 6-8kts, passing through the quaint lakefront town of Sylvan Beach, whose lighthouse bared a remarkable resemblance to a rook in chess. At that point we hit Lake Oneida, where we could open the boat engines up a bit and do 20kts for an hour.

We entered the town of Brewerton on the West side of the Lake Oneida, where we picked up the canal again and past through our last lock (23) on the Erie. We exited the Erie canal at Three Rivers junction and turned north onto the Oswego Canal.

The first town is Phoenix, NY, where we decided to stop hoping to use the services of The Bridge House Brats, a group of high schoolers, who do chores, like washing the boat or walking the dog for transient boaters. Unfortunately, they do not work on Sundays. We had a tasty, but very long, dinner at the local bar.

June 19th Phoenix - Oswego

We decided to have a lazy morning after all the recent early starts. The battery monitoring system keeps thinking the batteries are low when they are not (yes, we checked directly at the batteries). However, regardless the systems are reacting as if we are at critically low batteries levels and turning off the inverter which runs the refrigerators and freezers. Even with only 4-5 things running (mostly the refrigerators) we have only been able to eek out about 6-7 hours of sleep before the alarms go off and someone has to get up and turn on the generator. It is super annoying, and the programmers/manufacturers are not responding in as timely a manner as we would like.

Nancy was at the helm for her first lock today (one going down so it was gentle). We finally had a nice enough day to be on the flybridge. Jason took the next couple locks and it was a good thing too, because leaving one of the locks you had to go through a tight passage with a marker (with giant boulders behind it on the right) and cascading white water on the left, pushing the boat hard directly into the marker/boulders. Fortunately, Capt. Jason and our bow thrusters were up to the challenge, but we have no idea how some of these sailboats or older powerboats without thrusters are managing.

This section of the Oswego canal was truly lovely, with nice meanders, islands, wetlands and occasional houses some of which had cool tiki bars or tree forts. We had a bald eagle fly directly in front the boat.

Nancy did the next few locks, gaining confidence. Keeping the boat off the lock wall is not that hard, but leaving the wheel, getting the remote control to link up, putting on your gloves and grabbing the line while you don't have control over the boat is disconcerting, even if it is only for less than a minute. Turns out there is ample reason to be disconcerted. Nancy pulled the boat up to the edge of the lock wall, Jason grabbed the forward line, Nancy brought the boat to a standstill, or so she thought. The boat was still being pushed towards the wall.

Nancy left the helm and in the minute Nancy was getting to the back of the boat the boat pressed against the lock wall, which wouldn't have been an issue because of the 6 bumpers we had overboard, except we were at ithe very top of the lock and the bumpers were too high, so the boat leaned against raw concrete, leaving a one foot long yellow scrape half way down the hull near the bow. Fortunately, it was almost all paint transfer, and when we got to the marina, we were able to wipe it off. There is a three inch section of the wrap that is wrinkled but it is hard to tell unless you are looking right at it.

In the end analysis, because we were switching roles back and forth, neither of us felt "in charge" of making sure the bumpers were aligned correctly. We also had poor communication with Jason not understanding that Nancy left the wheel. It is just irritating that we made it through all those locks and the very last one we had a problem. It also wiped out a lot of Nancy's confidence in handling the boat in tight quarters with joysticks and remotes.

We fueled up at Oswego Marina. Turns out they are the only provider of diesel in Oswego, where everyone is jumping across Lake Ontario next. They charged monopoly rates. Our slip there was on an outer wall with a great view of the lake (our first "Great" Lake!) and the Oswego lighthouse, but felt a little exposed. We are waiting here an extra day hoping for a new SIM card for the WiFi system to arrive. In the meantime, we continue to use our back up MiFi from Verizon which is better than nothing.

On our extra day in Oswego, Nancy was able to get a ride to the grocery store from a fellow Looper docked in front of us to reprovision the boat. Jason started washing the boat and Nancy helped him finish it up when she got back.

We had also found a small lump behind Radar's left ear that was concerning. The closest veterinarian that could see us was in Syracuse so Nancy got a ride to the local Enterprise location and picked up a car. Early the following day, Nancy took Radar to the vet and it turned out it was just a reaction to some type of insect bite. Thank goodness all that was needed was some antibiotic cream and a pat on the butt.......for the dog, not Nancy.

Nancy brought Radar back to the boat and then returned the rental car. By the time she got back, Jason had Time & Tide prepared to cast lines and head across our first Great Lake, Lake Ontario! Next stop: the Thousand Islands with castles to explore!



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