Monday, May 31, 2010

One must never run out of Scotch!

Waterford has been a wonderful stop for us these past few days. From the moment we arrived the hospitality of the town and its fellow boaters has been fantastic. Of all the stops we have made, this is the first one where we have begun to meet fellow "loopers". I guess it makes sense, this being a major artery for anyone intending on going into the great lakes and doing the loop. The "Looper" it seems, is an interesting breed. So far there have been two distinct types, those that have done it and know all the tricks, and those that walk around resembling a sponge soaking up as much information as they can. I fall into the sponge category, as a mater of fact I met a very nice Scotsman whom Anna has come to refer to as the dry twin to Sean Connery. Ten minutes into our conversations the man says "My boy, you have no manner of knowledge at all with regards to this do you?" The funny part was the topic was bringing booze into Canada. His advise was to stock up with as much as you can. He very proudly recited his ships manifest from memory, it was quite impressive. "One must never run out Scotch" a statement that Anna and I have been saying back and for the past few days. Try saying it with your best Connery voice, you will see it's catchy. Taking advantage of the holiday Anna and I decided to take a few days off from running the boat and do some exploring of the surrounding towns. On a walk up to Lock 2 we came across the tug boat "Urger". The "Urger" is the pride of the NY Canal Systems fleet. She's a Tug boat built in 1901 which is still in operation on the canal. Although it no longer pushes anything, it is still one of the coolest things I have seen thus far. I was blessed to run into the "Urgers" engineer Chris Freeman. After a few minutes of conversation he invited me on board and gave me a tour of the engine room. This old diesel was installed in the boat in the early 40's at which time it replaced it's original steam engine. To my surprise I learned it is started by compressed air, there are two massive air tanks on the sides of the engine which supply air to the proper cylinder starting a chain reaction which then start the engine. I was shocked that it was essentially a common rail diesel. In the old days a compressor tug would come up along side the "Urger" and charge her tanks, once started it's own compressor would keep up the pressure. Now here is the truly cool part, the "Urger" is a direct drive engine. Once the engine starts, the prop turns. It is either started in forward or reverse. The engineer sits next to the engine and starts and stops the engine at the command of the Captains bells. One bell, start in forward, two bells, start in reverse. A second bell which makes a jingle noise tells the engineer to give her some gas. Chris said that it is like putting a guy in the trunk of your car with the gas and brakes then using the horn to tell him what to do. Getting a chance to walk through such a cool piece of history was truly awesome. Anna and I had planned on staying in Waterford through Monday, but the anticipation of what lies down the canal is to much to bear, we will push off today we couldn't think of a better way to spend this beautiful Memorial Day.

The "Urger"

How cool is that Bow Pudding.

Now that is what I call a helm. Notice the old iron radiators on the sides of the wheelhouse. Must have been nice and toasty in there in the winter.

The engine was about 12 feet in length and about 7 feet tall. It is hard to see but the black torpedo like object that runs along the top is the air tank. There was a second down below. Chris told me that on of the things he has been pushing the canal system to do is to do a test on the tanks to verify their integrity. They are almost 80 years old and where originally rated to hold 275 pounds of pressure. He said he wouldn't dare put more than 170 pounds in the tank. I asked him what would happen if the tank sprung a leak, he laughed and said they don't leak, they explode.

This is the control that Chris uses to change the engine from forward to reverse.

This is the air gauge I assume Chris tends to keep a close eye on.

Here are the bells which are rung from the wheelhouse.

The view from our dock in Waterford.

One of the many bridges spanning over the Eire.

This old water tower was part of an abandoned cotton shirt plant on the side of the canal.

Looks like these guys found heaven.

The spillways around the canal are just beautiful

Looking down the canal to Troy NY

One of the many Damns in Waterford.

This is a lock on the old Champlain Canal. Anna and I took a long bike ride on this canal and found it cool to see what the canal would look like if it was left to nature.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"15 Miles on the Erie Canal"

What a great time we had in Kingston. As I mentioned in our last post, Anna and I took a long walk through the town after dinner. The heat had finally subsided and it looked as if the entire town had the same idea. Walking along the river wall, we had a great time looking at all the boats, we where accompanied by countless couples and families all out enjoying the beginning of what so far seems to be a great start to summer. One thing that has become very clear to us since we headed inland is that the style of boats is much different than that of Nantucket. We are in the land of Cruisers and these people love to cruise. Every other boat seemed to be set up as a weekend retreat. I can only imagine the good times that must be had on these docks in the high season. The next morning we woke early and made a dash for the showers. We had been warned the night before that the showers are on a timer and take quarters to activate. Anna and I joked that a truly frugal couple would surly shower together. Needless to say this idea never really got off the ground floor. During our morning cup of coffee we spotted a man swimming his tender into the dock next to us. He had just flipped his boat and was madly trying to get the the water bailed out. I went below grabbed my tools and offered to help him get his engine running. An hour or so later we had cleaned the carb checked the fuel and gotten his little iron jib back in action. I was happy to help the guy, when he swam into the dock he looked as if his world had come to an end. With good vibes and hopes to increase our karma, Anna and I pushed off for Hudson. Hudson is not a popular destination on the river, we chose it because it was suggested to us by my Cousin Diana. She and her husband Tom teach at the Hotchkiss School and offered to meet us there for dinner. Upon arrival in Hudson, we discovered that there was no real municipal dock. The guidebook had lead us to believe that there was a marina there, but what was listed as a marina was truly a local power boat club. Hoping the karma thing payed off, Anna and I pulled in an asked if we could stay the night. We were greeted by a local man, whom after a ten minute conversation offered to have us stay as his guests. Members can have guests for a dollar a foot a night with free power amenities it was a great deal and greatly appreciated. We had a few hours to kill so Anna and I took the time to catch up on the bills and various other unpleasantries. Not knowing anything about Hudson we did what everyone should do, we Googled it. Here are a few things we learned. Believe it or not Hudson was once a whaling town, and was founded by Nantucketers. At one point Hudson was only three votes short to become the Capital of New York State. As a mater of fact the rarest U.S. half dollar is the coin depicting Henry Hudson on one side and the seal of Hudson on the other. It seems that Franklin Roosevelt had the coin minted as a thank you to Hudson for being the first democratic organization to endorse him for President. It seems that later Hudson feel on hard times and is just now beginning to make a comeback. In the late 40's and 50's it was known to be a haven for prostitution and gambling. With the collapse of much of the industry on the river Hudson went into a deep depression which it is just now seeming to pull itself out of. As we walked through town later that night we all enjoyed looking at the many Antique shops and galleries that have moved into town. All and all it was a great evening made all the better by having one to many margaritas with Tom and Diana. The next morning we made our way towards Waterford where we will stay through the memorial day weekend. The trip through Albany and Troy was filled with big barges and container ships. The Hudson got quite narrow as we approached Albany and it became a marvel that these massive ships can navigate their way up and down the river. Upon our arrival in Troy we met our first lock. Anna and I had spent the previous half hour preparing ourselves and the boat for this evolution. Having dawned our life vest, bumpers, knives, and work gloves we called the lock operator and were instructed to enter. It was something when they close the lock walls behind you and you begin to feel the boat shift as water is allowed in. Five minutes later we were off. We are now in fresh water, where we will remain until we enter into the gulf of Mexico sometime in December. Tomorrow it is forcasted to blow in the mid thirties out of the northeast. For the first time in our boating lives we say let it blow.

The far end of the Kingston Docks

Bad Boys Bad Boys what you gonna do.

The Athens Light at Hudson NY.

We must be getting close, the sailboats have lowered their masts.

We had a nice conversation with this tug Capt. on the VHF

It has got to be 15 feet from the water to the top of the rail.

Good old Blue catching some ZZZ's for tomorrows run to Watertown.

This group of swans seemed to want to join us as me made our way up river.

Albany as we approached from the south.

This Cutter was tied up right outside of the city of Albany.

I can't believe it but we are finally at the entrance to the Canal.

What the heck the cart won't move!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Holy Cow! We've been WAKED!

Well getting waked has two meanings today. Not only does it mean a wave caused from a passing boat, it also means getting thrown out of bed at 2 am with the sensation that you are going down. Anna and I arrived in Newburgh at 5 and scrambled to hook up the power and get the AC running. The temperature was fine as we made our way up the river, but once we pulled into the Marina the 90 degree temperature was just oppressive. Feeling that we deserve a treat from our biking adventures, we went up to the local watering hole and got ourselves a nice cold one. Oh how sweet it is. After showers and a few minutes talking with family and friends on the phone it was time to turn in. We sleep in peaceful bliss till 2 am when all hell broke loose. The tide had changed and with it came the Devils army of steel. Barge after barge made their way up river leaving in their path a wave right out of the movie "Big Wednesday". OK so I am exaggerating a bit, but it was big enough to wake us from a dead sleep and have us holding on for dear life praying that there will be no damage to the boat when it stopped. Suddenly we knew why this dock was so cheap. I was able to fall back to sleep, but Anna spent a few hours watching the tugs push their way up the river. In the morning we pushed off early happy to leave this place behind us. Tonight we are in Kingston. It is hot as hell out, but we are happy to find ourselves in such a neat town. As we entered the harbor we were greeted by a buffet of tugs tied along the towns waterfront. Kingston is the home to the Hudson Maritime Museum, a place that was high on our list of things to see. Anna and I were overjoyed to see that they were not closed on Wednesday. The Museum will filled with painting of old tugs and river boats. I was most taken by there collection of ice boats. After the Museum we took a walk through town. As with many towns it is clear that our economy has been hard on Kingston. Many of the stores are closed, and rental signs can be seen in many of the windows. Aside from this, what was open was wonderful. The Waterfront has many great restaurants and Bistros. Anna and I plan to eat on the boat tonight, but we both think a stroll through downtown is in order for the evening.

This tug was built in 1890.
Once again the size of the prop is just amazing.

It is hard to see but this is an old gaff rig ice boat displayed on its side.

The town of Kingston is right out of an old movie.

On the river you can see the tops of houses appearing out of the trees.

This guy has got the solar thing figured out.

I could smell the good grub as we passed the Culinary Institute on America.

Anna and I looked at one of these Lord Nelsons before we bought Blue. They are a great boat and would have been a good choice for our trip.

Mobey has found a new pass time. Hunting Ducks.

The Headless Horseman Strikes Again

What a Great morning. When we woke on Tuesday morning the entire marina seemed to be covered in a mystical fog. As the sun rose over the hills of Tarrytown it was clear that the sun was going to be strong today and the fog would be short lived. As the fog burnt off, we watched the Tapanzee Bridge slowly appear as it crossed the river. At one point we could clearly see half the bridge as the cars drove in and out of this thick fog bank. The fog is not a stranger to Anna and I. Many a day on Nantucket starts and ends this way. It was a comfort to have something that reminded us of home. After a quick breakfast Anna and I got the bikes off the top of the boat and made our way to the dock master to ask for directions to Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving. As soon as we told him where we where going, he said "Listen guys you have to climb a big hill to get there, might I suggest a cab?" Did he say Cab? Do I look out of shape? We don't need no stinkin cab, we are young, strong and adventuresome. Hell no we said, we want the exercise. So off we went on our Three mile ride. As we reached the beginning of town we encountered the hill. I said to myself, "OK just take it slow it's not like we are in the Tour De France." Soon my heart felt like it was going to explode. To call this a hill was more like calling Everest a small hike. This thing seemed to ascend to the heavens. Anna and I felt like Greek warriors trying to make it to the top of Mount Olympus. As we crested the top, we gave ourselves high fives and mocked those that thought we couldn't do it. OK only 2.9 miles to go. So off we went. At this point the fog was completely gone leaving in its place a heavy wall of humidity. As we peddled, sweat was pouring off our faces, all we could think was how great it will be to sit in the gardens of Sunnyside and revel in our accomplishment. As we approached the turn for the Museum we saw that the estate was down at the bottom of a similar hill. Oh well, we did it once, we can do it again. I would have run into a burning inferno at this point if it meant taking a break from the bike. For lack of a better word, my ass was killing me. "There it is", Anna yelled, we made it. What the *^%*. CLOSED TUESDAYS! WHY? WHY? Suddenly the voice of my least favorite childhood teacher filled my head. "Failure to plan is planing to fail!" Anna and I spent a few moments laughing like Tom Hanks in the movie the "Money Pit". What will you remember on the Great Loop? Well I will never forget Sunnyside that I know for sure. Back on the boat, we pushed off for Newburgh. The sights we saw where once again breathtaking. The Hudson seems to take on a whole new look as you go north. The trees where as green as they could be, and they seemed to hug the walls of the river till their branches arched over into the water. Trains ran along the banks, and one could be seen exiting a tunnel which looked like it was right out of Anna's Grandfathers Train set in his basement. Our approach through Bear Mountain and West Point was truly something. Having spent our lives boating on the ocean, it was such a sight to see this kind of landscape. Our arrival in Newburgh went without a hitch and surprisingly we opted to walk through town rather than ride our bikes.

This Boat was docked in Tarrytown, Anna and I thought it was right up our ally.

We got a good laugh out of this name.


We took a long look at the photo on the sign just because we like to torture ourselves.

Leaving Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.

The Bridge at Bear Mountain.

The clouds looked like puffs of cotton.

The Trains ran right out of the mountain below the Bridge.

The Hudson twists and turns through the mountains.

This Estate had a wonderful view down onto West Point.

The Walls of West Point truly express the power of the institution.

This Clipper Ship and just docked at the College.

Anna just loved these trees.

The Ruins on the river are sometimes surprising.

Just imagine what this place must have looked like 200 years ago,