Friday, July 31, 2009

Rain, Rain, Rain...

Friday, July 31st. The motor ran smoothly yesterday... and today, for that matter. We stopped for the night last night between Locks 8 and 9. 25 miles and 7 locks today... of course, there is a flight of 5 locks... once you start through one, you're going through them all. We had the interesting experience of locking through 6 of those 7 locks with a couple of larger boats from Canada... I'm guessing that their skippers must have been only children, 'cause they didn't know how to share; they barely left us room to squeeze Wild Blue in at the very end. They had room up front. Not to denegrate our friends to the north, but these guys seemed to have trouble pulling their boats alongside the lock wall... if they could snag a line (ANY line), that's where they'd stop.

In my best friendly Texas twang, after that first lock, I politely asked on the radio, "Say, can you two big ol' Canadian boats going through Lock 6 give this little boat behind you enough room to tie off?" That was a 35' drop, and Wild Blue got a pretty good shower from the lock gates on that one.

Next lock, "OK, now I asked nice. If you boys could pull forward just a teensy bit, there'd be plenty of room for all of us."

They finally got the hint.

Oh, and it was pouring down rain... all day. I gave the Blonde the choice: stay a night in a marina here or move on to Waterford. What a trooper. She rode the bow through that whole flight and never missed a beat.

Well, it was a warm rain...

Fortunately, it was just rain; no wind and only an occasional rumble of thunder. I had radar on much of the day, as the visibility lowered then raised... didn't need it, it remained marginal VFR the whole day.

Joan jokingly said, "It'll probably stop raining when we get through that last lock." It did. We pulled up to the dock at Waterford and snagged the last spot... not really big enough for Wild Blue, but the Harbormaster said we're fine hanging over a bit on the front. And wouldn't you know it, the guy who was a pain in the butt through the locks drifted around, hitting the boat behind us... then the guy behind us pulled out, leaving a large hole. Yep, ol' pain-in-the-butt is our neighbor. I did give him a hand with lines as he came in (self-preservation on my part), but I took the only 30 amp plug-in between us. It's OK, he has 15 amp, so he's not going without.

We are down for a couple nights at Waterford. Shortly after we got tied off, the rain came back... good timing on our part.

Hopefully Mother Nature will cut us a little slack so we can wander around town without our rain gear. And it would be nice to dry out the stuff in the cockpit; plenty of rain came in while we had the sides open to transit the locks.

A couple other highlights of today's cruise: we saw about a dozen waterfalls of varying sizes...

Not sure if there are always waterfalls along here or if it's because of all the rain (storm drain overflows?).

And this very sweet gesture...
Joan carved our initials and a heart into the slime on one of the lock walls. What a romantic!

Sunny and warm forecast for tomorrow.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spillway Locks...

Here's what the morning looked like...

After cleaning up, I checked out the engine again, paying close attention to the fuel lines and filters. I started it up and ran up the throttle again in neutral... more surging, then it smoothed out. I ran it at different throttle settings for severl minutes, and it ran smooth. It may wind up being that notorious “bad gas.”
I checked the thrust in forward and reverse before untying our lines... this is NOT the place to lose power - the lock is right beside a spillway and the current takes the water over that spillway! We pulled away from the wall and ran to the west, checking out the various throttle settings... everything seems fine. We turned around, called the lock, and headed east.

Remember the spillway I told you about next to the lock? The next five locks were just the same. And as the day wore on, the wind came up... it became a LOT of work to hold the boat steady in those locks. The locks next to the spillways leave you exposed to the wind. Another disadvantage of this situation: even more debris that gets carried down river. We heard that this area got between 5 and 6 inches of rain last night, a fact we don’t doubt. All that rain has raised the water levels to where the logs on the shoreline are floating off... right into our path!

We were chugging along, making pretty good time when we came to Lock 9. The wind had come up, and it took all the strength I had to hold the boat to the wall; the gusty wind kept blowing the back end of the boat away, I pulled like crazy to get it back in place. As we dropped the 15 feet, it became more like a wind tunnel... UGLY! But, we pulled out of there unscathed, except for my aching muscles.

The plan changed, and we stopped at the first marina we came to after Lock 9. We are down for the day at the Arrowhead Marina and Campground, a privately owned place. Quaint, but dated. The docks could use a bit more flotation under them (rock and roll!) but, we have power and TV reception.


Wild Blue is on the move again. I rechecked filters, drained the water/fuel separator, checked fuel lines and pressure. When I started her this morning, there was some hesitation as I powered up in neutral, then it ran smoothly all the way into the higher RPMs. I checked forward and reverse thrust while still tied off... this wouldn't be a good place to lose propulsion, since there is a spillway right next to the lock.

We shoved off and ran west to check things out... all seems fine. I don't like "unknowns", but maybe it is the notorious "bad gas"... or if there was water in there, perhaps we ran it through. When we get to civilization, I'll pick up some fuel conditioner.

In the meantime, the storms have moved on, it's a mostly sunny day, the wind is at our back, we've transited Lock 13, and heading east. Joan is on the helm with a fresh cup of coffee, and I'm posting. Nice.

Sleepless at Lock 13

Interesting night. The thunderstorms moved on, but the rain continued. We settled in... Joan made a great supper and we played some Yahtzee and cards. It was one of those rare occasions where I was winning... all the time.

The rain let up enough to get the log away from the back of the boat and put the motor down. In neutral, the motor surged as I powered up, then settled into a steady roar. May be some water in the fuel, but the filters seem clear. More to come on that later.

As the rain lightened, the temperature went up... and the humidity. We opened the center window and put a fan in it to keep some air moving through the boat. I turned on a small light so we could see to play cards... damn mosquito... and another... in seconds, we were embroiled in hand-to-hand combat with scores of those nasty critters. I've never seen them come on that fast! At first we were keeping score of our "kills", but the numbers grew fast and furious. We turned the fan around and put the light outside under the open center window to try to draw them out of the cabin. Izzy was in "hunter mode" as she did her part to eliminate the pests. Since I have asthma, I'm not crazy about spraying OFF, especially in a confined space... but, we were gaining on these little bastards; desperate times call for desperate measures.

If anyone had been outside watching, it must have looked like we were performing some odd tribal dance. In the end, good triumphed evil. Yes, I consider these skeeters evil... even these tiny NE versions... on the Gulf Coast, they're so big that we hit 'em with a club, then Joan takes the front legs, I take the back legs and we toss 'em overboard. But, I digress.

We closed up the front window, sprayed OFF on the screens we could keep cracked open and went to bed, exhausted. Between the clattering trains (which Joan loves) and the thumping noise of Izzy going after the last few survivors, there wasn't much sleep.

But, it's a new day. No rain for now, just a fog over the water and in the valley to the west. No sign of the buzzing, biting pests, but that may just be a retreat while they gather up for the next round. We both have some fresh "wounds", but we dispatched many of them... they brought it on by drawing first blood.


In another vein, I am getting tired of having the same conversation over and over... "Great boat you have there. Love those Cape Dorys."

Me: "It's a C-Dory. Not the same thing as the Cape Dory boats."

Them: "Oh, I think they're made by the same company. Great boats."

Me: "Yeah, we were sailors. The Cape Dorys are nice sailboats; they even made a 28' trawler, but this boat is made in the Northwest. Not the same company. C not Cape. They've been around since the 70s."

Them: "Well, the name looks the same. Even the same logo. I'm pretty sure that's made by Cape Dory."

Me: "We went to the factory in Washington State when we ordered this boat. Definitely not the same company, but it sure is a great boat."

It goes on while we try to educate each other. I've had that same conversation several times a day since we came to this part of the country. Cape Dorys are part of the culture here, just like C-Dorys are in the PNW. But, you know that. I'm now taking a new tack...

Them: "Nice boat you have there. Love those Cape Dorys."

Me: "Thanks!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Construction Zone...

Nice long showers, some breakfast, and then it was time to move on. This section of the canal could be best described as a construction zone; we passed quite a few state work boats... dredges, cranes, tugs, and more. There was also a lot of debris in the water. The canal intertwines with the Mohawk River in this area.

We covered 36 miles and went through 5 locks. We’re currently tied off just west of Lock 13. Our motor is mis-behaving... cutting out above 2500 RPM. Just before we got to the lock, I pushed the throttle forward to try to beat a thunderstorm that was sneaking up behind us. Yeah, that didn’t work. So, we tied off to the lock wall and we’ll spend the night here, amidst the lightning, thunder, rain, and wind. The lockmaster did come out to the boat to check on us and said that we could come into the pump house if the weather gets severe.

I checked over a few things before the rain really hit, but couldn’t find anything obviously wrong. While Joan and I hurried to get tied off before Mother Nature let loose on us, a half dozen Amish folks came over to admire our boat. They disappeared when the rain got heavier.
In the meantime, we do have an internet connection, so I’ve asked for some diagnostic help for the motor... we certainly have the time to research it. No TV reception (whoda thunk that in New York State?).

One of the locks we went through today (Lock 17) is different from all the rest... the door to this lock goes up and down, instead of opening from the middle; the door opens up and you go under it. It’s also the largest single step on the Erie, at 40 feet. It was impressive. Joan said she felt like she was in prison as we lowered into that tall lock.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On to Ilion

We really enjoyed our stay at the Lock 20 Park last night. It was about 8:30 when we shoved off... easy to do, since we were right at the lock - just call the lockmaster and let him know we are requesting passage... we didn't untie from the dock until he was opening the lock doors.

Another pretty morning. This section of the canal is relatively unpopulated; at least you don't see many houses from the water. There is a lengthy biking/jogging path that runs along some of this stretch...

We did 16 miles and passed through two locks. Only saw two boats going the other direction. While there is great historical significance to the Erie Canal, it certainly can't be cost effective in its operation. I have no doubt that many of the small towns along the canal are dependent on it for bringing tourists in. Very wooded, we also saw many logs and branches floating in the water today.

We stopped for the day in Ilion. We were needed a laundromat and groceries... and the city marina has a small laundry and the grocery store is only a three-minute walk away. We had lunch at the restaurant at the marina and thoroughly enjoyed the food AND the air conditioning. Then laundry. We sat in the shade of some big trees while letting the machines do their job. Off to the grocery store, then another 4 blocks to another store to get the stuff the first one didn't have. We walked Izzy, but she wasn't much interested in exercise today... musta been the heat.

Here's a shot of one of the very few boats that went by this afternoon...

It looks to be purposefully built for running on the canals: short enough to get under the fixed bridges. A passenger boat, it looks like it has cabins for overnight trips.

The amenities here at Ilion are decent: 30/50 amp electrical, water, cable TV, wifi, shower, and the previously mentioned laundry. The only drawback for us is the height of the wall... we have to climb up to get off the boat. Not a big deal.

Monday, July 27, 2009

On to Lock 20

An absolutely gorgeous day today on the Erie Canal. The temps were in the upper 70s, almost no wind, and a beautiful blue sky. Wild Blue moved along the glassy canal like a magic carpet...

3 locks and 25 miles today. We stopped for the day outside of Lock 20. There is a pretty park alongside the lock, a place to tie off, and 15 amp power...

Izzy got to go for a nice long walk in the grass; we all enjoyed some time in the shade. It was peaceful and quiet until late afternoon, when a group of young kids discovered the dock. They ran back and forth on it... one young girl would see something in the water at one end and they'd all run to see. Than another kid would see something at the other end of the dock and they'd all run past us again. Nice kids, just a LOT of energy. We fielded some questions and explained that the boat is our "home" while we're traveling on the water.

It was after sunset before we had the dock to ourselves again... and blissful peace and quiet.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Locking Through...

The following is a pictorial of how this whole lock situation works. Our friend, Dave, shot the photos as we went through Lock 24 today, heading east.

First, the lock master opens the doors and you drive in. That’s Wild Blue on the left in the photo above.

Then, you pick a spot on the lock wall and get yourself tied to a line or a cable that is connected to the lock wall. That’s what we’re doing in the photos above. Our technique is to get the bow of the boat close so Joan can grab the line with a boat pole. She then wraps a line around that line or cable. Then I put the boat in reverse and swing the stern in towards the wall and go back to the cockpit of the boat and do the same thing with another line.

When the lock master can see that all the boats are secured, he closes the doors and starts letting water out or in. In this case, we were going down. You can see in this photo how much lower Wild Blue is on the lock wall than the photos above.

When the water matches the level outside the lock, the lock master opens the doors, we shove off, and motor out of the lock. In this case, we went down about 15 feet.

The water is moved in and out hydraulically and the process is generally smooth. Wind can make a real difference, as can the different types of attachment to the lock walls. So far, the locks we’ve been through here have been pretty nice.

My thanks to Dave for these photos!


We are down for the night in Sylvan Beach, on the east shore of Lake Oneida. Heading east across the lake, we checked weather - no marine warnings. By the time we were half way across the lake, the radio erupted with a weather alert... severe thunderstorm warnings in our area. We got to Sylvan Beach and tied off to the wall before the storms moved in. Nothing severe for us (some wind, rain, and lightning); talked to Dave, who is about 60 miles west, and they had some BIG winds with that line of storms.

We were "rocked" to sleep.


The concert with the Jimmy Buffett tribute band (Parrots of the Caribbean) was the reason we stayed an extra couple days. Mother Nature threatened to rain on the event, but it got started just after 6:00. The opening band was good, but not a lot of excitement. Just before the POTC were to start, it began to sprinkle... they quickly covered the PA equipment with blue tarps. Unfortunately, that didn't help the sound quality much when they did get going.

The band was good, but not an "event" like a real Jimmy Buffett concert. But, the price was right and we had a good vantage point across the canal, away from the crowd. We sat with our new friends for a while, but came back to the boat to get out of the rain. It sprinkled on and off the rest of the evening, and then just before the band was to finish, it POURED. The band had worked hard for the crowd, and the crowd was now running out. Too bad... instead of a big finish, it just fizzled out.

On the bright side, the rain also quieted the noisy people on the boats behind us. We were expecting a loud all-night party from them, and it got real quiet real fast.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Play Date...

OK, nothing to do with cruising, but too darn cute to not pass on. Izzy and Snack had a play date today...

Yeah, we all get along fine.

Izzy isn't used to seeing a dog smaller than she is.

Time to go watch the concert.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another Day in B-Ville

We walked over to the showers this morning. Unusual doesn't begin to describe the showers... you pay a quarter to get IN, but there's no charge for the use. However, the force and the droplets were something else... picture yourself riding a motorcycle naked in the rain... and driving 120 miles per hour! Shocked The water came out like NEEDLES! My skin was beet red when I got out. That's one way to keep the water usage down. Rolling Eyes

Joan said she thought we should put the camperback on because of the predicted rain. I went to work on that, and about 5 minutes later, the sky opened up and it poured... buckets... dogs and cats.

In between the marauding thunderstorms, I went down the dock to visit with Dave and Jan. Then walked around to get a shot of the boats on the wall here...

Joan and I decided to walk into town. During the walk, we went by a pizza place, offering (what else?) New York style pizza. We went in for a slice and a cannoli... just trying to fit in. Wink Before we could get the pizza down, the sky turned BLACK. We took the cannoli to go and hauled butt back to the boat (about 6 or 7 blocks away). Almost made it before the sky opened up again.

All things considered, it was a good day to kick back. I took a short nap with the sound of the rain on the cabintop. When it let up again, I went down to see if Dave and Jan wanted to do supper out again.

Then, about 4:00 we saw a Ranger Tug come through the lock. When I mentioned it to Joan, she said, "Maybe it's Leonard and Doris?" (friends of ours from Port Isabel) I couldn't believe it - it WAS! They were looking for a space on the wall... nothing left with power. I called them on the radio and told them they could raft off to us. They decided to go for the last spot left at the very far end of the wall... one cleat and a fence post to tie off to. It was great to see our friends from home! Joan and I were invited aboard their Ranger, and minutes later it started pouring again. We visited for a while... until a bright light shined in the front window. It was Dave on their boat - time for supper! We made it a table for 6. Leonard and Doris told us about the fun they had with their boat in New York City. Looks like we have another destination.

After supper, the 6 of us visited out on the dock. A kick-ass band at the park across the canal fired up... about the same time the mosquitoes moved in. Time to call it a night, or at least head for the boats. Fun day... more proof to not judge a day by the weather.

So, what are the odds that three boats from Texas would all wind up at the same small town on the Erie Canal at the same time?
We did a whole 38 miles on Thursday. Through three locks, out of the Cayuga/Seneca Canal and into the Erie Canal. Much of today's route was through unpopulated areas, occasional camps by the Seneca River, and then more and more homes as we approached Baldwinville. We decided to stop for the day at the wall west of the lock. The guidebook says there are tie offs, but no power. We were pleasantly surprised twice as we approached the wall... first, we saw another C-Dory on the wall... second, there were power connections (new since the book was printed). We tied off in a light sprinkle and got to meet Dave (Toyman) and Jan from Fan-C-Dory! Two C-Dory owners from Texas have to come to New York to meet in person. We were also introduced to Snack, their Yorkie... smaller than Izzy, and she loves attention.

We spent much of the afternoon visiting, Dave and me on their boat, Joan and Jan on ours. We walked to a nearby restaurant for a nice meal and more good conversation. Dave and Jan have lived and traveled all around the world, and have some great stories. After supper, we came back to the boats and took chairs out onto the dock for sundowners. Izzy and Snack got to meet up close and personal - nose to nose. Sorry I left my camera in the boat, 'cuz it was pretty cute. Snack wanted to play, Izzy wasn't so sure.

A gentleman from the city came by and collected $5 for the power connection - seemed like a pretty good deal to me. He told us that there is a Jimmy Buffett tribute band playing at the park across the canal from us on Saturday. Decisions to make.

Back to the cruising... most parts of the canal have a 10 mph speed limit, occasionally there is a 30 mph limit in river sections where there are no docks or other boats... but there were plenty of docks, making for speed-up/slow down conditions regularly. And speaking of other boats: you could count all the boat traffic we saw today on one hand... if you had 6 fingers on that hand. 8) I was surprised at how little traffic we've encountered so far.

Some photos...

Leaving Seneca Falls, the church along the water...

In the canal; the weather was gray, occasional rain; made for some pretty reflections...

Locking through...

Going down...

There are many signs along the canal stating "No Wake"; some more forcefully than others. Quite a few of the "We're boaters, too - please, no wake". This one lets you know where the owner stands...

Jan and Joan staying out of the rain in Wild Blue's cockpit...

It's gray again this morning, but no rain, yet.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And, We're Off...

Wednesday, July 22nd. Fresh fruit and pastries for breakfast, a hot shower; I put the truck in long term parking, and we are ready to head out. It is a gray morning, with a bit of fog. We untied the dock lines and shoved off.
Coming out of the marina, a right turn puts us immediately in the Cayuga/Seneca Canal, a branch off the Erie. We are not planning to go far today... just want to get a feel for it, go through a lock, and stay at a free dock with power and water. That’s the plan.

This canal has homes along one side and is mostly undeveloped on the other.
About 5 miles down the canal, we came to our first lock. We called the lock tender on the radio, and he told us it would be about 15 minutes before we could enter... no problem; we pulled up to the wall and tied off, waiting for our turn.

That post you see in the photo above is called “the blue line” - you can also see the blue line on the seawall... it’s where you line up to go through the lock. Shortly after we tied off, we were greeted by a couple feathered folks - ducks.

I thought it was odd that they didn’t seem spooked by our presence. It soon became very obvious why they were hanging out there. Yep, a nest full of eggs. Seems like a rather public place for them to leave the kids.

In no time at all, it was our turn to enter the lock... no photos because we were concerned that we’d have our hands full. As it turns out, it was very easy: pull up to a line, wrap your line around it, take a wrap on a rear line. Then wait for the water to raise or lower. Heading this direction, we are going down. Within minutes, we were 15 feet lower.

When the lock doors opened, we motored out, heading towards the free docks at Seneca Falls. Four miles later, we picked out a spot on the dock with power. We tied off, hooked up and fed Izzy... it was just lunch time.

Then it was our turn; we took the bikes off and rode around town. One of the first things we came across was a small farmers market. We picked up some cheese and fresh fruit... no problem with provisions on this tour!

We stopped for lunch, then rode back to the boat; sat on the park bench in front of the boat, checking out the cruising guide for tomorrow’s route.

Izzy got her turn out of the boat, too. Joan put her on the leash, but this was different for her - the boat is NOT in the same place, so it’s a whole new scary situation.

After that time outside, Izzy needed a nap.

Come to think of it, I could use a nap, too. It has turned out to be a beautiful day - a bit warm, but the sun is shining and very little breeze.