Lake Erie, the Dunkirk Hustle, and Misery Bay.

We heard stories about Lake Erie and the 9 foot waves that can appear out of nowhere, but when we left Buffalo for the port of Dunkirk, it was as smooth as silk.

Dunkirk approach.

Here’s my story about Dunkirk, NY.:
We tied up to the municipal pier. A pier that is well-known as a free place to tie up. There were two other boats there as well.
While I was out getting pizza, a guy came up to my wife and said:
“You can’t dock here.”
“Really?!” the XO answered.
“Yup. You gotta check in at the office”, the guy said.
“Oh. Where?” the XO asked.
“Over there,” the guy pointed to a small building next to the marina. The one that charges money to dock.
“According to my information we can stay here for free,” she countered.
“Nope. The cops will kick you out,” he said, sounding a bit threatening.
“The cops have been by here twice. They didn’t say a thing. They waved to us,” the XO said. “And besides, I checked it out on-line, this is supposed to be a free dock. There are no signs that say we can’t stay here, and there are two other boats tied to the same pier. Right over there,” she pointed to the sailboats behind us.
“Well, I’m going to check that out. I’ll be back,” the man said gruffly and left.
The XO talked to the nice people on other two boats and they assured us that this pier was indeed free and they have been here a few days without any problems.
That dude was trying to hustle us into paying for dockage at his marina!

Free pier in Dunkirk.

The other boats tied to the pier.

On a beautiful morning, we left Dunkirk for Presque Isle, PA. and anchored in Misery Bay. This amazing state park is beautiful and historic.

Lake Erie scene.

Misery Bay, part of Presque Isle, PA.

There are lots of beaches here.

Big, sandy beaches.

Big boats too! This is a 1000 ft laker docked in nearby Erie, PA.

Here’s my story about Presque Isle:
We rode an awesome bike path for nearly ten miles.
We took our dinghy to the maritime museum in the nearby city of Erie, PA., docked it in back, and walked into the back door–which was open–and unknowingly got into the museum for free.
We walked through a scary neighborhood to get to the liquor store. But wisely opted for the longer, less scary route back.
In Misery Bay, we met another looper. He was flying a gold colored AGLCA burgee which means he is doing his second Great Loop. (There is also a platinum burgee for those who have done more than two Great Loops.)
We got “pulled over” by the Erie water cops for having only one registration sticker on our dingy.
“You’re from Mississippi?”
“We’re from Massachusetts, where only one sticker on the port side is required,” the XO explained.
“MS is Massachusetts?” the officer asked, referring to our registration number. All boat registration numbers start with the state designation. I don’t know why Massachusetts is MS instead of MA. We showed him our registration papers and that was that.

Salty II docked near the bike path in Misery Bay. M/V Insandity anchored on the left, Ginger Lee on the right.

Gold Looper Chuck Trutham and his boat Insandity.

Water cops from Erie, PA.

After two nights in Presque Isle, on yet another beautiful Summer morning, we hauled anchor and headed west on Lake Erie toward our next port of call: Geneva Ohio. SOCOBO 9/8/17

Along the Erie Canal

We traveled the Erie Canal from beginning to end. All 338 miles from Waterford to Tonawanda. We had no agenda, no schedule, and we weren’t in any hurry. Saw the whole thing at a turtles pace of 7 MPH.
There were very few conventional marinas with slips and finger docks, like we’re used to seeing in New England, instead, they have “walls”. Most are free of charge and have water and electric. Some charge a small fee, but all of them are beautifully clean and well cared for, especially for the 200th anniversary of “The Ditch”.

The Baldwinsville wall.

Mike Georaiadis. We met him on the wall at Baldwinsville. The next day he brought us a big box full of interesting foods seen in the lower left.

Most of the time, we were alone.

Lyons wall.

The wall in Spencerport.

 

The wall at Ilion.

Sometimes we would travel for days without seeing a single boat.

A Guard Gate. It can be closed to seal off the canal.

A lift bridge. The bridge attendant stops traffic and raises the bridge, after we pass under it, he lowers it, then drives to the next one to meet us and repeats the process. The same person can operate 3 lift bridges!

At times, it was a very lonely experience.

The wall in Rome, NY.

There were exciting moments as well.

Here we are furiously bailing out our dinghy for the third time this trip. A squall on Lake Cayuga flipped it over like a leaf.

Friendly boaters rescued Salty’s gear that was floating away.

It wasn’t until we neared the end of the canal that we started seeing other people and boaters.

Festival in Medina.

Erie Canal party boat.

The XO discovered a mead bar in Medina.

She sampled all the different flavors. I think there were 12. Then did it again the next day.

The friendly Meadmaster let us taste the various kinds of honey that he uses to make the mead.

The Medina Meadmaster.

The busy wall at Tonawanda.

I loved every moment, but it had to end sometime. When we pulled into Buffalo, it was time for a new experience: Lake Erie.

Buffalo and Lake Erie.

 

The Rhythm of the Erie Canal

We have found a way to survive the Erie Canal. But it came at a cost: another sinking of our dinghy Salty II when we tried to tow it sideways into a lock, scratches and yellow paint marks on Ginger Lee’s port side from a particularly turbulent lock when we got knocked sideways into the wall, and a bruised ego from not foreseeing such easily avoidable events.

Entering Lock 17 where we will be lifted up over 40 feet.

But we have learned from these mistakes, and have adopted a new rhythm to not only our boating style, but to our lifestyle as well.
The Erie has many locks–35 in all–and after a while, we enter them not with more confidence, but with more of an understanding of what could go wrong in a confined space with swirling currents.

The XO in her “lock seat.”

The same applies to our lives. Our lifestyle has dramatically changed. I knew it would. Gosh, we’re living on a 32 foot boat, where a workable day-to-day rhythm of life must be attained.
“Where’s my phone charger”? the XO asks.
“I don’t know”, I answer, “but it can’t be more than 32 feet away.”

Docked at Canajoharie, NY.

We travel slowly along this bucolic waterway for miles. It’s warm and sunny, everything is green and growing, birds sing, flowers bloom, bees buzz, butterflies flit, and nature rejoices. Then you encounter a lock. Suddenly life is not so great anymore. The potential for disaster is wicked high. It’s dark, and deep, and a bit frightening. But you must keep going. You just want to get through it and continue unscathed along the nice part. It’s a metaphor of life. SOCOBO 8/25/17

Troy New York and the Beginning of the Erie Canal

We spend an enjoyable night in Troy, New York, at the Starbuck Island Boat Club, hosted by the owner, Joe Berlino. This guy is unbelievable. Not only does he treat us like we’re family, but I think he would do anything for us. I ask if he could drive us to Wal-Mart.
“Here’s what’s gonna happen,” he said. “I’m gonna drive you to my house, and you’re gonna take my car and do what you need to do.”
Like I said. Unbelievable. We are total strangers to him, and he gives us his car to use.
On the way to his house we get the nickel tour of Troy. Joe is like the Ambassador Mayor of Troy. He knows everything and everybody. Later, he shows up at our boat to hang around with us and share a bottle of wine.

Ambassador Joe Berlino.

We are about to go through our first lock of this trip and enter the 200-year-old Erie Canal. There is some trepidation. Mostly because it’s been ten years since we’ve been in a lock. But we make it through, and discover it’s pretty much the same as we remember it. You cruise slowly into the lock, grab lines hanging on the sides, wait for the doors to close and the lock to fill with water, then when the door on the other side opens, leave the lock. Ya gotta have gloves because the ropes and everything is slimy.

The XO manning the mid-ship cleat in Lock Two on the Erie Canal. There is no Lock One on the canal.

The canal itself is fairly skinny, about 12 feet deep, and lined with thick forest. I won’t say it’s boring–it is boating–but sometimes you get excited when you see a house. There is no current to speak of, so we get spectacular fuel mileage.

Erie Canal scene.

After about 30 miles we decide to try a municipal dock in Scotia, NY. It’s right off the canal, and for ten bucks a night you get water, electric, and really fast WiFi. We decide to stay 2 nights. The sign on the dock says that someone will come by to collect the fee, and if not, there are envelopes and a form to fill out and deposit in a drop box, honor system style.

Scotia Landing.

The water skiing team practices here,  and at the nearby park, we get treated to a live orchestra that played “Big Band” music.

The XO surprises me on my birthday. I get a Duncan Butterfly yo-yo, a singing, burping, beer coozie, and one of those spinning things.

Yo-yo and spinning thing. Apparently it’s called a Fidget Spinner.

We have dinner at a nearby tavern. I order a veal and linguine dish and it arrives with no linguine. The bartender corrects the mistake and give me a free drink.

I’m a bit surprised that we are all alone in Scotia. Here is this beautiful dock, next to a beautiful park, next to a beautiful village, and no boaters. If this was in our hometown of Wareham, Massachusetts, or anywhere near Cape Cod, it would be full all the time, and they would be charging and outrageous 5 dollars a foot! I hope the rest of the Erie Canal is as cool as this. SOCOBO 8/18/17

 

Kingston

The Hudson River is amazing. Never a dull moment. The XO and I are travelling north on it, revelling in its awesomeness, freaked out by its diversity, captivated by its breadth, depth, height, and for the most part, solitude. Our binoculars are always at the ready.
“Did you see that?”
“Check that out!”
“Look! Over there!”
“What is that?”
Like I said, never a dull moment. It’s not always the big stuff, like West Point, or the Rip Van Winkle bridge, it’s often the stuff on the river banks that you float by. Weird encampments, strange smokestacks, odd buildings, kooky, unusual things that we don’t often see in our everyday New England life. The flora and fauna of a river a gazillion years old, carved out by glaciers. Practically the whole thing is lined with huge cut stone and wood that look decades, if not centuries old. Who did that? Why?

Hudson River scene.

Bridge

On the way to Kingston, one of our plants –who we call Boyd–fell off the boat and miraculously managed to save itself by grabbing on to the dinghy tow line! Here he is inches from death.

Hudson River tug. They’re everywhere.

Tug with barge. Also everywhere.

By the time we hit the Rondout Creek in Kingston NY., we’re ready for the luxury of a slip. Oh yeah baby. Showering and washing dishes with the water running! Free WiFi! Air conditioning! We pick a great place. The Rondout Yacht Basin. They have a pool, a restaurant, and a laundry. As an extra added bonus, we can refuel and pump-out right from our slip.

Slipped in Kingston, NY.

Nash Jackson. Dock boy extraordinaire.

Tony the cook. Best french fries ever!

We take a cab to the shopping center and the biggest Lowes and Wal-Mart I’ve ever seen. They’re easily twice the size of the ones back home in Wareham.

Restocking our provisions. The 5 foot PVC pipe is to make a fender-board.

The cab for our ride home is a no-show, so we take our first UBER. Our driver Wayne is very friendly and helpful.

Love UBER.

We visit the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston Village. They have a dinghy dock so we travel there by water.

One of the best museums I’ve ever been in.

Early outboard.

I have actually operated this type of engine on the Charles River as a kid.

There are 5 unrestored WWII PT boats just waiting for someone to love them enough to lavish many thousands of dollars on them. These things are huge.

The village of Kingston, while very scenic and interesting, is, shall I say, out of our price range. So many boutiques. We walk into a wine shop looking for our favorite Rex Goliath Cabernet that we usually pay ten bucks for, but turn on our heels when we find nothing less than 30 dollars.

Kingston.

Thanks to the awesome folks at the Rondout Yacht Basin, we have an enjoyable stay in the Kingston New York area. SOCOBO 8/11/17

Rondout Creek morning.

 

Stony Point, Iona Island, and Blair Mountain

On the most beautiful of all July days, we drop anchor in the north side of Stony Point, New York. It’s not hard to describe this place. It’s just hard to imagine its splendor unless you are here. On one side is a working stone quarry next to a defunct, rusted out stone quarry. Across the Hudson, a massive ship is unloading something that requires many cranes. Next to that is a nuclear power plant. Believe it or not, all that industry does not even begin to take anything away from the loveliness of this sweet little cove.

We are alone.

The Stony point wreck.

While raising the anchor, our 42-year-old windlass suddenly decides it isn’t up to the task. Unable to either raise or lower the new Mantus anchor hanging from the bow pulpit, we have to deploy our spare and stay another night. No problem. We want time to visit the Stony Point Museum.
During the Revolutionary War, the British recognized the importance of this rock outcropping jutting out into the Hudson River and a fierce battle was fought here. A museum on the site honors that battle.
But before we visit the museum, I have to diagnose the windlass problem. Within a sweat drenched hour, I have the broken part in my hand. I call the Good Automatic Windlass Company in New Jersey and have them FedEx the part to our friend Blair Buscareno, who just happens to live a few miles away. The XO bravely volunteers to ride her bike up Bear Mountain to his house for the pick up. She tells me that on the way back, some of the roads were so steep, she had to walk her bike down them!

The new part.

After installing the new part, we haul anchor and head to Iona Island which is just four miles away. The plan is to meet up with Blair at the nearby municipal wharf.
We find the anchorage go about our usual routine. The XO gathers in the dinghy so we don’t sink it again, while I slowly head toward the shore until the depth sounder shows 12 feet, which is a good depth to drop anchor. Unfortunately, in less than an instant, the depth went from 104 feet to 2 feet. Before I can react and put it reverse, the gauge reads zero. Yup. We’re on the bottom.
“Are we moving?” the XO inquires.
“Nope,” I answer, and throttle up in reverse.
Slowly, Ginger Lee begins to creep backwards. Mud roils up in the water surrounding her. Finally she is free.
“Okay. Let’s not do that again,” I state the obvious.
We move to a better spot very near the dock where we will meet Blair. The XO, now very confident in her solo dinghy handling, heads off to collect him while I tidy up the boat a bit.

Blair Buscareno.

Many years ago, in another life as a young rock and roll musician, I met Blair. He was a fan of the band I was playing in. My wife has a similar story. She was a young musician as well. The dude showed up at so many gigs it was impossible to not notice him. But this was the very first time I sat down and had a real conversation with him. He knows a lot of the history of the whole Bear Mountain area. It was an enjoyable evening. Hey Blair, thank you for helping us out.  SOCOBO 8/4/17

The Bear Mountain Bridge. The XO has renamed it The Blair Mountain Bridge.

I Love Nyack

After an overnight stay in Greenwich CT, and a grey, rainy overnight at Bayside Marina in Queens, NY., we cruise easily through the fearsome Hell Gate at dead slack tide and head up the Harlem River to meet the mighty Hudson River. Unfortunately, the Hudson’s tide is against us and slows us down to 4.5 kts. This is not good. It’s not only slow, it uses a lot of diesel. We decide to tie up to a free municipal dock in Yonkers to wait a couple of hours for the fair current north.

A rainy day in Queens.

My sister Elaine and her dog Ziggy come for a visit in Greenwich, CT.

Yonkers Municipal dock.

A tug joined us at the free dock. The sign says “Transients Welcome” but the gates leading to the street with all the stores and restaurants are locked! Fortunately, somebody peeled up a section of the chain link fence so we could crawl under and get some supplies. C’mon Yonkers. What’s up with that?

After leaving Yonkers we have two viable options within our cruising range: Dock space in Tarrytown at $1.25 a foot, or a mooring at Nyack Boat Club for 25 dollars a night. Since we pumped out and filled our water tanks in Queens, we opt for the latter, and I am so very glad we did.

Launch driver Dave will be the first to welcome you.

Nyack is an eclectic little village nestled just north of the Tappan Zee bridge. After less than an hour, we like it so much we pay for 3 nights.

They’re building a new Tappan Zee bridge.

The Nyack Boat Club is a private organization that has been around since 1909. It’s members are hands down the friendliest boaters I’ve ever encountered.

Hanging at the clubhouse. Free sandwiches and beer!

Carol the Compliance Officer. Everyone is nice here.

Relaxing in Nyack.

The XO finds yoga and crossfit places; I find the cigar store; we both discover the good pizza place.
We went to a new place and start making friends right away. It’s a rarity. I know we have to move on, but I can’t help thinking I could be happy here forever.  SOCOBO7/28/17

Hudson RIver at Nyack, NY, looking north

Hudson River at Nyack, NY, looking north

 

Great Loop Follies

Well it’s been a week since we left Wareham and we’re still alive and floating! So far we have sunk our dinghy in Point Judith, run over a tree in the Connecticut River, and anchored way too close to a reef in the Norwalk Islands.
I covered the dinghy sinking in my last post, no sense in going over that again. So here are more adventures.
On a lovely Sunday afternoon, we had just entered the Connecticut River heading for the free mooring field in North Cove. There were like a hundred boats all coming and going. They were passing us right and left, cutting across our bow, coming too close to our stern, and generally being rude and uncaring. Everyone was completely ignoring the SLOW NO WAKE signs that were everywhere. It was a real freak show! A 50 foot snoot bucket towing a 21 foot dinghy on a 50 foot tow line, and leaving a 4 foot wake, got tired of being behind a boat (us) that was obeying the rules of the road and gunned it to pass. We were dealing with the dudes massive wave when suddenly with we felt and heard a gawd awful noise that traveled the length of our hull and crunched past the running gear.
“My God! What was that?” the XO exclaimed.
I turned around just in time to see what looked like a tree bounce off the dinghy. then slowly sink under the briny.
“Crap,” I exclaimed as I waited for engine alarms, bilge lights, prop vibrations, smoke, fire, brimstone, or anything else. But no, miraculously we were fine and we continued on our way to North Cove in Old Saybrook, CT.

Sea wall in Fenwick, CT.

Old Saybrook Town Beach

“Why isn’t this place packed? It’s incredible,” I asked aloud.
“Because there are no dock boys,” the XO answered.
What can I say? There are a certain amount of boaters who need dock boys.

North Cove morning.

The next morning we headed off to the Norwalk Islands in Connecticut. There is an anchorage right off Cockenoe Island we were excited to try.

Leaving the Connecticut River, we saw this tug pushing a mountain.

Anchored off Cockenoe Island.

Well, we anchored all right, but when the tide receded, we were really close to the rock strewn Cockenoe Reef. When we swung around with the breeze, suddenly we were in 3 feet of water. The dangerous reef was less than 10 feet away! Yikes! Panic mode! We immediately fired up the engines and moved to deeper water.

This unmanned Hobie Cat sailed by us and hit the reef.

Cockenoe Island is gorgeous, deserted, and, except for the fringe areas, really difficult to walk on. Birds have almost completely taken it over.

On Cockenoe Island.

We found this makeshift shrine.

We never saw another soul the whole time we were there. Awesome! We showered buck naked on the swim platform! SOCOBO 7/21/17

 

 

Thursday, July 20 – Boat guest, with bonus view from the front deck

We started Thursday here, anchored on the Hudson, behind Stony Point, New York, right at the Kings Ferry, then cruised up just a few miles to Iona (“I own a”) Island, where the bald eagles live, right near Bear Mountain.

Blair came to visit.

The Captain enjoyed the conversation.

Severe thunderstorms threatened, but in the end, it only rained and we got an amazing rainbow.

This view from the front deck is the Blair Mountain Bridge, a bargain at $1.50.