Saturday, June 30, 2007

Canajoharie 1

En Route on The Erie Canal
N 42 57.211 W 074 14.526

Saturday, 10:00
Sorry. I've been delinquent for not writing blogs for several days. My excuse is that we've been busy.

We returned from Vermont on Wednesday. The weather was still hot and hazy so we didn't get inspiring views of the mountains. On Wednesday evening, while Libby was away doing laundry, our friend Tom came down to visit at Lock 7. We knew Tom from the days when I worked for Digital Corp.

There were thunderstorms in the area, the air was very unsettled. Tom and I watched the boats cycling through the lock. After a time, we saw rain coming so we ducked inside Tarwathie. The rain didn't amount to much and it soon passed, leaving cooler weather behind. Surprise. The next morning I bought a newspaper and read that severe storms caused damage and deaths nearby to our north, south, east and west. It is remarkable how local and quirky those storms can be.

Friday, we spent the day visiting my sister Marylyn. She didn't know that we were near by so it was a surprise to her when I called. I took her to our favorite restaurant, Oliver's. Then we went to the boat. Then, Libby took her shopping and finally I took her bowling. It made a perfect day from Marylyn's point of view.

In the evening we got a call from John and Mary Ann and they invited us to their house for dinner. We haven't seen those two since sailing in the Chesapeake last fall. Their grandson Grayson was visiting from Phoenix.


Friday morning, Mary Ann and Grayson joined us for the voyage from Lock 7 in Niskayuna up to lock 10 in Amsterdam. It turned out to be a splendid summer day and everybody had fun. Along the way, we got a call from Carmello and Diane, our sailing companions from last September. I invited them to join us too and soon we had six people on board.

We checked out the new boater's center in Amsterdam. They have a lovely spot with electricity, water, showers, laundry and [a broken] pump out. Unfortunately, they also want $1/foot for overnight stays. With so many other places along the canal offering free facilities I expect that they get very little business. Perhaps not enough to pay the wages of the person hired to collect the fees. The only worse place is Schenectady; despite all the free state money available for waterfront development, Schenectady has no facilities, not even a place to stop for an hour. Tsk tsk.

Diane and Carmello
We stopped at Amsterdam and Diane and Carmello treated us to dinner. That was

Today, our goal is Canajoharie. They have a Winslow Homer museum there that we'd like to see. We may also be able to meet with my sister Nancy and her family. They are en route from Boston to Thousand Islands by car and their route should take them within a few hundred meters of us. We just passed lock 12 at 10:00.

Boy it sure is fun to return to our home territory to be able to see so many of our friends and family once again. When the time comes to decide finally to pass through the Panama Canal and set out for a five year circumnavigation; I'm sure that our emotional heartstrings will be tugging at us saying, "Don't go."

What about the scenery on the canal? It's so beautiful that I fear sounding repetitious if I say the same thing every day. Even in New York it is still true that 95% of the shore lines still appear to be undeveloped, wild and very beautiful. The other 5% shows evidence of man. The trees along the banks block our view of all low lying land around us so we don't see the buildings. The river appears mostly as it must have been before the white man came to America. Whoops, wait. Before all the dams, most of the river must have been shallow or white water. I withdraw my statement about the wild appearance.

Saturday 12:45
We just passed through lock 13. There are lots of signs of flood damage here. I asked the lock master how high the water got. He pointed to a spot just below the red light you see in the picture. Yipes! That is about 12 feet higher than the dam. The amount of water flowing down the river at that height must have been amazing.

This part of the river is snuggled in the cleavage between pairs of steep ridges. I love watching the hawks soar on the ridge up drafts. It makes me want to go soaring. Years ago in Vermont I learned to fly a glider and to soar the ridge lines. One flies along the ridge with the wing tip just a meter or so away from the tree tops. One flies on the windward side. As the wind it lifted by the ridge it in turns lifts my glider or lifsts a hawk. It is like getting a ride on an elevator. The hawk I was watching just slipped over t the other side of the ridge line and then he suddenly plunged like a stone. One tries to avoid that in a glider because the consequence is that you could be forced to land abruptly like it or not. It happened to me once. Luckily, I was able to reach a freshly mown hay field to make a nice easy landing. If there had been no field I could have been pushed down in to the trees. How does the hawk manage? I'm confident that the hawk had no trouble navigating to wherever he wants to go.

Now we're entering a region where the valley opens up more. It is still not the location for Libby's and my favorite painting, Peace and Plenty. We always try to identify the place when we travel the Mohawk Valley. Actually, we may never succeed in finding the scene because it doesn't exist any more. 200 years ago, New York and New England were 80% farm land and only 20% forests. It must have offered wonderful views of fields and meadows viewed from the hill tops. Today, the ratio is reversed and most panoramic views are blocked by trees.

Some years ago we were touring Fort Ticonderoga in New York. I was talking with a woman who was involved in the restoration work and who was very proud of what they have accomplished. However I could see paintings depicting the battles at the fort and they plainly showed that all trees for miles around were cut down to expose invaders to defensive gun fire. I asked the woman when they were going to finish the restoration by cutting down all the trees around us. "Over my dead body," was her reply. Chuckle.

Anyhow, I digress. Here, where the valley opens up a little, we have the New York State Thruway to port and we have the Amtrak track and New York Route 5 to starboard. I wave to the people I the cars and the trains but they move too fast to see if anybody waves back. The train passing by could be the famous Lake Shore Limited. A moment ago I got a call from Nancy. They are in Springfield Massachusetts and heading our way. We'll meet them in Canajoharie.

This is the season when day lilies are prominent in upstate New York. They are so beautiful and so hearty. They grow wild any place on the border between sunny and shady spots. Most of them are a beautiful orange. We don't see many day lilies in other states.

Every place there is a buoy in the water, there is a corresponding sign nailed to a tree on the shore. For example, on a tree near buoy 337 is a sign that says "337" The state workers remove all the buoys for the winter because they never would survive the ice floes. They can use the signs to accurately replace the buoys in the spring to their designated locations. What if the tree gets washed away? I suppose they could always fall back on the old fashioned method and use their GPS :)

I just spotted a corn field for the first time this summer. The corn is knee high, just about par for this part of the country. In Oklahoma the corn would be as high as an elephant's eye by the Fourth of July.

The weather is splendid today. The temperature is about 75F (24C), the sky is blue with brilliant cumulus clouds. There is a fresh 15 knot breeze that makes Libby and I just ache to be able to sail. Perhaps we can rig the sail on the dinghy?

Saturday, 16:20
Now I'm near the traffic circle in Canajoharie. We had a nice visit from Nancy and her family, Karl, Lena, Alexandra and the Kudra the dog. They met us at the river front park here and we had fun sitting in the cockpit and swapping stories.

When it was time for them to leave, I asked for a ride in to the town to find a hot spot. I'm sitting here under a tree, 20 feet from where I got out of their car and I find 3 WiFi signals. It's getting easier all the time to WiFi.

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