Thursday, June 30, 2011

Good Company

Brewerton, NY
44 14.33 N 076 08.50 N

Dean is a former work colleague and a friend.   A few years ago a mutual friend pointed Dean to this blog.  Dean loved it so much that he went all the way back to the beginning and read all the back posts.  That is getting harder every day.  This post is number 1805.   Anyhow, ever since Dean is one of our most loyal readers.    For several years, he has been trying to get together with us when we return to New York.  

Yesterday Dean finally succeeded.  We met his wife Esther and had dinner at their house in Camillus.  The four of us have so much in common that we had a delightful evening.  Thank you Dean and Esther.

Boat Lift Explained

Brewerton, NY
44 14.33 N 076 08.50 N

I've been getting questions about our error with the bridge and the mast.  I find it hard to explain without pictures.  Indeed, it makes me feel like an engineer again.  I should grab some chalk and go up to the board to explain for my students.  We'll do it digitally.

Figure 1

Consider first what I should have done as shown in figure 1.  The gray mast sits on a blue cradle that in turn sits on the blue boat.   The red rope stretches over purple pulley P and windlass W.  The Pulley is attached to the black bridge rail.  The windlass is attached to the blue boat.

Now  pull on the tail of the rope with 500 pounds of force.  Both the mast and the boat will be lifted with 500 pounds of force.  However the mast only weighs 500 while the boat weighs 20000.  The mast will begin to lift.

Figure 2

In Figure 2, we removed the pulley P and draped the rope over the bridge rail.  If the rail is frictionless, everything behaves the same as if the pulley was still there.  When lifting, the rope slides over the rail.

Figure 3

In Figure 3, now suppose that the rope binds on the bridge rail.  If it gets entirely stuck, we would have infinite friction.  It would be as if the two sections of the rope were each attached to separate bridge parts.   As I pull harder on the rope tail, the force lifting the boat increases, but none of that force transfers to the mast.  Instead of lifting the mast we are trying to pull the bridge down on the boat (as my friend Dean said) or lifting the boat up to the bridge.  I show that in Figure 3 as 500 pounds lifting force on the mast with 5000 pounds of force lifting the boat.

Of course if we lifted the boat as in Figure 3, we would also lift the mast with the boat. The force on the mast side of the rope would drop to zero.  But if that happened, it would relieve the friction on the rope and the rope would start sliding over the bridge rail again.  So the total reality was that we had some combination of Figures 2 and 3.   Both halves of the rope had some tension, but there was much more force lifting the boat than the mast.  The distribution of forces would have been irregular as the rope alternately slipped and caught on the bridge rail.

Such big complexities arising from such a simple change.  It makes one appreciate better that "rigger" is a skilled profession.  Riggers do heavy lifting.  It reminds me of the infamous failure of a walkway in 1981 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas city.  114 people were killed. That too was caused by a seemingly trivial change in rigging that had enormous consequences.  See the article here.  Luckily for us the consequences were minor.  By the way, we did have the good sense to not stand under the mast.  If the rope snapped I think both Libby and I would not have been hurt.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

KISS Principle Disproved

Brewerton, NY
44 14.33 N 076 08.50 N

We had fun last night having dinner with Steve and Barbara from Indian Hill Road, Oran, NY.  They are former neighbors.   Steve offered to help me recenter the mast but it was no good.  We couldn't budge it.  That made us nervous though.  All night, even a tiny wake from a passing boat made us fear that the mast would fall off the cradle and into the water.

Today, with forecast-ed thunderstorms approaching, we were determined to fix it ASAP.   We left the dock early with the following plan:

  1. Find a highway bridge crossing the canal in a place with no wind and no current.
  2. Loop a rope over the rail of the bridge and lower both ends of the rope to the water.
  3. Move the boat under the rope.
  4. Put a bowline in one end of the rope and use it to hoist our block and tackle into the air, then make the other end of the rope fast.
  5. Use the block and tackle to lift the mast about two inches, push it back into place and lower it centered on the cradle, then retie the numerous safety lines that keep it from shifting.
  6. Let go one end of the rope and pull the other end to remove the rope from the bridge.

Well, that's pretty much what we did.   We were successful.   Thank God, we feel secure again.  The more interesting story though is how I screwed it up.

We did the first three steps OK.  I used an old halyard, 100 feet long.  I had to ride my bike 3 miles from a place where I could step ashore to the bridge.  I looped the rope over a square guard rail with rounded edges.  It appeared to be plenty strong.  No problem.

When we got to step 4, I thought of a simpler way.  Skip the block and tackle.  Just put one end of the rope in a bowline around the mast and lead the other end to the anchor windlass.  That windlass is powerful and it could do the job.  No block and tackle would be needed.  That's the KISS principle isn't it?  Keep it simple stupid.  I regret that simplification.

As I cranked the anchor windlass, the rope became taught.  Then it got harder and harder to crank.  In low gear I have a mechanical advantage of 120:1.  To lift a 600 pound weight should need only 5 pounds of force on the windlass crank, right?  Well it didn't  it got harder and harder.  Worse, the mast didn't lift at all, not even a micro inch.   It got to the point that it took all my strength to crank.  I had to work at it 15-29 minutes and I was really bushed.  Finally, with a big creak, the mast lifted and we pulled it back to center. I couldn't believe how difficult it was. What the heck was wrong?

Now for the surprise.  Libby was tailing the rope and I told her to lower the mast as I held it centered with a bear hug.  The mast didn't move but Tarwathie disappeared from under my feet.  It turns out that we had lifted Tarwathie's bow out of the water about 18 inches!!! When Libby slackened the rope the mast satyed still, but Tarwathie lowered back to the water.

No wonder it was so hard.  I wasn't lifting 600 pounds, I lifted a big fraction of 20,000 pounds.

What happened?  I neglected friction of the rope on the rail.   Most of the force and effort went to the up half of the rope from the windlass to the bridge.  The down half of the rope from the bridge to the mast didn't have the same force because of friction at the rail. If I had stuck with the original plan using the block and tackle everything would have gone much simpler.  The KISS principle let me down.

Oh well, no harm done by my mistake, right?  Not quite.  When we retrieved the rope I found one spot that was severely damaged.  That must have been where it caught on the rail.  I'll never be able to use that halyard again. Oh well, only minor damage.

Before: The mast is at the edge of the cradle, ready to fall off.

Preparing to lift.  You see the rope thrice, once tied to the mast, again coming down to the anchor windlass, and a third time leading off to the right where Libby is tailing it.

Preparing to lift.  Now you can see the rig and the bridge.  Ignore the bridge navigation light and the horizontal power lines, in the background.

Job complete.  Everything back in place and safety lines retied.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Oneida Lake
43 12.32 N 075 32.36 W

We just got all shook up.  Specifically, I was below working on this computer and Libby was on watch.  Suddenly the boat rocked violently.  The rocking increased in violence with each of the next three or four rolls.   All I could do was to hug the computer and try to prevent it from flying away.  All over the rest of the cabin things were flying through the air.  Never has Tarwathie been rocked so hard; not even out at sea in a gale.

When it subsided after 9-10 rolls, I heard Libby say, "DICK GET UP HERE QUICK!"  I rushed up.  Libby pointed forward.  The mast appeared to have hopped off the cradle.  It looked as if it was ready to fall overboard.

I rushed up, and asked Libby to come help.  We tried lifting the mast.  We needed only 1/4 inch of lift to slide it back into place.  No go. It is much too heavy for the two of us.  We couldn't lift even a millimeter.   We won't be able to put it back into place until we get help from 2-3 strong men.   We'll have to do that tied up to shore someplace.

Examining further. I see that it didn't slide all the way off.  The numerous safety lines I had tied all up and down the mast did the job.  They prevented it from moving too far.  The cradle was still supporting the weight, although the mast was on on edge, not on the side.  (see the picture I just took) I added a few more lines to prevent further motion and we continue on.

Jeez would I love to get my hands on the guy who caused the wake, or to file a police complaint.  Alas, we didn't get his name.   Libby said that he came very close, very fast and that he was so quiet that she didn't hear him approach.  &*)(^*%$^#@$%

Shame on Me

The Erie Canal
43 11.33 N 075 20.82 W

Yesterday I found the following in my inbox.

Anneli - A'la Foto has left a new comment on your post "Damn Ice Cream Truck": 
Hi!I see that you have borrowed a picture of me. This is without asking if I think it's okay. I also see that you have done it without linking back to me so other people can find out who took the picture! On the plus side, however, is that you didn't remove my copyright mark.I don't think it's okay to borrow photos without asking first, so I'm a little sad. Moreover, it is actually illegal to take a picture without asking the person who created it first! I don't know exactly what it's like in your country but here in Sweden it is in any case illegal!It's okay that you have keep the picture, but still, I feel you should link back to my blog so others can find me! And of course you can also thank me for the loan!
Have a great summer!

What? Me? A plagarist?  I cringed at the implication and I added the link to the blog post, and sent a message of apology to Anneli.

So, what happened?  I can't be exactly sure.  I have no recollection of how I found the picture in question and what clues might have existed wherever I found it that it should not be copied without permission.  That's the problem.

My weakness in writing blog posts is immediacy.  I write something, then I want to push the PUBLISH button immediately.  Then it is posted and out of my mind.   The writing is mine and usually the pictures are also mine.  Once in a while when I don't have an appropriate picture in my archives, I surf the web in search of one.   I use regular Google searches and often Google Image searches.  When I find the picture, it is often unclear who to ask for permission.   Indeed, frequently there is no contact information at all.   Therefore, I've gotten into the sloppy habit of not searching very hard for contact info about who to ask for permission.   To be truthful, even if I have the contact info, I don't like doing it because it forced me to delay publishing my article for a week or two.   In a daily blog where content is contemporary, that's a big deal.

But you see that the note from Anneli didn't ask me to take the picture down.  Anneli wanted me to include a link back to the place where I found it.  That is a lesser demand.  It does not force me to delay publication and it sounds like common courtesy.  I'll resolve to change my practice in the future.

Note: There's no guarantee that I found Anneli's picture on Anneli's web site, so there is some risk that the back link I provide may credit the wrong site. Such is the Wild West Chaos that is the Internet.

What is the long term solution to this problem?  I believe in things like The Wikimedia Commons There, all photographs are guaranteed to be in the public domain.  Eventually (hopefully), their archive of pictures may someday be so large that people like me can find what they want most of the time.  (Today they only have 10,426,841 pictures)  Professional photographers hate that because it undermines their market for stock photos.  But, like many other old fashioned business models, the stock photo business model is doomed to eventual failure because of the Internet.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Herkimer, Illion, Frankfort, Utica & Marcy

Marcy, Lock 20
43 08.63 N 075 17.53 W

We are at Lock 20, the closest point of approach to John & Cheryl and grandchildren.  Oh boy.  We'll have a good family weekend.

Meanwhile, let me do a little travel dialog about the New York Towns we're passing.

Herkimer: This is a good provisioning stop.  Tie up to the free floating dock, but don't use the parking spot of the pontoon boat used for canal tours.   There is s hardware store, dollar store, super Wal Mart, and numerous restaurants withing easy walking distance.   Right at the dock there is a Thruway visitor's center.  It has a gift stop and a restaurant.  I was amazed to see the parking lot of that restaurant completely filled, no empty spaces, both day and night.  It sure is popular.

Illion: There is a very friendly little marina by the side of the canal in Illion.  We never stayed there but we'd like to.   You can get fuel and stay the night.  Better still, the marina is within easy walking distance of the Remington Arms Factory.   They have a great museum and they give wonderful factory tours.  I took Nick there a few years ago.  It was fascinating.  I recommend it.  (: mention of the museum and factory tours has disappeared from the Remington web site.

Frankfort: You can pull into a side basin and stay there.  I don't think there's much to see in Frankfurt.
I have personal memories though of fumigating huge warehouses chock full of cocoa beans that belonged to Nestle.  That was in the 1960s when I had a summer job as an exterminator.

Nestle had a chocolate factory in Fulton, NY.  Nestle also speculated on cocoa bean futures.  One year, it became attractive to them to accept physical delivery on all those futures contracts.  They hired every warehouse within 100 miles and filled them with beans.  It was the whole world's production of cocoa beans for a year.  They hired us to preemptively fumigate those warehouses to keep moths away.  I also got to fumigate the factory in Fulton every year, again preemptively.  In case you're wondering, yes I did get to eat all the chocolate I could hold, there were tons of it sitting around and nobody around to stop me because I was filling the building with poison gas.  My favorite wasn't chocolate, it was chunks of pure cocoa butter.

Utica: Utica is a fairly big city.  Sadly, there is no place on the canal that is easy walking distance from the city.  There is a $1/foot dock that has no attraction.  There is also a wall you can tie up free where an old abandoned canal intersects the Erie.  From there, Nick and I walked 3 miles to the Utica Club Brewery for one of their famous factory tours.  That was fun.

Marcy: This is a rural location.   There's almost nothing nearby.  However, we have a free dock with electricity and water and 24x7 toilets. Best of all, there's a dance pavilion right beside us.  Every Thursday in the summer there's a free concert.  I've blogged about that in the past.   Tonight we get to hear The Big Band Sound of New York Express.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Personal Touch Points

Herkimer, NY
43 01.02 N 074 59.84 W

Our anchorage last night was right beside the Herkimer exit of the New York Thruway (I90).  We are only 100 feet from the eastbound lane.  All and night we hear the zooming vehicles go by.  

It made me pause to think, "How many times have we driven past that exact spot in our cars?"  Many times; too many to count.   "How many times have our friends and family driven past that exact spot in their cars?"  Wow, that's a big number.  In fact, just about everyone we have ever known, alive and dead has passed by that exact spot.  I'll bet that many people we knew in Sweden have passed this way sometime.  I'll also bet that most of the people we've met in our cruising life have passed this way sometime in their lives.

Suppose we could invent a gadget to detect people passing by that spot and give us an alarm.  The facial recognition technology needed to do that is just about here.   If we had such a sensor at this spot for the past 55 years that the Thruway has been here, how many times would it have gone off?  It must be a very large number; I estimate 3 per day or more than 55,000 events in 55 years.  Holy Mackerel, that's a lot.

Those numbers should make this place hold enormous sentimental value for us; right?  Alas, our alarm would not aid much in social interaction.  The people whiz by without stopping.  That makes this a great personal touch point, but very little social interaction; hence a nonsocial touch point.

What about other such personal touch points?

Years ago when I traveled at lot, I liked to comment that if I stood at the entrance to Concourse K at O'Hare Airport that I would meet everyone I ever knew.   That was a good personal touch point with much better chances for socializing than sitting beside the Thruway.

In terms of East Coast Cruisers, there are several personal touch points.   Solomons Island Maryland, Oriental North Carolina, Vero Beach Florida, and Marathon Florida, all stand out.   Almost every cruiser has been to those places at least once.  At those spots socializing is maximized, which makes them very popular.

What are your personal touch points?  Think about it.

Let me make a prediction.  Since facial recognition and video surveillance is becoming so ubiquitous, the day will come when a hot dot com business idea will be to aid people in finding their own personal touch points and to send notifications to the computer in their pockets when a contact is activated.  In fact, I'll predict that this invention is only a few years away.  I'll further predict that the first and foremost customer of will be the FBI.   Come back and comment on my blog five years from now and let me know if I was right or wrong.  

(p.s. I just invested $10 to register as a domain name.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Herkimer, NY
43 01.02 N 074 59.84 W

Bringing a heavy boat through a lock can be violent.  The water rushes in and the turbulence starts pushing the boat around with considerable force.   It's only a problem when going upstream. (Emptying the lock to go down is calm and placid.)  It is also only a problem in poorly designed locks.  Well designed ones limit the turbulence.  The worst ones (such as Erie Canal lock 17) let the water in on one side only so the current crushes you against the opposite wall.

We've done it many times.  Not sure the exact number but on the order of 200 times.  No disasters yet, but there have been a couple that had me really worried.   The lock master keeps an eye on you.  If you get in serious trouble, he can always stop or slow down the ascent.

The secret to locking safely is to keep control of the boat, and to keep it in place despite the turbulence.  You must prevent the boat from drifting away, from turning sideways, or from crushing itself excessively against the wall.   How do you do that?  There is no simple answer because the design of locks and the methods of stabilizing are so varied.  

Needless to say, you also use fenders.  Lots of fenders.  The biggest fenders you have.  And sacrificial because the fenders get scraped and dirtied more in one locking than in 5 years of normal use.  Some people rig sacrificial wooden planks to protect their fenders.  That works pretty good.

  • Simplest is a rope.  See the third picture below.  In the Erie canal they have ropes hanging down.  You grab one and hang on.  That's it.  If the lock is very turbulent and your boat is very heavy, it is a very ineffective way of stabilizing, but it almost always works anyhow.   In the dismal swamp, you must supply your own rope.

    The most famous locks; those in the Panama canal require four 200 foot ropes with four strong rope handlers.  I think that counts as poorly designed.
  • A cable or pipe ascender.  See the first picture below.  Built into grooves in the wall, are steel cables, or rigid pipes.  You run a line around it and back to your boat.  It holds you snugly and slips as the water rises.  Simple and effective.
  • In the Eisenhower Lock in the Saint Lawrence seaway, there was a float attached to a pipe.  You tie to the cleats on the float as if it were a dock and the float rises with you.  Piece of cake.
  • My favorite method of all was in the Richelieu River in Quebec.  They had a floating dock that ran the full length of the lock.  You just tied up to the floating dock.  Better, much better, they had young girls dressed in hot pants on the dock acting as lock attendants.  I don't know how they manage to raise so many beautiful girls in Quebec, but they do. Oh la la.  You don't blame me for making this my favorite, do you?

Tied to a cable ascender.

A typical lock

Ascending with a rope

So aren't there any juicy locking disaster stories to tell? Yes, I have one, but it is a second hand story.    In 2010 on the Erie Canal we met a man nursing an injured arm.  It seems that he tried to ascend on a holiday weekend.  There was a substitute lock master on duty who must have been rusty on lock operations.  He closed the gates and opened the fill valve 1/3 to begin ascent.  Then half way up, the procedure is to open the fill valve 2/3 to fill faster.  Instead, he grabbed the wrong lever and opened the dump valve.  Now valves were open at both ends of the lock.  The result was a raging current coming in the upstream end and out the downstream end.  It overpowered the strength of the poor boater and slammed his boat against the downstream chamber doors.  He broke his arm trying to control the boat.  Poor guy.  There was nothing he could do.  Naturally the NY Canal System was totally responsible for all damages and injuries.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Train Buffs

Auriesville, NY
42 56.24 N 074 17.80 W

Well, we left the Capital District of NY behind and we're heading into the Mohawk Valley.  This is very familiar ground to us.  For many years, we lived at the East end of this valley while our parents lived at the West end.   We drove back and forth many times.

The Mohawk Valley has it's own character and beauty, different from the Hudson Valley.  It is here that one can see infinite shades of green in June.   Here, the terrain gradually shifts from ancient plateaus to glacial drumlins (tear shaped hills made of gravel.)  It makes for many splendid scenic views.  Indeed, we've seen lots of idyllic paintings of the valley views.  Most were from the 19th century and nearly all depicted belching smokestacks perched in the middle of natural beauty.  That was considered a sign of prosperity in the 19th century.  

Up on the bluff beside us is the Auriesville Shrine.  That is a place with a very interesting history.  Read about it here.

Today, the views in the valley are markedly less pretty than they were in our youth.  Why is that?  Because of the decline in agriculture in this region, many fields have been overgrown by trees.  Trees are nice, but they block views, and they reduce the diversity of the shades of green.

We've already stocked up on one local delicacy; salt potatoes.  Salt potatoes are grown only in the Mohawk Valley, mostly near lock 22.   Boy are they good.  One cooks them in salted water and serves them with melted butter.  Yummy.   When we return by this route we'll enjoy the other local specialty -- sweet corn on the cob.   Sweet corn in this region is very much tastier than from any other place we've been to.  I asked a farmer once why.  She said, "It's the soil."  True enough, in the valley just east of Syracuse there is a band of so-called muck farms.   The muck is very black, very wet and very fertile soil.

I've said how we like the sound of railroads.  It's true.  At lock 11 we encountered a bunch of train buffs who like them even more.  The buffs sit in their lawn chairs all day and all night up to 2200 just to watch the trains up close and to photograph them.  It's a very busy spot with the interval between trains only 15 minutes or so, 24 hours per day, all traveling at 40-65 mph.   Because there is a road crossing, the engines are required to blast their horns.  Boy are they loud up close.  

Recently in Saugerties, Libby and I went out for a night at the movies.  First evening in a movie theater in two or three years.  We saw the new film called Super 8.  The climax of that film is a spectacular railroad crash.  The movie protagonists stood next to the tracks when the crash started.   Of course it was all digital special effects, but it appeared very real and scary.   Today I stood only 3 meters from the tracks as a train rushed by at 60 mph (100 kph).   I got uneasy as I read the labels on the tank cars.  Anhydrous ammonia, phosphoric acid, liquefied petroleum, hydrochloric acid, chlorine, and sodium hydroxide.   Need I say that I felt very uneasy at that moment.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Amsterdam, NY, Lock 11
42 56.90 N 074 12.73 W

For the first time ever, we've started thinking about an overhaul.   By that we mean putting Tarwathie upon the hard for an extended period (3-4 months) of repair and refit.   Actually, it is quite normal for sailing vessels to undergo overhaul after 5-6 years of continuous sailing.

The most apparent need is that the hull is starting to show some blisters.  That is a sign that water is penetrating the barrier coats into the fiberglass.   To fix that means stripping the paint off down to bare glass, then allowing 2 months for it to dry before repainting with a new waterproof barrier coat, plus new antifouling paint.

We also recently learned that our 14 inch propeller is too small.  We should have a 16 inch one.  If we did, we could cruise at 6 knots under motor rather than 5.  If we changed props I think we also need a new propeller shaft.  All that fits into the category of an overhaul project.

I'm sure as we think it through more, that our to-do list of jobs to accomplish during an overhaul would grow.

The problem is that we have no allowance for an overhaul in our life style.

There are several ways to do it.

Method 1 is to find some other place to live during the overhaul.  We would also no doubt need a car to go back and forth between the housing and the boat yard.

Method 2 is to find a place where we could continue living on board Tarwathie up on the hard.  That can be expensive but perhaps not as expensive as alternate living and transportation costs.

Method 3 is to open up our imaginations to non-boat-centric solutions.   For example if we ever wanted to do land cruising or touring the country in an RV, this would be the ideal time to do so.

We are at the stage where we just have just seeds of thinking about the overhaul problem.  Our needs are not urgent; we could wait another year or more before doing it.

In the past when I've asked for advice from blog readers, we have received some extremely good suggestions; things that hadn't even occurred to us.  I'll do it again.  What do you suggest?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friends and Family

The Erie Canal, Lock 7
42 49.73 N 073 52.09 W

So why do we keep coming back to the Erie and Lake Champlain year after year.  OK their beauty and hospitality are unmatched.  But there must be more.  OK, I'll confess there is much more.  There are family and friends.  Consider this.

Wednesday: lunch with Paul and Marge, dinner with Pete.  Thursday: meet with Bob and Carol, then had dinner with Fred and Mary.  Friday:  an IEEE lunch meeting with Paul where I met old colleagues, Torben, Dag, Brad, Rodolfo and Kristen.  then dinner with Mary Ann, John, Roger, and Carolyn.  Still to come are meetings with Mari and John, Bud and Nancy, our son John with Cheryl, Sara, Katelyn and Victoria, Gerry and Phyllis, and Dean.  And that's just our bookings so far.  

You get the idea.  Around here we are surrounded by family and lifelong friends.   How could we resist?

While I'm being so honest, let me also point out that the prospect of losing contact with family and friends for so long was a major factor in our wise 2005 decision to cancel dreams of sailing around the world. If we had done so, we would have been cut off for 5-6 years.

What's wrong with that?  Nothing at all.  It is however, an admission that bonds to family and friends are stronger than the lust to wander and explore.   We are not cut from the same cloth as Captain Cook.  So why is that a confession?  Because, I like to portray us as Captain-Cook-like adventurers and it's not entirely true.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Picture Trouble

Long time reader Pete reports that 2/3 of the pictures on this blog appear OK, but 1/3 don't.  The pictures that don't appear show a little square icon.  

Is that a general problem or something specific about Pete's?  Please let me know.  Do you experience the same problem on this blog?   If so, please add a comment to this post.  Click on the comment button below.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Nearly Perfect Full Moon

Waterford, NY
42 47.26 N 073 40.80 W

It was a nearly perfect day.   We lazed here at the Waterford waterfront.   As as special treat we had lunch with my first boss and mentor Paul, and his wife Marge.

In the evening our friend Pete came to take us out.  Pete is a colleague from NYISO.  We used to work together.  Since then, Pete has been my longest and most faithful reader of this blog.  He never misses anything.

After dinner we were relaxing on the boat.  I remembered that this should be the night of a full moon, so I checked the chart plotter.  Sure enough, sunset right here was scheduled for 19:35 and moonrise at 19:39.  That's only four minutes difference; nearly a perfect full moon.    Pete and I walked up the hill to a bridge where we hoped to glance the moon rise.   Well we had to wait and wait.  You see there is a big ridge just east of the Hudson.   It was a full 30 minutes after the official moon rise time before the moon peeked over the top of the ridge.  When it did though, it was worth the wait.  It was spectacular.

Back at the boat 30 minutes later, I checked online and I see that Bill Martin on SV Sunshine posted pictures of the moon rise seen from his vantage point near Barnegat Bay in New Jersey.   Another 15 minutes and I got a text message from David in Zebulon, North Caroline.  "Check out the moon," he said.   It's fun to think how we're all separated by such great distances but we still share the same celestial experiences.

Tomorrow we move on to Lock 7.

By the way,  Tuesday morning turned out to be the coldest, wettest day we've seen in more than two years.  Wow was it nasty.  It was unexpected though.   However, this is summer, the nasty weather passed by in eight hours, then it got nice once again.   It was a dramatic reminder though that we're not in Florida any more.

Monday, June 13, 2011

You're a motorboat now

The Hudson River
42 20.20 N 073 51.00 W

Motor Vessel Tarwathie

Well, no more freedom of choice. As of one hour ago we are a motorboat. We're committed to life as a motorboat for the summer.

So, what is our plan? Talking to Jenny, Lake Champlain sounds really bad. Reluctantly, we gave up the idea of going there; at least for now.

I had an email exchange with David on the W32 Neverland. I wrote to espress angst that we were so close to Georgian Bay but that the fees and fuel for a round trip there would be too expensive. He wrote back with a suggestion I hadn't thought of. Make a one way trip up there, then use the prevailing westerlies to sail from there back to Buffalo via Lakes Huron and Erie. From Buffalo return to Albany on the Erie Canal. Wow! What a great idea.

I researched it more. Unfortunately, it's still too much. The circle trip is over 1600 miles long. It would still cost a whole lot of money in fees, mast up/down, fuel and some lodging. I'm afraid it would be too much.

Instead, we're taking the chicken choice. We're going to go to Buffalo and back on the Erie Canal. To be clear, that's not a bad choice. I think we'll have lots of fun. It's just not the most adventurous choice.
In favor of our choice are two main things. People say that the western half of the Erie is the nicest, and we've never seen it. Also, I like to expand our envelope every year going someplace we've never been before. Well, we've never been to the western half of the Erie.

It will be a long, liesurely trip. I still hold hope for getting up to Champlain in August if the lake recovers. We'll see.

Cruising Life Crushed
By the way, this morning we waited in line for another sailboat to have his mast lowered. That poor sailor really had bad luck. During the process, his capstay became fouled on the crane head. He had rod rigging, not wire but rod. The rod got kinked. Worse, the rod was brand new. You see, last fall this couple headed south for their first cruising experience. South of Norfolk, they were victims of an errant bridge operator. The operator of the RR bridge lowered it on top of his mast. It ruined the mast and the rigging. He spend the whole winter getting things repaired and replaced. That was just recently finished, and the couple abandoned the plans to go south and decided to return to Lake Champlain. Now, on their first time ever to lower the mast, their brand new rigging was damaged by the crane.

Poor guy, I feel so sorry for his string of bad luck. His last word to me was, "We'll never ever do this again. We'll sail at home on Lake Champlain forever and never leave."   Oh well, the lesson for the rest of us is to be thankful that we've had better luck than this man.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Great Place To Visit

Saugerties, NY

Most downtown villages in upstate New York look like ghost towns.  Not Saugerties.  It appears to thrive.  It appears to attract tourists.  It has lots of little galleries, cafes and bistros, a movie theater, nice parks, and a world class bookstore (see below).   We think it is a jewel and it should be on everyone's list of places to visit.  We plan to stay here three days.

An absolute delight is the Inquiring Mind Bookstore.   It is an old fashioned bookstore.   Lots of non-mainstream books.  Quiet, comfortable, sells coffee & snacks, plays jazz in the background.  Sometimes they have live music and/or lectures from local talent.   This is kind of bookstore that one wishes would never expire.   You could do far worse than spending a few hours here.

What Makes A Good Anchorage

Saugerties, NY
43 04.390 N 073 57.10 W

Espous Creek is a great anchorage (see the picture) and Saugerties is a great destination.

What makes an anchorage good?

  1. It must be practical.  Some places have rock bottoms where the anchor won't bite.  Some places have water so deep so close to shore that it's impossible to let the boat swing.  Long stretches of the Hudson are like that where the water is 50-100 feet deep right up to the shore.  No anchoring is possible.
  2. It must be safe.   That means it must either be sheltered from wind and/or waves or that it must be insensitive to dragging.   In the picture, Tarwathie is anchored at the base of a cliff, and the cliff is topped by tall trees.  The other bank is the same.   Shelter couldn't be better.   Even a direct hit by a tornado would not disturb us. The tornado would jump from hilltop to hilltop.  Only Otter Creek in Vergennes Vermont and Espous Creek in Saugerties NY offer this degree of shelter.

    Croton Bay on the Hudson offers much less shelter, but it is insensitive.  By that I mean that the bay is several miles wide, about 10 feet deep everywhere, and there are very few boats, or rocky shores to run into if the anchor drags.   In that case if the anchor drags a few hundred feet, so what?
  3. Some place to go ashore.  Our secret spot on the Pasquotank has no place to go ashore but we didn't care.  Usually though, we do want to go ashore.  Very many attractive anchorages have no such place.  That's especially true on the Chesapeake.  There are countless creeks in the Chesapeake that offer good shelter, but they are bordered 100% by private property offering no chance to go ashore.
  4. Beauty, and scenery natural or man made.
  5. Lack of annoying noise, insects, road and/or boat traffic.
Today's anchorage in Espous Creek meets all those criteria.  At least for today, Friday, we've yet to see what it's like on the weekend.  I'll blog later about the village of Saugerties.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Race To The Finish Conceded

Kingston, NY
41 53.88 N 074 01.04 W

One trouble with the Hudson River is that it is 150 miles long and there are only four places I would trust as heavy weather anchorages.  One is Croton Bay.  The second is Schodack Creek.  The third is called Middle Ground near Athens, NY.  The fourth is Espous Creek in Saugerties.   That leaves very long stretches with no anchorage or no good one.  Combine that with the severe thunderstorms that cross the region in summer and you can feel rather vulnerable.

Last night we were exposed down by Pollepel Island but the storms all passed north of us.  Some got as close as 10 miles, but they never hit us.  See the picture.  Our location is marked by the little man.

June 8

Today, I've been watching the dopper radar all day long on my Droid.  We were heading for Espous Creek.   However in early afternoon I could see the storms building.  They appear out of nowhere and head SE.   I calculated our rate of progress against that of the storms.  I calculated that we would lose the race to the finish and get hit before arrival.

I elected to chicken out and to put in here to Roundout Creek.  There is no achchorage for us here but I did find a really cheap slip.  $1 per foot at Rondout Bay Cafe and Marina.  So here we are.  Just tied up.  The storms look like they'll get here in less than an hour.  (see the picture) I hear the thunder already.  Oh well, better safe than sorry.

June 9

p.s.  Thanks to Pam and Dave who sent us an email warning about the impending weather.  Right on.

Local Beauty and Bizarre

Pollepel Island
41 27.54 N 073 59.20 W

Ever heard of Bannerman Castle?  If you ride the Amtrak train from Albany to New York it's a familiar sight.  If not, read the bizarre story here.  Anyhow, that's where we're anchored tonight.

I hope we're OK.  There is a massive cold front with storms and tornadoes around Kingston Ontario right now heading east.   It looks like it will pass well north of us.  That's good.  We are in a stretch of the river where right here is the only anchorage around and it's not a good place to sit out a severe storm.

Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island

The Nearest Mountain

Looking South, West Point in the distance
West Point

Anyhow, the real story here is the beauty of the area.  From the Indian Point Nuclear Plant north to right here is a breathtaking section of the river flanked by steep mountains.   Storm King Mountain is the best known of these, but not the most beautiful.  Smack in the middle of this section is West Point and the US Army Military Academy.   Fantastic sights.

The next stretch of the river is also beautiful because of views of the Catskill Mountains to our west.  Unfortunately, it is very hot and hazy this week so visibility is poor -- only 5 miles.   

I was just thinking yesterday how much we love the sounds of railroads at night.  I've blogged about that in the past.  Tonight will be a real test.  We are only 150 feet from the Amtrak tracks.  Trains going 60 mph and honking their horns pass here every 20 minutes or so.  

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Croton On The Hudson
41 02.62 N 071 57.48 W

Libby made an interesting remark yesterday.  As we passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge yesterday she said, "I know that going under the Champlain Bridge means we are home again, but the Verrazano is also a milestone.  We're home."    I have to agree with her, but that raises the question, where is home?

Last year I wrote on this blog, about the emotional wash of returning home as we gazed over the landscape north of Athens New York on the Hudson.  There, the landscape, the foliage, the shape of the hills, and the climate become characteristic of the Mohawk Valley.  That is certainly home ground.

Also a bit beyond the Champlain Bridge, as we pass Spit Rock Point the beauty of the central body of Lake Champlain is revealed to us with mountains on either side.  That makes our hearts soar.  That is home waters.

So where is home?  It is where you know the people (or at least some people), the land, the climate, the local streets, and the local businesses.   That includes the multiple places we've lived on land.   Manlius, Fayetteville, Oran, Potsdam, Scotia, Schenectady, and West Charlton, all in New York. Västerås Sweden, Essex Junction and Burlington Vermont. Also places I've worked for prolonged times,  Daytona Beach, Studsvik and Nyköping Sweden, and Tapiola Finland.

But what about our home now as cruisers?   Certainly Tarwathie is home.  When we're away from the boat for a while and we return we say, "It's nice to be home again."

But the boat doesn't fit the definition of knowing the people, the climate and the local streets and businesses.   By that definition, we have several homes nowadays.   Burlington and Vergennes Vermont, Waterford and Whitehall New York, The Dismal Swamp Welcome Center, Elizabeth City, Oriental, and New Bern, North Carolina, Fernandina Beach, Vero Beach and Marathon Florida.   Those places meet all the criteria.

Which of those is our main home?  Tough question.  We love all those places.  That's why we visit them so many times every year.  Marathon is the most fun and hopefully where we spend the most time.  If you twist my arm however, I'm forced to admit that Vero Beach is one place  we "know"  better than those other places.

So, I surprised myself by examining this question.  15 minutes ago I would have said that we are nomads, we have no home.   But after a bit of introspection I see that's not true.  The concept of home still has powerful emotional meaning to Libby and I.   The difference is that now our "home" on the boat moves with us as we move between our multiple homes.  Evidently he concept of home remains powerful even though the definition of home is very pliable.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Rational Exuberance

The Hudson River
41 09.47 N 073 54.09 W

Last night we wanted to take advantage of the tide and sail from Sandy Hook to the anchorage behind Liberty Island after sunset.  We did so, but when we got into the upper bay we changed our minds.  The lights of the city were spectacular, the cool summer temperature of the night was delightful, our sleep schedules were already disrupted, and the river traffic was minimal.  We decided to keep going all the way past New York City.

It was a great decision.  What fun to move stress free and at a leisurely pace between the giant cities of New York and Hoboken.  With time to study the skylines, we discerned for the first time the New York neighborhoods.   The Battery, Downtown, Midtown, Uptown, the Upper West Side, Morningside, Harlem, Washington Heights, and finally Inglewood.  As we wasnt, we educated ourselves by reading the Wikipedia articles on each neighborhood on my Droid.   It was like a self conducted, narrated, guided tour of Manhattan Island.

To better see New York, we sailed up the Jersey side of the river.  That took us right past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.   It also woke a strong memory when I glanced over at the battery.  You see, years ago, in the 1990s, I used to spend evening after evening entertaining myself with Microsoft Flight Simulator.   One of my favorites was to bank a turn around Liberty Island and head for The Battery.  If I did it just right, one of the avenues of NY opened up before me like a long narrow canyon. I think it was 5th Avenue or maybe 8th.  Anyhow, I would fly my Cessna up the canyon, then make a banking turn onto Broadway at Times Square.   It was hard to do without crashing the plane into a building.   Anyhow, last night as we passed Liberty Island I looked over at The Battery and there it was -- the canyon.  It was brilliantly lit and inviting.  If only we could make Tarwathie fly.

The tide continued to increase.  We went under the Verrazano bridge doing 4 knots, the George Washington Bridge at 6.5 knots, and approached the Tappan Zee Bridge at 7.2 knots.   What fun.  That was the end though.  Near the Tappan Zee there are big areas of 10 feet deep water that make great anchorages.  Then we dropped the hook around 0100 and had a great night's sleep.

Sometimes exuberance *is* rational.

p.s. The AIS was very useful.  It allowed us to separate the moving vessels from the dozens of anchored ones.   We were able to avoid ship and barge traffic with a 1-2 mile advance warning of their course and speed.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Guess where

Almost impossible to take night photos from a sailboat. Can you see what it is?
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The Sea State

New York Lower Harbor
40 30.28 N 073 59.72 W

I write often in this blog about the winds.  Of course the winds effects us first and foremost.  But the sea state, (i.e. the height, direction and period of the waves) also has a big influence.  I don't mention sea state often because it follows the wind.  The wind after all creates the sea state.  But there are exceptions.

Late yesterday afternoon, the wind kicked up nicely from the SE.  It was very welcome because we were weary of motoring and eager to sail.  However, for some reason, the sea also kicked up with 6 foot waves but from the NE direction.  That had two effects.

First, Libby appeared abruptly in the cockpit.  It took only one look at her green face to see why; she was seasick.  It has been several years since Libby has been seasick.  She uses Bonine pills and they seem to work.   Not this time.  She said that the nausea came on instantaneously as Tarwathie pitched and rocked in those darn seas.   She strapped on her electric shocking wristband and stayed in the cockpit and in a few minutes it passed.

Secondly, we couldn't sail.  Westsail 32s like to porpoise.  That means rocking, not side to side, but fore and aft.  The rocking and pitching are caused by the waves.  Worse, if the speeds are just right, we reach a resonance.   In a resonance condition, each Nth wave (N in the range 5 to 20) catches the downward pitching nose of the boat with such force that it nearly stops our forward motion.  Then, the speed builds again until N waves later.   With these SE winds and NE waves, and all our sails up, we would up in a miserable resonance.  I had to run the engine and add an extra 0.5 knots of speed to break the resonance.

Oh well, not to complain too much.  Within and hour the winds and the waves both disappeared and we were back to motoring on a flat surface.

Right now we anchored just north of Sandy Hook, NJ in the NY Harbor Lower Bay.   We'll enjoy a nap while we wait for the tide to turn.  Tonight, after dinner we'll have a sunset cruise through the Verazano Narrows and up to Manhattan at night.  The lights of the city at night can be really nice.  We'll probably anchor behind the Statue of Liberty and continue up river tomorrow.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Best Laid Plans

At Sea
38 47.15 N 074 39.86 W

Well, my plans yesterday did little good. Sailing close to shore failed to produce onshore/offshore winds. We've been motor sailing all the way, and it appears that we'll motorsail all the way to NYC. Oh well.

We can't complain much about the passage though. It has been nice. The seas have been calm. We have not been harassed by any ship or barge traffic.

Last night, passing the Delmarva Peninsula I was treated to a very nice lighting show. There was a thunderstorm over land, perhaps 30 miles away. It seemed to be almost stationary. Every 5-=10 seconds a flash of heat lightning would light up the overcast sky, reflecting from the cloud bottoms. Every 5-10 minutes I could catch sight of a cloud to ground stroke from afar. It never came close enough to threaten us.

On the radar, I saw intense rain cells approach from the west. Each came within two miles of us but missed us. If it were not for the radar, I would never have known they were there.

There's risk of thunderstorms tonight also. Indeed, in this part of the country, this time of year, it is hard to find any night when there is not some risk of thunderstorms. They don't scare us much. If they come, we just lower the sails, go below, put electronics in the oven, and wait it out. Years ago I had a guest on board another sailboat who became terrified because we were in the middle of the lake and as a thunderstorm approached. I think fears like that are unjustified. Indeed, if one were to sail across the ocean as people have done for thousands of years, there is no opportunity to go ashore to avoid a thunderstorm.

Another 20 hours and we'll be at Sandy Hook, at the entrance to NY Harbor.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Summer Season

At Sea
37 11.88 N 075 45.37 W

In future years I think we'll have to make sure we pass this way a week or two earlier. The prevailing SW winds of May have given way to the prevailing no winds of June. I think we'll have to motor at least 50% of the time from here to NYC.

Not that it's bad. In past years,we had an awful time motoring at sea. The problem is when there are waves and too little wind. Then the boat rocks back and forth and the sails flog as they are waved around. Today however, there are no significant waves either.

I've plotted a route that will take us much closer to shore than normal. Within a mile or two of shore most of the time. My hope is that we can catch some of the onshore/offshore breezes caused by the difference in temperature over land and water. We'll take anything we can get.

All things considered though, it is much nicer and more beautiful out here than it would be going up the Cheapeake and down the Delaware. We hope to make as much progress each 24 hours as we would in 7 days on the ICW. In addition, we should see little or no boat traffic except as we pass the Delaware shipping lanes.

Tonight will be moonless and cloudless. Star gazing should be great.

Summer Season

At Sea
37 11.88 N 075 45.37 W

In future years I think we'll have to make sure we pass this way a week or two earlier. The prevailing SW winds of May have given way to the prevailing no winds of June. I think we'll have to motor at least 50% of the time from here to NYC.

Not that it's bad. In past years,we had an awful time motoring at sea. The problem is when there are waves and too little wind. Then the boat rocks back and forth and the sails flog as they are waved around. Today however, there are no significant waves either.

I've plotted a route that will take us much closer to shore than normal. Within a mile or two of shore most of the time. My hope is that we can catch some of the onshore/offshore breezes caused by the difference in temperature over land and water. We'll take anything we can get.

All things considered though, it is much nicer and more beautiful out here than it would be going up the Cheapeake and down the Delaware. We hope to make as much progress each 24 hours as we would in 7 days on the ICW. In addition, we should see little or no boat traffic except as we pass the Delaware shipping lanes.

Tonight will be moonless and cloudless. Star gazing should be great.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Good Neighbors

Norfolk, VA
36 57.63 N 76 17.88 W

It shouldn't be hard to figure out where this anchorage is. Two super carriers behind our stern.

We also spent the afternoon with some new friends, Dave and Diane. We met them last night at the Deep Creek lock. They're a sweet couple.

Libby taught Diane how to make pine needle baskets.

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A Genuine

Norfolk, VA
36 48.60 N 076 17.41 W

We encountered a genuine character last night at Deep Creek Lock. Captain Arnold of the good ship Pieces. See the picture.

Pieces was a steel hulled sailboat. Now she has been converted to a motorboat.

Tomorrow, out to sea heading for NYC.

Captain Arnold however hasn't been converted at all. He has a thousand stories, most of which are delightful. If only he had a blog.
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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Recent Pics

Dismal Swamp Welcome Center
36 30.01 N76 20.50 W

Dave at the helm

A wild rose

Wild Rose Bushes are blooming all over the swamp
We spent 2 days here.  Absolutely beautiful.

Kind hearted Libby gives a haircut to a single-handed cruiser