Monday, July 30, 2007

A Valcour Day

Valcour Island
N 44 37.86 W 073 24.410

Our primary activity today was to hike on the perimeter trail on Valcour Island. The island is just as majestic as it always was. It is a pretty special place. Most of the island is bedrock, covered by a thin layer of dirt, and populated by old-growth slow-growing trees. The thin dirt does not allow the tree roots to get a really firm hold, so there are numerous blow downs. The root lattices from the blown down trees stick up in the air. The accent for this scene is provided by the lichen
and moss which grows everywhere. The whole island is wilderness, except for one private house on the shore at a point. There are a dozen or two campsites provided by the state, but these too are wilderness sites. As one walks around the perimeter, one is rewarded by spectacular views to the east, west and south. At a few spots, the perimeter trail skirts the edge of cliffs looking down on the water below.

Today, the island was very still, with hardly a sound audible. In October, is is normal to hear the howl of the wind in the tree tops. I remember many nights at anchor, feeling grateful for the protection of one of Valcour's sheltered coves as I listened to the howling of the wind in the trees.

I'm sure that there are places in the Adirondacks or Green Mountains that provide similar scenery but I haven't seen them.

This afternoon I swam for the first time in a while. I found a gouge and a paint streak on the starboard side just above the water line. It appears that the Indian's jet ski (the first one) did hit us after all. Tarwathie has a war wound. It doesn't show up very much because of the other gouges and scrapes we've picked up over the years. My friend Pete call it dock rash. I'm ashamed to say that we haven't done nearly as well as Al Hatch at protecting Tarwathie from scratches and bumps.

We're anchored in Spoon Bay on Valcour. There were no other boats here when we came. Now, there are 8 other boats anchored near us, 6 of them Canadian. We think it is a kind of herd instinct. When looking around for a suitable place to anchor, one's eye is drawn to the place where other boats are already anchored. It's pretty natural and we do the same thing.

Return To Home Waters

Valcour Island
N 44 37.86 W 073 24.410

Well here we are. We are anchored at the epicenter of our favorite place of all. We are at Valcour Island, near the landing where we put ashore to go camping. 30 years ago, I learned to love cruising by taking a week vacation around October 1 each year to bring my boat to Lake Champlain and cruise for a week. Valcour Island was always the high point of the trip. It is a real jewel. Later, in the 1990s, Libby and I came camping on Valcour in early October three or four times.

As we sailed down the lake today, familiar sights came in to view. First Jay Peak where David and I used to ski. Then Chazy Landing where Libby's aunts and uncles lived and where she spent happy summers in her youth. Then we passed the place where I marked an X in the water to mark the spot where John Undrill and I nearly drowned. Soon after we could see Mount Mansfield (which Libby and I climbed), Camel's Hump (which we climbed several times), Split Rock Point, Willsboro Bay (the summer camp
of Bob and Carol, dear friends), Whiteface Mountain (1980 Winter Olympics), and Lyon Mountain. A few weeks ago, we saw Lyon mountain to our southeast. Today it is to our west. Anyhow, we're in home waters. We can name the mountains, the islands, the bays, and we don't need to consult the charts for depth. I know the rocks and shoals by heart.

We have chosen the life of perpetual travel. We love it. Still, traveling to exotic places does not diminish the delight of returning to home waters. If we go through Panama with the intention of sailing around the world, it means we won't see these places again for five or more years.

Yesterday, we stopped at Lighthouse Point, the first marina in Rouses Point. We wanted fuel, a pump out, and we needed to clear customs. We did all three, and then they said that they could help us put up our mast also. Hooray for that! We moved the boat over to the crane and with the help of two of their men, we put the mast back up. In my opinion though they made it too complicated. Instead of reversing what we did to take it down, they made me remove the back stay (that has never been detached
before. I had to undo the wire attachment for the SSB radio antenna and cut all the nice stand-offs that hold the wire away from the stay. We also had to remove everything attached to the pin rails. We never did that before. Then they took the mast and stays up on land, put it on a wheeled cart and turned it over and around 180 degrees. Then they brought it back and we erected it. It took much longer than usual for us to put things back, and so far I found four errors we made in re-rigging her.
Tsk tsk. (Today, as we raised the main, the topping lift broke. It was twisted around the main halyard. That's one of the errors.)

The marina was also expensive. They charged us $180 to step the mast. Heretofore, we've paid $45 to $150 for mast stepping. We spent the night at their slip to work on re-rigging. $1.50 per foot for the slip -- high for Lake Champlain. Then I did an oil change and the marina wanted to charge me $10 to dispose of a gallon of old oil. That's more than new oil costs. The marina does provide good service, but I think they are expensive mainly because they appear to have a totally multilingual
staff. All the other boats coming and going while we were there were French speaking.

I got on the Internet last night. First time in quite a while. I found that some things never change:

The headline on today's Dagens Nyheter (Sweden's biggest newspaper) was: "The Sun Will Come Next Weekend" The story said,
"Hold on. Next Saturday and Sunday will will be sunny and warm in the whole country. But only temporarily. It is not really a high pressure but a pause between two low pressures." We remember very well how the weather in Sweden was often a big disappointment.

I also read a story about Schenectady; another former home of ours. The city is trying to harass a B&B owner who allows his guests to have sex parties. City cops are running checks on all license plate numbers of cars parked in his lot. The owner is complaining about abuse of police power. The joke to this is that as long as we can remember, Schenectady has been trying to eliminate all sex businesses via sneaky and possibly illegal tactics. Certainly ineffective tactics. The city government
there has always been singularly inept.

Friday, July 27, 2007

God Bless Quebec

The Richelieu River,
N 45 09.486 W 073 15.476

We passed through the Chambly Canal today. It is a very charming and historic canal and a point of Canadian pride.

The day started out when the lock master came down to the wall where we and other boats were waiting. He collected the fees It was $85 for Tarwathie including an overnight stay on the wall plus a one-way transit of the Chambly Canal. He also assessed the size and beam of each boat and made a plan for which boats to take in which order to achieve maximum packing density. These locks are very small. He told me that he could fit all 5 of the boats waiting. He was wrong, when we got in the lock
the 5th boat stuck out 6 feet and it had to back away and wait for the next batch. That left us with two motor boats and two sail boats that would pass as a group through all 9 locks and 3-6 bridges. Tarwathie held up the rear in position number IV.

All but one of the locks in the canal are still hand operated and therefore have multiple lock attendants. They passed lines down for us to hold on to, then they closed the doors and opened the valves. When locking is complete, they help you push off and wish you a nice trip. We were the only English speakers around so much of the chatter between boats and with the attendants we couldn't follow.

The first three locks are a tandem compound single unit. The upstream doors for lock 1 are the downstream doors for lock 2 and so on. Therefore, we initially passed through locks 1, 2, and 3 in one continuous operation. It was impressively efficient for 19th century norms, but it was pretty slow. Even though we got up and ready by 7 AM, by 10 AM we had only moved 500 feet southward and 30 feet upward. Locks 4, through 8 were similar but they did have short canal passages between them. By 11:45
we were past lock 8 and about 1 mile from our starting point.

After that we passed through the canal proper. The canal it interesting. It is contained by dikes raising it above the elevation of a hillside that slopes down to the river. At one point, I could see white water rapids in the river 500 feet to the east and 50 feet below us. It was a unique sight.

The 4 boats were supposed to travel in a group so that we all arrive at draw bridges at the same time. The speed limit was 10 km/h and they expected everyone to travel that speed. The best we do with Tarwathie at 2,000 RPM was 9 km/hr. That meant that the slower boats had to stop and wait for us to catch up at each bridge. Too bad. I don't like cruising at more than 2,000 RPM.

Around 14:00 we passed lock 9 and rejoined the Richelieu River. It was only 18 miles to go to Rouses Point on Lake Champlain. However, halfway down the sky appeared threatening a severe thunderstorm. In addition, the river on the lower half is only 6 feet deep in the center of the channel and the channel is very narrow, and anchoring is impossible. I didn't want to risk getting hit by a thunderstorm that might blind us and blow us to the side in such treacherous waters, so we anchored here for
the night in the last deep (16 feet) water before the border.

By the way, I forgot to mention the Saint Ours Lock that we passed yesterday. When we entered that lock I was surprised to see a floating wooden dock inside the lock. The boats tie up to the dock and the dock floats up and down with the lock operation. But that's not the best part. They also had two of the foxiest lock attendants imaginable there to collect the fees, to help us tie up and to flirt with the captains as they rode up and down with us on the dock. God bless Quebec. Who else would
have provided so lovely and charming lock attendants? I sailed away singing the words to The Girl from Ipanema.

p.s. Libby gives me explicit permission to look and appreciate other females as long as I don't touch. That's one of the
many reasons I love her. I wonder if she would have thought twice about giving that permission if we lived in Quebec at the time.


Chambly, Quebec
N 45 26.950 W 073 17.016

The morning started with a grounding. You see, the day before, as we pulled in to the slip, we grounded in soft mud and had to force Tarwathie in to the slip. There is only a slight tide at Sorel, but this morning it must have been an inch or two lower than when we pulled in. It gave us a chance to demonstrate a little seamanship and practice warping.

Warping in a boat is not a reference to Star Trek. Rather it means moving the boat using lines tied to fixed objects. In this case, I took a long line from our stern and tied it to a cleat two slips away. To do that I had to walk over someone else's boat and I woke up the man sleeping inside. I apologized profusely.

With the stern warped to the dock we could back with full power, yet be assured that as we backed out, the stern would swing in a circular arc with the fixed point of the warp at the center. It worked just right. We used full power, and just as we broke away from the bottom and Tarwathie backed toward a collision with the boats behind us, the warp swung us nicely in to the channel. The other boaters watching us said, "good job."

The trip down the Richelieu River was very pleasant. The river banks are picturesque pretty. (Grrr, we have no camera to take the pictures.) Most of it is developed with a mixture of permanent homes, vacation homes, and farms. As the day went on, the boat traffic increased and increased until it was extremely heavy and crowded. It was also dangerous. There were very many water skiers in the water and there were also cigarette speed boats roaring past at 50 to 60 knots within the confined space
of the river banks. It is a recipe for tragic accidents. Fortunately, none happened yesterday for us to see.

We got to Chambly around 18:30 and tied up at the lock wall for the night. We went out to the village to explore. The first thing we found was a public exercise/aerobics group in progress. They had a dynamite young man leading it and it looked like everyone was having fun. That is everyone from 5 to 70 years old. I was tempted to join in myself, but I couldn't understand the instructor's commands in French. Then we found a supermarket. Like the one in Kingston, it had better quality food,
more variety and better prices than USA supermarkets. This time, Libby was with me to see it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mast Down

Sorel Quebec
N 46 02.894 W 73 06.385

I have a confession to make. Several days ago we decided to alter our grand plan and to go down to Lake Champlain instead of continuing on through Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. My confession is that I didn't blog that information right away. We're not like those crazy teens on we post a lot of information publicly on this blog but not everything, duh.

So why did we change? I can't nail down any single factor. It was a combination. We are late in the season for the longer route. The weather has been so calm that it's bound to turn adversely soon. The Gulf of Saint Lawrence coast has sheer cliffs, few or no anchorages and the weather can be fierce. I would feel safer in those circumstances with a third crewman on board. Also, we might have had to put in to a marina almost every night for the next month or so and that would be expensive.
In addition, we did get homesick seeing Lyon Mountain and hearing Burlington radio stations. Lake Champlain has always been our first love for a nice place to sail. It was all those things.

We got to Sorel and only one of the two marinas has a crane for mast stepping. We were surprised and a little taken aback though to learn that the crane was self service and the mast stepping is do it yourself. What the heck though, it's time we learned to do it. Now at sunset, I can report that the mast unstepping went very well. We did it ourselves with no big incident and only a little help from Lauren and Karen, friendly passers by. The only casualty was a broken Windex. Heck, that's not
bad. On my previous boats I used to break at least one Windex per year in mast stepping/unstepping operations. As a bonus, I learned that the fee for use of the crane was only $45 as compared to the $150 we paid to have it done for us a the Hop-O-Nose Marina in Catskill, and $140 at Oswego.

Our joy at saving money was short lived. I asked Libby to pass the camera ashore so I could take a picture of Tarwathie with the mast down. You guessed it. We fumbled the camera when handing it off and ker-splash it went in to the water. Damn, that camera was less than 2 months old.

Oh well, all in all we did a pretty good job today. We rewarded ourselves with a dinner at a sidewalk cafe (what else?) in Sorel. We delighted in watching the people and the cars and the way that they cruise the streets at night like I remember seeing in Sweden in the 1970s and like the movie, American Graffiti from 50 years ago. I confess to ogling the Quebec girls. They sure do have a lot of strikingly beautiful young girls in Quebec. They always did. What's more, they are fond of skimpy
very revealing outfits. I'm fond of them too. It would be worth billions to learn what they put in the baby food here in Quebec. When I was in college, the Clarkson boys headed to Montreal for weekends in search of girls. They reported that the girls didn't like the local Quebec boys so the American's did well. Myself? I was engaged to Libby all those college years so I couldn't go.

Tomorrow we head south on the Richelieu Canal and by Friday we should be on Lake Champlain once again.

Attention friends and family! There should be opportunities to sail with us on Lake Champlain in the next two weeks. Please don't be shy. Call us if you would like to go.

In addition, we'll also have a second visit to the Albany and Scotia areas in late August. We hope to see more friends there. This time I'd like to arrange a tour of the new NYISO building in Rensselaer.

Great Reader Commnets

Blog reader David on Neverland has the following comments on our hostile Indian attack. I thought that I would share them with you. Perhaps you have some suggestions of your own, just email them along please.


Perhaps flying a "First Nation" (Canadian for native lands and peoples) courtesy flag might deflect some aggression. It looks the same as the Canadian flag, but the maple leaf is replaced by a profile view of the head of a native man in full head-dress.

Acting as if you are enjoying the shower (it's only water) could certainly deflate their fun, after all, they have to get wet too and pay for the gas to have their fun.

Maybe you should practice your lasso technique and then when when they get too close, you rope one, drag him behind the boat til the aggression is out of him, then cut him loose. I'm sure roping skills would garner some respect from natives.(pure non-productive fantasy).

How about having a fishing rod(s) and casting a line(s) (tiny lead sinker, no hook) into their path or create a spider web of deterance around the boat, and let them tangle themselves up in it. Who knows, maybe it would get sucked into the jets on their machine.

In the end, the best revenge is being able to wave goodbye, wish them peace, and move on to a more peaceful location. They're stuck in the world they create, fortunately, you're not.

Happier sailing,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Adventures in Quebec

Riviere Saint-Jean
N 45 52.019 W 073 16.262

It was a long day devoid of entertaining events like the attack of the jet ski.

We intended to make it all the way to Sorel today. That meant 68 miles of traveling plus two locks to traverse. We're short of our goal.

The main reason we failed is that we got stuck in Canal de la Rive Sud behind the CP railroad bridge. That location is just across the river from Montreal. We were also behind Notre Dame Island where Expo 67, the Worlds Fair, was held in 1967.

We approached the draw bridge, and called on the radio, but got no answer. We tooted our horn, we waved our arms. For two hours we failed to do anything to get the bridge to lift for us. Finally, we saw a truck with the Saint Lawrence Seaway logo on the door driving by the canal. We flagged down the truck and Libby shouted to the driver, "HOW DO WE GET THAT BRIDGE TO OPEN?" The driver said that the bridge tender was supposed to see us coming and open the bridge on his own. He did us a favor
and called the seaway head office and asked them to call the bridge. Then he came back and shouted, "NOW HE KNOWS YOU'RE HERE." We thanked him and approached the bridge again waving our arms and tooting the horn. This time, a door opened in the tender's house and a big fat man poked his head out. 15 minutes after that, the bridge opened. The light stayed red though, but after waiting 60 seconds, I moved on through. Looking back after we passed, I saw that the light never did turn green.
Our opinion of bridge tenders in Quebec is very low (lock tenders though are competent and friendly.)

After the two hours at the bridge we had to wait an hour each at the two remaining locks. By the time we passed the last lock, it was 15:00 and we still had 38 miles to go. On the plus side, we had a current of 5 knots with us in Montreal gradually diminishing to 2 knots as we headed north.

We are anchored out in the middle of the river, 1/4 mile outside the shipping channel. I declined the nearby well sheltered and current-free anchorage at Contrecouer. We have two guide books that say that we can get in there via a narrow 6 foot deep channel, but we also have two charts that say that the water is only 3 feet deep entering that channel. I did not want to run aground in a place where a two knot cross current might hold us against a shoal. We're still 12 miles short of Sorel.

I should mention why we passed right through the world class city of Montreal without stopping. Montreal is familiar to Libby and I. We've been there numerous times for both business and pleasure. In fact, one of those times was when we attended the World's Fair there in 1967. I used to cite San Francisco, Copenhagen, and Montreal as our three favorite cities. But we're retired now and the elegant hotels and fancy restaurants are not our thing. Plus that, we have an aversion to berthing Tarwathie
in any large city.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Our Coup Taken

N 45 19.330 W 073 52.526

Today started with a hostile Indian attack. Or perhaps not. I'll let you decide. Here are the facts.

As we were leaving the anchorage around 0730 I saw a jet ski (Sea-Doo, PWC or whatever you call them) approaching us from across the river. I was about to wave to the driver when he suddenly turned straight at us. He drove right up to Tarwathie at full speed and turned away at the last second, less than 3 feet away. The result was that he kicked up a big wave of water that splashed all down over me and the boat. It was the same tactic as had been used against us yesterday, albeit not quite
so forceful or effective as yesterday's splash. The rider appeared to be a young Indian man to me. Perhaps a teenager.

This Indian wasn't satisfied though. He turned around and made another pass from the rear, again veering away at the last second and splashing me from behind. A lot of the water went down the open companionway door. We scrambled to close the hatches and put in the batter boards to close the companionway. Our attacker made pass after pass, from all quarters. I estimate 12 passes in total. By the time he finished, we were in the middle of the ship channel. I considered and rejected taking
countermeasures. Not that I could have done anything meaningful. He was infinitely more maneuverable than a 20,000 pound boat with a full keel. Luckily, my rage didn't build. After the first two passes I felt less threatened, and he couldn't get us any more wet than we already were. Finally, he tired of the game and drove away to a nearby fuel dock where a bunch of his friends were waiting on the shore.

After it was all over, I thought about this attack and yesterday's too. Clearly, the Indians were mad that we anchored in "their" waters. We relied on two guide books that recommended that spot as a good anchorage. Nevertheless, those guides were no doubt written by white people. It is not the Indian's responsibility to put up signs or to warn off unwelcome visitors. Nor can we expect that they behave like white people. A white man would have come up to Tarwathie and asked us to leave. These
teenagers acted very differently. By our norms, he committed an unjustified act of violence, a strict taboo in polite white society. On the other side, I recall the descriptions of the custom of some Indian tribes to take coup. As I remember it, the warrior would ride his horse close to the enemy during battle. Instead of killing the enemy, he would reach out and touch him with a coup stick. It was an act of bravado designed to demonstrate bravery of the warrior and contempt for the enemy.
I felt that the Indian boy had taken our coup.

So what's the bottom line? Should we be outraged, or should we apologize to the Akwesasnes for squatting on their waters? Libby thinks the former, I think the latter. Therefore, from Libby: "I shake my fist at you and promise revenge." From Dick: "I apologize. We should have paid more attention to the earlier, gentler, indirect warnings that we weren't welcome."

Oh well, 15 minutes after the attack, we cleared the nearby island and caught our first glimpse of the Adirondacks. Still better, we could plainly see Lyon Mountain. That made us very homesick. Lyon Mountain can be seen prominently from Burlington and from the northern end of Lake Champlain and seen from Potsdam where we lived 42 years ago. My mood improved as I watched the mountains while stripping naked and putting on dry clothes.

Soon, we came to Lac Saint Frances. It is a beautiful lake with very many picturesque islands. It is also deceptive because most of the lake is only 1-2 feet deep and boats like us must stick to the ship channel. It reminded us of Mosquito Lagoon in Florida.

After lunch we came to the Beauharnois Canal with two draw bridges and two locks. The bridge tenders were rude. They wouldn't answer any of my radio calls, nor the calls of other boaters. We waited upstream of the bridge in the 2 knot current. We noticed a small 20 foot sailboat with a man on woman onboard who were also waiting. It seemed that their outboard motor stopped and that he couldn't restart it. The man scrambled toward his anchor to avoid drifting in to the closed bridge. We approached
them and offered to give them a tow. The man didn't speak English, and the woman only a little, but we made ourselves understood anyhow. We took them in tow and towed them about a mile away to a place close the shore where it was shallow enough for them to anchor. We returned to the bridge and managed to sneak under the open bridge hard on the stern of a ship.

At the next bridge, the tender didn't answer radio calls. Then, the bridge raised, but the light stayed red. I called the operator to ask if we should wait for green. No response. I finally went under the bridge against the red light. It turned green just after we passed under. I think they are rude.

At the lock we tied up at the waiting dock where 6 other boats waited already. We tried to use the phone to the lockmaster. It was broken. We tried buying lock passes from the dispenser machine. It was broken. A modern LCD display sign offered information on the next opening. Two of the three lines of text were broken, but the third line gave us the information we needed, the lock would open in 20 more minutes.

We passed through the two Beauharnois locks without incident. The lock tenders were very helpful and friendly and bilingual. In theory we could continue on to Montreal tonight, arriving just before dark. However, we don't know how long we might have to wait at the next locks, so we're anchored for the night here in Lac Saint Louis. The Montreal skyline is visible 20 miles to the northeast.

I just turned on the radio and we got Burlington Vermont Public Radio. That makes us even more homesick.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Red Man's Land

Saint Regis
N 45 00.296 W 74 39.229

Last night I made a big, almost disastrous error. We didn't get through Snell Lock until after dark. We had 5 miles to go to the first anchorage. The current was strong and I was feeling uneasy out on the river and anxious to leave the channel and anchor. We came around the last bend and I started to cross the channel to the anchorage. There were lots of lights on shore from different buildings. Suddenly I heard a very loud whistle. I looked up and there was a big ship bearing down on us
at 12+ knots. I had mistaken his lights with those of a building on shore. Instantly I put the helm hard over, even before the second blast on the whistle. I turned 90 degrees from the ship's course before the second blast was finished. The ship continued for the 5 blasts on the whistle which means "emergency danger." I've been thinking about that mistake all day long. It rattled my confidence.

Today we headed to Cornwall to check in with customs. It was only 6 miles away and the adverse current wasn't as strong as I feared. No doubt, doing it on a Sunday morning helped because the Moses Power Dam upstream would not be running at peak capacity.

The Marina 200 in Cornwall kindly let us put in to a slip for 3 hours at no charge. It was a delightfully nice place. We got a new clearance number from Canadian Customer, Libby did the laundry, we both took showers. I walked to a near by mall to a grocery store and encountered an antique car show in the parking lot. The grocery store was a surprise. The food was more varied and better quality than that found in American stores; especially the produce. The prices were lower than American
stores. Very nice.

When the three hours were up, I was a bit reluctant to leave. We have a limited data sample. Nevertheless, Libby and I are very impressed with Ontario and Ontarians. That includes the Ontarians we've met while cruising. This would be a very nice and stimulating place to live.

We left the marina too late in the afternoon to set sail for Montreal so we returned to the same anchorage as last night. This exact spot is a kind of no man's land or any man's land. It may be better to call it red man's land. Studying the chart, we seem to be anchored exactly on the spot where New York, Ontario, and Quebec meet. Not only that, but the land on both sides of us is The Akwesasne Indian Reservation. That didn't bother us, but after anchoring we noticed that we were getting repeatedly
buzzed by speed boats and jet skis passing overly close. I got the idea that we might not be welcome here. It is also possible that the Indian teenagers like to harass people and feel free from prosecution. We ignored it.

After a few hours, we were below deck when one more boat buzzed us. This time we heard an enormous crash and gallons of water rained in to the cabin from the open companionway and from the hatch under the dinghy. We were both sure that a boat actually collided with us. I rushed up on deck. The water was streaming from the scuppers in a cascade. I looked back to see a jet ski speed away from us. I looked all around at the hull and I can't see any marks. Amazingly, it seems that the jet ski
didn't collide but rather hit us with an enormous wave at high speed. When we calmed down we started cleaning up all the wet things and wet papers in the cabin. No wave at sea breaking over the bow ever put so much water on our decks and in the cabin as that event. Libby had the right attitude though. She said that she would not be intimidated by a bunch of teenagers.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

En Route

Snell Lock
N 44 59 W 0774 47

WE anchored out in the river last night with no problem. This morning dawned as a perfect day. The sky was deep blue, signifying clean air. The humidity was very low, giving excellent visibility. Small clouds dotted the sky.

We still did not have a set place to meet John, Nick's dad, in Ogdensburg. The marinas were full. We just motored over there and looked for a place once in the harbor. We spotted an abandoned commercial landing by a vacant lot and went there. To my surprise, a Colonial soldier appeared out the the weeds to help us tie up. It seems that we had by chance landed in the middle of a recreation of a 17th century battle from the French and Indian war. That made it very interesting.

After a while, John arrived and got lost in Ogdensburg. Eventually he found us and he and Nick drove away. It was a bit sad for us. After so many weeks with the pleasure of company of friends and family, Libby and I will be alone for a good stretch.

The motor-sail down the river was great. Aside from Lake Champlain, this is about the prettiest waterway we've ever seen. Many of the properties along the banks have extensive grass meadows. Meadows are much prettier than trees when seen from a distance. Surprisingly, the Canadian side of the river is much more developed with houses than the American side.

When we got to the Eisenhower Lock, we had to tie up and wait 2 hours for the lock. While we were waiting, I tried to call Canadian Customs to re-enter Canada. I learned that I misunderstood the system. Even though clearance is done by phone, you have to call from a dock at a port of entry. We'll have to do it in Cornwall, past the Eisenhower and Snell locks. That may be a problem because getting to Cornwall requires a two mile passage against a stiff current.

The locking procedures and methods here are much different than what we're used to. First, one must pay a fee, $25 to $30 per lock. I suppose that must compensate for the lost opportunity to sell a megawatt hour to NYISO because they spell 21 million gallons of water to cycle us through the lock. Second, the way of securing the boat is different. We pulled up next to a bitt and the lock tender helped us to attach bow and stern lines to it. I was surprised to learn that the bitt floats up and
down with us. I had though that the bit was fixed in place and I was prepared to use 100 feet of line to secure us as we dropped 50 feet. The floating bitt method os much superior. Third, we are forbidden to use our VHF radios in the vicinity of the lock. To request passage, we tie up to a floating dock along the wall, go ahore, and call the lock master on a special telephone. We are admitted to the lock only when there is no commercial shipping wanting lock passage.

Right now, we're stuck between the two locks. It seems that a big ship, the Federal Yukon about 600 feet long, says that they ran aground here. That requires a US Coast Guard investigation and perhaps an underwater inspection of the ship's hull. We, and three other pleasure boats, are stuck here indefinitely waiting for them to clear up the mess. We're not allowed to anchor here or to spend the night so presumably they'll let us through soon.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Near Prescott, Ontario
N 44 40.580 W 075 33.463

Friday 2035
Jeez, what a cold day this was. It rained almost constantly, the wind was north at 25, yet the thermometer said that the temperature was never lower than 60F (16C.) Obviously we've seen colder days in the past year, but it sure didn't feel like it.

On the plus side, this is the first, and perhaps only, day in this month where we got to sail all day. We used the foresail only, and used the motor only for short intervals where we were shaded by islands. Nevertheless, it was so rough and uncomfortable that I would not let Libby or Nick spell me at the helm. I stood watch from 0700 to 1300, then I was so thoroughly chilled and hungry that we had to stop and anchor for a while to give me a rest.

By 1600, we made it to the vicinity of Ogdensburg. There is no vacancy at the nearby marinas so we're anchored out on the north shore of the river. Just after anchoring, the weather changed for the better. The rain stopped, the clouds parted and it warmed up. All in all, this is a very pretty spot. We have Ontario Canada 300 meters to our north and New York about 1 mile to our south. The appearance of the houses, the cars and the farms on either side are indistinguishable. I know that it
infuriates Canadians when Americans treat them as if they were just a unenfranchised extension of the USA. I understand why they would be infuriated by that. Still, Ontario and Ontarians look like and sound like and act so much like Americans that I have a hard time remembering that they aren't Americans.

We're reaching the point where Nick had to make a decision of whether to hop off now or to stay with us until we reach Massachusetts a month or so from now. He chose to return home and perhaps to rejoin us later. That's OK. It has been really fun having Nick with us. He's a good crewman, and with more experience he could learn to be a very good crewman. Nick's father will drive to Ogdensburg tomorrow morning to pick him up. We'll continue on, probably to Cornwall, departing US territory
until we reach Maine.

The Randalls

The Saint Lawrence River
N 44 16 W 76 02

Friday, 0845
Thursday morning started very wet. The slight rain turned into a real downpour. I was roaming the village in search of a WiFi and I found myself walking in water up to my ankles as I crossed the street. Steve and Barb arrived just after 0900 and they said the the drive up was tough because of the rain. So much for the weather forecast; it said that rain would hold off until the late afternoon or evening.

I needed parts for the outboard and Steve drove me around town to find a Mercury dealer. We hadn't used the outboard for nearly 3 months and it wouldn't start. I took it apart and I found the carberator all full of gum. I also found that the inlet pin that attaches to the float spring had a broken flange. Previously, the gas tank had broken. The flange where the cap screws on had broken right off. We did find a dealer and I ordered the parts. $123! for those two little things. It made me
pause. That old engine is probably only worth $100 total on the used market. A new engine of the same size costs $900. The sum of the spare parts from the Mercury catalog must add up to $50,000 to $100,000. No wonder that we are becoming a throw away society.

Back at the boat, Steve and Barb brought pictures of their travels and family over the past several years. It made the perfect activity to do while sitting out the rain. Barb also brought some of her famous decorative cookies, personalized for Tarwathie and Dick and Libby. I'll post pictures of those cookies when I get the chance.

The Randalls also brought our new GPS chip that I had shipped to their house. We installed it in the Lowrance and after a few minutes fiddling with menu options, we got it working. What a relief to have GPS chart plotting again in these rocky waters. I'm ashamed to admit it, but we're pretty dependent on the GPS. Now however, we're having trouble with the Lowrance just as we are about to depend on it totally. The disc that controls up-down-left-right movement of the cursor is giving intermittent
trouble with DOWN. If it fails entirely, we still have the critical functions but we will not be able to enter route plans.

Around noon, the rain abated and we set out for the Antique Boat Museum. Although I was there with Nick the day before, it was worth the second trip with Libby and the Randalls. Steve is a wood worker and also a fan of antique engines, so he enjoyed it especially. Libby and Barb were disgusted with the houseboat La Duchesse that I expressed admiration for the previous day. Libby called it a monstrosity and she cited our devotion to the KISS principle in life style. She certainly does have a
point. La Duchesse is more built on the max-out principle, 180 degrees out of phase with KISS.

The day continued to get nicer. The sun came out and a little wind came up. We returned to the boat and went sailing. We sailed up to the neighborhood of Barb's friend with the waterfront house called "Boatek" on Bluff Island. Then, another thunderstorm rolled in and threatened, so we returned to the dock. We ended the evening with dinner at a local restaurant.

We also got permission from the dock master to spend the night at the public dock despite the sign that says "3 hour docking limit." Clayton is indeed a friendly and hospitable town.

Thank you Steve and Barb. Thanks for your friendship and thanks for the day.

Today, Friday, it is rainy and chilly once again. The winds are 15 from the NE, despite the weather forecast that insists that winds will be from the West all day. I'm very unimpressed with the local weather forecasts.

We're heading down the river today. How far and to what destination we don't know. We'll pass the famous Bolt Castle in about an hour, but we think that Nick would think it an enormous bore, so we won't stop.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Clayton and the Antique Boat Museum

Clayton, NY
N 44 14.581 W 076 05.300

We left Canadian waters in search of a place to pump out our holding tank. Once gain, navigation was tricky in these waters so riddled with rocks just under water. It was good practice using navigational skills that had atrophied after two years using the GPS chart plotter.

We came in to Clayton, the first town that appeared. At the shipyard, we pumped out, and bought fuel and chatted with the friendly owner, Al. Al recommended that we visit the nearby Antique Boat Museum. We thanked him and moved over to the Clayton Public Dock. There, we were able to check in with US Customs using the video phone.

I was wrong, the video phone does show both faces and documents. Nevertheless, we're still mightily unimpressed with the border security. A terrorist or a smuggler would simply not bother to call in using the video phone. The reality is that the US-Canadian border is impossible to secure without a very very expensive outlay. Given that reality, it seems a true waste of money to harass travelers with documentation and questions about what they bought on the other side. It is about to become hugely more inconvenient for casual travelers when they start requiring passports.

Anyhow, Nick and I went to the Antique Boat Museum while Libby went in search of a grocery store. We were very impressed by the boats in the museum. They have a collection of the most beautiful wooden sail boats, motor boats, cruising boats and racing boats that you can imagine. All of them appear restored to mint condition. The best part though was the houseboat Duchess. Duchess was built for Mr. Bolt, of Bolt Castle fame. It changed my idea of houseboat forever. This houseboat was designed for the tastes of 19th century super rich clients. It had numerous staterooms, all paneled in hand rubbed mahogany. Many of the cabins with a full bathroom including sink and bathtub. It had a dining room with a brass fireplace. A living room with gold leaf ceiling and a thoroughly pleasant sun deck. It did not have an engine. Instead, the houseboat came with a tug boat that towed it to wherever Mr. Bolt wanted. The boat was extensively restored, and even fitted with a steel hull by Mr. McNally of Rand McNally. If any of you are touring the Thousand Islands area, I recommend the Antique Boat Museum.

After returning from the museum we set out to look for a suitable anchorage. We settled on Picton Island and hoped to go ashore, but alas, the island is covered with No Trespassing signs. We miss another thing from Sweden. There, they have something called "The General Right" that says that people are allowed to walk just about anywhere. No Trespassing signs are forbidden.

The Thousand Islands area sure does resemble the Stockholm archipelago. The number of islands, size distribution, rocky shore lines and plant growth on the smaller islands is all like in Sweden. The larger islands though have a fair covering of soil. In Sweden, most of the soil was scraped off during the last ice age. Unfortunately, there is a major difference. Sweden has many fewer people than the USA, and their archipelago has 20,000 islands, not 1,000. Nick wanted to find an unoccupied island to explore and camp on. The unfortunate part is that there appears to be no such thing here. All islands are either private and covered with camps and no trespassing signs, or parks and covered by restrictive usage rules.

Today, Thursday, our friends Steve and Barb are driving up from Oran to go on a day sail with us. It just started raining. I hope it lets up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Thousands

Eddymion Island
N 44 11.556 W 76 14.473

Well, we're in the midst of the Canadian Thousand Islands. They are both more and less than we expected.

The beauty of the area is spectacular. The islands are so very cute. The water is clean and clear, thanks to zebra mussels. Navigation is a bit tough because there are numerous rocks just below the water and because buoys or other navigational aids are few and far between, and because we're beyond the limits of our GPS navigation data base chip. We've been keeping an eagle eye on the charts and taking bearing sights often to keep close track of where we are. The navigation is good practice
for Nick.

Nick wanted to find some deserted island where he could camp and have a fire on the shore and shoot fireworks. All perfectly normal desires for boys big and small. However, all the islands we've seen are either private and populated with cabins or Canadian National Parks. We did get to go ashore on Eddymion Island but no fire and no fireworks.

The island was very reminiscent of Sweden. The rocks are covered with lichen and moss. Logs of large fallen birch trees litter the forest floor here and there. The shorelines are mostly rocky and steep.

Anchoring is more of a problem than I expected. The waters tend to be too deep to anchor in right up to the cliffs on shore where it is suddenly too shallow. Places where the depth is 8 to 30 feet are very few. We found one such place and tried to anchor in 8 feet of water. However the bottom was covered with millfoil weed so thick that the anchor could never get a bite in the mud. We were contemplating anchoring Swedish style (drop a stern anchor 100 feet out and run the bow all the way
up to the cliff on the shore, then tie the bow to a tree. However, there are rocks just off the shore that prevent us from getting in close enough. Finally, we found a place to drop in 20 feet of water and the anchor found a bite there.

The sky was beautiful tonight after the sunset. We enjoyed it. Good thing because the forecast calls for the next 3 days to be rainy.

Kingston Ontario

Confederation Basin Marina, Kingston Ontario
N 44 13.674 W 76 28.726

Boy is Kingston a nice place. We can vouch for that, at least in summer weather.

Monday morning I got up at first light and we set out for Canada in calm conditions. We have already learned to respect Lake Ontario's reputation as a nasty place to be when it blows hard. As the day went on the wind picked up a little so we got to sail some and motor some. Our intention was to clear customs and to buy charts in Kingston, then perhaps continue on.

As we approached Kingston, the scene was beautiful. We had a meadow covered island to starboard with a big herd of cows munching contentedly. Ahead we could see at least 6 small boat sailboat races in progress. We learned later that this was the International Youth Sailing Championship being held.

We called the downtown Confederation Basin Marina by radio and they assigned us a slip. This is an excellent municipal marina. Very well run and reasonable too. I recommend it to any cruisers who come by. Among it's advantages is that it is in the heart of downtown.

Clearing Canadian customs was easier than I thought. I called 888 CAN-PASS and talked to the customs agent. He asked a series of questions and then said, "OK, your clearance number is 2007 IJKLMN." On the other side, at Sackets Harbor, they had a video phone hookup to US Customs. You call on the phone and you hold your documents under the camera lens. The camera can't see your face. Evidently, US Customs is all about documents, not people. Neither the US nor the Canadian systems seem to be designed for security and keeping terrorists out. Shame on the US for changing the rules to demand passports at such a non-serious border.

Anyhow, Nick, Libby and I set out on an expedition to find the Vanderoort Hardware Store to buy charts. It was Nick's first experience in a foreign country so it was a bit of an adventure. Nick was nervous the whole time, fearing that he might meet someone who demanded that he speak French :) We got lost a bit but we had a lovely time strolling up and down Princess Street. Kingston is a very clean and very much alive city. It is a pleasant contrast to the many rust belt communities we passed through in upstate New York. Before finding the hardware store, we found an Asian market and a Canadian army surplus store and a place to buy some fireworks for Nick. We purchased some unique finds in each place.

I was apprehensive about the charts. Our cruising guide for the Down East Circle route calls for 76 Canadian charts to get us from here, up the Saint Lawrence, through the gulf, down Nova Scotia to the Bay of Fundy before crossing over to Maine. I was afraid of the cost. Sure enough, when we found the right store, I learned that these charts cost $20 each. Yikes! That would be $1520 for charts to last for only 30 days. Ridiculous. There are no inexpensive chart kits. To make my decision easier, the store didn't even stock charts for anything past Montreal. My remedy was to call my dependable supplier, Blue Water Books & Charts in Fort Lauderdale. They can provide any chart for anyplace in the world. Betters still, they have a staff of experience cruisers to help you select a package that fits your needs at an affordable price. After some discussion with their salesman, I ordered a Navitonics chip for our Lowrance GPS that covers the Great Lakes plus all the way to the Bay of Fundy. To that we added 3 large scale overview Canadian charts for planning. My total bill including overnight shipping was about $300. For that price difference I'm willing to break my usual policy of having both electronic and paper charts for everything.

In the afternoon, Libby found two young boys wearing kilts and playing bagpipes in the park near the marina. The boys were collecting money for summer camp. Libby said that they were charming.

In the evening, Nick and I went downtown to see the latest Bruce Willis movie. Nick is big fan of Bruce Willis so it was a treat for him. This morning, I walked to Pain Chancho, a nearby bakery, and I bought some of the best fresh baked breakfast breads that we've seen in years. You must leave the USA to find really good bread.

Libby set out this morning also and she found a delightful farmer's market in the square behind city hall. It was just a block away. She said that the market reminded her of the similar farmers market in the square (Storatorget) in Västerås Sweden where we once lived.

If all cities were like Kingston, we might moderate our prejudice against urban sites in favor of rural ones. This has been a very nice visit.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sackets Harbor

Sackets Harbor
N 43 56.937 W 076 07.246

We awoke this morning to a nice clear day. Not at all the torrential rain that had been forecast. That is not to say that the front didn't pass. About 0130 I awoke to the sound of fierce howling wind. It was blowing around 30 knots and raining too. I checked to see if the anchor was holding OK (it was) and went nervously back to sleep. In the morning, neither Nick nor Libby recalls hearing anything at all.

We thought that we would sail to Sackets Harbor to see about the military history. Nick is a big fan of local military history. Then, in the afternoon, we would continue to Cape Vincent.

The morning sail was pleasant and when we got here we found a spot at the town dock to tie up free. Sweet music to the ears of any cruiser is FREE DOCK. We walked around the town and toured the battlefield. The story of the battle of Sackets Harbor is a very interesting one. This place was the site of a furious shipbuilding effort during the war of 1812. The shipyard here could crank out new warships once every 80 days. Very impressive. No doubt the British, who had a near monopoly of war
ships on the great lakes, were impressed too and resolved to put a stop to it. They invaded by land with about 850 troops.

The short version of the story is that the invasion failed and the British retreated. The big unanswered question we have is that the British were supported by 6 ships with more than 98 cannon versus only one American ship. If those 6 ships had provided cover fire for the invasion, the result might have been different. Why didn't they?

After lunch we set out to sail to Cape Vincent. However we had to go 10 miles directly into a stiff 20-25 knot head wind. I put up the staysail and a single reefed main. We did very poorly, making only 3 to 3.5 knots speed and 1.5 to 2 knots made good. Bah humbug. I was additionally distracted by the topping lift which had fouled with the reefing line and broke. We were also passed by a sailboat flying only his genoa. He was doing 6 knots. We were both heeled 15-20 degrees. I'm not too
proud to say that I would appreciate some sailing lessons for how to make better progress to windward on a W32. I've never had trouble on previous boats we've owned, but I don't seem to get the hang of it well on Tarwathie. How about you W32 owners out there? Can you give me advice from remote locations?

Anyhow, back to the story. We tired of beating to windward and returned to Sackets Harbor for the rest of the day. This time we explored the village and I rode the bike to the store to buy Ramman Noodles for Nick. That is the one essential provision that we didn't have on board for him.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

First Night on Ontario

White Bay
N 43 52.324 W 076 13.787

Well, you can't satisfy everyone. I met a gentleman this morning from a neighboring boat. He was from the Buffalo area and he came up the western part of the Erie Canal and also toured the finger lakes. I asked him how he enjoyed it, expecting a torrent of praise and fond memories. Instead, he replied, "Boring." He didn't like the canal, he didn't like the lack of nearby stores in most of the villages offering free docks. I was taken aback. I don't write blogs describing my pleasure at the
natural beauty and gratitude for local hospitality because the Chamber of Commerce pays me. I write what I feel. I suppose that I should not be surprised that not everyone likes it as much as I do but I am surprised.

Nick's mom drove Nick to Oswego and dropped him off at the boat. We got underway around 10:30. The weather was beautiful but the forecast isn't. They said 24 hours of heavy downpours starting today in the afternoon. That made me anxious to get to our destination before the visibility closed in but winds were light. As it turned out, we sailed about 2/3 of the way here and motored the rest.

The place where we are is near Henderson Harbor. As we got near, Libby got excited. She was able to spot the cliffs she climbed and the islands she fished and the camp where she stayed here with her mother and father in the mid 1950s. Her memories must have been strong to recognize these things so readily. Little did she know that she would be sailing past here on her own boat some day.

Our timing was perfect. We arrived and dropped anchor just as the rain started. We may have to sit here till noon tomorrow to let it pass. Better here than Tokyo. We just heard on the radio that a typhoon with 85 knot winds and 40 inches of rain is heading for Tokyo. Wow.

So far, Nick is enjoying himself and learning about boat operations. When we get more wind we'll teach him more about sailing.

So what's the plan for the next few days? We don't have a plan yet.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Masted Again

Oswego Marina
N 43 27.073 W 076 30.597

Oh boy it feels good. Tarwathie's mast is back where it should be and we're ready to sail once again tomorrow. Last week, I was contemplating spending more time on the canal since it had been so delightful. When I checked with Libby though she said, "I'm tired of motoring. I want to sail." So we wasted no time, after returning from our baby sitting task, we set right out for Oswego. By noon today the mast was stepped and looking fine. By 15:30 all the rigging and sails were restored to a
seaworthy position. The only task I have undone is to reattach the wires that run up the mast.

My fear in all such operations is that I would not be able to locate the clevis pins, all or some of them. Or that I would drop some in the water when working. It's very easy to do. My fears proved mostly unfounded. All the pins are back where they should be. The only casualty for this mast down - mast up cycle was my switchblade knife. I dropped that in the water this afternoon. Oh well, not bad on the average.

How did we like the baby sitting? It was a nice break. More important, we always enjoy the grandchildren. We swam with them and we took them to the zoo. Everybody had a good time.

Tomorrow, we'll be joined by our grandson, Nick, for a week. We plan on heading to Henderson Harbor for our first anchorage. That is where Libby's family rented summer camps when she was 7 to 12 years old. She has very fond memories of that area, so it should be a real treat to sail there now. The weather promises to be nice. SW winds 10-20 and partly cloudy. There is a fishing tournament headquartered at this marina tomorrow so it will be pretty hectic.

By the way. Posting this blog successfully will demonstrate that our SSB radio is functional once again. I hope it goes OK.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


West Branch, NY
N 43.365641 W 075.497510

We're ashore this week doing baby sitting duties in West Branch. My son John and his wife Cheryl are on a getaway at a resort in the Poconos this week. Libby and I are sitting for our grandkids, Nick, Sara, Katelyn, and Victoria. Needless to say, the duty is a pleasurable one for us.

On Sunday we motored up the Oswego River from Phoenix, through Fulton to Minetta. As we waited for the lock at Fulton I was reminded of yet another story from my youth.

In my college years, I worked summers as an exterminator. That job led me into many memorable circumstances as you might imagine. Among the best ones were the annual fumigation of the Nestle chocolate factory in Fulton.

Nestle ordered fumigation of their facilities on a regular basis as a preventative measure. In Fulton, the factory consisted of two large, 3 story buildings. We always scheduled the fumigation to be done over a 3 day weekend. My job was to help with the preparation.

Fumigation is a simple process. One fills up a confined area with poison gas. We used methyl bromide gas. It is deadly to any organism that breaths or absorbs air. The key to fumigation is to make the space as air tight as possible. If it isn't air tight, then the gas leaks out before doing its job. Down south, they use enormous blue tarps to cover an entire building to fumigate for termites. 40 years ago in Syracuse we had no such tarps.

Several days before the job I would begin preparing strips of butcher paper smeared with Vaseline (petroleum jelly.) We used those strips to seal off the leaks around windows, doors, ventilators, cracks or any place where air might enter or leave the building. The Vaseline strips had the advantage of instantly sticking to almost any surface without much fuss. It also had the advantage that the paper strips would fall off in a few days and biodegrade. After a few months, the vaseline stains would wash away with the weather. Thus, little or no clean up was needed.

At the site we had a crew of about 6. The first day we would seal the building and place the gas cylinders. Needless to say, nobody other than us exterminators was allowed near the buildings for the 3 day period. That mean that we had free run of the factory. There were bins of chocolate and stuff everywhere and nobody around to tell us not to eat it. I'm not a big fan of chocolate but I did love the huge chucks of pure cocoa butter they had in bins. That stuff was delicious. We worked hard that day, and climbed a lot of ladders to seal everything. There was no OSHA law back then to hinder us.

At the end of the day when everything was sealed, we prepared to release the gas. In big buildings like this and elaborate operation was needed to be safe. We had to open two cylinders of gas per floor, three floors per building, and two buildings. That means a lot of walking and climbing stairs, from cylinder to cylinder in an environment quickly filling with methyl bromide. Even though we wore gas masks, the gas could be absorbed through the skin. Thus, if someone fell or got hurt, the rest of us would have to notice his absence almost immediately and launch a rescue to get him out of the building.

To do that we rehearsed the release over and over again. We counted our steps and measured the seconds past. We noted when and where we would see a glimpse of the other workers as we passed them in a stair well for example. That way, if somebody missed one of those rendezvous, we could immediately call "Hey Rube" I thought it was like the Mission Impossible programs on TV and it was exciting.

Anyhow, back to sailing. We continued past Fulton to the tiny Hamlet of Minetto. Minetto is a delightful tiny little town, with only 815 male and 848 female residents (according to the Internet). Despite its small size and modest means, Minetto provides a free dock with electricity, water, bathrooms and showers for transient boaters. The dockmaster, Kent, is 83 years old and he does a wonderful job and provides interesting story telling. There are many communities along the New York Canal system that provide outstanding hospitality for boaters, but Minetto has to stand in the forefront of these.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Oneida Lake

N 43 13.667 W 076 17.942

We crossed Oneida Lake this morning. We left early, before 0600, so as to avoid the forecast Westerly winds.

The lake crossing was very nice and so was the scenery. Neither Libby nor I have ever been on Oneida Lake before. When we grew up nearby in Manlius and Fayetteville we always had a negative opinion of Oneida Lake. Now, I can't think of anything especially negative about it. It is a very nice inland lake in Central New York.

At the west end of the lake we passed under Interstate 81 in Brewerton. I always think of Annette Funicello when passing that spot. Brewerton was reputed to be Annette's home town. Since Annette and the other Mouketeer girls were almost exactly my age and since they were so pretty, I and other boys my age entertained very undisneylike thoughts about those girls. You know what I mean. We watched year to year as they developed and Annette developed the most of all (If you know what I mean.) I still can't pass Brewerton without thinking of Annette.

We stopped at Ess-Kay Yards in Brewerton to buy fuel and charts. The proprietor is a delightful guy. He and I chatted for a while. He used to own gas stations in Syracuse. Then he bought a boat and the marina in Brewerton. He tended the marina in the summer and then cruised south with his family in the winter. That makes for a much more relaxing life than tending gas stations.

I think Libby and I have flipped our coin. Without any genuine flip, we've decided on the Down East Circle Route rather than the Great Loop. It just sounds more pleasant. One of the pleasant things is that we get to waste some weeks in the Thousand Islands area. Nevertheless, I worry about leaving too late in the season. Our guide says that it should take 39 more days to get back to New York City with no delays. If we left tomorrow and did not dally, we would be in NYC by August 15. If we actually make it by September 15 that would be adequate, so we have about one month slack time to waste.

Sylvan Beach

Sylvan Beach

Sylvan Beach, on the East End of Oneida Lake, is what I would describe as a blue collar Palm Beach. When I read Jean Shepard's stories about Hammond Port Illinois, I think of Sylvan Beach.

We ate dinner tonight at Eddie's Restaurant, right in the heart of Sylvan Beach. Eddie's is a local fixture, having been here for 70 years. Libby and I have never been there before, but we sure wish we had. Eddie's is our kind of place. On one hand, they have great food, at reasonable prices, and served in huge quantities for hearty appetites. As we waited for our waitress I saw dish after heaping dish of spaghetti covered with a delicious smelling sauce, and huge meatballs, sausages and peppers going by. That whetted my appetite. I ordered the Fifi special. Fifi was Eddie's wife and her special Italian dish was really good.

On the other hand, is the clientèle. The patrons of Eddie's are a real picture of Americana. They are what I call real people. Real people are, for the most part, not beautiful. In fact some are downright ugly. They don't dress beautifully, nor do they act refined. They like wearing tank tops to show off their tattoos. More important, they do enjoy being themselves, and they bring their extended families to the restaurant with them and everybody present enjoys themselves.

The Eddie's menu lists some of the famous people who ate there. Frank Sinatra, Dezi Arnez, Luis Prima, Tommy Dorsey, and Lisa Minelli among them. I surmise that there must have been a bandstand in Sylvan Beach that was popular in the pre-TV days. Libby and I are just barely old enough to remember bandstand culture but too old to have ever gone to a rock concert.

Another big attraction in Sylvan beach is the cocktail lounge / bowling alley. They appear to have three bowling lanes and six bar stools, not a big scale operation. I was going to go in but I was wearing sunglasses and the lounge appears so dark that I wouldn't be able to see my nose. Sylvan Beach also has a BBQ pit which sponsors biker night every Tuesday.

At the Sylvan Beach Amusement park they have a Buzz Bomb, a Tilt-A-Whirl, a Merry-Go-Round and a roller coaster. That sure brings back memories. My first job when I was 14 years old was at the now defunct Suburban Park in Manlius, NY. That was a neat job. I worked from 11AM to 1AM, six days a week and racked up lots of hours at $0.85 each in wages. On pay days, my pay envelope would jingle.

I operated all four of those rides that Sylvan Beach has, plus others. Each of them has a memory associated with it. The Buzz Bomb is a ride with two bomb shaped cars at each end of a long arm. The long arm spins and the bombs spin in an orthogonal axis. The secret of the Buzz Bomb that I remember from Suburban Park was that it was unsafe. Every year or two the long arm would break and the two bombs would swing down and crash into each other. Nobody got seriously injured that I remember.

The Tilt-A-Whirl is also a ride with cars that swing in non-orthogonal axes and also go up and down on a track. The Tilt-A-Whirl's secret was that it caused all the change to fall out of the pockets of the customers. The change fell out of the cars and through the tracks to the ground underneath. Once a year, some favored young person would be allowed to crawl into the grease under the Tilt-A-Whirl and prospect for silver. Suburban Park's Tilt-A-Whirl had been there for more than 80 years, and the grease under the ride was at least one foot thick. The young person would emerge a few hours later completely covered in grease but with a big bucket of coins that he would split with the owner. When Suburban Park closed permanently and they tore down the Tilt-A-Whirl, I heard that the owner retrieved a small fortune in remnant coins from the grease under the ride.

In the mornings, before the park open, my job was to walk the roller coaster and to replace any beams that appeared to be rotted out. That was a never ending job because no matter how many we replaced, there were always infinitely more rotted beams waiting for their turn. The roller coaster car, like the Tilt-A-Whirl, was designed to collect coins from the rider's pockets. However, the system in the roller coaster was much more sophisticated. There was a secret chamber under each seat, about two feet by one foot by four foot in dimensions. It was nailed shut. Each fall, when we closed for the season we would pry open the chamber and extract money. Each chamber was chock full each season.

The Merry-Go-Round was kind of tame. Nothing much happened there unless you count the guys who copped feels from the girls as they helped them up on the horses. Of course I never did that. Not ever.

I also learned a bit of carney language at the park. Carney means carnival people. We used the code phase “Hey Rube!” shouted loudly to mean that a park employee was in trouble and in need of immediate help from his fellow workers. Usually it was a fight or a threatened fight that was the emergency. Fights weren't fair because the park workers would gang up on outsiders. Still today, when I'm in trouble I want to call out Hey Rube! Although nobody today is likely to understand the meaning.

When I reached the ripe old age of 17 I was a seasoned senior park worker and I was dating Libby. Libby liked my job because she could hear the distinctive noise of my ride, The Bug, from her house in Fayetteville more than 10 miles away. When she heard that noise at night, she knew that I was on the job.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Cornucopia of Fun

Sylvan Beach, NY
N 43 11.750 W 075 43.671

Well, it has been quite a whirlwind for the past few days. We've been so busy that I neglected keeping up with the blog.

The big event was on the fourth of July. However, it wasn't the normal Forth celebration with hot dogs and fireworks that occupied us but rather a surprise birthday party for an old family friend. Marylyn Cook's 75th birthday was on the fourth and her friends and neighbors arranged for a surprise party for her. We plotted to go but it didn't work out entirely as planned. Our only transportation was my son John's 2 passenger pickup truck. John wanted to go also so we reluctantly left Libby behind to baby sit the kids.

The party was to be held at the Cook's camp at Cazenovia Lake, near Oran which is near Manlius which is near Syracuse, NY. All together there were about 50 people attending. I'm happy to say that the surprise was a complete success. When everyone popped out, Marlyn was completely surprised and overwhelmed with emotion.

The event was most fortunate for me and John because we got to see in one place very many people important to our lives in younger years. You see, I grew up in Manlius and John lived there for a short time. At the party were the Cook, Randalls, Fosters, Gaulins and Carncross families and many others. All of them were near and dear neighbors and many of them remember me as "little Dicky Mills" from my teen years. These people were also the closest friends of my parents, Helen and Jerry Mills, when they were alive in the area. We partied until dark. It was a grand day. Too bad only that Libby wasn't there. There is a chance though that some of them might be able to join us for a day sail in the Thousand Islands area.

Yesterday, we were joined on Tarwathie by our granddaughters, Katelyn and Victoria, aged 8 and 6 respectively. These little darlings had only seen Tarwathie once before and they never stayed overnight on a boat before. They came on board in Rome and we took them 8 miles down the canal to lock 20. Lock 20 has an idyllic rural setting. We tied up on the lock wall, and explored the nearby region, and the lock and the large flock of geese that live there. The girls were enchanted.

As I and the two girls chatted with the lock master, another sailboat appeared in the distance. As it neared us, I kept saying, "That looks like my boat." The others kept saying, "No. It's bigger," or "it's different." As it got very close, the boat stopped beside Tarwathie and the captain could be seen talking with Libby. Soon we heard on the lock master's radio, "We're going to stop here for a while, we found another Westsail."

Sure enough, the mystery boat was the Westasil 32 Golden Eagle (not to be confused with the power vessel Golden Eagle that I complained about last week.) Golden Eagle, and her Captain Alex were returning to Ohio after a four year voyage to Scotland and Portugal. Alex had never come across another Westsail before while sailing, so we spent an hour or so making mutual inspections of each other's vessels. Every Westsail is like every other in important respects, but they are also amazingly different in finishing details. According to Alex, Golden Eagle was in poor shape and sparsely equipped when he bought it, so he put a lot of work in to fitting her out and finishing her before the big voyage. He did an excellent job.

Today, we continued on down the canal and the girls got to experience a lock traversal twice. We passed locks 21 and 22. Both of them were 25 foot descents (not ascents) and the girls were very excited by the experience. An hour after locking, we arrived at Sylvan Beach. The girls were again amazed because there is a permanent amusement park here, one of the few small scale permanent amusement parks remaining in America. When we tied up at the wall we were also surprised to see Summer Salt, with our friends Dave and Karen on the wall right in front of us.

Now it is afternoon and the girls are back home again. Libby and I will continue to the Oswego Canal and leave the boat for a few days next week while we go on a baby sitting mission with the grandkids Monday-Thursday next week.

I did decide to continue on our way across Oneida Lake today and spend the night at Brewerton on the other side. As we cast off, our friend Dave said, "It's windy out there." I ignored that and we set out anyhow. Well, Dave was right. As soon as we cleared the jetty, the wind and waves slowed us down to 2 knots. It would have taken 8 hours to cross the 16 nautical mile long lake. We turned back immediately and we'll spend the night here. If only we could have the mast up so that we could sail!!! A sailboat with the mast down is indeed a crippled beast.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My Friend Sal

Rome NY
N 43 12.099 W 75 27.030

The last few days we experienced a lot of firsts.

We are now 468 feet above sea level; the highest we've been in quite a while. It is also an altitude record for Tarwathie I'm sure.

We also passed over an aqueduct for the first time. In Little Falls, after exiting the lock we were in a stone walled aqueduct and looking down on the roofs of the nearby buildings. That is not a sight seen often from the deck of a sailboat. We also noticed that the Erie Canal from Little Falls to Rome is mostly built on the side of a hill. The uphill side slopes down to the canal. The downhill side is built of a stone wall. A surprising feature of that is that several creeks cross under the canal through culverts. I never would have expected that.

We also got in to trouble passing through a lock for the first time. Lock 17 has a lift of 40 feet; the highest on the canal. They also have a rule that all boats must tie to the south wall because the north wall is not in good shape. Traveling west, that means port side to. No problem we thought. We switched the fenders and the sacrificial fender board from the starboard side to the port side. Then we switched the dinghy from port side to towing astern.

As soon as the lock doors closed and they began filling the chamber trouble started. The current pushed Tarwathie hard against the wall. It was then we noticed that the mast spreader and the mast top were scraping on the wall. You see when we took the mast down this time we lowered the mast top in to the boom gallows. To do that we could not keep it on the boat center line because it would hit the solar panel. Instead, we put it in the port side slot of the boom gallows. Thus the mast is sitting at an angle, on the center line forward and sticking out to port aft. I didn't think about that before entering the lock.

As we scrabled to push the boat away from the wall to spare the mast I noticed that the dinghy had gotten stuck under the monitor aft and also wedged into a crack on the lock wall. In a few seconds it would be sunk. I had to scramble to use a boat hook with my left hand to move the dinghy while using my right hand to push Tarwathie away from the wall. Luckily, I succeeded. Thereafter it was merely a task of using our hands and feet to hold Tarwathie and the mast away from the wall. It took all of our strength. At last, as the lock approached half full, the currents lessened. Fortunately, the damage was minor. I must replace the chafing gear on the port spreader. Our Windex wind direction indicator was also damaged, but I think I can repair it. We were lucky, it could have been a lot worse.

What lesson should I learn? An old one. Complacency and inattention to details is bad news on a boat. A good skipper is like a good pilot. He is always thinking one or two steps ahead, visualizing the circumstances of his vessel some time in the future. My skippering that morning was not something to be proud of.

At the end of the day, we arrived in Rome. We called our son John and he came to fetch us to have dinner at his house with the grand kids. That's always fun. However we didn't dare to stay the night with them because we heard that local teenagers have been vandalizing boats on the wall in Rome.

Today, July 4, John and I are traveling to Oran, NY, to the former neighborhood of my parents. It is the 75th anniversary of Marylyn, one of the neighbors, and there will be a neighborhood party. It's a great chance to see old friends. Alas, once again we can't stay overnight there because of the vandals in Rome.

For blog readers interesting in engineering, here is an aside on lock construction. As we lock through in the lifting direction, the action in the water reveals the details of the engineering design of the lock are revealed. After they close the doors on both ends, one hears the noise of concrete sliding on concrete as the open the upstream valve. Then a series of circular patterns of upwelling water appear. The upwelling starts on the upstream side and propagates downstream, reaching the downstream end in 15 seconds. Clearly there is a tunnel built under the lock floor. Orifices in the tunnel allow water to flow in and out. The upstream and downstream valves are gates that seal the ends of the tunnel when closed. The orifice sizes are probably staggered with smallest orifices upstream, so as to roughly balance the upwelling flow amongst the orifices when lifting. When emptying the chamber, currents are hardly noticeable with the maximum flow occurring when the lock is most full. When lifting, maximum flow occurs when the lock is nearly empty, thus lifting is inherently more violent. When lifting, the lock tenders open the gate valves gradually so as to minimize the violence.

Rome, as you might expect, is full of Italian people. This morning, working on the boat along the wall, I met one of them. My friend Sal, is a delightful old gentleman. His appearance is so classically Italian that he could convincingly appear in any episode of Sopranos. Sal told me two stories. First, he told the story about his friend who wanted to take his money with him when he died. "What about your relatives?" asked Sal. "Screw them," said the friend. "Well give it to the church," said Sal. "But the church is so rich," said the friend. Sal finished, "Yes, but if you give them your money the church will say masses for you." "Ah," said the friend, "you're right."

Sal also told the story about swimming in the river at Rome when he was a kid. He and his friends would dangle by their fingers underneath the bridge. When a canal boat went under them, they would let go and drop on to the deck. That infuriated the captain of the canal boat and he screamed at them, "You sons of bitches." Then the captain fetched his shotgun which was loaded with blanks. Bang. Bang. The gun would blast as Sal and his friends jumped overboard and swam ashore laughing.

Monday, July 02, 2007


The Erie Canal
N 42 56.843 W 074 37.600

On Sunday we invited our friends Jerry and Phyllis to join us for a day sail. The plan was for them to drive down from Syracuse where they live to Canajoharie to meet us. Along the way they dropped a second car at Herkimer, our goal destination for the day.

It was a splendid day and the valley is beautiful. Thus, even though Jerry and Phyllis' passion is to sail, they joined us for a day motoring on the canal. It was a nice day indeed, albeit cool. We all had to don warm clothes.

We had fun catching up on family news with these old friends. Jerry was my classmate at Clarkson, and he was very interested in hearing about Professor Hammam. Jerry's sister recently returned from several years of teaching in Egypt and he had interesting stories about her readjustment to American culture.

Going through the locks was fun, as Jerry and Phyllis had never done that before. That is, it was fun up to lock 16. At lock 16 a big 45 foot power boat named Golden Eagle pulled in beside us. Golden Eagle had four people on board that we could see, but only one of them went out to hold a lock control line. The captain used the engines and bow thrusters to hold the boat in place, and in a very short time Libby and Phyllis and Jerry and I were all suffering from carbon monoxide inhalation. I asked the captain of Golden Eagle to turn his engines off. I asked him again on the radio, he refused again. What an ass. It is remarkable how friendly and helpful boaters are in general, but there are always a few bad apples in the barrel.

After lock 16, at 13:45 and on the way to Little Falls, we were about 70% of the way to our destination. Suddenly, Jerry said, "Oh No! We left the keys to the second car locked up in the first car. When we get there, we won't have any keys." That was a shame, we had to make a U turn and start back toward Canajoharie. It was a slight embarrassment, but no big deal. The point of the day's sail was to have fun, not to reach a particular destination. We achieved the fun objective in abundance. The four of us always enjoy each other's company. Anyhow, around 17:00 we returned to Canajoharie, so Jerry and Phyllis drove away en route home.

On the way back, we joked about having to turn back because we were suffering from hypoxia at the altitude of 320 feet which is far higher than we've been in a year.

Today, Monday, Libby and I are again en route to Herkimer. This time we are alone. It is the first time in nearly 2 weeks that we don't have the company of friends or family. It seems lonely.

We read in the guide book today that if we take the so-called Great East Circle Route out the Gulf of Saint Lawrence that we still have 2,000 miles to travel to be back to New York. Wow! I thought it was shorter. It is very possible that we may have a tough decision coming to reconcile our desire for travel and adventure and our aversion to sailing in cold weather and fall storms. We still have hopes of having fun dawdling in the canal, and in the Thousand Islands, yet the seasons march on.