Monday, September 28, 2009

Libby the Punching Bag

Deltaville, VA

Before we retired, Libby worked with developmentally disabled adults. Several of her clients were uncoordinated or spastic. Therefore, poor Libby came home often with black and blue marks from getting hit, elbowed or punched; all inadvertent of course. One time, a sock knocked her out and broke her glasses. We used to joke that she was a professional punching bag.

Well I'm sad to say that I'm not much better than her clients. Today, at the end of our daily project chores, Libby was putting things away in the cabin while I was changing my shirt. POW my fist came out of the shirt armhole and punched poor Libby right in the face, knocking her glasses off. I don't think she'll get any black eye out of it but if she does, I'll feel terrible.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Life In A Boatyard

Deltaville, VA

Boatyards are for work. For the most part the consist of a big flat area, usually dusty and bare. There must also be buildings for an office and a shop for the boatyard workers. Not much else is required.

We spent time in a boatyard in Fernandina Beach, Florida that had bathrooms and showers that were borderline disgusting. It made it possible for us to live aboard while working.

We spent time in another boatyard in Fort Pierce Florida with utterly disgusting bathrooms that even lacked doors. Poor Libby had to go to a nearby restaurant to find a decent toilet. We couldn't live aboard there so we had to rent a apartment while working on the boat, and then rent a car to get to the apartment. That made it very much more expensive.

Deltaville Boatyard is different. This boatyard allows you to do your own work. It also allows you to live aboard your boat, while they supply electric and water. Those things make it affordable.

It is co-located with Deltaville Marina. Boatyard customers are allowed to use the marina bathrooms, showers, laundry, pool, bikes, loaner car, and lounge. I'm sitting the lounge right now watching Lost World on TV and writing during the ads. There is also a nice park and museum next door. The amenities here had a lot to do with us choosing to come here. Those things make it comfortable to be here; much more so than the typical boatyard.

I guess the only down side is that the comfort robs us of some of the motivation to work extra hard and get out of here. Instead of working 10-12 hour days, we've been working only 5-6 hours. Still, I hope to finish everything on our list and splash the boat on or before next Friday.

This afternoon we repainted Tarwathie's topside decks. We cleverly painted ourselves not in a corner but into the companionway entrance. We had no alternative other than to stay inside and take a nap while the paint dries. Ho hum, life is tough.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Boatyard

Deltaville, VA

Here's a Google Earth view of this boat yard. Click on it to see detail.

Friday, September 25, 2009

On The Hard

Deltaville, VA

Tarwathie is on the hard. Above, you can just see her stern. The 2nd boat. As you can see, there are lots of boats here. You can see the masts of about 1/10 of them in the picture.

It is also a very active yard with about 20% of the boats being actively worked on and 80% stored. In many boat yards, the fraction of stored boats is higher.

Deltaville Boatyard is a very professionally run yard, with reasonable prices. It is no surprise therefore that the word gets around and they have lots of customers. Within 10 minutes of arriving we met two cruiser friends we know from Vero and from the Abacos. I'm sure there are more around.

I even saw a yard full of boats called "Field of Dreams" all the boats there were donated to a museum and they're for sail. Many bargains there I bet.

We'll be spending about a week here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Rare Treat

Hampton, VA

Yesterday morning, I got up, and looked outside. What I saw was a complete surprise. The USS George H. W. Bush, the USA's newest Nimitz class aircraft carrier was going past. I was surprised that I could recognize her lines from afar but I did.

On the VHF radio, we heard her announcing her departure. She identified herself as "Warship 1," yet her official designatio is CVS-77. Does that mean President Obama was on board?

Anyhow, I thought, "How appropos. Until she is superseded by a newer and bigger Gerald R. Ford Class supercarrier, she certainly is Warship 1 for the USA and the whole world. No doubt she is the most capable war machine ever made in the history of war." That though was very sobering.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Taking Advantage of Murphy

Hampton, VA
37 01.16 N 076 20.49 W

Murphy says that things always go wrong ... I'm a firm believer in Murphy's Law, but I've learned to use it to my advantage. We had a choice on Sunday. We could bypass Cape May, shortening the journey by 15 miles, or we could stop in Cape May to top off the fuel tanks.

According to Murphy's Law, if we skipped Cape May, then the wind would have died. We would have been forced to motor all the way to Norfolk, and perhaps run out of fuel before getting there.

After stopping in Cape May for fuel, the wind started blowing immediately. We made it almost all the way to Norfolk without using the motor. The captain gave the order that we had to average 4 knots or better, using the engine if there wasn't enough breeze. Actually, there was little need for the engine; we managed to move at 3.5 to 6 knots almost all the time.

At the end, Miles found a bus leaving Hampton at 2300 so we motor sailed the last 30 miles so that he could catch his bus. He got some beautiful shots of the setting sun perfectly framed in the opening in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel as we passed through. The sun also silhouetted the two channel marker buoys perfectly. I hope they came out in the picture.

So, another offshore passage completed. The consequences were immediately evident. Last night, the air temperature here dropped to 73 F (23C). Up in Vermont, the evening temperatures are in the 40s this time of year. Actually, we love the New York/Vermont weather in September and October. We would still be up there if we could. However, leaving that late would mean that we'd have to migrate southward in the freezing cold. No thanks.

So, Miles returned to Boston. Today, Libby and I relaxed, did showers, laundry, and groceries. This afternoon, I visited the Virginia Air & Space Center museum. If we had not visited the Smithsonian Air & Space museum at Dulles Field last year, I would have thought it was great. However, compared to the Smithsonian it is unimpressive, dull and poorly managed.

Sunrise at sea

Pix Along The Way

Hampton VA

Liberty Park Anchorage

Tarwathie & Liberty National Golf Course Clubhouse
The view while leaving. Ground zero in background.

Our volunteer crewman Miles.

Still More Pix

Hampton, VA

Up goes the mast

Some of the Dutch Flotilla
Mist Rolls out of Sleepy Hollow
Our volunteer crew man Roger

Monday, September 21, 2009

Light Sources

At Sea
37 57.46 N 075 11.36 W

It is 0520 in the morning. Cape May, NJ is about 65 miles behind us and The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel about 65 miles ahead. I'm sitting alone on watch. The winds are very light, and Tarwathie is barely moving at 3.8 knots. Mister Monitor is steering, so I'm free to blog.

It is a very dark night. No moon, and crystal clear. The stars are brilliant and beautiful. As I gaze around, I become aware of the other sources of light.

To the east is Venus, which rose just a few minutes ago. You know how the moon sometimes creates a band of light reflecting off the surface of the water; the band staring at the moon and ending at your feet? Well, Venus is bright enough to do that now. I see Venusian light making a band that ends at my feet. (Wow! How cool is that? I just used the word Venusian into a blog post:)

Rising from Venus at an angle is the Milky Way. Watching that, I just saw a satellite passing by, and an airplane heading north. I regret not having the current schedules for Hubble or Space Station flyovers with me. I get those from

In the water, Tarwathie leaves a bright blue-green wake of phosphorescence as she cuts through the water. The phosphorescence in these waters is much brighter than I've ever seen in tropical waters. Miles told me that it is caused by bacteria that are brought north by migrating jellyfish. Cool.

Looking straight up, my anchor light is on, and by its light I can see the reflective strips on the bottom of our Windex. The Windex says that the wind is clocking around behind us. Too bad, that means I'll have to drop the sails and start the motor soon.

Dead ahead are the red and green reflections of my bow lights shining on the stainless steel pulpit. Astern, the white stern light reflects off the stainless tubes back there.

On the horizon to the SW is Assateague Light House FL2W3S (2 white flashes every 3 seconds). I guess we are about 10 miles off shore.

To the NW is a dome shaped glow of city lights. It must be Ocean City, Maryland. To the W is a band of faint man made light, perhaps lights along a highway. I can't tell. I can also see the red blinking lights of two radio/TV towers.

In front of me are the instruments and the compass card. I love the appearance of the illuminated compass card. It defines a plane that appears to float free and stationary in space while everything else rocks in 3 dimensions.

As I sit here and type, brightest of all is the laptop screen. Even when fully dimmed it is bright enough to spoil my night vision. Therefore, I'm going to strop writing now, turn off the laptop, and return to my enjoyment of the night. Tomorrow, I'll define a night mode for my desktop with white text on red background.

But wait! As I wrote the above, the first light of false dawn appeared to the east. Actual dawn is at 0648.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Surrounded By Beauty

At Sea
39 07.33 N 074 31.68 W

The promised weather didn't arrive. Surprise! Instead of 24 hours of good breeze, we have had mostly light and variable. We progressed only 5 out of the past 24 hours under sail, the rest of the time we had to motor. Worse, the forecast for the next couple of days is for more of the same. Sailors, of course, hate motoring and love sailing. Too bad. Right now we're going to head in to Cape May NY for a refueling stop.

All that is not to say that we're having a bad time. On the contrary. It is beautiful out here. The sea is beautiful, the night sky was expecially beautiful last night. I re acquainted myself with Orion, The Pleadies, and The Milky Way, none of which I've had good views of for a while. Just before dawn, most stars were invisible. However, Venus stood out brightly. Right next to it was a single bright star. I used the Stellarium program to identify the star as Regulus.

Even Atlantic City managed to be beautiful. At night it is lit up like the Las Vegas strip, which it hopes to imitage. We could see it plainly from more than 20 miles away. Our closest approach to AC came just at dawn and as the sun rose above the horizon the glass windows of those high rise buildings gleamed like diamonds. One of the buildings has gold colored class, and the whole think looked like a polished bar of gold in the day's first direct sunlight.

It has been a pleasure having Miles on board. Miles is a very experienced sailor and he's pleasant to talk to. We're lucky to have him. Because Miles shares the watches, both Libby and I were able to get full night's sleeps, so we feel better.

I was on watch around 5AM. I found myself boxed between two tugboats pushing barges, and two fishing boats trawling. They came at me from all four corners. There was no way for me to turn to escape. I had to just sit there and trust that none of them would run us down; which is exactly what happened. The closest approach of any of them was about 1 mile. You may think that's a lot, but I sure don't. Anyhow, the point is patience and trust. That's what is needed sometimes and what is so hard to do.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Southern Migration Mode

At Sea
40 30.65 N 074 00.27 W

This morning at 0630, it went outside. It was very cold. I looked up and saw my first flock of migratory geese flying low over us. That's my signal. Time for Tarwathie to migrate southward.

We're very glad we stayed in the Liberty anchorage rather than 79th street. It was quiet, restful, and still. Up on 79th street it would have been none of those things.

The logistics worked out too. This morning, Roger left us. He walked to the nearest water taxi terminal, caught a boat to Manhattan, a subway to Penn Station and a train to Rhinecliff where he left his car. Our new crew person, Miles, did almost the reverse. He took a subway to the World Trade Center, a water taxi to Liberty Park and then walked to where Tarwathie was anchored.

The previous time in that anchorage, in 2005, we sat out Hurricane Wilma at that spot behind the Statue of Liberty. The adjacent land seemed to be one of those industrial dump sites endemic to New Jersey. Since then they built a huge new building of beautiful steel and glass. I learned this morning that it is the clubhouse for the brand new Liberty National Golf Course. The clubhouse even has an elevated ramp about 1/2 mile long that connects its parking garage to a new special exit on the NJ Turnpike. Boy, there must be very deep pockets behind that project.

So now we're under way. It is a beautiful sunny warm afternoon. The city scenery was great, I should have excellent pictures to post. The only disappointment is that the promised wind is missing. It is almost calm right now and we have to motor rather than sail. I hope that changes soon. However, we're not changing our plans now. If we have to motor all the way to Norfolk, then so be it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My, What a Contrast

Liberty Park, NJ
40 41.77 N 074 03.87 W

This morning we woke to the most idyllic nature scene one could imagine. We were anchored just outside Bear Mountain Park, just south of the Bear Mountain Bridge. It was silent, no wind, a gentle mist rose from the water and a dense fog rolled out of the hollow just south of us. A flock (the right word?) of swans paddled around idly. A couple of early rising people fished from the nearby dock. It was beautiful.

We set out, despite the fog, and used the radar to navigate. Right away I saw something strange in the fog. It turned out to be a tug and barge coming right at us. No problem, we changed course to avoid him.

By lunch time we were topping off the fuel tanks in Tarrytown. In the sunny afternoon we cruised down river, under sail, admiring the beauty of the New Jersey Palisades.

At 15:30 we arrived at out destination, the 79th Street Boat Basin. Bad news. All the moorings were full. Numerous big boats were anchored out in the river. We could have done the same but we felt very uneasy about it. We would have to drop the hook in 48 feet of water in a place where a fierce knot current moves past. No thank you; not without leaving a crew member standing anchor watch 24 hours a day.

We decided to move on here to Liberty Park. We are behind the Statue of Liberty. This place is what I call the Tony Soprano view. If you've seen the opening film of the Sopranos TV program, you'll remember a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty seen from the NY Turnpike. That's right here.

Now the only problem is how to get Roger to his train tomorrow and to pick up Miles. We thought we could use a water taxi, but most of those don't run on Saturday. That's a problem remaining to be solved. Right now, Roger is ashore seeking information on that problem. Libby thinks that they can use a two-hop ride from the NY Battery to Ellis Island, and Ellis Island to the NJ shore. We could also swing Tarwathie past the boat basin in front of the World Trace Center, but I'm not sure we're allowed to do that and I don't know what address to tell Miles to go to.

Logistics aside, it was a very very nice day. I think Roger had a ball.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Dutch Are Coming!

West Point, NY
41 23.86 N 073 57.06 W

It has been a great day. We met Roger at the Rhinecliff train station around 10:30, and left immediately. Within an hour's steaming southward, we encountered a flotilla of Dutch ships. I have lots of pictures, we'll post them when I get an Internet connection.

The Dutch ships are here for the 400th year celebration of Henry Hudson's voyage up this river. I think that they were shipped over here from Holland for the celebration. You can probably find out about them. Google Dutch Ships Hudson.

Anyhow, the ships were all very beautiful. They had lovely lines. They have mysteriously curved gaffs in their sails, very un-American. They didn't look very seaworthy though.

We continued to pass more and more Dutch ships for 2 hours. Finally, brining up the rear were two American replicas. Last of all was the Half Moon. We took a picture of the Half Moon, coincidently with Reverand Sun Young Moon's residence right behind it. Roger said we should name the scene Half Moon with Full Moon.

Here's another internet assignment. I called the bunch of Dutch Ships a flotilla. Then I thought that I don't really know what the difference is between a flotilla, a fleet, an armada, or a squadron.

Just now we passed Bear Mountain, and West Point. This is the epidemy of the most scenic and historic part of the Hudson Valley. Outstanding.

Tonight, we'll anchor opposite the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. Perhaps we won't need an anchor light, we can bask in the glow-in-the-dark (just kidding).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ah, Properly Rigged Once Again

En Route, Hudson River
42 10.27 N 073 52.74 W

We could almost hear Tarwathie give a sigh of relief as we re-stepped the mast and reattached the rigging. With the mast down, she's a wounded beast.

Things went so well that it leaves me little in the way of disaster stories to write about on the blog. Last night we anchored at Middle Ground, as quiet and secure a place as we could ask for. This morning at 0700 we weighed anchor and headed for Catskill in the morning mists. By 0800 we were at the dock, by 0900 we were ready to go, by 1000 the mast was up, and by 1200 the rigging, ropes, wires, lines, sheets and sails were all where they are supposed to be and I had time to raise the flag as a final gesture.

Now we're headed for Kingston. We'll spend the night there and tomorrow morning we go directly across the river to the Rhinecliff train station to meet Roger.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

End of Summer's Lazy Days

Waterford, NY

Well, our summer of lazy days with no plan, no objective are coming to an abrupt end.

Today, Tuesday, we are in Waterford, time for showers and laundry.

Wednesday, the mast goes up in Catskill.

Thursday we pick up our friend Roger at the train station in Rhinecliff. Roger will sail with us to New York, getting to see the most beautiful part of the Hudson River.

Friday, arrive 79th Street Boat Basin in New York City.

Saturday, Miles comes aboard. Miles is a friend of my brother in law. He'll make the offshore passage with us. Saturday, set sail.

Sunday, pass Delaware Bay.

Monday, arrive in Norfolk (hopefully).

Tuesday, the weather forecast calls for the winds to shift to southerly for a few days, that would be unfavorable.

So, we have a fully booked week coming up. We love it.

Last night we planned to meet our friends Mari and John for dinner in Waterford. We were foiled. We approached Lock 6 at 16:00 only to learn that they close at 15:30 this time of year. Therfore, we had to stay above Lock 6 in a never never land. Fortunately, thanks to their Iphone and GPS, Mari and John were able to find their way to us and we had a great dinner on board Tarwathie.

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Look at Next Saturday's Weather

Lock 6, Erie Canal

It's still 5 days away so forecasts aren't terribly accurate. Notwithstanding that, winds look favorable for a passage from New York to Norfolk. See below from

How to read wind barbs: The barb points the direction the wind blows. Each long feather on the barb is 10 knots of wind, each short feather is 5 knots.


Erie Canal, Lock 6

For many years we lived in the Schenectady area, much of the time within 1/4 mile of the River. However we never had a boat on the river and we never got to see how pretty it is seen from the water.

Especially nice is the section of river east of Schenectady (I used to have fun challenging people to spell that word), where it runs through the town of Niskayuna (when we first came to the area we said, "we can't live in Niskayuna; we'll never be able to prounce it or spell it:).

Anyhow, the river appears to flow through a deep gorge in this stretch. Vertical limestone cliffs about 100 feet high form the shore line on either side for about 3 miles. I guess that the geology must have backed up the river at this point until the river punched through and eroded this gorge. It's very pretty.


Early morning view from Lock 7.
On the shore in this region is (1) The GE Research and Development Center (2) The Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory and (3) Lenrock. The R&DC is the home of many smart scientists and the place were numerous nobel prizes originated. Knolls (we call it KAPL) is where nuclear reactors cores for US submarines are designed and built. Lenrock is a super pretentious mansion overlooking the river. It is an artifact left behind by a Bernie Madoff type of scandal. The original owner cheated his investors and went to jail, leaving behind this monsterous house as a relic.


We're stuck tonight at Erie Canal guard gate #2. We didn't understand the new fall hours for the canal. The last locking for locks 2-6 is at 15:30. We arrived there at 16:00 and were surprised to find it closed.

On Sunday we had a nice time with friends Bud and Nan from West Charlton, shown below. They invited us out to dinner at an Amsterdam restaurant. Four Ontarians on boats at lock 11 were also in need of a restaurant so we gave them a ride. We find that Ontarians are exceptionally easy to make new friends with.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Amsterdam, NY

Many thanks to HC Ohlhous who posted a very informative comment to my blog about the flood. He supplied a wealth of supplmentary information and details about the fate of the boaters.

My sister Marilyn lives in a Saratoga ARC group home near here. Whenever we pass this way we use the opportunity to visit her. Yesterday was such a day. We took her to some garage sales, and to Wal Mart (Wal Mart and the dollar store are her favorite places to shop.) We also took her to lunch at an area institution, Olivers.

Olivers Cafe in Glenville, NY has always been a favorite for us. The locals keep voting it as one of their favorite places, and they rave about the hamburgers.

When laying on a brilliant white sand beach in the Bahamas for example, I often fantasize about Olivers home fries. Warren, the cook and proprietor, just happens to make the best home fries in the world, IMHO. We tried and tried and we just can't make our own as good as his, nor have we found their equal in any other restaurant. The proprietress, Claudia, is a dear, and a shrewd businesswoman. She remembers the names and the personal details of her regular customers. Even after so many years being away, she gave us and Marilyn a warm welcome. Marilyn just loves going there.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Flood

Lock 11, Erie Canal
42 56.89 N 074 12.72 W

As we traveled up and down the Erie Canal in the past two weeks, we gathered some lore and stories about the great flood of 2006 that struck this area.

Lock 14, and Canajoharie just below the lock, were hit hard in the flood. The city dock where we stayed last night was under 25 feet of water at the crest. Main Street, the Arkell Museum, Beech Nut, and the south end of the bridge over the river were all flooded. I saw one picture of 4 or 5 boats all piled on top of each other after the flood. I don't know the story of how those boats fared or about damage. It appeared that it would have been a very frightening situation to be in a boat during that flood.

I talked to the lock master at lock 12. He explained that lock 12 was designed to be flooded because Schoharie Creek conflows with the Mohawk just above the dam. Schoharie Creeks floods often. Spillways on both shores carry most of the excess water away.

Lock 12

I talked to the lock master at lock 11. She said that because the river is very wide at that point, that the flood was not so bad. She did however have one boat tied up on the wall. She moved the boat to the lock chamber, tied it up with ropes in 4 directions, then left the lower valve open to drain the lock. The flood spilled over the upstream side of the lock, but because the down valve was open, the water level in the lock stayed below flood level and was relatively still. The boat rode through fine.

Lock 10 didn't have the advantages cited by locks 12 and 11. It was wiped out. The small buildings that house the lock equipment and controls were engulfed and washed away.

Down in the Hudson River, the floating docks for Albany Yacht Club broke away from shore and floated downstream will all the member's boats still attached. The yacht club has all new docks now.

Worst of all for a cruiser. I believe that the canal remained closed for the rest of the year. Any boats there were trapped for the season and for the next winter. Brrrrrr.

At the time of the flood in 2006, Libby and I were in the Chesapeake. We were shocked at the surge in debris that came down the Susquehanna River. It filled the whole Chesapeake with hazardous floating stuff. We used the C&D canal to cross over to the Delaware River. It too was full of debris. That was quite a flood.

In 2007, when Libby and I went up the Erie Canal the first time, we didn't hear most of the flood stories. All the people were too busy cleaning up and rebuilding.

Below, a video of the flood at lock 8. Note the two boats riding out the flood in the lock chamber.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Grand Finale

En Route, Erie Canal

For most Americans, Labor Day is the official end of summer. This year we were exactly on schedule. There was a Labor Day celebration at the Lock 20 park where we left Tarwathie so we went to that. It was Irish Day at the park. They had Irish songs and Irish dancing. The grandkids were less than excited about the music.

Libby kept bringing out one good thing after another to eat and that made it fun for all.

Around 1800, a cruise ship came through the lock. That's right, a real cruise ship. It was on a 12 day cruise from Rhode Island to Quebec City. The ship was obviously specifically built for the canal. It's width was only one foot less than the width of the locks, and its height was only 1 foot less than the clearance of the lowest bridge. Everyone had fun watching it go through the lock.

The high point of the day was the fireworks celebration All eight of us lined up along Tarwathie's port side for grandstand seats.

Never before have any of us been so close to a fireworks display. We were only 200 feet away from the launch point. The ariel bursts were right over our heads. The loud bangs caused pressure waves that thumped on our chests, and the sight and smell of smoke overwhelmed us. All that together made for the most fun fireworks display any of us can remember seeing. It made for a great finale to the summer season.

Now, Libby and I are officially in southward migration mode. We have only one more side trip to make. On Friday we're going to drive to Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY for a day. Then, we'll hang around the Schenectady area for the weekend.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Promoted To Drifter

Rome, NY

Friday morning I was sitting in the park near lock 20 reading my book. A young man wearing a rucksack approached me. "Is that your boat," he said pointing at Tarwathie. "Yep," I answered.

The man went on to explain that he was traveling west by bicycle and that he kept catching glimpses of Tarwathie ever day as he continued west. We chatted for a while. I ask him about his destination. He replied, "I'm just drifting west."

"Wow," I thought, "a real live drifter." Then I though about it some more. What's the difference between a cruiser and a drifter? Not much. For that matter, [voluntarily] homeless, hobo, vagabond, vagrant, drifter, cruiser, world traveler, and jet setter are all more-or-less synonyms. The difference in meaning is more quantitative than qualitative. The latter adjectives are presumed to have fatter wallets than the former. Homeless are presumed to be on the bottom rung of social status and jet setters on the top rung.

Cool. I spent most of my career with titles like engineer, senior engineer or most pompous of all -- consultant. Now, I left all that behind, and promoted myself to drifter. Not only that, many people envy me for it.

Actually, I'm kind of proud to be able to call myself a drifter. The implied low social status bothers me not. The implied degree of freedom is something I value a lot. Drifters, like cruisers, have the freedom to wake up each morning and say, "Shall I stay here today or move on to some other place? If I move, where shall I move to?"

Only rarely, as in the stories by O'Henry and by Jack Kerouac, does one hear glorification of the life of a drifter.

Each person in a free country may choose his/her set of values and to prioritize them. Comfort, possessions, and security are high on the lists of many people. The freedom to drift is prized foremost by a only small minority. I think the diversity is great. The only sad aspect of it is that many people just stumble along through life by default without ever assessing their personal values or consciously making life style choices.

Friday, September 04, 2009

How Lucky Can You Get?

Marcy, NY

I can't believe it. Yesterday afternoon, we planned to stop at Utica. According to our guide book, there is a city marina there where one can dock for free. When we got there, there were no boats at all parked there. Uh oh. When we got close enought to see, it was plastered all over the place with posters saying $1/foot docking fee. How ridiculous in a canal dotted with free facilities. The Utica City fathers can watch their facility languish unused.

We continued on to the next spot which is the intersection of the Erie and Chenango Canals. The Chenango Canal was closed to traffic in 2002. Too bad. According to my books it could lead one to the navigable part of the Susquehanna River which in turn leads to Chesapeake Bay. That would have been a very fun route to take southward. Anyhow, we stopped and tied up there, only to conclude that the location was terrible because of the proximity to the New York Thruway. Too much road noise.

We decided to continue on to our third choice, Lock 20. What a fortuitous choice. When we got to Lock 20 we found a free dock with power and water. There was also a big crowd of people gathering in the adjacent park. We asked what was going on. A man told us that they held concerts at the pavilion in the park every Thursday and Friday night. Tonight they featured the Trinkaus Manor Quartet. WOW! 44 years ago, in July 1965, Libby and I spent our Honeymoon night at Trinkaus Manor. Even more fantastic, two of the men in the quartet were at Trinkaus Manor in 1965.

We enjoyed a lovely evening listening to the wonderful music of the quartet. The singer, Pat something, was a very versatile singer with a great voice. Most of the crowd were old farts like us, and the music ensemble was appropriate for the group.

That's not all. On Monday, Labor Day, there will be another concert and field day at the park with fireworks at night. We're going to leave Tarwathie here all weekend while we visit John and his family. They live only 20 miles from here. On Monday, we'll bring them here for the fireworks as a going away present to granddad and grandma. Tuesday we depart toward the Hudson once again.

Like I said, how lucky can you get?

The pictures below are all from Lock 20.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Arkell

Herkimer, NY

On Wednesday, we had a great time in Canajoharie. The last time we were there, in 2007, they were recovering from the disastrous flood of 2006, so there was much we didn't see. I'm glad we returned.

In case you don't know, Canajoharie is a company time. Beech Nut Packing Company, the one that makes chewing gum, and lifesavers and baby food, is the dominant industry in town. It's founder and president, Mr. Arkell, was a community booster and an industrialist who believed in the welfare of his employees.

The Arkell Museum documents the history of Beech Nut. It also houses a wonderful art collection, most of which came from the Arkells. Among the collection are 21 paintings by Winslow Homer. Libby has fond memories from her youth, of a huge copy of Homer's The Helping Hand hanging in her parent's home.

Not surprisingly, the Arkells owned a magnificent mansion that overlooks the town. It looks great even today. In quality, if not size, it rivals the Vanderbilt mansion in Shelburne Vermont. We understand that in the 1990s, the Arkells donated the mansion to be used as a home for Beech Nut retirees. Lucky retirees.

Canajoharie, is in the middle of the rust belt. The city, like many other nearby cities, has been living in hard times. The downtown is but a shadow of its former glory. However, there are many fine homes and impressive architecture in other buildings that remain to make this place very impressive. I recommend a visit if you are passing by.

Tonight we plan to stay in Utica.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Beauty and Commerce

Erie Canal, Lock 13
42 56.02 N 074 26.82 W

I've written several times before about how lucky boaters are. There seems to be a veneer of nature and pretty scenes lining the water front in almost all places. The ugliness of the lives of 300 million people are largely out of site. I estimate that 90% of the water fronts we see are pretty and undeveloped, 8% developed but attractive, and only 2% ugly.

Why should that be? The prices for waterfront properties are sky high. One would expect that much more of it would be developed. I'm sure there are many reasons to go with many places. This summer however, I became more aware of a significant factor -- railroads. In New York and Vermont, the railroads bought right of way and laid their tracks right on the shores of the rivers and lakes. I presume that almost all of that activity occurred in the 19th century, before the population was as large as today.

In most cases, the tracks are so close to the shore that there is too little room to build a house or anything in the narrow strip of land. Even if one could build a house in that strip, one would have a very noisy and high traffic railroad line right outside the back door. It is a major deterrent to development of shore front propery. I can hardly be the first to notice this effect. There must be countless real estate agents grinding their teeth in anguished frustration over this durable barrier to waterfront development.

As I write this, we are sandwiched in a valley floor about 1/4 mile wide. It is heavily used. From South to North crossing the valley floor is (1) A RR track (2) NY Route 5S (3) I90 the New York Thruway (4) The remains of the old Erie Canal (5) The river (6) A swampy strip (7) A RR track (8) Another RR track and (9) NY Route 5, (10) A 500 KV power transmission line, the backbone of the New York State grid. Not seen are the pipelines, cables, and fiber optic bundles which I presume are under ground by the dozen. Pretty heavy commercial use. Nevertheless, as I look around I see water, and trees, and greenery. I get only tiny glimpses of all those man made things.

Over the centuries, trees grow up between the tracks and the shore, thus hiding the tracks themselves. Therefore, at least along the Hudson River, the Mohawk River, and the western shore of Lake Champlain, there is indeed a marvelous and very thin veneer of nature lining almost all the shores. Lucky us to see it from the water side.

We have also entered the Mohawk River Valley. Libby and I know from years past how beautiful the vistas are in this valley. The best views are not from the river, they are from the hill tops. Unfortunately, the vistas grow less beautiful every year. That is because fields are being replaced by woods. A valley filled with fields and meadows is much more beautiful than one filled with trees. It was noticeably more open and pretty in our youth. It was stunningly beautiful in the 18th and 19th centuries. We know because we can see the many oil paintings depicting the beauty. Even in the Smithsonian Museum last summer we saw beautiful paintings of the Mohawk Valley. Back then, there were more fields and less forest.

So it's a mixed blessing, the trees that hide the roads, tracks, buildings and ugliness from us when on the river, also hide the beauty of the valley when seen from the hill tops.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Up Another Lazy River

En Route Erie Canal

The weather is wonderful. Warm, sunny, dry, cool nights. Even better, the good weather is supposed to continue all week.

We've been enjoying cruising through familiar territory all day. As I said, we lived in Schenectady for many years. My parents however lived in Syracuse so we made very many trips between the two cities by all possible routes. That means that almost everything we see in between is familiar. That makes it fun. We passed Schenectady mid morning, Amsterdam at noon. Now we're passing New York's Amish territory. The green hills are very beautiful.

We made a stop at Putnam Park, just West of Amsterdam. There, we saw some locks from the old Erie Canal (before the Barge Canal) Several plaques there explain details about canal design and operation that we didn't know. For example, that they build aqueducts and culverts to allow creeks to cross the canal without intermingling their waters. That was important for water level regulation in the canal. Most of the old canal did not follow the Mohawk River but rather it ran beside it.

The park also has an exhibit about the stores and businesses that lined the canal. During its heyday, the Erie Canal was dominant in the economy of upstate New York.

We plan to spend the night on the wall of Lock 13. Tomorrow morning we'll move on to Canajoharie. There is an art gallery there we want to see. The last time we passed by this way, the gallery was closed for renovations.

Our Back Yard

Erie Canal, Lock 7
42 48.27 N 073 50.90 W

(Monday Night)
Well, we're in our own former back yard once again. We lived in the Schenectady area for more than 25 years. Today and tomorrow we'll pass under every bridge on the Mohawk River that I used to cross on my daily commute to work. The I87 Twin Bridges, the Rexford Bridge, the Scotia Bridge and the I890 bridge. Come to think of is, the Mohawk River and the Erie Canal have been part of our lives for a very long time.

Tonight we're having dinner with our dear friends John and Mary Ann. We're lucky to find them at home; they travel a lot.

The weather yesterday and today turned really beautiful. We had a very relaxing ride down the Champlain Canal yesterday, a nice night on the wall at Mechanicville, then a grocery store stop at Waterford this morning, and a half day's ride on the Erie Canal.

We're at an altitude of 211 feet above sea level. We haven't been so far above sea level in more than a year. Maybe we'll get nose bleeds. We're not used to such refined altitudes like the sherpas that live around here.

Traveling on the canals is very easy. Whenever you get tired for the day, you just stop at the nearest lock and tie up for the day. Some people think that locking is tedious. But we think it's fun. We especially like talking with the lock masters. Since June we've done 31 locks.