Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Welcome to the Erie Canal

Today we traveled another 30 miles or so up the Hudson to the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal.  Each mile that passed the river choked down a bit more, but it's still quite significant all the way.  The heavy commercial barge traffic ends just south of Albany where there are numerous power plants, oil depots, scrap yards, gravel yards, and just about anything else you can imagine wanting to transport by barge.  But from Albany north the water depth drops from about 40' to 20', and 90% of the traffic becomes recreational.

Hudson Light House
Another Hudson Light House
Albany Appears in the Distance
Industrial Waterfront South of Albany
City Skyline
USS Slater Destroyer Escort
Albany Buildings
Albany Buildings

Albany Buildings
Maybe 5 miles north of Albany comes the first lock which is the Troy Lock.  It's the only federal lock and delineates the tidal, brackish waters of the Hudson from the controlled level, fresh water of the Erie and Champlain Canals.  Did you know that there is a 5' tide on the Hudson all the way up in Albany?  I didn't.

Troy Lock and Dam

Waiting to Enter Troy Lock

Another mile north of the Troy lock comes a fork in the stream in Waterford.  Continue north and you enter the Champlain Canal which runs all the way into Lake Champlain.  The bridges on that route are just a little too low for us, but a few of the boats that we have been playing tag with are heading up that way.  But if you turn left, you enter the Erie Canal.  Right at the junction is a big visitor's center and long pier where you can tie up for a couple of days.  We are tied up for the night, but will continue on tomorrow.

The visitor's center apparently has some very good displays about the canal, but only the very basics are currently open.  The eastern Erie and upper Hudson were very badly damaged last summer by Irene.  On the Hudson, all the marinas at the mouths of the various feeder rivers got trashed to one degree or another.  Some are back in operation, so are partially operational, and at least one is gone completely.  The visitor's center in Waterford was flooded up to the 1st floor ceiling, and that's where the main office, bathrooms, showers, laundry, etc are all located.  The prioritized getting that working again first, then the visitors are will follow.  We are expecting to encounter a lot of places with only partial services compared to what they normally have.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hot and Stormy

Today was the culmination (I hope) of three very hot and steamy days. I lasted about 5 minutes on the fly bridge this morning before moving down to the lower inside helm where there is AC. We had a nice 30nm day further up the Hudson ending in Catskills right by the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and right near Hunter Mountain.

As we were getting ready to head into a dock for the night, I called the dock master and he said we should stay out for a little while because there was a tornado warning and a storm cell about to hit. He didn't want another boat on the docks until after the storm. So we went across the river and anchored in a bit of a cove to wait out the storm. After a few hours, dinner, two other boats joining us, and storms continuing the roll through, we decided to just stay at anchor for the night. It's a very calm spot except when the occasional tug and oil barge plow by and shake things up.

Speaking of oil barges, it's interesting that they are carrying oil from Albany to NYC, not the other way around. My guess is that it's coming from Canada, but who knows. There are probably a dozen or more every day.

Oh, and we saw a bald eagle fly by which speaks well for the comeback of fish in the river.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day, West Point, High Noon, 21 Cannon Salute

Yesterday was a down-day in Croton on Hudson to catch up on some boat projects that didn't quite get finished before departure.  It was a long and tiring day, but productive.  This morning we pushed off and headed further up the Hudson to Poughkeepsie to meet up with John who happens to be there for a few days.

West point was the highlight of this segment, and it's quite the medieval-looking fortress.  The rail line actually runs through a tunnel that goes right through their basement.

West Point, looking north

West Point, looking north

Then, as we rounded the point, a canon fired.  I looked at the clock, and it was high-noon on Memorial Day.  Sure enough, we got to witness their 21 Cannon Salute.  It was quite moving thinking off all the kids who have given their lives for our country.

The picture below is the view south towards West Point, and you can just barely see the clearing and flag pole at the top of the hill where the salute was delivered.

West Point, looking south
The rest of the day was a hot and steamy, but pleasant trip up the Hudson to Poughkeepsie where John joined u for the late afternoon and dinner.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Counter to the weather forecast, we awoke to hazy but clear skys, so off we went around NYC.

Throgs Neck Bridge from Harlem Yacht Club Mooring Field
The first leg of the trip runs west all the way to the end of Long Island Sound to the confluence (of conflagration at times) of Hell Gate where the East River, Harlem River, and LI Sound meet.  It's also home to Rikers Island where all the perps now live, and Laguardia Airport.  Speaking of Rikers, we passed a huge barge tied up to a pier across from Rikers that looked like a floating condo complex.  On closer inspection, it turns out it was part of the prison!

Throgs Neck Bridge with Whitestone Bridge and Manhattan Beyond

Tri-borough Bridge

Hell Gate not looking very Hellish

Williamsburg Bridge with Roosevelt Island Tram in Foreground

Chrysler Building

UN Building

Brooklyn Bridge with New Trade Center Buildings Going Up

Lady Liberty

Manhattan Battery

Fire Boat on Hudson


Coasties Guarding the Intrepid and Tall Ships

After all the excitement of Manhattan, we had a leisurely cruise up the Hudson, under the Tapan Zee Bridge, to a Marina in Croton on Hudson.  We weren't here for more than an hour when a whomping squall came through.  Hopefully it will clear out the muggy hot air.

Dedicating our trip to John Eills

As we were making final preparations for departure, we learned that our life-long friend John Eills had passed away. All the Eills have been an important part of our lives, and it was their scheming that introduced Laurie and me almost 30 years ago. Along with my mother and Weld, John and Nancy were instrumental in cultivating my interest and love of cruising which has resulted in this trip.

The last time Laurie and I sailed through NYC to Long Island Sound was with John and Nancy. The last time we were on a boat on the Hudson side was for their 50th anniversary cruise. So, as we embark on this cruise, and prepared to sail down the East River, around the Battery, and up the Hudson, we'd like to dedicate this adventure to John Eills.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I'm told that was Long Island Sound

But I sure couldn't tell. Everything looked exactly the same for two straight day. The place we stopped last night was supposedly Westbrook, CT, but all I saw was the dock emerge out of the fog. We've only seen land twice, and passed within a couple hundred yards of numerous boats, but never saw them. Fog sucks.

But we made it to the Harlem Yacht Club on City Island in NY and have a very peaceful mooring for the night - probably our last mooring for a while as we enter the river and canal system tomorrow. The forecast is for dense fog again in the AM so we will probably wait a bit to head out. I don't need the stress of playing dodge-boat in the fog through NY Harbor, plus, I want to see the city from the water.

By tomorrow we should be just north of the Tapan Zee bridge. If you feel so motivated to check out where we are, you can see live on On the left you can search for a vessel, and if you type in Tanglewood II is will zero in on our location. But keep in mind that our transponder is only on when we are underway, and only larger cities have receivers, so we'll probably go dark through the river system.

Oh, the fog just cleared enough to catch a glimpse of the Throgs Neck And Whitestone bridges, but still no city skyline. Hopefully tomorrow.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

This must be Cuttyhunk

Socked in with fog? We must be in Cuttyhunk. It's a wonderful refuge at the western end of the Elisabeth Island chain which flanks one side of Buzzards Bay, and is a perfect launching spot for crossing Narragansett Bay and Block Island Sound before entering Long Island Sound. That's a lot of sounds and bays, isn't it?

The good news is that we made it without incident! This first leg of our journey was a long one at about 80nm, but it's all stuff we've covered many times, and will cover many more times I hope, so we just powered through. Crossing Mass Bay is, well, boring. There's not much to see unless you take the long route hugging the shore, and we had enough fog to make hugging a bad idea, so we just knocked out the 50nm from Gloucester to the Cape Cod Canal.

East Entrance to Cape Cod Canal

You never know what you will get from the canal. Between the current, wind, and boat wakes it can be a swirly whirly ride, but we had flat water, a following current, and no other boats which made for a very pleasant ride.

 Approaching the Sagamore Bridge

But if the canal is a swirly whirly ride, the transition into Buzzards Bay can be a real life horror show. When the tide and wind are opposing each other, 8' standing waves develop along a mile or two channel and will really kick the crap out of you. But again, we lucked out and found a placid bay all the way to Cuttyhunk.

I promise to get some pictures posted soon, but they are in my camera and I'm posting from an iPad where I can't access them. [Editor's note: I've now added those pictures]

 Oh, and speaking of iPads, I'll do my best to catch my typos, but sometimes Apple jumps in and does it for me. I admit that all the typos are instigated by me, but often times aggravated by this silly auto-correct feature. When I first started working on computers in the '70s, I saw a sign that read "to err is human, to really foul things up requires a computer". Some things never change.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pushing off Today

Wow, it's Wednesday and we actually plan to push off this morning.  Everything came together yesterday and based on the food that's stashed away in every corner of the boat, we won't be starving.  We just need to get a cab to take us and our clothes over to the marina and off we go.

Just for fun, there is still one (well, maybe more than one) calculated risk that we are taking.  We decided to integrate our sea trial into the trip i.e. we are just going to leave.  The boat runs (I moved it from the launch sling over to the dock where we have been doing our final preparations) and we have checked out all the systems, but there is always the risk that when you give it some throttle, nothing happens.

Stay tuned to see if we make it to Cuttyhunk, our planned stop for tonight......

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Plan: Complete the Downeast Loop

Here's the plan:  do the Downeast Loop.  What's the Downeast Loop, you ask?  It's basically circumnavigating the northeast corner of the US and Canada.  Here's the route, starting from our home port in Gloucester, Ma

  • Head down the coast to NYC
  • Go up the Hudson river to just north of Albany, NY
  • Enter the Erie Canal and head west to around Syracuse, NY which is about the mid point of the Erie.  If you continue west it takes you parallel to Lake Ontario all the way to Lake Erie, but we will exit at the mid point into the Oswego Canal.
  • Follow the Oswego canal north to the southeast corner of Lake Ontario.
  • Cross Ontario to its northeast corner to the Thousand Islands Region which is the headwaters of the St Lawrence River.  At this point we enter Canada.
  • But rather than heading right out the St Lawrence, we will continue north into the Rideau Canal system which is actually a series of lakes, rivers, and canals that run all the way to Ottawa.
  • In Ottawa we will pick up the Ottawa River and follow it southeast until it rejoins the St Lawrence at Montreal.
  • Then down the St Lawrence to Quebec City, and onward to the St Lawrence Gulf
  • Prince Edward Island comes next, followed by Cape Breton Island, Bras d'Or Lake, then down the coast of Nova Scotia.
  • At the end of Nova Scotia, we'll head across the Bay of Fundy and re-enter the US in northern Maine.
  • Then down the coast of Maine and back home to Gloucester.
Stay tuned to see if we make it....

Preparing to cast off

Cast-off time is near at hand!  Tanglewood II is in the water and undergoing final fit-out which is an exercise in two steps forward, and one step back.  We had three major projects this winter:

1) Adding a canvas enclosure around our flybridge.  We had a bimini before, but the fly was otherwise open to the weather.  Visibility is so much better from up top that nearly all piloting takes place from the upper helm.  Now with it enclosed, it will be much more comfy in off-weather.

2) Installing a water maker.  We are looking forward to having plenty of water and the ability to replenish it while cruising each day.  Installing it wasn't too bad, but when it came to commissioning it several problems popped up, including a hose buried inside a bulkhead that had been punctured by a panel mounting screw.  You could never hit a bull's-eye like that screw did no matter how hard you tried.  The hose was part of a factory-prep option for a watermaker, so the hole has been there for the boat's whole life.  I just had the pleasure of finding it, tearing apart the bulkhead to gain access, and replacing the hose.  I guess I didn't need that day after all.

3) Organizing storage in the lazarette.  The laz in the boat has a lot of space, but it's exposed hull and there isn't a flat surface anywhere.  Stuff just piled up, slid around, and created a tumble of junk.  The clean-up project consisted of building a series of platforms blocked up to make a number of flat surfaces where things can be stored and actually kept in place.  It worked out well and has made for much more usable space.

Today I finished the last of the projects and tomorrow we provision and pack.  Cast-off is planned for Wednesday, so long as the sea trial goes ok......