Sunday, August 5, 2012

Chester, CT

The trip from Norwalk to Chester CT, compared with the first leg down Long Island Sound, was like night and day. Unlike the 4–6 foot seas we encountered the first time, waves yesterday were one foot or less, winds very calm, hazy visibility 1–3 miles and for most of the 57 miles few other boats. The open water of the sound, after weeks of inland waterways, was invigorating. For most of the trip we saw neither land nor vessel.

Contrast that with our Saturday afternoon arrival in the Connecticut River where we encountered the usual bad mannered, inconsiderate, large wake go-fast cruisers and weekend sailors under full sail tacking back and forth in the narrow channels. Gee it’s good to be home.

And there was the Home-coming party. The whole marina turned out in Hawaiian shirts, under a large tent with tons of food, drink and a DJ. Well, actually it was the annual marina Pot Luck but it felt special to us.

Our slip neighbor Bob and friend enjoying the festivities.

Looking back, it was a once in a lifetime adventure. Seeing this area of the world from such a unique vantage point was priceless. Ultimately we logged 1,200 nautical miles through 2 countries, 4 large lakes, 101 locks, 8 rivers, and 5 separate canal systems. We burned 492 gallons of diesel, about 3 gallons per hour average, costing $2,138.75 over 40 days; very fuel efficient.

It was pleasing to see the pride that the Erie Canal Corp. and the Canadian Park Service take in their work. The lock areas were lovingly tended and maintained, and the lockmasters and their young assistants friendly, helpful, and smiling. We would have to rate the lake region of the Rideau the most beautiful and scenic, followed by the northern portion of Lake Champlain.

What really stood out were the people we met along the way; all kinds, making the journey on demasted sailboats, antique wooden boats, screened pontoon boats, tall boxy cruisers, houseboats, and tiny cuddy cabins. All were friendly and ready to chat and share their experiences.  We gained wisdom from Clark on Sea Moss, and learned to accept that on a boat, things break and stuff happens.

In general, it was a slow go.  At one point we realized we were a 2 1/2 hour drive from home, but a good four days by boat. 

As for the commercial boat traffic, it's not so bad.  Barges and freighters are large, but they are also visible and predictable.  Not so for the pleasure craft. On the weekends, everywhere was crowded with all manner of boats.  The French, especially, seem very prone to risk taking.

During the week, we often had the waterways to ourselves.

In almost every boat group, our tug was the most unusual vessel. More common were screened in pontoon boats, runabouts, and cruisers of all sizes.

We had our share of mishaps, mercifully all were minor. Thom gained what would have been several years’ worth of boat handling experience, and has turned into quite the fixit guy.  I've become an expert in fender placement, line throwing and galley meal preparation.

Lessons learned:

1)  Always account for all of your lines. Coil and stow them promptly.

2)  Avoid anything and everything you see floating in the water.

3)  Leave the dogs at home.

4)  Get up to date charts and guidebooks. Things do change.

We won't be doing the Great Loop.  The transient lifestyle does not appeal to us long term. River and inland waterway travel is confining. You are always watching your water depth, the location of the channel, looking out for small boats and paddlers (always in the channel even when they should not be and don't have to be), and the wakes of the faster cruisers. Often it is like the Connecticut River on a weekend afternoon - crowded and not pleasant.  The rivers themselves are full of obstacles like swing bridges, cable ferries, and on this trip, the locks. So much that it is a relief to get into the open waters of the Hudson, and even better when you hit L.I. Sound.  Next year's travels will probably be local, and we'll see what happens after that.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Norwalk, CT

The day went better than anticipated.  With the help of the tide (2+ Knots), we made it down the Hudson quickly.  As luck would have it, the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge had been repaired and opened for us, cutting the three hours it would have taken to go around Manhattan down to one. 

Once through Hells Gate and the Throgg’s Neck Bridge, it was a straight shot to Norwalk Cove.   Instead of arriving at 5:00, we got there at 2:00.  It was sweltering, so we rested up in the A/C until dinner time.

Coming back from our showers, we noticed a ruckus around a boat hoisted onto the TraveLift.  Two Seatow boats, the Coast Guard, Norwalk Police and Fire department.  On closer inspection, we could see water pouring OUT from the bottom of the boat.  The Norwalk harbor area is known to have a lot of rocks and reefs. They had hit one known as Georges Rocks, hard!

One screw was gone completely; the other badly dented, one rudder bent seriously backwards, the entire keel torn up, and holes in the hull bottom where the propeller shaft used to be. 

The C.G. had put three pumps on the boat to keep it from sinking while it was towed in.  Bad way to end the day.
River, who had not thrown up once the entire trip, let loose this afternoon.  While on this trip, he has been able to eat only things that were actually food, but obviously managed to scarf something awful down while on his leash. I did mention he isn’t coming on any more cruises.
Red sky at night sailor's delight .....

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Haverstraw,NY - Running for Home

Monday evening in Waterford we were part of a Mayfly swarm. As soon as it got dark, thousands of these light, not quite mothlike bugs, descended in a cloud on the entire line of boats tied up at the town dock. People eating outside had to go inside. It looked like a plague from inside the boat where we were sitting. On Tuesday morning, they were piled up by the thousands on all the boats. Everyone had to sweep them up, and then wash off the rice sized yellow egg sacks stuck to the boats.

On Tuesday we headed back to Coeyman's Landing, and Wednesday we stayed back at Rondout Creek in Kingston. We had a devil of a time getting into our slip, with a 20 knot wind pushing us sideways. As our friend Clark from Sea Moss says, "Sometimes you watch the entertainment, sometimes you are the entertainment."

We are back at Haverstraw tonight, and will take off early tomorrow morning. The Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, which crosses the Harlem River and normally opens on demand, is broken and no one seems to be able to find out when it will be fixed. That adds three hours to the trip as we will have to go around the tip of Manhattan and up the East River to try to make it to Norwalk.

Of the many pictures we took returning through the Hudson Highlands, here's two that we thought you'd like.

From Norwalk, it's a slog back to Chester by Saturday night as we are trying to avoid thunderstorms that are predicted for Sunday.