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.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back, guys! Looking forward to seeing you both soon after you have had time to recover.