Lock It Down

Wednesday September 5, 2012

We’re nearing the end of our journey here on the Erie Canal and so far have 28 locks under our belt.  We’re becoming pro’s at them now, and in addition to now grabbing all the lines with ease I’m also able to kill the gigantic spider that seems to fall from every line with just one stab from my boat hook.  New York arachnids beware.  Last night we picked the lock we’d be spending the night at solely based on it’s proximity to a Dominoes since they were running a special for the holiday week.  We may have had to walk through some not so nice areas to get to the outskirts of Amsterdam but we left with our stomachs full of cheesy goodness and enough for leftovers.  That night we were treated to trains howling by only a few hundred feet from our boat and even ear plugs could shut them out.  Today we ended at Lock 7 and should be done with the canal tomorrow.  On our way here we were able to watch the scenery change from flat land to rolling hills to rocky cliffs all in two days.  Since there’s not much to report on I’ll just leave a recap of the past few days in photos.

When In Rome

Monday September 3, 2012

Since we have been taking advantage of the free dockage given at the Locks we haven’t been to a town since leaving Brockport.  While reading through our Waterway Guide we found there was a little town called Rome just past Oneida Lake and it did not charge docking fees.  There were no facilities, but we don’t need shore power and our water tanks were still pretty full.  We’d survive.  Imagine our surprise that as soon as we passed under the last bridge before Rome and saw the floating dock we also saw our friends John and Andy from s/v Between the Sheets there as well.  These are two Canadian guys taking Andy’s Beneteau 381 from Port Dover, Ontatio to the Bahamas where they would then meet up with their ladies.  We first met them a few nights ago at one of the locks and we both seem to pick the same destination every night.

After taking our lines from us and helping tie us off they told us a little of what was in town.  Another reason we had picked this spot to stay is because there was an Ace Hardware within walking distance and Matt needed parts to get our radar reflector on while the mast was down.  Being the very nice guys they are, Andy and John lent us their folding bikes to take into town and save the hassle of walking.  We happened to get to Ace five minutes after they closed but they were in a good mood as well and let Matt in while I watched the bikes.  After he was all supplied we checked Google maps for fast food restaurants and made a beeline for KFC when we found it was just up the road.  I don’t know what it is about us, but as soon as we hit civilization all we can think about is food!!  Plus KFC carries Pepsi which I am hopelessly addicted to.  The only pop we’ve had on board this whole time is our own soda making machine and the generic ‘cola’ flavor we’re trying to use up before breaking into the Coca-Cola syrup leaves a lot to be desired.

Returning the bikes to John and Andy they were in the middle of dinner (they eat well on that boat) so we returned to ours while Matt did more work on the radar reflector and I began work on spreadsheets for cost and provisions.  It’s amazing how the hours of the night fly by and what felt like two minutes later it was time for bed.  We’d be traveling again the next day so there would be no time for staying up late or sleeping in.  Getting up in the morning we did have to make one more trip to Ace for forgotten items and along the way stopped at Fort Stanwix across the street.  This fort was built by the British in 1758 to protect during the French & Indian War.  By 1774 it was abandoned and in need of reconstruction.  Purchased by the Americans in 1776 it was repaired and renamed.  In August of 1777 it withstood a 21 day siege by a mix of British, German, Canadian and Indian forces and has become known as ‘the fort that never surrendered’.  It was an interesting place to see, right in the middle of town (although it’s not the original structure).  After taking in that little bit of history though we had to get back to Serendipity and get a few more miles under our belt.


Cross The Lake

Saturday September 1, 2012

We had 5o miles to cover today and made sure to leave early enough, around 9, to ensure we’d be to Lock 23 before dark. I didn’t think the day would be very exciting, we’d only have two locks to pass through, but we’d also be going through Cross Lake on this day. This was a big worry for me. A couple who went through the canal a few years ago had made a wrong turn just after Cross Lake because their charts didn’t show them the correct path and they almost ran aground because of it. Luckily someone on shore was able to yell at them to turn around just before they hit shallow water and they were ok. Pulling out their paper charts they saw the turn they were supposed to make and went back to it. We don’t have paper charts. Right now we don’t have any kind of charts. I was terrified. To prepare myself a little better I had taken a photo of their paper chart they posted online so I could use it as a reference. I did not want to run this boat aground in 3 feet of water.

 The morning was a little more eventful than I thought it would be. There were still not any towns we passed through, but there were tons and tons of campgrounds filled to the brim with holiday campers. There was that, and then there were the powerboaters going 30 mph up and down the river leavng huge wakes for us to jump over. Hey, at least it wasn’t boring. When things slowed down a litle again Matt said he was a little tired and was going to lay down for a bit.

I merrily sat behind the wheel, keeping an eye on the river in front of me. I like to check the depth and speed constantly and after 15 minutes of being up there alone I looked at the chartplotter and all the numbers were blank except the time. I could not lose my depth finder, that was the one thing keeping me sane about traveling without charts. I looked up to the instruments near the companionway and although the speed was not showing, the depth was. Ok, I could live with that, I didn’t need to know how fast I was traveling. I was just going to let the rest go when I thought ‘What if something fried? What if something happened to the system and it could be fixed if it was done right away, but left alone it would have to be replaced?’. No more nap time for Matt. I called him up and explained what I was seeing and let him have at it. Playing with the chartplotter and reading all the manuals he decided it was a voltage surge and was able to get everything up and working again.

After that debacle he went below again to try and get more sleep. It didn’t last long as soon I was coming up on a wide open area and still no charts to tell me where to go. I looked right, left, and straight, but could not see a clearly marked path anywhere. Yelling for him to come back up we bobbed around in the water for a little bit, constantly floating closer to some down trees in the center. As he tried to pull up charts on his phone I looked across to what I was now pretty positive was Cross Lake. Searching up and down the lake I noticed a red and green buoy at the other side. At the same time Matt noticed a green one to our left. He then also thought to try our charts on the chartplotter again to see if anything was showing, and surprise surprise, they were now working. Hallelujah, I was not driving (as) blind anymore. Since that green was supposed to be on our right for this part of the journey I changed direction and backtracked a little to make my way over there.

Having that part figured out I knew our next obstacle would be locating the State Dugout after the lake, the correct turn before the river continued to 3 feet of water. Matt went below to try and bring up the photo of the paper chart on my laptop, and while he was having troubles getting the AC power working I zoomed out on my chartplotter. Ha!, the State Dugout was showing, complete with buoys to lead the way! Passing through the lake and onto the Seneca River I then made the left turn when I saw it come up. Even though the State Dugout was narrow it had red and green buoys marking it and I felt very confident in my decision. A pontoon boat of about 4 people passed us and I cheerily waved to the guy behind the wheel. He raised his hand to a half wave, then moved it side to side as you do when you’re gesturing that something is ‘so so’ or ‘iffy’, shrugged his shoulders and then went back to the half wave. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN??!! Had I not chosen the right path? Was he unsure if I could make the 15 feet clearance of the bridge ahead of me? Completely second guessing myself now I reviewed the charts again and saw that in a few hundred feet I’d be joined back up with the canal and into wide and deep waters. If I could just make it that far then I’d be able to breathe again. I did make it through just fine and now that we were back to the easy part I handed the wheel over ready for a break.

The photo I had taken of the other couple’s paper chart (their writing)…..

….and our chartplotter matched!  We were good to go!