The Flight Of Five! ….Errr Three

Thursday September 6, 2012

After 10 days of traveling our pass expires today and although we’ve throughly enjoyed our time on the canal we were ready to be done. There were only 22 miles between us and the visitor’s center in Waterford that had facilities including showers and we’d be allowed to tie up for free for the first two nights. Following our favorite turquiosed hulled boat that keeps falling behind us and then throwing a huge wake at us as they pass,  into lock 7 we were happy they’d be far ahead of us by the time we reached Lock 6, the beginning of The Waterford Flight, or Flight of Five. These are the last five locks in the system and lower you 169 feet in less than two miles. This is the highest set of lift locks in the world.

 Since there were 10 miles between Lock 7 and 6 I took over the wheel while Matt went to argue with T Mobile about switching over our number from AT&T, something we’ve now been working on for over two weeks. Now that we’d finally gotten that issue taken care of and literally just started service with them today they were trying to charge us for the past two weeks of the prepaid service even though we hadn’t used it because we hadn’t been able to. I left him alone in the v-berth to have it out with them while I sat behind the wheel with autopilot on and e-reader in my hands. He came up 45 minutes later and when I asked how it went he told me this is how the call ended. T-Mobile rep: “Sure, let me transfer you to my supervisor”….click. They hung up on him. Let’s just say that didn’t leave him in the best of moods and he took over the wheel, throwing us into high gear just ready to get out of the locks and be done with the day.

As we pulled into Lock 6 I greeted the Lockmaster and as they usually do, he asked us how far we were going that day. “We’re going through the five”, I replied. He said something I didn’t understand like “You can’t”, and thinking I may have confused him I replied again that we were going to the visitor’s center at Waterford, afraid he thought I meant we were only going to Lock 5 and you weren’t allowed to stop in the middle. “You can’t go to the visitor’s center”, he echoed ,“Or Lock 2”. He saw me cock my head to the side, now absolutely confused and continued on, “There’s a tug boat rally going on this weekend and there will be no space at the visitor’s center or at Lock 2 until Monday. You’ll have to stay at 3 or above”. This was not sounding promising. Our pass expired so we had to be out that day and without being able to go to the visitor’s center or remain docked at the low side of 2 we’d have to go to a marina…..until our new rigging came in on Monday. Have I mentioned we’re on a budget? Being the kind of person who just accepts things for what they are I thanked the guy and hung on to my rope, waiting for the water to go down. At the other end of the boat, Matt had only heard part of the conversation and I filled him in on the rest. After getting screwed over on the phone earlier that day and getting nowhere with that issue he was having none of this. Ready to get into a dispute he started arguing with the Lockmaster whom I felt bad for because he had no authority over the places we wanted to stay. When he explained to Matt that we were welcome to stay between 3 & 4 for a few days until the rally was over, Matt exhasperately replied, “But our pass expires, we have to be out today”. “Oh”, remarked the Lockmaster, “That will extend until Monday”. It took Matt a moment to understand that they were trying to work with us and weren’t going to throw us out on our asses without a place to go. He made nice then and the Lockmaster called ahead to let the rest of the crew know that we’d be docking in between for a few days and our pass would still be valid until the rally was over. Staying at the locks we’d be without showers which was disappointing, but it was better than paying $40-80 a night for a marina. Looks like the universe is giving us a lesson in living on Island Time a little early.

Passing through Locks 5 & 4 we tied up at the designated pier just before three, scaring off about 20 geese in the process, and got ready to walk into town. The good thing about being stuck here is that we were still only a mile from town and could walk to civilization, unlike most of the other locks. Throwing our computers into a backpack we set out to explore town and find a place to sit awhile while getting wifi. Finding our way through the little side streets into town we walked past all the diners, coffee shops, and taverns. We could have easily slid into one and started our work but we kept wandering, anxious just to see what was out there. Coming to the end of the shops we were faced with a large bridge sprawling over the Hudson River and crossed it to see what was on the other side. Which happened to be the outskirts of Troy, NY. We could see a commercial area down the road but didn’t want to get too far from the boat so while we had a moment of a wifi connection on the phone standing in front of a Rite Aid we looked up McDonald’s and started walking toward it.

Making it to the restaurant after what felt like at least two more miles (and may have been) we ordered lunch and looked for a place to sit down next to an outlet. Both of us have crappy batteries on our computers and can’t work for more than 15 minutes with it dying. Grabbing our tray we wandered around the corner and found no outlets anywhere near a table. Plopping down at a random vacant table we ate, assuming we’d have to wait another day for internet. While eating I spied an outlet off to the side, but there were no tables near. Determined to get a post on the site and send a few necessary emails I pulled up a chair and sat with computer in lap, ready to work. Things were still moving a little slowly so I sat quite awhile, waiting for photos and documents to pull up. Since I was directly next to the entrance for the restrooms I had a lot of traffic pass by accompanied with strange looks. At this point I didn’t care. I hadn’t had an internet connection on my computer for a week and I was going to take whatever I could get. An hour had passed by and I was still working as Matt sat at one of the booths, just using the internet on his phone. Buying me an iced coffee and seeing that I couldn’t get much work done while holding it in my hand he came over with another chair to make a make-shift table for me and now I was all set. My computer sat on the high chair while my coffee rested on the ground and I happily typed away for another hour. I could have worked for much much longer, but I could tell Matt was getting restless and we had been there almost two and a half hours now.

Closing down my laptop I slid it back in the backpacked and we left the air conditioning for the warmth of the sun waiting outside. Following our path back we noticed a short cut to the lock and probably cut almost a mile off our return trip. With nothing else to do for the day I figured we’d just hang at the boat, reading or just finally relaxing in the cockpit and enjoying the sun after a few days of clouds. As we walked back down the pier toward Serendipity we saw a group of old and restored tug boats lining up to enter the lock. The owners were smiling and waving, eager to show off their hard work. As one little two person tug passed us, freshly painted and with a mock wind-up lever sticking out of the back, I smiled and thought maybe the universe was actually working in our favor, forcing us to slow down and remember the reason we were out here…to enjoy the little things in life. And the little things have always been my favorite.

Tables are so over-rated.

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!

Deliverance On Erie

Friday August 31, 2012

This is my view, all day long.

When there are towns to pass through on the canal, or bridges to go under, or locks to drop down, it helps pass the day along. Unfortunately between those things there’s not a whole lot going on. A little bit of water and lots of trees. Combine that with contantly being at the wheel with no use of autopilot (unless you want to adjust it every five seconds) and that can make for a couple of long days. Not that we haven’t been loving the Erie Canal, it’s beautiful, but in between playing games of ‘Log or Duck?’ where we try to decipher what’s in the water ahead of us there’s a lot of Deleverance scenery going on and I’m ready for some action again. As I said though, there are still some beautiful sights along the way, so I’ll leave you with the best parts of the last few days.

This bridge is in Fairport, NY and also belongs in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.


Wednesday August 29, 2012

Getting an early start on the morning after making our after hours debut we walked through the picturesque office at Lock 35 to purchase our 10 day pass and ask for passage through the lock. This one was a big larger (ok, a lot) than the measley one we had done a few days ago. This was a double lock so as soon as we dropped the first 30 or so feet the large gates opened up where we moved forward to the next wall to drop another 20 feet. Our destination for the day was Brockport, about 40 miles from Lockport. In between the two locations were not locks, but tons and tons of lift bridges. Matt had no issue with them, but I was not fond of coming up to them if the bridge was still down. I did not want to be put in the position of having to stall the boat and try and keep it in place while the bridge lifted so as soon as I saw one coming up ½ mile away I’d call them on the VHF and then slow to a crawl until I saw the bridge lift up. I think the operators were used to most boats getting a few hundred feet and then stopping so that as soon as it was up they’d be able to pass under. In my case they might be waiting a few minutes and I don’t think they liked me very much for it.

On the very last bridge leading us into Brockport it was a good thing Matt was behind the wheel because we had to wait at least five minutes at a standstill while we waited and waited for the operator to respond and then saw her walk to her post from down the street and finally lift the bridge. I think I would have had a meltdown. Yes, I will learn to do this eventually, but a shallow and narrow channel is not a good schoolground for me. As soon as we passed under that bridge we saw the docking area and tied off. Checking in at the visitor’s center we found out that it was $12 and that included electricity (which we don’t need and don’t even have a power cord anymore), water, showers, and access to laundry. Music to our ears. As soon as we paid and had our key card we grabbed our laundry and toiletries to head to the facilities. Once we had a load going we hopped into the bathroom for showers. This was the real deal. No pressing a button for only 20 seconds spurts. This was hot cascading water for as long as you wanted it….pure heaven. Since this was a college town (SUNY) there was a nice little main street with lots of shops and restaurants. Since we were starving by now we just brought some Chinese food back to the boat and relaxed for the night.

 We weren’t in a rush to leave the next day and after finally sleeping in we went back to the visitor’s center to pay for another night. We also took advantage of their free bike program and rented two out for the day. Groceries were running low and we needed to stock up. Strapping a couple of backpacks on we hopped on the bikes and made our way past main street to the business district and up to Walmart. Having never been a fan of Walmart (we had Meijer) this one wasn’t too bad, the isles were clean and the people were mostly normal looking. We stocked up on a lot of things and just barely squeezed everything into the backpacks. Only one egg was cracked on the way back so I’d call it a success.

With our free time and free water that afternoon the boat finally got a wash which it desperately needed. Laundry was put away and the interior was cleaned. Finally the boat was starting to look like a home intstead of a huge mess. To celebrate the success of this we went out to get a New York pizza for dinner. While eating in the cockpit a few nearby ducks came over to beg. There was no way they were getting our pizza but we did have old hamburger buns and were more than willing to hand them out. What started as four ducks turned into twelve which turned into twenty. I think every duck in the area was soon at our boat. I haven’t fed ducks since I was a little kid and I forgot just how adorable they can be. I asked if we could have a boat duck but was quickly turned down. Darn, I think I could have acclimatized one of the babies.

While we were busy feeding the owner of the boat next to us stopped by to talk for a minute. Him and his wife had gotten to Whardell’s the day after us to have their mast stepped and Matt had the chance to take a tour of their boat while I was busy blogging at McDonald’s. Edward invited me to come check out Old Glory as well and as soon as I finished my pizza we made our way over. Just like Matt had told me, there is only one way to describe this boat, immaculate. Edward’s wife Yvonne gave me the tour of their Cal 46 complete with a cozy pilot house. It is beautiful and spacious and the perfect cruising boat. We were invited to stay for a drink and over the next hour told all of our crazy sailing stories between the four of us and their friend Joe that was visiting and who is also a sailor. Our fist boat buddies of the trip. Even though we could have stayed and talked forever we finally let them get to dinner around 10:00. Since they’re on their way to Charleston I have a feeling we’ll run into each other again and will be able to have more drinks and stories. I’m thinking next time I can repay their rum with a loaf of my banana bread. As long as they’re ok with bananas on their boat.

Bike-up ATM’ing

Old Glory at moon rise.


Extreme Boat Makeover: Erie Canal Edition

Monday August 27, 2012

I don’t know what it was about last night, but I got the best sleep I’ve ever had on this boat. 10 hours of it and it was spectacular. We didn’t know if Dennis would come to us or if we should find him so we just hung around on deck working on things. It didn’t take long for him to come over and let us know the steps we’d be going through that day to get the mast down. First we undid a few of the side-stays and the backstay before he came back and was lifted up the mast and attached his rope that the crane hook would grab on to, eventually lifting the mast. We undid the rest of the stays, tied everything together and it was time to go. We were told it was and easy procedure. We believed it would be an easy procedure. And it was for the first five minutes, until some of the lines from our mast got caught in the crane hook and we could not find a way to get them out. Extremely long boat hook? Nope. Raising the mast again in hopes it would find it’s own way out? Nope. Then you hear the words anyone doing anything difficult loves to hear: “Well, this has never happened to me before”.

 After another 30 minutes of raising and lowering and twisting the mast we finally had it free and could continue on. The top of the mast was rested in it’s cradle at the stern and the butt of the mast rested lightly on top of our pulpit, still slightly suspended by the crane, until we could get the bow and mid-ship cradles just right. Through all of this it had been raining on and off and while it turned to a downpour Dennis called for a rain break and went inside while the two of us perfected the cradle and attached more lines than we could imagine to the mast to keep it secure. If you ever make this journey, bring more lines than you think you could ever use, because you will use them. We had the mast tied down at the stern, mid-ship, and bow and were still worried about it being secure. Only time will tell.

After we did all that we thought we could do it was time for a lunch break and walked just up the road to McDonald’s. They had free wifi and Matt had brought his laptop so he could order new rigging to arrive at the marina where our mast will go up before we got there. He had however left the paper with all the information back at the boat and while he had to run back to get it I was able to enjoy the first internet I had access to in 72 hours. 20 minutes is not near long enough to check emails, check Facebook and get a blog post in. Soon I had to hand it back over and stare out at the rain while our parts were ordered. When we got back to the boat we found out that Dennis had finished while we were gone and the crane was now unattached from our mast and we were done. We filled up our diesel and were ready to get moving.

Now you are ready to travel the Erie Canal. If you’re like us, this is how your fist day down the canal might go:


  • You will be told by your spouse that we’re leaving right now and have only 3 hours of daylight to make it to your next destination 18 miles away.

  • A few miles down the river your chartplotter will tell you that you must have evolved and grown legs because you’re now traveling on land. Your back up charts will tell you the same thing and have you panicking and scouring the internet looking for any kind of charts possible, trying to verify that you are actually on the Erie Canal.

  • You forget that all the wires have been unattached from the mast and ask why the radar isn’t working.

  • You’ll remember that a few years ago another boat scraped up against a nice big rock in the canal and start treating everything in the water suspiciously, even seaweed.

  • Every bridge you come up to you’ll ask, ‘Are you sure we’ll clear that?’. You will be able to. Then you’ll see a bridge ahead that you’re 90% sure you can’t clear. Don’t worry, you also didn’t see that the river bends and you don’t actually have to go under it. Good thing, because there is 100% certainty that you would not have cleared.

  • Of the 150 ducks you see along the way you notice they all appear to be female and wonder if like in Jurrasic Park, life found a way.

  • While the rain beads up on the vinyl windows of your dodger you’ll wish for just a moment that you had a Hallsberg Rassy with a hard dodger and wiper blades.

  • You’ll look at your trip meter and see that you’ve only gone 10 miles in 2 hours and worry how you’ll navigate in the dark. Watch for shadows to grow closer and quickly steer away? Have your spouse stand at the bow with a flashlight? You hope it doesn’t come to either of these.

  • The sun pokes out of the clouds and you start to enjoy yourself a little and appriciate the beautiful scenery around you. You might even dance a little to the classic rock playing through the speakers.

  • The sun sets and you grab the spotlight out. Damn, you didn’t want it to come to this.

  • While there’s just a little bit of light left in the sky you see the lights of a town. Phew, you made it before it got dark. What you didn’t see though is the wall of a lock a quarter mile ahead of you while you’re coming in hot at 6 knots and you need to stop asap. And guess what?, boats don’t have breaks.

  • You throw it in neautral and then reverse and hand the wheel over to your spouse while you run to change fenders from port to starboard.  Remember, there is now a mast and 800 feet of lines in your way.  While getting the fenders to the proper side you don’t tie a proper clove hitch and one of your fenders ends up in the water. There is much yelling and swearing from both you and your spouse, but eventually you are tied up and the fender has been fished out with a boat hook.

  • Looking around the lock you notice that you are litterally fenced into the lock area but want to explore town. You climb under one gate and up the steep steps that have no railing and then hop the fence at the top and are now on Main St. It’s 8:45 and all of the shops are closed.

  • Searching maps on your iPhone you find there is a 7-11 just up the block and grab a slurpee since you haven’t had one in 10 years. Then you go back to the boat like you never left and end your night with a few episodes of Modern Family.

  • You will have survied your day.

We’ve Become Trolls

Sunday August 26, 2012

The area under the bridge that became our playground for a few days.

Since our goal had been to get to Buffalo, NY within two weeks of leaving we planned another overnight trip to get there from Fairport.  You may ask what the rush is, but we’re just trying to get through the Erie Canal before it shuts down due to a storm like it did last year.  That happened on Labor Day weekend and all the boats inside it had to be pulled out and shipped at the cost of the owner.  Not likely that it will happen again, but we can’t afford the chance.  So on we rush again.  I promise, one day we will have a chance to stop and relax.  The ride over to Buffalo was a mostly uneventful one.  The wind was of course non existent and we were motoring again.  After thinking about it and realizing that we’ll be motoring all the way from Buffalo to the ocean, and then most of the eastern US going through the ICW, our mast and sails are going to be pretty useless for the next 3 months.  Thoughts of castrating the boat pass through my mind.  We’ll just become a permanent motor vessel.  (I’m just joking, I love this boat under sail).

The one issue that we (I) had on the way to NY is that an hour into my 9-12 sleep shift the winds picked up to 25-30 knots and the waves were building up and hitting us on the side.  After waking up to help Matt put a reef in the sail I went back to bed in the v-berth.  What happened next I can only blame on myself.  For the past 9 months or so Matt had been bugging me to make a lee cloth, a piece of fabric that will hold you in your bed when the boat is listing from side to side.  These are used in the saloon area because you feel much less movement there than you would in the bounciest part of the boat, the v-berth.  Guess who had not finished this project?  So we’ve been constantly sleeping in the v-berth, even in bad weather.  After getting back to bed that area was like a bucking bronco ride and it was not sitting well with my stomach.  I was actually happy when it was time to get up for my shift because I needed the fresh air.  It didn’t help me out too much though because even in the dark I could see the faint outline of the horizon go way way up and then way way down.  Then while spinning my head around to look for other boats my body couldn’t handle it anymore and I tossed my cookies overboard.  I’m just glad that after the first time I was smart enough to take my glasses off so I didn’t lose them overboard as well .  I should really get working on that lee cloth.

My second shift went much better and when Matt took over at 9, because I only collectively had 4 hours of sleep up to that point I was allowed to go back to bed and slept in until 11:00.  Waking up I saw winds had died out again and the water was glass.  Buffalo was coming into sight and soon I was behind the wheel and bringing us into the rivers and canals.  Before we would be allowed to get moving on the Erie Canal we had to get our mast stepped where it would lay across the length of our boat since the canal has so many low bridges we wouldn’t otherwise be able to pass under.  We had scoped out a few places that would be able to take our mast down and both were a few miles inland.  Making it to this included getting past two low bridges and one lock and someone thought it would be good to keep me behind the wheel the whole time.  I got to have a nice freakout at the first bridge where I kept hailing them under the wrong name and finally had to call them under channel 16 (“Oh, you were trying to get a hold of me?  We’re the ferry bridge, not the Black Rock bridge.  Would you like me to open for you?”  Umm…yes please).  Then my other freak out came when we were going through the first lock.  I had no idea how these things work (yes, I really should have researched that before this trip) so Matt explained that you pull up to the side with your fenders down and there’s ropes you grab on to and just kind of hold the boat steady and in place while the water is lowered.  I was doing great, coming up on starboard when we realized there were no ropes on this side.  Crap!  We needed to get to the other side and quick!  Doing a dance of neutral, reverse, and then forward we did make it over but I think I may have put a few new scrapes into the boat.

After that mess I handed the wheel over for the rest of the night.  We were probably only five miles from our destination at this point but I was done for the day.  We pulled into Wardell’s near 4 in the afternoon and Dennis who ran and handled everything on his own came out to greet us and tell us what we needed to do to prepare for the mast coming down the next day.  Most of what we could do that evening was pulling out all the lines that ran from the mast to the cockpit and tie them up to the mast, as well as get the cradle ready that would actually hold the mast once it was on the boat.  In the heat of the afternoon all of the lines were removed and tied and then it was building time.  We were so happy when we looked over under the bridge and saw there were some leftover pre-built cradles and lots of spare wood.  We got to work right away but because of the different shapes and sizes of boats non of the pre-made ones fit us just right and we were able to disassemble a couple (and still use their bolts, score!!) to make our own.  At the end of the day we had constructed one for both the bow and the stern and we couldn’t have been more proud of our creations.  Due to all the heat and hours of hard labor we also couldn’t be more tired.  9:30 bed time, you are my new best friend.

Shore Leave

Monday August 20, 2012

After spending basically three full days on the boat (besides the 10 minutes last night to empty our trash) we were finally given shore leave when Matt’s mom & stepdad had driven across the state to bring us a handful of packages that had come after we left and also to be our personal chauffer’s while we ran errands around town. Matt dug into his box of new shackles with the same excitement I dug into the hats and gloves that were brought for us to keep warm on those cold night shifts. And big excitement for both of us, the satellite phone. Imagine a Zack Morris cell phone and that’s the kind of size we were dealing with, but it was still exciting nontheless.

 After looking through our goodies we listed off the stops we needed to make: West Marine for a new flag pole and other boat hardware, Home Depot for the flag plus more hardware, and finally Meijer to fill our fridge back up and some Neosporin to take care of some nasty bilsters I’d received while hiking around Mackinac Island. All three stops were taken care of in less than two hours and then it was time for lunch. Not that we’ve been eating bad on the boat, in fact we’ve been eating remarkably well, but the fast food cravings were setting in and we both wanted something terribly bad for us. Checking on the GPS and finding there was a Five Guys only a few miles away we stopped there and I loaded up my burger with all the free toppings while chugging down the sugary sweetness of a fountain drink. Let’s just say that our own homemade soda making machine we have on board has a few kinks to be worked out and can’t yet compare to the real thing.

With no other stops to make we were brought back to the park that housed our anchorage and said our good-byes for a second time. To Chris’ credit she didn’t cry this time and if I remember right, didn’t even stand at the dock to watch us get out of sight before hopping in the car and cruising away. I may have seen something on Facebook later that day where she mentioned it wasn’t as bad for her now knowing that we had survived a week and were doing well, so I’ll leave it at that. But while I’m on the topic, a HUGE HUGE thanks needs to go out to Chris and Jack. Not only for taking time out of their day to drive 5 hours round trip just to be our taxi drivers for the day and then take us out to lunch (yes, I did see the money you slipped in that envelope, you really didn’t have to) but also for letting us take over their home for 14 months while we scraped and saved to be able to take this trip. Giving us free room and board and the occasional chicken casserole means more than you’ll ever know, thank you so much!

Back on the boat it was still early afternoon but I only had one thing on my mind at that was an internet connection. This was the first time I had a quality connection since our last day at home since the wifi at Mackinac was terribly slow and barely allowed me to do anything. Here I was free to check my Facebook, e-mail, and finally upload photos to the blog. I was in heaven. Taking a little break in the afternoon I made banana bread from scratch with a few over-ripened bananas in our pantry (yes, I know it’s bad luck to have bananas aboard) and it came out so well that I can’t wait to make it again and again. Then back to more internet and a movie. By the end of the day I was exhausted but finally felt like I got a few things accomplished. Good thing because we back on the move tomorrow and navigating rivers doesn’t leave time for much else.

Matt’s mom caught us in a half wave while leaving.

I’m turning into a regular Betty Crocker.