06-30-09 Nephew Chris visits us in Oswego, NY

Betsy speaks: We slept in this morning, resting up from days doing locks and preparing for the big day tomorrow when we cross Lake Ontario, which will be by far the largest body of water we’ve encountered (except the brief stint in the Atlantic Ocean just before entering New York Harbor).

It was raining off and on this morning, but the several other boats that had tied up here in Oswego left early today to cross the lake. We are staying over one more night so that my nephew Chris, who lives just over an hour away in Rochester, could come to visit us. We were thrilled that he took the time to come…he is a school teacher and his summer break just started last week, so the timing was perfect. We had a nice visit, treated him to lunch, and were reminded that today is his 31st birthday! Instead of a present, we gave him all the charts and cruise guides we have used up to this point that we no longer need! It was a large pile of stuff, and we were glad to get that extra weight off the boat. Chris, my brother’s son, is driving to North Carolina on Friday to spend the week of July 4 at Topsail Beach with his parents, so he will take the charts there and we’ll get them back when we return home.

After Chris left I rode my bicycle into town just to look around and try to get a haircut. Oswego is a nice town and I was glad we had stayed here long enough to take a look around. I was not successful in getting a haircut…tried 4 places but none could take me as a walk-in!

Later in the afternoon we visited with three other boats that had arrived. We’ll all be crossing Lake Ontario tomorrow, though the others will head straight to Kingston, Ontario, whereas Rick and I will be heading a little more to the east to the town of Alexandria Bay, NY. That is where we’ve arranged for the 500 hour service on the motors that was supposed to happen in Brewerton but got cancelled at the last minute. We met another boat right here at the marina that is also heading in that direction, is more or less a local and has made the crossing many times. Also, his speed is about the same as ours, so we’re just going to follow him which will make the trip much easier across unfamiliar waters I think. This picture shows the Oswego Canal entering Lake Ontario at the lighthouse.


06-29-09 Oswego, NY

It was the best of days. It was the worst of days. Since the worst leads to the best, let’s start there. The Winter Harbor Marina in Brewerton, NY, had made arrangements with Aero marine, a Honda Dealer, to perform the 500 hour maintenance on our twin Honda motors. This was to be done on Monday, the 29th. We arrived at Winter Harbor on Sunday in anticipation of this maintenance. After several calls, and some phone tag, the owner of Winter Harbor told us that Aero had called and said they are too busy to do the job, but they can do it next week. Remember, we made an appointment last Thursday with them for Monday and all was well. So, Aero Marine gets one DB. Rick immediately got on the phone and internet to try to find someone to do the service. After several referrals, he found a dealer in Alexandria Bay, NY, a bit off our planned route. But, we made plans for TI Marine to do the job on Thursday, July 2. However, TI Marine is at least 3 days away, so we make the decision to leave Winter Harbor at 1130 and head for Oswego, NY, on Lake Ontario in prep for a trip to Alexandria Bay, NY.

Shortly after leaving Brewerton, we left the Erie Canal for the Oswego Canal. Here is a picture of Erie Lock 23, and the sign directing a boater to the proper canal. Also, the fee schedule is here.

This is the good news. Even though we went through 8 more locks, all descending, we got to Oswego by late afternoon. The trip was very pretty. We saw many houses built on the hills above the Oswego. We are reminded of the houses on the Intracoastal Waterway. Here is a picture.

We hopped off at the Town of Phoenix, at the free town dock and looked around. Phoenix is the location of Oswego Lock 1. They have a program for the teens to assist boaters in tying off and docking. They bring menus of various eating establishments. After you make your choices, they go get your food and deliver it to your boat. Keeps the teens busy in the summer. Keep in mind that all of these canals and waterways are frozen over all winter. They ice fish on Oneida Lake, which is 20 miles long and 10 miles wide. So, it gets cold up here in the winter.

We also finally found a stretch of the Oswego Canal that looks like what we thought the Erie would look like. Most of the canals look like the Dismal Swamp, tree lined, rural, and country. But we finally found a stretch that is wall lined, and rough looking. Here is a picture.

Folks often ask what we eat on the boat. Generally we eat breakfast and lunch on the boat and supper outside. Many times, when we eat out, we have food left over and we have it boxed up. This serves as our lunch the next day in many cases. Here is a picture of a lunch made with leftovers: ham with cherry sauce and pineapple, supplemented with toasted bread, a drink, and yogurt for dessert.

At the end of the day, we had a fierce thunderstorm. Then, Mother Nature reminded us of better and brighter days to come with a beautiful rainbow.

06-28-09 Across Oneida Lake to Brewerton, NY

Betsy speaks: After several days of exhausting travel due to the locks, we are happily situated at Winter Harbor Marina in Brewerton, NY. The past several days we have been travelling long hours, not arriving at our destination until late afternoon, sometimes as late as 6PM. Working the locks is strenuous, holding the boat off the lock wall as the water pours in. As Rick said in yesterday’s blog, we were relieved that the last two locks were lowering us, which is much easier than rising.

I loved Sylvan Beach where we were yesterday. We were docked at the back of a creek off the Erie Canal in a very peaceful spot, with boats on either side that were locals and very friendly. We bicycled over to Oneida Lake a couple of blocks away and enjoyed comparing the difference to our seashore. This is a fair sized lake, over 20 miles across, and yesterday afternoon it was choppy in the distance with small waves breaking on the shore. Many people were swimming, although it seemed a little chilly to me to be in the water. They could wade out several hundred feet and still be only mid thigh deep.

We left Sylvan Beach early this morning, about 8 o’clock, hoping for a smooth ride across the lake. Some of our cruising guides say you need to be wary of changing conditions on this lake, and that waves on the far side can reach heights of 6 feet if a storm comes up. But we were very fortunate to have a beautiful sunny morning, smooth waters all the way across. The first thing we marveled at was the seagulls on the rock jetty as we left the canal and entered the lake. (Remember, you can click on the picture to make it larger).

We had read that the water is exceptionally clear here, so at one point we stopped the boat and looked down to see what we could see. We were in water charted at 20 feet deep. I can’t say we could see the bottom, but it was very clear. We dropped a couple of coins in to see how far down we could see them, and it was incredible how far down we could see.

The scenery as we neared the far shore was just beautiful…a tree lined shore with nice houses all along the beach. There are no dunes, and in most cases no sea walls of any kind. Just water coming up to a shoreline, then a flat beachy area, then grass and houses. So its very different than our ocean or soundfront. This being the weekend, there was a lot of boating activity.

Eventually, we re-entered the Erie Canal (actually the Oneida River here). The house pictured here is not typical of what we saw, but I did think it was pretty. Shortly after re-entering the canal we pulled into Winter Harbor Marina. This is a full service boat yard, and we will be here for several days as we have the 500 hour service on our outboards. Not really full service, though, because the themselves don’t service outboards! But they are making arrangements for a nearby Honda dealer to come here to service the engines (the Honda dealer doesn’t have space for transients to dock).

As usual, we are by far the smallest boat, nearly eclipsed by the big guys! (We're the boat with the balls).

We may not do a blog for the next couple of days as we wait here for the service to be done. But keep checking back and we’ll start back as soon as we leave here, or maybe sooner.

There are numerous other loopers here, most of whom were also at Sylvan Beach yesterday but were spread out over several different locations there. Here we are all grouped together and several of them are also having service done. This is a good location to spend a couple of days because they have all amenities including wi-fi, cable TV, nice showers, and two loaner cars.

06-27-09 Oneida Lake

We depart Utica and head for Oneida Lake. This involves about 30 miles and three locks. The good news is that 2 of the locks, 21 and 22, are taking us DOWN. Locking down is much easier than locking up, as you do not have the turbulence in the lock chamber. All of the turbulence is outside the chamber gate. We descend to the level of Lake Oneida.

The town at the Eastern end of the lake is Sylvan Beach. This town is a throwback to the beach towns, like Topsail and Atlantic Beach used to be. They have a huge tourist business, swelling from 1800 population in the winter to 18,000 in the summer. The town has an old timey arcade, amusement park with rides, roller coasters, putt-putt, etc. They also have a bandstand with live music every weekend. Every type of food is available including a restaurant named Eddie’s. This restaurant was started in 1934, and has managed to survive under the same family management. We met Eddie Jr., who is now in charge, but his son really runs the business now. He also owns several blocks of the waterfront property. He gave Betsy a Sylvan Lake shirt, just for chatting with him.
We stayed at the Mariner Marina, a business of the Oneida Indian tribe. This is a huge campground and marina combo. It is quite old, but acceptable. We gave the showers a 5. They were very friendly and helpful in docking. In one of those deals where the plan does not match reality, they charge a $5 deposit for a shower key. But, when we went to check out the showers and when we went to actually shower, they (all 3) were open and not locked. So the key was worthless, except to return it for the $5 refund.
We did eat supper at Eddy’s restaurant. It was huge, crowded, and the food was excellent. Their specialty, from the mother, was pies of all type. Here is a picture of Eddie Jr. He is the official pie taster. Eddie was quite a character and loved to tell stories of how things used to be. I think at one time his parents owned half the town.
The lake has no natural current and no tide, so people just tie their jet skis and boats and walk out to get them. Three hundred yards out from the shore it is only waist deep.

The beach looks like Topsail, but it is not sandy, rather more like whiter dirt. Not granular.
Here is Betsy in front of the beach. One of the Kite-surfers.....

06-26-09 Utica, NY

Rick speaks: We left St Johnstown at 1130. This was due to the rain the entire morning. We traversed 2 locks, including the Lock 17. This lock is unique in the United States (there is another in Ottawa, Canada). All other gates open sideways, hinged on the side and meeting in the middle. On Lock 17, the gate is a huge single door, and lifts UP to open this lock. You then drive into the lock under the door, which is dripping like a pouring rain. The lock raises you up 40 feet, the highest lift in the Erie Canal System. Here is a picture.

We stopped in Little Falls for a couple of hours. This is a very old, historic city in lock history. This was a city of portage in the 1800’s as travelers on the Mohawk River couldn’t make it over the rapids here. The rapids are right downtown.

We visited the Visitors Center and met a lady who owns the house in the photo. It is 4 stories and she host banquets and weddings on the second floor. The third floor, once a bowling alley, is a dance studio. There is pottery operation on the first floor. She also lives in the building all alone! It is quite a building.

We mentioned before about the fenders we had made for the locks. They are exercise balls, wrapped in laundry bags. Here is a picture of the final product.

After Little Falls, we proceeded to Utica, passing two more locks. At Utica, we are staying at the Utica Marina, where the price is only $1.00 per foot including electric and water. You are allowed to use the restrooms in the restaurant, but there are no showers.


A typical lock wall. Usually concrete, and very rough.


Working the lines in the rain leads to a very "different' look.

You gotta have some help.......Betsy pushes her weight around...

06-25-09 St Johnsville Municipal Marina, NY

Well, it was quite a day. We covered 52 miles, 8 locks and were raised up 91 more feet. We have now been raised over 300 feet in two days. It takes between 15 and 30 minutes for each lock. We are lucky in that we are Westbound and most boaters are at this time of year. For this reason, many of the locks are already open and ready for us when we arrive. If they were all closed and we had to wait, it would take an hour. The rise in height varies from 4 to 16 feet today. Locks are made to raise and lower the level and to get around a dam. Here is a picture of the lock(on the left)and the dam.

We stopped for lunch at Amsterdam at a place called Riverlink Park. This was a nice place, very new, and not detailed in the travel guides. They had very clean and new restrooms and showers. Best of all, if you wanted to stay the night, it was only $1.00 per foot. We needed to go a few more miles so did not stay the night. This place is located just before Lock 11.

We had planned to stop for the night at the Canajoharie Municipal Park, which offers free dockage including electricity. This was just before lock 14. Too bad, because three large boats (40 ft plus) were docked, but not close together so there was no room for us. If they had gotten closer, we could have docked there. But we went on a few miles to St Johnsville Municipal Marina and they have just about all you want, except wi-fi. Also, the cost is $1.00 per foot. They have plenty of room, nice restrooms and showers and laundry, which we needed today. We do laundry about once a week, and our week was up!

We have 91 miles to go to get to Oswego, where we cross Lake Ontario. This will take at least 2 days, maybe 4, depending on the speed of locks and if we stop to sightsee. At Oswego, we hope for a visit from Betsy’s nephew Chris, who lives in Rochester, NY. We’ll need to call him a day or two in advance to see if we can synchronize schedules.

We also saw a canal boat, which we think was rented in Waterford, NY and the renters cruised up and down the Erie.

Back in 2001, we made a two week trip from Florida to Rhode Island via the Intracoastal Waterway. The boat at that time was the Grand Mariner by the ACCL Corp. They do Erie Canal and Down East cruises in the Summer and are in the Caribbean in the winter. They passed by while we were eating breakfast.

Many people think the Erie Canal is lined with rock walls and a path on each side for the mules to pull cargo down the Canal. However, in many places it is like any other river, with lush forest and trees, and in other places lined by houses. It looks like a wide Dismal Swamp in many places. Here are a couple of pictures.

06-24-09 The Erie Canal Begins

Betsy speaks: I was thrilled to have my lifelong friend, actually from nursery school, join us in Waterford. We debated whether she could stay on the boat with us, and knowing Louise was a girl scout like me and did a lot of camping in the past, she and I decided we could make it work! So we converted the dinette table into a bed, we all slept in more clothes than usual, and we had a ball! However, I don’t think any of us would recommend further overnight visitors! Too bad Louise had to join us on a night when I would rate the facilities only about a 3 (scale of 0 – 10), but that’s what you get when you stay at a FREE dock! They were clean if not elegant and that’s what really matters. We took full advantage of her visit, letting her buy our dinner, take us to the grocery store, and two trips to West Marine about 25 minutes away.

We departed Waterford just after noon and went directly into Erie Canal Lock 2 (there is no Lock 1, long story). The first 5 locks are in quick succession, and Louise followed along in her car and met us at each lock, waving and taking pictures. When we made it through Lock 6, we waved good bye and she started on her 4 hour drive back to New Hampshire. The first 5 locks are the "crown jewel" of the lock system. You rise 163 feet in less than 2 miles. This is over twice the rise of the Panama Canal. Almost immediately thereafter, the black cloud that had been threatening us through each lock broke loose and it poured rain for about 10 minutes. Then the sky cleared and the rest of the afternoon was perfectly beautiful. The Erie is just beautiful, glassy smooth. There are very nice houses along some stretches, and nothing but nature along others. We saw several small waterfalls. This is a picture approaching Lock 7 on the Erie Canal. A sailboat with 3 French Canadians are already in the lock, having passed us as we filled up with gas.

We had always thought the lockwide speed limit was 10 MPH, but that turns out not to be true. It is actually 45 MPH except when you are approaching a lock or a bridge, or of course any marina or other no wake zone. So we saw people waterskiing and wakeboarding. We went through one more lock along the way and finally stopped late afternoon at the Schenectady Yacht Club. Don’t be fooled by the name! It is nothing fancy, just a rundown set of floating docks that offers all amenities. The cost is a mere $1.25/foot, including electric.

Now I want to tell you about “Freddy Freddy”. Three years ago we were docked for just a few minutes at the Carolina Beach State Park Marina on our way to or from Myrtle Beach when in behind us pulled what looked like a beat up old trawler with two elderly people on board. The name of the boat was “Freddy Freddy.” We marveled at the boat’s design, and at the fact that it looked like it had seen its better days. Its just a sight that we both remember vividly. Then last year, we saw that same boat in the Chesapeake Bay, anchored out in Solomons. We both knew it was the same old boat we’d seen before, and I actually took several pictures of it because it is so unique.

Then, 3 days ago as we were coming up the Hudson River between Haverstraw and Kingston, way off to the side of the river there was that same old boat chugging along! (We found out later it is powered by a 27 HP diesel engine; the boat is 39 feet long). I looked at it through the binoculars and just couldn’t believe that we were seeing it again! That night I actually looked at the pictures I had taken in the Chesapeake to confirm that it was the same boat. When we pulled into Waterford yesterday, we were lucky to get the very last spot at the free town dock, and we pulled in right behind that same boat. Incredible! We finally got to meet, and get to know, the two “elderly” people on board, Floyd and Della. It turns out the boat is not nearly as old as it looks (and neither are the people). Its just painted a steamship gray and has a design like that of an old lobster boat that makes it look old. It was designed and built by Floyd himself out of plywood covered with layers of fiberglass, and is actually only about 7 years old. Della didn’t like the idea of having a head inside the boat because she was concerned about odor, so the head is on the very back of the boat, sort of like an outhouse. They live on the boat full time and just travel from place to place, anchoring out about 99% of the time rather than staying in marinas. They stayed on the wall in Waterford only because it was free. Floyd seldom uses a GPS, and has none of the fancy electronics that most boaters rely on.

Floyd and Della had done the entire loop about 2 years ago, including the entire Gulf Coast over to Texas and around the Florida Keys. The Erie Canal was their favorite part, so they are back to do that part again. They do not take the turn into Canada as we will do, but do the Erie the entire way, which is unusual for Loopers. I think they don’t have some of what would be required in Canada (like a rabies shot for their cat), so they just stay in the states.

Anyway, it was a treat to finally meet these interesting people on this most interesting and well travelled boat!

Here is Rick, working the lock.

06-23-09 Waterford, NY

It turns out that Kingston NY is a great place. We had a great time. The only negative, if there is one, is that they have a “No Dog Policy”. It is strange that they have spent so much money on the waterfront and yet do not want people to bring dogs. Actually, they do not enforce the policy, and I suspect it is just a knee-jerk reaction to some event several years ago. So, go ahead and take the dog, just pick-up after them.

One of the interesting things about Kingston was the number of churches. They have 3 Lutheran churches and many others. The United Methodist Church has a very unique spire and weathervane. Here is a picture. The weathervane is a tugboat. Click on the picture and then zoom in to see it better.

We left Kingston for Waterford around 0930. It was a very easy run with a stop for lunch below Albany. We arrived to find Betsy’s friend from kindergarten, Louise, waiting for us. She came from New Hampshire, a 4 hour drive, to see us. We, of course, will take advantage of her and her car by getting her to take us to the grocery store and to West Marine.

This is Louise, a childhood friend of Betsy. They have kept in touch. She drove from Hanover NH to visit with us.

Albany, NY from the Hudson River.
Waterford Visitors Center is great for boaters. Power, showers, pump out, electricity, Wi-Fi, and the magic word, it is FREE. Yes, that is correct, Free. The town is quaint. We will leave tomorrow for the Erie Canal. We can see the first lock from our docking space. We went through our second lock, the Troy Federal Lock. Tomorrow, we will do at least 5 and maybe 7 locks, taking us up about 210 feet. We are out of the salt water, and due to the locks, there is no tide and no current. So, it should be easy going for a while. We blew up our lock fenders today and deployed them. They are exercise balls, enclosed in laundry bags and tied to the sides of the boat. We will leave them out, on both sides, until we hit a stretch with few locks. They should protect the boat and keep us off the lock walls. Look for the balls in future pictures of the boat.

06-21-09 Kingston, NY

We departed Haverstraw Bay Marina at 0930 heading for Kingston, NY. The ride was a tad bumpy. We compare it to Topsail Sound with a Nor-Easter, some white caps, but not miserable. We average 17 mph.

We passed West Point, The US Military Academy. It is very impressive from the river. I cannot understand why Benedict Arnold wanted to give it to the British before the Revolutionary War. Prior to 911, one could stop at a dock at West Point and tour the facility, but not now. No docking allowed.

We also passed hundreds of houses on the high hill on both sides of the river. Some were very impressive, basically mansions. The scenery was as advertised, beautiful, lush forest, high cliffs and hills on both sides. A wide river and no boat traffic.

Since there has been so much rain, we had to be on the lookout for debris in the river. In fact, we saw several trees in the river along with many branches and other stuff. The entrance to Kingston, a stretch of about a mile from the river, was full of logs and other flotsam and jetsam.

We passed some very impressive lighthouses. They are all different, yet interesting in their design and layout.
The town of Kingston, NY has had a sort of rebirth. Twenty years ago, a huge (8000 employees) IBM plant closed and destroyed the economy and community. Today, the town has been able to rebuild and beautify the waterfront, restaurants abound, and several marinas are here, including the Kingston City Docks where we are staying. There is a local Maritime Museum and a quaint welcome center. The whole waterfront is a walking path, with benches, memorials, and other points of interest. We would encourage anyone in the area to visit this town.

We will stay here for two days, and on Tuesday go to Waterford, NY, the entrance to the Erie Canal. Look out Canada, here we come……

06-19-09 Haverstraw Bay, NY

Rick speaks: We were happy to leave NY this morning. Not that it is not a happening place, but the 2.73 inches of rain yesterday coupled with the rolling and rocking while we were captive on the boat, made for a long day. The rocking and rolling was unbelievable. Any wave from a passing ferry, tug, or sailboat, goes across the deep Hudson, hits the shallow marina, wakes up, then hits the concrete wall and gets you coming back. It is like a tsunami. Even at that, we are glad we stopped in NY and did enjoy the visit.

As we left NYC, we passed the Palisades, rock cliffs 300-500 feet that go on for several miles. They are made of columnar basalt and are on the West side of the Hudson. Probably created by a volcanic eruption.

An old house boat, moored at the 79th st Marina was moved today. It had been at the marina for over 30 years. Apparently the city made the people move it, so the owners donated it to someone up the Hudson. They left at 0400, and we passed them on the Hudson. Here are pictures. The first shows the houseboat in its slip at the 79th Street Marina.

This shows the houseboat as we passed it about 1130. They had gone almost 30 miles, and were still chugging.

We only went about 30 miles up the Hudson to Haverstraw Bay, NY and we are staying at the Haverstraw Bay Marina. This is a huge marina, with 75 transient slips and over 300 total slips. It is in exact contrast to NY as it is dead calm. There is a pool, a ships store, a first class restaurant, and floating docks. Since tomorrow is to be a bad weather day, thunderstorms in the forecast, we will stay two days here and leave on Sunday morning. So, there may be no blog tomorrow, as we wait out the rain. We leave Sunday for Kingston, NY, where we plan to stay two days.

Because of our short length and limited facilities (20 gallon water tank, 10 gallon waste holding tank, and 6 gallon hot water tank), we depend on the marinas for a lot our comfort. As such, we look for certain things. An ideal marina will have:

Clean restrooms and private showers. Preferably a room with the shower and toilet in one private room, as described previously at Dowry Creek.

Floating docks with long finger piers.


A loaner car (or bicycle) or be very close to town and basic shopping.

Laundry facilities.

Protection from rocking and rolling from passing wake.

PumpOut for waste, preferably Free. (The only way to get people to not pump overboard is to make pumpout attractive to use. And charging $15 for a 10 gallon pumpout is not attractive.)


Cable TV (free).

Wi-fi (free). We have found some marinas that charge $10-$14 for 24 hours of wi-fi. And guess what, no one uses it and they wonder why.

Captains Lounge where you can get off the boat and relax.

Most marinas have most of these things, and the really good ones have all of them. Again, the size and type of boat will dictate what you need. For example, a 40 ft Monk Trawler will usually have Direct TV, full head and shower facilities, and have little use for these at the marina.

There will be a test at the end of the trip……..