Saturday, June 26, 2010

US Customs and Border Protection boat... 1200 HP on this vessel!!

Check out the water lines on the left pontoon. No wonder I was dragging.

Sometimes in a moment of need the right people just appear. For about a week to 10 days I've noticed the boat not performing too well with reduced top speed, RPM and deteriorating gas mileage. It was gradual, but yesterday when completing the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal, my top speed was only 25 mph at a lower max RPM in a 38 mph boat. What could be wrong? After arriving at the Oswego Marina and gassing up, I spoke with Paul at Hallberg Marine, my dealer in Minnesota. After a discussion of the symptoms we agreed the one thing we had to do was lift the boat out of the water and check the 3 pontoons for water. We had to rule that out.

It so happened I had stopped at the Oswego Marina for the night and it's located next to St. Peter's Outfitter, Boating and Fishing Service Center. Captain Chris Misciagna is the owner. He contacted Bernie who can lift boats out of the water with straps and, long story short, the center pontoon was nearly full of water - when we got the boat out of the water it drained from a 7" crack just in front of the forward weld and also from the drain hole in the rear after we removed the plug - it was still draining from both 2 hours later!! We estimated I had been pushing an extra 2,000 or more pounds of load around. Of course these things always happen late on a Friday afternoon. Chris pulled together his team for first thing Saturday including an aluminum welder. Greg, the technician, would also do the 100-hour service on the engine while we had the boat out. By Saturday afternoon we had the boat back in the water ready for me to go across Lake Ontario Sunday morning.

Why the crack? The experts said they didn't think I struck an underwater object because there was no scratching or gouging in front of the crack. Perhaps it was pounding from waves or just a weakness in the aluminum. In any case the welder, who is a fabricator and works on race cars, brought his equipment to the scene and welded the crack. It seemed to me they did an excellent job.

So, I want to thank Captain Chris, owner of St. Peter's Outfitter in Oswego, N.Y., Greg and Bernie for getting the job done on a weekend and me back on my way tomorrow.

Early tomorrow I will follow my GPS waypoints and charts across Lake Ontario passing the uninhabited Duck Island and heading towards the Bay of Quinte leading to Trenton.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Began traveling the Erie Canal at the Waterford Lock

Above and following are various locks along the way.

View of canal approaching 1 of 19 locks I traveled on Wednesday

A lock house

A dam next to a lock

The Erie Canal has been terrific; traveled 100 miles of it yesterday (to Utica, NY) beginning in Waterford at the east end and will travel another 70 miles of it tomorrow. Then 20 miles of the Oswego Canal to Oswego on the shore of Lake Ontario. Today was a rest and weather day as storms and winds were predicted. Could not have crossed the 30 miles of Lake Oneida today due to wind so I'm glad I stayed put in Utica. The Erie Canal continues on to Buffalo if I were not turning north to Oswego. I liked the east half of the Canal yesterday. It was more reminiscent of the early days with more frequent locks, some restored barges, and bike and hiking trails along the canal. All of the lock control houses and grounds are nicely manicured preserving their historical flavor.

So far all the locks have lifted so when the rising water takes you to the top of the lock, you can look around the area. Until then all you see are the lock walls while you hang onto the rope on the side to keep the boat along the wall and watch the water rise. Tomorrow the locks begin to take you down; had to cross the Adirondacks going east to west. Almost all of the various canals (there are many more of them in New York state and the remainder of the U.S. and Canada) were begun in the 1700 to 1800s to facilitate travel and trade routes. Some of the early wars in this region were fought with the native Indians but even more so between the British and the French.

Today gave me a chance to plan for the next two days, first to Oswego tomorrow and next day, weather willing, the open water crossing of the tip of Lake Ontario to Kingston and on towards Trenton, Ontario. Trenton is the beginning of the Trent Severn Waterway with 42 locks over 240 miles to the beginning of the Georgian Bay and North Channel and eventually down to upper Lake Michigan - back in the U.S.A.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Light house on Hudson at Saugerties

A full-size U-Hall truck rotates on the pole; on way into Albany, NY

Today I traveled 90 miles from Newburgh, NY on the Hudson to Troy, just north of Albany. The taxi driver this AM said there is a high crime rate in Newburgh and a lot of gang presence. Driving to the hotel yesterday afternoon would suggest driving at night may not be a good idea. Very little activity on the river today except for several barges going south and a Coast Guard patrol boat. The Hudson continues from Troy to Lake Champlain.

The Hudson has an enormous amount of industrial history dating back to the 1700s but much of that activity is gone today. On my way up the Hudson I kept thinking of all the lives and careers that have passed through this region that most of us will be forever unaware. Perhaps someone has written about the Hudson as James Michener did about the Chesapeake in his novel, "Chesapeake" and William Warner, of the same region, did in his book "Beautiful Swimmers.” Many nice homes overlook the river and I know that a lot of commuters travel to New York City from far north via commuter trains that run along the river about every 20 minutes. Yesterday I ran against the current and today ran with it - the Hudson is tidal.

Tomorrow I pass through a lock directly above Troy then turn west 2.5 miles at Waterford to begin the eastern portion of the Erie Canal. In 3 days or so I plan to arrive in Oswego, NY via the Oswego Canal. The complete Erie Canal continues west to Buffalo. I will cross the NE portion of Lake Ontario from Oswego to Kingston, Ontario to position for the start of the Trent Severn Canal at Trenton. I am, or will be tomorrow, out of salt and tidal waters. The salt eats everything and the tidal currents, combined with wind, expose my sometimes lack of boat handling in the tight places like marinas. Scraped a boat this morning getting out of my slip - I had looked for the telltale ripples of current around the docks but didn't see any until I began to maneuver. No damage to either of us, thankfully.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Verrazano Narrows Bridge up ahead.

My first view of the New York City skyline.

Awe-inspiring Statue of Liberty

Entering New York Harbor

The impressive New York skyline.

George Washington Bridge

West Point Academy up the Hudson

I last reported on Friday - the upper Chesapeake route past Annapolis to the C & D Canal which connects the Chesapeake to the Delaware Bay. Saturday I made my way down the Delaware to Cape May N.J. Mostly good water until the last 20 miles when the south wind came up the Delaware from the Atlantic and made things rough again - nothing like Thursday though. Sunday I traveled from Cape May to Manasquan, NJ where today I would enter the Atlantic for the 30- mile trip to New York Harbor. While in Cape May I visited a sailors’ memorial honoring those lost at sea from the port there. The names began in the 1800s and continued up to 2009. Most of these were commercial fishermen lost at sea due to storms. Up past Atlantic City on Father's Day, the water in the bays was choppy due to a large number of boats out for the sunny weekend weather.

Today, perhaps the most memorable so far, the Atlantic Ocean permitted my passage - the intercoastal waterway up the east coast ends at Manasquan, NJ and one is forced to travel "outside" to reach New York and the Hudson River. I was apprehensive about this for several days beforehand due to potentially bad conditions on the ocean. Luckily, the winds remained light out of the northwest and when I left the Manasquan Inlet at 6:30 this morning the Atlantic was glass-smooth with just one-foot swells allowing me to travel a mile offshore at 25-30 mph north towards Sandy Hook and into one of the busiest seaports in the world. About an hour into the trip I could make out the New York skyline which caused unexpected emotion about this great city and country.

Approaching New York harbor with all its navigation markers from the Atlantic in a 23-foot boat seemed surreal. It will be an unforgettable experience. I managed to stay away from approaching ships in the shipping channel as the Empire State Building and other recognizable landmarks came into view. The Verrazano Narrows Bridge loomed ahead and shortly thereafter "she" came into view. I spent some time circling the Statue of Liberty and taking pictures. A patrol boat and tourist boats were the only vessels nearby while I contemplated the role of Liberty for millions of Americans who came to our shores and applied for citizenship - a disappointing contrast to becoming a "citizen" today.

Heading up the Hudson past Coney Island, Governors Island, The Battery, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, I had to watch out for water taxis that ferry people across the Hudson and appear rather quickly from behind or either side - so, I had drive like a taxi driver as I headed north on the Hudson, thinking about Captain Sullenberger's heroic action putting the loaded jet into the waters I now traveled.

On my way north I passed many names in American history such as the George Washington Bridge, Tarrytown, Ossining, Peekskill, Stony Point, Nyack, Scarborough, and the native-stone walls and parapets of West Point (what a sight). I arrived in Newburgh from where I will depart for Troy tomorrow and the beginning of the Erie Canal Wednesday. Unfortunately I will be unable to meet Sandy and Scott, Joanne's sister and husband who live in CT. Scott teaches CPA and MBA classes, in addition to their CPA business, and Tuesday was to be an all day commitment for which a substitute is not available.

"He who dares, wins.” The motto of the British SAS.