June 15 – 27, 2019 The Erie Canal

Do the Best Things Come to Those Who Wait?

Moved on through some more locks to a little town called Canajahorie.  Never did find out where that name originated.  Had a big group of Loopers on the wall, so lots of company.  The little town had a wonderful art gallery and it happened that there was a musical program there with performers doing songs about the Erie Canal.  Really helped to put us in the Ol’ Timey Way of traveling the canal.  I daresay that we are a little more comfortable than those early travelers.  The next day was rain all day, so no moving.  Good day for a movie on the couch with new friends.

On to the highest lock on the canal – Little Falls, NY.  Saw some beautiful old stone buildings that have been repurposed into stores, apartments, and offices.  Got out the bikes here and rode part of the Erie Canal bike path, and upon the recommendation of a long time resident of the town, we also visited the library to see a display of Herkimer Diamonds.  They are quartz, not real diamonds, but they naturally form into beautiful cut stones.  The display case looked like a jewelry store!

On to Rome, NY, site of a reconstructed Fort Stanwix.  This fort was originally built to protect the portage between the Mohawk River and the Wood Creek.  This is also the area that prompted the building of the Erie Canal in order to transport people and goods from east to west.  Dinner was at a real Italian neighborhood place called Vigneto. When we walked in, everyone called out “hello.”  The people across from us ordered a pizza and when Ed commented on it, they offered to share.  We were already full, but it did look good!

Checking the weather, we saw that rain was expected in two days.  We had to cross Oneida Lake, which is wide, and can get some strong waves if winds are coming from the west.  So we made a long run on Wednesday, June 19, bypassed some other stops and made it to Brewerton before the rain came.  We expected to stay the rainy day and then continue on to the Oswego Canal, which would take us north to Lake Ontario.  That was the plan, but the rains came down hard, especially in Oswego.  We were preparing to leave Thursday when we got word that the canal had been closed due to high water.  So we waited.  The marina kept getting more and more full with boaters coming from the other side of the lake and could go no farther.  And we waited…and waited…and waited.  Meanwhile we kept revising plans for where we would go next; cutting visits because we were losing days.  There were a few perks.  The marina had a courtesy car, so we went to WalMart, Target, Home Depot, and any other place we could think of.  All the laundry got done.  One marina had a cookout for all the stranded Loopers.  Then our marina had Italian Night Dinner for everyone at the marina.  We got to know more Loopers, and docktails were numerous.  “Locked in” had new meaning for us.

Escaped on Thursday, the 27th.   We joined a flotilla of other boats thru the Oswego canal and completed 8 locks in the one day.  The most exciting lock was the one that had rapids on the other side as we exited.  The high waters caused the rapids and we watched as the boats in front of us plowed thru, one at a time.  There was a sailboat that we weren’t sure would make it, but it finally did – almost sideways.  Our turn came and it was like a flume ride at Disney, but we lived to tell the tale!   We tied up to a wall in Oswego and did some exploring.  Saw yet another fort of historical significance, some fun walk/bike paths, and a wonderful canal walk that was decorated with community art work.  Checked the next day’s weather prediction for crossing Lake Ontario – a 50+ mile trip.  Couldn’t have asked for a better report.  The day promised smooth waters, low winds, and no rain. Maybe all the wait was worth it! Canada, here we come….

June 13 – 14, 2019 New York – Part Two

The Flight of Five is the first 5 locks on the canal, so named because you have to go through all five in one day.  There is no overnight stopping in between any of these locks. Interestingly, the first lock is #2.  Don’t know what happened to #1.  We were alone going through these locks – no other boats going thru at the same time – so with no one to see us, we handled each lock without any difficulty.  No one to see our locking prowess!  After the 5 locks, we were headed to Scotia when Ed noticed a spillway across the water a distance ahead of us.  Huh, can’t go up a spillway, so there had to be another lock.  We had somehow missed that detail in our nightly planning.  So we went thru another lock and then on to Scotia before the rain came.

Next day we headed out to Amsterdam, NY.  Wind picked up through the day.  More boats traveling, so we had company in the locks.  As we were approaching one of the locks, there was some swirly water.  Then we spotted a log across the mid section of the entrance, causing us to alter course, at which point the wind caught us.  If there was ever any doubt, we were able to prove to ourselves that our boat will fit crosswise in the locks!  Of course, there was an audience to view our travesty, but no significant harm done to the boat. 

In Amsterdam, we were on a wall in a town park.  This park has the usual playground and walking paths.  There are some outdoor music events during the summer. The park is on the upslope of land.  Strangely, there is no direct road access to it.  To access the park on land side, you have to walk on the rooftops of buildings.  There is also parking on the rooftops.  To access waterside, there is a beautiful pedestrian bridge that is landscaped and has information boards with facts about the canal and local area. I certainly give the town points for making use of their waterfront, even if it is in an unusual way.

June 10 – 12, 2019 Federal Lock — an Important Left Turn

Our next stop was Catskill, NY, not chosen because of any particular site to see, or historical place to visit, but because there was a washer and dryer at the marina! For some reason, the places we stopped at since entering NY didn’t have laundry facilities.  The dirties piled up.  Only 1 washer and 1 dryer meant that I was doing laundry from about 1PM until 10 PM.  But it was done.  Time to move on.

On to the current capital of NY – Albany — and docked at the Albany Yacht Club.  Now that we are no longer Lyft newbies, we got a ride and went downtown to the capitol building.  WOW – what a building.  Beats the Nations Capitol building by a landslide.  There were 4 or 5 architects who worked on it – not intentionally so many — but each had their own idea of what it should be, so basically each floor is a different style.  But it blends beautifully – it should, for the millions (in today’s money, probably Billion) that was spent on it.  To give you an idea, one of the grand staircases is called the Million Dollar Staircase!  After that, we walked the government complex area which is built around a large water feature and a stadium-like structure called The Egg.  Because it does look like an egg!  We got into the State Museum for just a few minutes before closing time – needed a whole day there!

On June 12 we made a nautical maneuver called a port (left) turn, a major port turn.  The general direction we have been heading these past few weeks has been North.  In Troy, NY, 134 miles from the Battery in NYC, we transited a Federal lock  (Lock #1) on the Hudson River. A few miles above the lock was the turn to the left to head toward Waterford, the entrance to the Erie Canal. We are now going West.   

June 1 – 9, 2019 New York is Bigger than We Think

Left Manasquan and headed to Great Kills Yacht Club in Staten Island, NY.  The Club is very supportive and welcoming to Loopers. Harbor Host John met us at the dock and gave us a run down on everything.  We got settled then headed to the train to take us to the Staten Island Ferry and into the big city.  Gotta love New York City – so much to do and a personality all its own. Here’s the run down on what we did in 3 days…

            Governor’s Island – Used to be a Coast Guard base, now owned by the city.  Former officers’ houses are now used by arts and education organizations with displays, interactive programming and such.  Summer concerts and island tours.  A GREAT park has been literally created (thus expanding the size of the island) and offers lots to do including “glamping.”  New Yorkers are willing to pay $150-$750 per night to camp out in tents.  

            Broadway – So many choices, so little time. Went to see “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theatre.  Great Show. Followed that with a visit with Ed’s niece Michelle and boyfriend Matt for drinks at Lillie’s Victorian Establishment.  Fun place.

            Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Saw Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

            Central Park – Took a day just to walk in the park (BIG PARK) and people watch. No problem getting 10,000 steps on this walk!    

On the 4thwe headed to NY Harbor with 4 other boats.  The purpose of the “group” was to take each other’s pictures in front of the Statue of Liberty.  It’s sort of a rite of passage for Loopers.  Happy to report that we successfully completed pictures in the busy harbor without once getting a radio call from any of the MANY boats criss- crossing the harbor.  Then onto the Hudson River – a part of New York City, but a part that becomes a world of its own.   Just a very short distance out of the city, trees start to form canyon walls on either side of the Hudson and we saw the Palisades on the New Jersey side. It is a majestic site in Spring. In the Fall – when ablaze with color – we can only imagine the beauty.  For the next several days, we enjoyed this beautiful vista.

We anchored in Nyack, NY.  Rented a car and headed to West Point to tour the campus – so beautiful and so much history. Although many cadets were gone for summer break, there were several there for special training. Tragically, one of those cadets was killed and 20 were injured the next day during a training session.  A reminder that no one is guaranteed tomorrow.

Then headed on to Hyde Park and enjoyed the FDR Hyde Park Home and Presidential Library.  SO interesting.  Special exhibit about D-Day – which was very significant as we were there on the 75thanniversary.   And for a special treat , we ate dinner at the CIA – otherwise known as the Culinary Institute of America.  Food was wonderful and the presentation on the plate was exquisite.  We were joined by our new “fine dining” friends – Cathy and Steve on United 771. The next day we moved just a few miles to Norrie-Mills State Park.  What a gem!  Marina was nestled into a cove of trees – beautiful place to walk and enjoy the pleasantly COOL weather.

On to Kingston – former capital of New York – before it was burned to the ground by the British. Docked at the Hudson River Maritime Museum – another gem.  The museum seems to be small, but actually has a large area of exhibit space and showcases many boats including iceboats, which literally sail over the frozen river in the winter.   An iceboat belonging to the Rockefeller family — on display — was once clocked at over 100 mph on the ice. There is also a building next door which teaches wooden boat making to people of all ages.

Nine days in the State of NY, and there are many more to come.

May 27 – May 31, 2019 There’s More than One Kind of Gambling

In Cape May we stayed at the Canyon Club Resort Marina – sounds like we’re living high on the hog! It was a lovely place.  A beautiful pool, which we never got in, and a wonderful Memorial Day cookout for everyone at the Marina.  The grilled hot dogs and burgers smelled and tasted great.  There was a courtesy van that took us into the historic part of Cape May.  The town décor is VERY Victorian.  Don’t know that I have ever seen SO much gingerbread trim on houses and buildings.  There is a pedestrian mall that allows shoppers to walk without worries of cars to dodge.  We walked thru Congress Hall – a beautiful old hotel – the kind with lots of polished wood and velvet chairs and sofas.  The ocean beaches were filled with a big weekend crowd and there was also a big crowd of Loopers.  Many of the Looper boats were at another marina – which was fully booked.   We had to hike over a big bridge to get there, but it’s never too far if “docktails” is the end result.  There were a total of 18 Looper boats in port, so we made quite a crowd.  Lots of fun meeting new people and swapping stories.

We stayed until the weekend crazies were gone, then made our first trek into the open Atlantic Ocean to go to Atlantic City.  There is an inside New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway, but it’s not well maintained and the part to Atlantic City is very shallow.  With recently repaired props, we weren’t willing to gamble on the inside route.  So we gambled on the outside route.  We had some big waves, but nothing we couldn’t survive.  Got to Atlantic City and docked at the Aquarium which included admission.  Thought that an Oceanside city would have an impressive Aquarium, but not so much.  Went through in about 45 minutes – and we looked at EVERYthing.  Then we walked to “the strip.”  Not a Vegas kind of place, but we walked through a casino or two. For all the gambling we’re doing with this boat, we didn’t bother laying down any money in the casino.  

Planned for the next day by texting, calling, and talking with other Loopers in the area.  At this point, we could get on the Intracoastal – we had been told that it was OK if we were careful.  Several other boats were going back on the outside.  OK – so maybe we’d gamble on the outside. The next morning we weren’t going ANYwhere.  The city was fogged in – the kind of fog that doesn’t want to lift.  Some boats did leave – bigger gamblers than us.  They used radar and eventually made their next port.  We stayed and rode our bikes down the famous Boardwalk.  It was a lot longer than we expected.  Never did quite make it to the end.  Fog didn’t lift until 2:15 PM.

So the next day we followed another Looper out to the Atlantic.  We got through the inlet and things didn’t look so good.  Much rougher than two days previous.  Got to the 2nd bouy in the channel and Kathy said – “no way.”  Turned the boat around and returned.  We connected to the inside intracoastal route.  That turned out to be not so deep.  We had a constant eye on the depth finder – listening frequently to the alarm signaling low water.   A Looper (Magic), way ahead of us, called on the radio and warned that he had hit a low area – grounded – and was warning others to go wide around him.  When we reached him, he had started to list.  The towing service got to him and tried, but couldn’t help until high tide would come in.  Later we heard on the radio that his fuel was leaking and the Coast Guard was there trying to help get that under control.  Not a good day.  We continued –  still watching the depth finder.  We were headed to Mansaquan, but had to first go through a canal.  The ride was like a flume ride at a water park. So glad to get through there without hitting a wall!  Then we headed to Captain Bill’s – “no frills” kind of place.  Ate at a great restaurant next door, but we tossed all night as commercial fishing boats went in and out.  Didn’t feel so bad when we later heard that the more expensive marina wasn’t any more comfortable.  Gambling – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

May 20 – May 26, 2019 Anchorages and Weather – Should be Easier Than This

Left Solomons on the 20thand headed to Rock Hall, MD.  There is a free city dock in Rock Hall – “free” is a Looper’s favorite word.   The comments online said the free docks were good except if there are winds from the South.  As we approached our destination, I check for the update on winds for the night.  No surprise – they were coming from the South.  Skipped Rock Hall and headed to Oxford – another quaint town.  Planned to anchor. “Man makes plans and God laughs.”  We tried to anchor in several places, but couldn’t get the anchor to catch. We finally moved to an outside location and DID anchor for the night.  All by ourselves – nice and quiet.  

In the morning we woke up and there were several fishing boats and they were putting out crab pots ALL around us!  Ugh.  Time to move. There is a day dock in Oxford and we hadn’t seen a single boat dock there – probably too early in the season. Decided we were going to tie up for the day and night – figured no one was checking.  

A little later in the day we unloaded our bikes and rode around town.  Found the Cutts & Case boat yard that works on wooden boats – some people bring them from as far as England!  We got a personal tour and saw some beautiful boats that have been lovingly restored.  Such craftsmanship is a rarity.  Then we found the real bonanza in town – a great ice cream store!  Later we took the ferry over to the next island where we had about an 8 mile ride to St. Michaels Island.  Lovely area – yet another quaint little town with some kind of American war story of how they fought the British.  

Note: we talked to some locals after we had tied up at the ferry dock. They asked if we were the ones anchored the day before in an area adjacent to the dock. Yes, we had temporarily anchored there, but had decided to move to another location. They said it was a good thing we had moved, because boats that anchored there are usually found on shore the next morning! Apparently the sandy bottom shifts there and anchors do not hold well. Yeah- good to know!

On to the Sassafras River – a lovely winding river.  Docked overnight and filled up on fuel.  No reason to dwell on the fuel bills – best that we suppress those thoughts!  Moved on to the C & D canal which connects the Chesapeake Bay to the Delaware Bay. Beautiful day for a boat ride. We ended up at the Delaware City Marina which is located in another canal.  Interesting marina;  it is a long dock that runs down one side of the canal.  When we got to our location, the dock hands took our lines and turned us around in place so that we would face the EXIT direction. Very unique.  

Each day at 4 PM, the marina owner gives a briefing on what the weather is for the next day in the Delaware Bay.  Typically, Loopers will run the Bay in one day.  He is very knowledgeable about the Bay conditions and is gracious to share that with others.  First day’s briefing was a no brainer – the following day was “no go.”  Winds and currents would be wild.  Second day’s briefing was a “maybe” – there was a window of opportunity in the early morning, but he said there was a caveat – the weather pattern can sometimes shift ahead or back.  Shift it did – moved ahead.  Four boats decided to go anyway – not us.  One returned – too rough.  The others made it safely, but did not have a pleasant ride. One indicated that the waves were coming over the bow.  The next day – beautiful glassy start and then gently rolling waves took us in to Cape May, NJ for Memorial Day weekend.  What a difference a day makes.  Of course the crazies were out in full force when we entered the channel for Cape May – zipping at high speeds past other boats.  The weekend boaters need a few boating courtesy lessons. We were glad to get docked. Met up with 17 other Looper Boats in town. We are no longer ahead of the pack, we are IN the pack!

May 15 – 19, 2019 DC to Solomons, MD

Heading back down the Potomac, again to find that some days are better than others.  Actually, some hours of a day are better than others.  It started out to be beautiful.  Looked at DC through the back windows with blue skies and sunshine.  Planned a long day – about 78 miles.  Late in the afternoon, Ed remembered a place we had passed on the way up the Potomac – an island with a large cross on it. We found it on the charts – St. Clement’s Island.  We anchored off the island and took the dinghy in to explore.  Turns out the cross marked the site of the first Catholic Mass in English America in 1634.  This is where people had landed and eventually started the Maryland Colony.  On the island, there is a replica of a lighthouse and a bell tower which gave warnings in foggy weather.   Pretty place – walked the island then got back to the boat to head for an anchorage for the night.

Went to Canoe Neck Creek to anchor.  Found a lovely spot.  Put down the anchor – couldn’t get it to set.  Pulled it up, tried another spot – couldn’t get the anchor to set.  Tried another spot – same result.  We tried 7-8 spots with no success.  By this time, the moon was up, the sun was pretty much down, we were tired and hungry and didn’t know what to do.  We were now in a channel, but fortunately no boats moving about. I finally said “drop it and we’ll drag it until it catches on SOMEthing! “ It finally did, but not a comfortable night as there was lots of water movement through the channel that night. This is why people usually travel fewer miles and stop by early afternoon.  Lesson learned.

Next two nights at a beautiful anchorage in Jultand Creek, just south of St. Marys, MD.  Quiet and peaceful.  TWO nights because when we tried to leave, the Potomac kept slapping us back.  Can’t fight it.

On to Solomons. Docked at the Solomons Island Yacht Club.  Wonderful people there and SO welcoming.  Had a bit of a surprise when we first docked. we weren’t even tied up yet when a Coast Guard rep approached and asked us if we wanted a safety inspection. Let me think – can I say no to such a request? We welcomed him and his trainee on board and were pleased to pass inspection.

This happened to be the Yacht Club’s season opening weekend. They had lots of festivities and invited us to join them.  To top it off, the Tiki Hut was re-opening after being closed for a year.  This is apparently an icon on Solomons and the turn out of people was phenomenal.  So much to do! Additionally, the local Catholic Church was having a “Dancing Thru the Decades” dinner dance.  We HAD to go.  Lots of fun and lots of dancing.  Turns out the pastor was a priest at a church Ed’s family attended in the 70’s in Bowie, MD.  He actually remembered Ed’s parents.  Small world.

May 9-12, 2019 Washington, DC

Left Mattawoman at high tide with minimal wind.  MUCH easier leaving than entering.  Continued up Potomac.  Ed spent high school years in Bowie, MD and Kathy spent several years in Alexandria, VA.  This was a “homecoming,” but we had never done it by water.  Passed Mt. Vernon – great site up on a hillside.  Under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and past Alexandria.  Downtown Alexandria had been much of a slum area years ago.  No more.  BIG bucks there now.  A little farther and we could see the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral.  Then the Capitol Dome and Reagan National airport. WOW – so fun to be entering DC this way.

Made our way to the Capital Yacht Club which is in the heart of The Wharf District.  This area has been totally redone in the last couple of years.  Fun waterfront with restaurants, entertainment venues, offices, condos, water taxis, even swings and a couple fire pits (gas).  Happenin’ Place!!  At one end is a Fish Market that an incredible offering of seafood.  You can buy cooked food as well as raw product to take home.  Meal prices are good.  How many places in DC can 2 people eat crabcake meals for $20? Easy access to Mall area and free Circulator buses took us pretty far.  Went to Bureau of Printing & Engraving (no samples that day), Botanic Gardens, a ride around the entire Mall, Ford’s Theater, and Arlington Cemetery to visit moms on Mothers Day.  Got to visit with some high school and college friends.

Also took our first Lyft rides.  So easy and convenient!  Could easily spend days and days here – if money and time were of no concern.

May 7 – May 8, 2019 To the Potomac River

Another day.  Checked the weather reports – as we do daily – winds and waves looked reasonable.  Started out OK.  Went about an hour, then had to make a stop for fuel which took us slightly inland.  After fueling, the winds were suddenly much stronger, but reports were still good for the Chesapeake.  We had to be pushed off the fueling dock, but we made it out of the marina and started out again. My how things can change! The wind was still blowing hard, but we thought “this will change when we make the turn out into the Chesapeake. We had several turns to make around some low water areas.  We just kept thinking – this will change.  Sooooo… maybe not.  Waves kicked up to 3+ feet.  We were rocking up and down and occasionally side to side.  We did see some other boats, so we weren’t the only crazies out there, but for sure, it wasn’t fun.  To make matters worse – crab pots! Hard enough to see and evade them when the water is calm;  REALLY hard when the waves are rolling.  There were no places where we could stop for the day – shore was too shallow.  No choice but to continue.  

When we were finally able to make the turn up the Potomac, the land mass blocked the wave action and the wind.  Ahhhh.  Went to another beautiful anchorage called The Glebe.   Calm and peaceful night after a rather rough day.

Wednesday – a Great Day for a boat ride.  The Potomac was calm – almost glassy sometimes.  Planned a long day of cruising because the weather reports were perfect.  Had a new experience – Got a radio call from a Navy boat to divert our course because the Dahlgren range was HOT today with target practice.  OK – no arguments here.  We diverted as directed.  We were rather disappointed, as we were about to rejoin our intended course, that we hadn’t heard or seen anything.  Sort of an uneventful diversion! Suddenly there was a loud BANG and a big splash of water about 200 yards off to our port side.  Made us feel so much better!!

It WAS a beautiful day until our last hour of travel.  Got cloudy, wind started blowing, water got choppy.  Only had one hour left to our destination.  Why couldn’t it stay nice for ONE MORE hour? Our intended anchorage was just passed Quantico Marine Base.  Finally arrived; charts showed that water levels weren’t deep, but certainly deep enough if we followed the channel to the back part of Mattawoman Creek where we’d have good protection from the winds.  Started back and the water depth kept dropping.  Slowed to a crawl; kept inching forward. Halfway there, the electronic navigation stopped working.  Water kept getting more shallow.  Around a turn to our intended anchorage, we saw a marina, which gave us hope that the water depth would increase.  No luck.  We entered a marked channel for the marina, but still very shallow water. No one answered radio calls to the marina, so we finally just decided to tie up to an end dock and talk to someone in the morning.  

Found the name of the marina which happened to be run by the Maryland State Parks.  Ed made a call and explained our situation. Ranger was kind enough to let us stay for the night.  What will tomorrow bring?

April 29 – May 6, 2019 Norfolk to Fishing Bay

If you wonder why we don’t have more blog entries, blame it on the crab pots!  Don’t see the connection?  Let me explain.  There are thousands of crab pots in the waters we are traveling. They show up in places that are logical, but they also show up in the middle of the Ablemarle, the middle of the Chesapeake, and in channels that lead to wherever we happen to be going.  We seem to constantly be looking out for the darn things and it’s a bit exhausting; hence, by the end of the day, we are too tired to write blog entries. Time to catch up.

After clearing the Great Dismal Swamp, we headed for Norfolk, and docked at the Waterside Marina – right in town.  In Norfolk, we were treated to the best Uber driver. She took us wherever we needed to go, prepared some dinners for us, and even did laundry for us!  Who knew Uber provided such service?!  To be honest, our “Uber” driver was Ed’s sister Annette.  It was great to visit with her and her husband Mitch, her daughter Marissa and son-in-law Sam.   We got a personal tour of the Military Aviation Museum where Mitch is the Events Coordinator.  SO interesting and so many planes to see. Great place to visit.  Our dancing friends will appreciate this tidbit…the museum has a Hanger Dance.  A big dancing event is staged in one of the huge airplane hangers.  Too bad it wasn’t while we were there.

We left Norfolk on May 2 and headed to Yorktown, VA – site of the battle that won the Revolutionary War. We had an incredible tour from one of the rangers at the National Park.  Linda told the story of the battle in such a way that the whole group was totally immersed in the battle as if we were there.  Such a gift for storytelling.  The second day there we went to the Revolutionary War Museum in town.  Great place – stayed most of the day and enjoyed all the displays, videos and outdoor living history exhibits.

Left Yorktown on May 4 and went to Cape Charles.  Another small quaint town – major mode of transportation is golf carts. Lovely old Catholic Church – St Charles.  Kind of town where you are walking to church and someone in a golf carts stops to give you a ride. So Mayberryish!  After Cape Charles we went to a beautiful anchorage in a spot called Fishing Bay.  Gorgeous evening sunset.  Evenings like this are what we dreamed about for this trip.  In the next day, we’d appreciate the calm of this evening so much more.