Sunday, December 3, 2017

Spirit in the Sky

It is with great sadness that I report that on November 9th my dear captain sailed away.  He is on God’s Great Loop adventure now.  John positively impacted so many people (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and students) especially in his role as a Geology Professor for over 40 years!  He was not only a fantastic husband he was my dearest friend and we were so blessed to live his boating and travel dreams.  He was smitten with his three grandkids as I am too.  He truly lived life to its fullest!

During this past year he had slowed down on his blog posts.  This was because of struggles with internet connectivity, especially while in Canada.  As a result he started enjoying the time he had previously devoted to the blog which made it even harder to get back into that groove. We do have a treasure trove of photos that I will be organizing and eventually posting.  We ended this boating season at the beginning of October when we stored “Lucky Us” in heated storage in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.  It is scheduled to be launched at the beginning of May next year.  So there is a little time to decide how to handle the boat.

Rest in peace O Captain, My Captain - you will be missed!!!!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Day 29 - destination change in mid “flight”… We are getting off Lake Champlain!

All that excitement and we still managed to do some sightseeing, soul enriching, shopping, movie watching, and laundry.  This is a very boater friendly town.  They have a free shuttle to the trendy restaurant, shopping area which is near the movie theater and near most of the AA meetings.  We were able to take the regular bus system to West Marine and to Walgreens for some necessary shopping.  We went to an AA meeting the first night we arrived.  On our way home we ate dinner at a cute Chinese restaurant.  The next day we took the bus to West Marine, then watched the movie Norman, with Richard Gere.   It was interesting, a bit too serious and a touch sad.  Then we headed to Walgreens before checking on the boat.  The wind had started to increase a little and my digestive system had started to misbehave so John took off to catch another meeting.  It was at a treatment system and they were so grateful he came.  A group of locals took him to dinner afterwards.  A nice surprise. Our last full day included sleeping in after a very fitful night with many trips outside adjusting and adding fenders.  We finally headed out to catch another movie, this time we saw The Book of Henry.  Another interesting, serious and sad movie.  Both movies have interesting and somewhat amazing ways of dealing with problems. Later that night after eating out at a Filipino/Mexican restaurant we watched Caddy Shack to lighten the mood.  

Whew!  We are off again!  After three nights in Burlington, Vermont we cast our lines, and we headed to the fuel dock where we pumped out, topped off the fuel tanks and headed off. The fuel price was higher than what we had paid on Day 1, but it will only get higher in Canada… The photo at the right is the view over the bow as we are backing away from the fuel dock.

The phot at the right is the view as we backed past our former mooring location on the dock. The building behind the floating dock is the restaurant that has been under renovation. The initial plan was to head to Plattsburgh, NY back on the Adirondack Park side of Lake Champlain. The route was only 20.3 miles, but I opted to take a more scenic route that probably added about 5 miles to the trip.  We didn't yet have a reservation, and it turned out that Plattsburgh didn't have a spot for us. Our options included going to another anchorage, but then we settled on going to our next planned destination which is Rouses Point.  Ever make a decision and suddenly have this big feeling of relief come over you? This is how both of us felt. It seems that all of the excitement about the boat and the weather had taken its mental toll on us…

Out on the lake we had a gently “tail wind” (south wind behind us) as you can see by the small ripples on the water (photo at right). The low hills are on the west side of the lake, but it was hazy enough that we could not see the Adirondack Mountains in the far distance. 

The were some homes along the west side (photo at right), but the view of the shore was mainly trees and occasional rocky areas. In general, the trip was very serene and helped to increase our feeling of relief of finally getting off the lake. 

The lake is long and narrow, and rather than have an abrupt end, it seemed to me that is just kept getting narrower until we were in the Richelieu River that flows north to the St. Lawrence River. The photo at the right shows the east side of the lake as we are nearly off the lake. At the far right you can see that the lake was much wider back to the south.


The photo at the right was taken immediately after the one above and shows the view out the left or west side. Taken together, the last two pictures show how narrow the lake had become, and at some (unspecified) point ahead we were “officially” off the lake and into the Richelieu River.
Very shortly we reached Rouses Point, NY, which is our jumping off point for the Canadian portion of this summer’s trip.  When we leave Rouses Point, our next stop will be to clear the Canadian Customs a little over one mile to the north (down river).  We will probably stay in Rouses Point for 4 nights in order to let the next weather system pass through the area.  We are looking forward to a few days in a quieter setting, hopefully protected from the wind better than the past few days. Of course, we need to get started on making repairs to our recent damage and of course there is some routine maintenance like changing the oil in the three diesel engines (i.e. the two main engines and the generator. So, as usual, our extended stay will not be all rest, relaxation and fun…

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Days 27-28 in Burlington, Vt

      The photo at the right is actually from the evening yesterday (Day 26), and it shows Lucky Us moored at the marina. The marina restaurant was adjacent to us, and it was undergoing a fairly thorough upgrade, which according to some locals that we met was sorely needed. They were putting in new (real) teak deck and trim in the outdoor dining area along with crank down/up screen panels. They were rushing to hopefully open about 2 days after we ultimately departed. They were going to be close, but the upgrades and cleaning in the kitchen had a way to go.

      Further to the serene setting, the photo at the left shows a nice sunset over Lake Champlain. All was about to change as later that evening the wind shifted about 180 degrees to be out of the south and it freshened considerably. As I said yesterday, the breakwater that protect the harbor is open at the south end. Fortunately, the waves had to come into the harbor and turn a bit to run to the north. This cut down the waves somewhat, but we were buffeted by 1½ to 2 foot waves and strong winds for the next 36 plus hours. Between the noise from the wind, rolling of the boat and having to re-adjust fenders every half hour or so, we were pretty busy during that time. We had two fenders that broke and lost air and one fender that was lost altogether when its line broke. Fortunately, we had put all 8 fenders along that side of the boat. The boat and the dock were not always moving in the same direction, and as a result, we had three through hull vents literally break off flush with the hull. We also had a section of the stainless steel rub rail get pulled loose and twisted kind of like a pretzel. The good news is that other than several minor scratches, the fiberglass hull was undamaged.

     The photo at the left shows the ferry dock and our marina from the base of the hill up into town.

      Right near the center of downtown is this lovely old mansion with this lovely long front yard that preserves its view (photo at left). There were other nice homes, but none of them had much of a view due to the close proximity of their neighbors.


      The lake even has its own monster according to a few reported sighting going back as far as the 17th century. The most recent sighting was way back in the 1940s, but there are artistic renditions of the monster all over town (photo at right). The local minor league baseball team is the Lake Monsters, and on it goes…


      One of our lunch stops was this classic New York style deli (photo at left). It was very colorful, and I had one of the best Reuben sandwiches ever. Homemade mixed rye and white bread, tasty sauerkraut, and of course, thickly sliced corned beef and cheese with everything made to order. My that was good!

      The architecture was full of surprises like these gargoyles (photo at right). This same building also had a lake monster of its own in the yard.


      The next three photos were taken along the waterfront south of the marina. Vermont is known worldwide for its quality marble used in construction and art. There were numerous large pieces of marble and other large rocks that had been used to armor the shore against erosion. At least 8 of the large marble blocks had artistic images carved in them by hand. You could still see the chisel marks. There were no signs describing the art so I do not know anything of their history. So enjoy…


      I will close the pictures of Burlington with another peaceful sunset (photo on left). It really is a nice city, but I will have bad memories of the experience at the marina for some time to come…

Day 26 to Burlington, VT

      We awoke to a beautiful day with a clear sky and a temperature of 62F. The photo at the right shows our view over the bow of Lucky Us at the third and final try at anchoring yesterday. The wind was 15+ mph out of the north so we knew that once we got out into the lake that we would be going directly into the waves. Terry took Lucky to shore in the kayak, and on her way back she chatted with the people on a 32 foot sailboat that had just come into the anchorage. They said that if was horrible out on the lake with 4 foot waves. Based on the wind at the anchorage, we did not think that such big waves were possible. However, as is often the case, the only way to find out is to stick our nose out into the lake.
       The photo at the left shows what we found out in the lake after we had exited the anchorage back to the right. The waves were barely 2 feet with some white caps although there was the occasional wave near 3 feet. This kind of sea is definitely within our comfort range. The wavelength of the waves was fairly short so I speed up a bit so that Lucky Us was always on top of at least three waves, which made the ride even smoother. Once again, even though we were fairly close to shore, the water depth was over 200 feet. It would not have taken much of an increase in the wind strength to make our trip uncomfortable so we headed directly to Burlington only15.4 miles from the anchorage.
      The photo at the right shows our views off to starboard (east) of the Vermont shoreline with the beginnings of some mountains. We had realized yesterday that we had forgotten to bring Lucky’s sea sick medicine, but she hung in there like a trooper for the whole trip. That medicine is now at the top of our shopping list for Burlington.
      The rest of our two hour trip was beautiful and also uneventful The photo at the left was taken after we cruised past Burlington and rounded the north end of the breakwater. The breakwater at the north end has a bit of a bend back toward shore. Otherwise, the breakwater is straight and parallel to the shore. The shoreline at the north end also bends out to the west so the harbor is very well protected from the north winds. As we were to learn the hard way, the south end of the harbor is poorly protected from south winds.
      As we cruised back south toward town, we (photo at right) passed the US Coast Guard Station (blue roof). The station is memorable since it is the first one that we have passed this year. The Coast Guard has a large fleet of 25 foot fast response boats that are also trailerable. This means that any given station can cover a much larger area in less time than ever before. Of course, this also means that some stations have been closed.

      Shortly, we got our first close up views of downtown Burlington. The photo at the left shows some of the taller, new buildings, but the town also has many beautiful historic buildings. It is a town of about 80,000 people with a similar number of people in the immediate area. These numbers are bolstered by the main campus of the University of Vermont with about 22,000 students. This means that Burlington and area account for about 20% of the population in the state. The other thing to note in this picture is the there is a fairly steep slope up from the water to reach much of the town. We were to experience this many times as every time we set out to walk any place, it always seemed to involve going up the hill…
      Then we passed the other marina in town (photo at right). It has what looks like a beautiful club house and restaurant, but their rates for transient boats was nearly twice that of the marina where we stayed (and paid what we normally expect to pay).
      The last photo for today shows the loading dock and three of the ferries that run between Burlington, VT and Plattsburg, NY on the west side of the lake. The ferries run year around, which means that they must be capable of breaking a path through the ice and keeping it open. At the far right in the photo you can see the first couple of boats in the marina that will be our home for the next two full days. As soon as we have docked and taken Lucky for a walk, we plan to go to lunch at a seafood restaurant adjacent to the marina. After that, it will be nap time before we explore the town for dinner.

Day 25 to an anchorage on Lake Champlain

       Our departure from the marina at about 10:00 AM was in a light wind so getting underway was a lot more relaxed than our arrival yesterday. We had a lovely view of Port Henry (photo at right) as we headed north toward an anchorage about 19.6 miles away. The marina was just out of view to the left, and the center of town is that cluster of buildings in the middle. That is the hill that we walked up for dinner yesterday only to find that the Chinese restaurant was closed.
      The photo at the left shows some of the shoreline on the west side of Lake Champlain. It was always heavily treed and occasionally with rocky wave cut cliffs. Lake Champlain is elongate in a north-south direction with the prevailing south and N-NW winds. These winds run parallel to the lake and make the lake seem like a wind tunnel.
      We saw few signs of civilization, but there were isolated cabins, including this lovely big house (photo at right). As you can see in the picture there is very little wind on the water here as we did go into several sheltered bays to see more of the scenery during our rather short trip today.
      Lake Champlain was formed by the continental ice sheet that moved south out of Hudson’s Bay. The lake is often two to three hundred feet deep, but there are a number of islands some of which are quite small (photo at left). The islands in the photo are small and difficult to see, but they are well marked on charts and with navigation aids. These two islands are surrounded by deep water so they must have been a different rock type that was more resistant to erosion by the glaciers.
      As we approached our anchorage, we passed this potential anchorage at an island (photo at right) that provides a lot of protection from northerly winds, but it is totally exposed to south winds. We opted for a small bay that provided protection from both southerly and northerly winds. We knew that the bay was shallow, and one local rule that we have learned is that water depths of less than 20 feet will have weeds on the bottom.
      We have met a number of people that were suffering from pollen allergies. In our chosen anchorage we could see this heavy coating of pollen on the water (photo at left). Evidence that Spring has not been here all that long… One disadvantage of our travel plans this year is that we have experienced heavy pollen in Texas, Ohio, central New York and now here on Lake Champlain – oh joy… 
     We arrived at our anchorage around 1 pm and attempted to anchor in about 10 feet of water that was close to a boat Launch ramp. The advantage of this particular spot is that the ramp would be an ideal place to land a kayak when we take Lucky to shore to do her business. We ate lunch while keeping an eye on how much we were dragging.  After lunch, it was clear that the anchor was not holding so we hoisted the anchor, cleaned off a big clump of weeds and tried again nearby.  Again, we could not get the anchor to set so we decided that we might have to move on.  However, we liked the area since the views were very nice (photo at right). So, we moved into a little deeper water away from the weeds and tried again.  Turns out there is some truth to the adage, the third time is the charm.  
      Once it was clear that the anchor had set very well, we lowered the kayak from the flybridge into the water.  Lucky and the Admiral then took a trip to shore and back to the boat (photo at left).  She will get another round this evening and then again in the morning.  The low tonight is 54 degrees and the high tomorrow is 70!  Yes!!!!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Day 24 to Port Henry, NY

      We had a nice slow morning and left the marina around 10:20 am after our obligatory pump out. Lake Champlain is a no discharge zone, like everywhere we boat. You have to go 3 miles out into the open Gulf or Ocean before you are allowed to pump out overboard. What makes Lake Champlain different is that they require your overboard system to be dismantled. So, I took out a vacuum break at the top of a loop in the discharge hose of the system and capped off the ends before we reach Lake Champlain.  The fine is $500 if you haven't complied with their regulations.
       We made it to Port Henry and successfully docked at Van Slooten Harbor Marina. The photo at the right shows our view of the southern part of the city with the marina barely visible at the far left. The finger pier is short and narrow which added a little excitement to the docking process.  The Admiral had to sit on the dock at the end to keep from going for a swim while wrestling with the bow line. She reported that the water on her feet felt wet (ha, ha) and refreshingly cool!  It was down right hot for the third day in a row.  The one advantage today was a breeze.  Everyone is complaining because the temperature has hit 90 degrees each day.  Even for Texans like us, it was pretty zapping the previous two days as the light wind was at our back and therefore nonexistent while on the boat. Today was much better!  We plan on staying here just one night.  I promised dinner out, but unfortunately for me the only restaurant open on Monday night is Chinese. I love good Chinese food, but ordinary restaurant Chinese food, especially buffets, is not high on my list. 
        We had a walk of 0.8 miles to the restaurant that is right in the very center of town. The bad part was that we had to go up hill about 200 feet in what remained of the heat of the day.  Our walk took us through the historic old town of Ft. Henry, and as we crossed a railroad track, we were greeted with this Amtrak sign (photo at left). The restored, historic railroad station is now used as an Amtrak Station. The station is on the Montreal - New York City route and has one train each way per day.


      A little further up the hill we got a good view back at the old station as well (photo at right). The diesel engine on display is relatively new, but behind the engine is a vintage ore car and a caboose. Unfortunately, the caboose is largely hidden by the band stand, but it was modified from an ore car like the one in front of it.

      Then I turned around and took the photo on the left. It is the present town hall, but it was originally built as the company headquarters for the local iron ore mining company. This iron ore was historically important in steel making in the US well into the 20th century, and it was shipped via railroad to Ft. Henry where it was loaded on ships and barges for transport to steel mills on Lake Champlain. The marina is built on the site of the dock where it was loaded.


     The last photo (at right) was taken over the stern of Lucky Us at the marina. The railroad cars are being stored on an old siding that is probably where the ore was delivered. The concrete bulkhead was part of the dock where the ore was loaded for transport. None of the original buildings remained, but there was an extensive array of concrete foundations remaining.

     And now, back to the story about dinner out… We arrived at the main intersection downtown only to find that even the Chinese restaurant was closed. The Admiral searched again on Yelp and found a drive-in restaurant on the edge of town that was open. She even called to verify it. The good news was that the drive-in was across from the main entrance to the marina, and they made a pretty good fish ‘n chips. The really good news out of all of this is that they also had soft serve ice cream, which put me in a much better frame of mind….

Day 23 to Whitehall, NY

      Today we departed Ft. Edward, NY in high scattered clouds with the promise of a warm day. We will go through the 4 locks on the Champlain Canal with only one remaining at the start of the day tomorrow, and we will also cross a drainage divide between the Hudson River that flows south into the Atlantic Ocean and the artificial cut for the Champlain Canal that goes down into the drainage basin for Lake Champlain. The photo at the right is looking back at the Town Dock at Ft. Edward. The dock and the electricity were free, but technically there was only one 30 amp circuit for each boat. Luckily, we were able to use two circuits, which means that we were able to run both AC units.
      Perhaps our big excitement for today’s trip was passing a bald eagle in a tree that was no more than 50 feet away (photo at left). This was the closest that either of us had ever been to a bald eagle in the wild. Pretty neat!
       Less exciting was this derelict boathouse that we passed (photo at right). There was not much scenery today as the topography was low, and there were almost no houses, except for farm houses in the distance. This was especially true between Locks 8 and 9 as we were in a ditch as we crossed the drainage divide. There were lots of dairy cattle as well as planted fields.
       The photo at the left was taken looking back as we departed Lock 11, which was the second of two locks going down today. In keeping with the theme of very low topography (i.e. pretty flat) for today, all of the locks were between 10 and 15 feet up or down. There was no Lock C-10, which was replaced during one of several periods of rebuilding the canal. The drop between Lock C-9 and C-11 was only 12 feet over a distance of 9.6 miles. That is very flat. For example, even if the Earth were perfectly flat, it would be impossible to see something only 12 feet high from 9.6 miles away.
      The photo at the right was taken as we approached the town of Whitehall, which was our destination for today. There is a large park on the left (west) side with several boats at the town dock just before the bridge. While walking Lucky during the evening, we explored the park as you will see below.
      The photo at the left was taken from the park and shows Lucky Us (third boat, dark blue stripe along the top of the hull) moored at the town dock. You can also see that after a day with little topography, we are now surrounded by (low) hills.
      The park had a museum, tiered concert area and several outdoor exhibits.  We walked around a corner of the museum and came upon this large, life-sized (?), wood carving of a sasquatch (photo at right). Lucky even felt compelled to bark at the carving, which is kind of scary looking.
      The photo at the left shows a large part of the hull of the steamer USS Ticonderoga that had been the flagship during the battle of Plattsburg in 1814. So far on our trip up the Hudson River, most of the history has been related to the Revolutionary War. This has surprised me since a lot of the fighting during the War of 1812 was in the Hudson and Champlain Valleys. The original Champlain Canal was completed in 1823, and it opened up the town of Whitehall to transportation to New York City (and beyond). As a result, manufacturing flourished in Whitehall. Many of the original plants are still standing and have been placed on the National Register.
      Whitehall is also famous as the birthplace of the US Navy. On October 11, 1776, the American fleet was defeated by the British in the Battle of Valcour Island off the west coast of Lake Champlain. This battle delayed the British who then had to wait out the Winter of 1776-7 before continuing their advance to the south. This delay gave the Americans time to gather and equip men for what turned out to be the Battle of Saratoga in September and October of 1777. The American fleet consisted of at least one captured ship and new ships constructed in Whitehall during the summer of 1776. The ships were built by carpenters, riggers and blacksmiths recruited from as far away as Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island who used local timber to build the ships. Once again, Benedict Arnold played a key role in anticipating the British advance south toward New York City, and he was the one who assembled the fleet to at least delay the British. The construction of the fleet and the ensuing battle are viewed as the birth of the US Navy.