Jersey Shore to the Erie Canal: June 26 2022


The Jersey Shore.  It’s never a slam dunk cruise so we plan loads of bail-out options from Chesapeake City to New York City…despite checking the weather twice or three times per day.  There can be wind, rain, currents, lightening, fog, tide…and of course the wide open Atlantic Ocean.  We pulled up the anchor from Chesapeake City at 4.30am with head lamp in place (6/12).  By 1.30pm we were anchored at Cape May.  The only hick-up was super skinny water at the channel entrance off the Delaware Bay (7ft feels skinny after the depths of the Bay).  It felt early in the day but 9hrs and 64 miles was enough for today.  Pulled pork nachos for dinner on the top deck with the sunshine glittering on the water…so far so good and we are at a great launching spot for the Jersey shore.  Holy cow – can we really make it all the way to NYC by sunset?!  Fog draped the shoreline and Atlantic City rose from the mists.  It was a gentle ride sunrise to sunset at 15hrs and 117 miles.  Before the hubbub of NYC we showered and had grilled pulled pork and cheese sandwiches for dinner while underway.  Our day ended at 8pm anchored off of Coney Island at Gravesend Bay with a toast to Neptune (6/13).  The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge was a spectacular backdrop.


After a rather rolly night we were off up the Hudson River (6/14).  We passed Little Island - a floating park with a futuristic look, 2.4 acres and more than 350 species of plants, flowers and trees…almost completely funded by television mogul Barry Diller and his wife Diane von Fusrtenberg.  Everything looks at home in New York City?!  The city slid away as we passed under the George Washington Bridge and entered the Palisades stretch of the river.  The high, sheer cliffs are a dramatic geological formation making it easy to see why geologists call the Hudson River a fjord.  We anchored in Nyack and got down to planning our next stops from here to Albany.  Leaving NYC has us off the snowbird migration route and into the Great Loop route which we are excited about after a year postponement due to Covid.  The good thing about the pandemic was lots of time for research.  We poured over the internet on friends’ blogs (especially m/v Vector), Skipper Bob books, 100 Great Stops on America’s Great Loop by Owen Schwaderer and anywhere else we could find info about the route conditions/characteristics as well as what stops to make along the way.  We are energized and headed ashore for dinner at the Olde Village Inn pub for great pub grub and a lively crowd, including our bar neighbor – an 89-year old retired history teacher who kept us entertained for hours.


Today we are tourists in NYC!  We went from Nyack to NYC and zipped around seeing things we have not seen before.  We traveled by bus, commuter rail, metro (underground subway and boat), uber and our feet.  It was a picture perfect day!  We saw the 9/11 Memorial (where we were moved to tears), walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, checked out the Manhattan skyline from the Gantry Plaza Park in Queens and had a fabulous dinner at Casa Enrique in Queens (one Michelin star since 2016). Every bite was delicious - sloppy Mexican where street tacos were assembled as meticulously as sushi. And the wine was a bottle from the Guadalupe Vallee in Baja. What a great day and back to Barefeet for a night cap on the top deck (6/15).


Our sunshine of yesterday was replaced with chilly grey conditions as we continued north up the Hudson (6/16).  It was all hands on deck for log spotting before passing West Point.  Founded in 1802 the Military Academy is an imposing, hulking presence on the steep sided shores of the Hudson where depths range from 70 to 170 feet.  After rounding the main buildings we saw the “backyard” complete with ball fields (quite a cold walk to practice in the winter - bbbrrrr).  A bit further on we anchored in Cold Spring with views back to West Point.  Chris changed out four engine zincs (main engine, generator, transmission, stabilizers) before we brought a bit of sunshine to the day with margaritas and homemade pizza.


The green fjord-like vertical landscape is a real contrast to the golden grasses of the Lowcountry of the Carolinas.  Both are stunning but totally different.  Continuing up the Hudson had us passing Bannerman Castle (6/17).  The Castle was a weapons depot for a Civil War era arms dealer, Francis Bannerman…until something blew up and the castle began to deteriorate.  The sun came out and we had a gentle ride to Kingston passing the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse before we tied up at the Hudson River Maritime Museum.  As soon as we were tied up we pedaled to Napa Auto Parts for some carburetor cleaner for the dinghy.  Oops – a jet spray nozzle bounced overboard.  Looks like we cannot anchor out until this $10 part is located…which looks like it won’t be until Brewerton due to shipping times.  Oh well, nothing for it but order, wait…and head to town for dinner at Savona’s on a lively waterfront Friday night.


The Hudson River Maritime Museum is not just dusty exhibits.  It is an active maritime beehive of activity with power tools and workshops for activities ranging from weekend family skiff building to build your own skin on frame kayak to scrimshaw for beginners.  There is real life in the place and it’s fun to start the day on the top deck with a morning coffee.  We biked the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and trestle bridge to Rosendale (6/18).  Our bike ride reinforced the mighty Hudson River and just what an industrial powerhouse it was where industries like ice, boatyards, cement, brick and bluestone flourished along the waterfront.  The Dutch were some of the first European settlers (Kingston was the first capital of New York) followed by the Irish, Germans and Polish due to plentiful jobs on the canals. 


The flurry of river activity was a result of canals (Erie, Delaware & Hudson and Champlain).  This transportation boom resulted in infrastructure needs…like lighthouses.  The river lighthouses do not need to illuminate as far as ocean lighthouses so they have a distinctly different (and shorter) look.  The Rondout lighthouse, Saugerties Lighthouse and Hudson Athens Lighthouse have a squatty feel as opposed to their towering ocean siblings.  These lighthouses were spotted as we moved along from Kingston to Albany for two nights at the Albany Yacht Club (6/19).  We explored the area with friend Gina who was a repeat visitor on the sailboat Barefeet.  We checked out a dive bar (Palais Royal), a diner (Skyline), a coffee shop (Whistling Kettle) and dinner spots (Local 217 Taproom & Kitchen and Illusive) in addition to exploring Troy (once the fourth wealthiest town in America).   All were delicious and it was fun to hang out together.

Holy cow it’s time for the Erie Canal!  We are excited to travel the locks and rivers from Troy to Three Rivers in New York (just 160 miles of the total 363) before turning off into the Oswego Canal.  Three Rivers is the furthest we can go due to our height (we are 18ft and the 15’6” bridge is too low for us).  In order to have a better understanding of the canal’s creation we read Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation by Peter L. Bernstein (thanks for the tip Mic and Jeanne).  The politics in the early 1800s were just as crazy as they are today and the tenacity of human spirit was inspiring.  Spoiler alert - the Erie Canal exceeded predictions to “convey more riches on its waters than any other canal in the world” when it opened in 1825.  The Canal created a new nation, a banking system and made the US the bread basket of the world.


So long Albany!  For us it is new territory and new boating operations.  Today was seven locks and a bit more adrenaline than we like until we sorted it out in Lock #3 (6/21).  Drop pipe and cable are how we “ride” up the lock.  Chris is at the helm and I am at a rope secured at Barefeet’s hip with three ball fenders for the slimy, rough concrete lock walls.  Okay, got it.  Oops – but we should have listened more closely to the Erie Canal song’s lyrics because our weather station was (sploosh) stripped off by a bridge… “Low bridge, everybody down; Low bridge, yeah we're coming to a town.”  Bridges were intentionally built low to walk livestock across.  At Lock #5 the lock tender asked if we could fit through with only one door open.  We could which gave them more time to move a stunned bird from behind the other door.  After smoothly raising up 175.5 feet (169 feet in a span of only two miles) and passing dam waterfalls at eye level we tied up for the evening at the docks in Scotia beside Collins Park (honor system $20/night fee).  Scotia is across the Mohawk River from Schenectady (say skin-neck-titty).  A short stroll from the docks is Jumpin Jack’s Drive-In with window service burgers, fries and milk shakes.  It was a nice way to end the day even if we were not arriving on a night for the water-sky show.   


Feeling better on day two after our locks from yesterday we encountered a new locking process…the weighted line.  Drat – start again and sort it out with a line hung the height of the lock wall with a giant black rubber “knot” at the end or a length of metal pipe.  This system resolved itself with me in the stern with a line secured around a pole and Chris at mid-ship with a line secured on the hand rail…then slowly played out as we moved up/down in the lock.  Oh, and you cannot always lock on the right side so fenders need to be shuffled.  Got it.  Locks 8 – 13 wrapped up for us tied to a wall in the village of Canajoharie where we tied to a metal ring and a bollard for free after dusting off our knot tying skills (6/22).  Canajoharie is a former industrial town that has shrunk since its heady Canal heyday days.  Susan B. Anthony taught school here and Beech-Nut foods was started here.  Bartlett Arkell (the first president of Beech-Nut) founded a library and museum in town to share his love of American paintings.  We strolled the few blocks of town stopping for drinks at the Irish pub (no food) and dinner down the street.  And a strawberry rhubarb pie from Shuts’ Farm for breakfast tomorrow – bonus.


Heavy morning rain gave us a late start on our five locks for today which includes the BIG lift at lock #17 (6/23).  The bigger lift is 40.5 feet which means more water…and bigger doors…in the form of 150 ton doors hoisted guillotine style rather than hinged like household doors.  The process was remarkably smooth without any jarring movement despite gallons of water gushing in to quickly fill the lock chamber.  Wow!  After our heads stopped spinning we stopped for the night to tie up to a wall at the Ilion Community Marina and RV Park in Ilion ($20/night).  Our arrival was just in time for sundowners with cruisers walking the wall and chatting about experiences along the canal and what lies ahead.  One cruiser is going the “other way” – why not?!  Ilion has been the manufacturing location for Remington firearms since 1816 and is still going today.  We’ll catch that next time.  For now, we settled into the darkening sky, neon signs and spaghetti on the top deck.  It was a peaceful night.


With only four locks today it feels like a short day (6/24).  Bring on drop pipes, cables, weighted lines, fender ball side changes…whatever.  Hey, we’re going down?!  Today was two drop locks so we are over the mountains.  The village of Sylvan Beach is our stop for two nights tied to a section of wall secured with lines through metal rings (free).  It is self-described as the Atlantic City of northern New York complete with beaches along Oneida Lake and an amusement park.  With sunny skies and hot temperatures it feels like summer!  Yippee!  Sunset Grill was a family-owned dinner spot where we were quickly brought into the fold.


We fueled up for breakfast at the Pancake House before biking along the lake in Verona Beach and its State Park (6/25).  A big outdoor space for the Oneida Lake Brew Haus looks like a fun spot for the afternoon but we returned to Barefeet for some much needed exterior boat scrubbing (even under the solar panels).  Sucking fresh water via the wash-down hose worked great (no power or water on the free wall).  It was a nice way to get a tan and be part of the waterside entertainment even if it involved some work.  The Sylvan Beach waterway is a floating see-and-be-seen cruisin’ boulevard a la American Graffiti.  We had our sundowners followed by a pizza dinner on the top deck watching the show go by.  Apparently, this fun continues even in the winter as the water freezes and boats are replaced by snow mobiles and motor bikes.  


Tossing the lines from Sylvan Beach it was a gentle ride across Oneida Lake to tie up at Winter Harbor Marina in Brewerton, NY (6/26).  Gulp – and load up on 430 gallons of diesel ($5.99/gal).  The payment was painful but much better than if we waited until Canada.  This is a popular spot and the wall was completely full…so it was docktails in the gazebo at 5pm.  Drinks were poured, snacks nibbled and boat cards exchanged while the forecast thunderstorms passed through.  We all moved to the center as the skies opened up and meandered back to our respective boats after the rain had passed.  Next after Brewerton is Three Rivers Junction where Loopers split into two groups 1) remain on the Erie Canal continuing west (as long as boat height is lower than 15’6”) or 2) head north in the Oswego Canal targeting NY’s Thousand Islands and the Trent-Severn Waterway in Canada.  It was fun to hear who was going where as well as to hear tales of repairs and fun along the way.  We are targeting the Trent-Severn Waterway route.