Friday, July 21, 2017
Here is our route for this blog posting
Saturday July 15, 2017: Today we started up the Champlain Canal. This is the 55 nautical mile route that will take us from the Hudson River to Lake Champlain. Technically, we are still in the navigable section of the Hudson River for a further 31 nautical miles. But this section of the river, plus the approximately 24 nautical miles of man made canal and 11 locks, make up what is known as the Champlain Canal. There is still some commercial traffic on the river, mostly barges being pushed by hefty tugs.
Jan on Wings in one of the Champlain Locks
Stephen aboard Tug'n in a lock
Today we made it from Mechanicville to Fort Edward, which was named after a British fort. Fort Edward was located at the “Great Carrying Place”, a portage around the water falls on the Hudson, used by Native Americans for thousands of years before European colonization. During the French / Indian wars, British General Pineas Lyman constructed a fort at this location in 1755 and it was later named Fort Edward after the grandson of King George II.
Shortly after we arrived, the Fort Edward Yacht Basin wall gradually filled up. We are starting to see more Canadian boats on the system, all from Quebec. Once again we were treated to free docking, hydro and water. How wonderful. While we stayed on Tug’n for dinner, Bob and Jan headed off to the Anvil Inn to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. They reported they had an outstanding meal at this location, which was originally a blacksmith shop build in the mid 1700’s.
A section of the original Champlain Canal in Fort Edward
Sunday July 16, 2017: The Champlain Canal was originally built from 1817 to 1823. It had 23 locks, a limiting depth of 5 feet and an overhead limit of 11 feet. The canal was rebuilt several times over the following 100 years. Some remnants of the original canal are visible in Fort Edward and we took a walk to see one section of this much smaller canal (see above pic). Boats on the original canal were 70 to 80 feet long and carried up to 150 tons of cargo. They were pulled by mules or horses on a path along side the canal.
Our objective today was to reach Whitehall and tie up on the Champlain Lake side of the canal to re-erect the mast on Bob and Jan’s boat Wings. The locks were well coordinated and we made good time. We saw one barge and two tugs plus about 10 pleasure craft today, the most in one day since we passed through New York. We passed Dave and Judy aboard “Katherine” and enjoyed a few minutes of chatting on the radio and across our bows as well as a blast of our horns. They’d had their visit in Whitehall and were now making their way back to Mystic, Connecticut.
It was a very hot day on the canal and by the time we passed through lock #12, we were ready for a break and refreshment. As we looked around, the public tie up wall no longer existed. There was a modest looking marina there in its place and with no breeze, it did not look very inviting. So, after a quick radio conference with Wings, we decided to head on further to an anchorage near Fort Ticonderoga, a further 14 nautical miles. It was a very pleasant cruise down the relatively narrow southern end of Lake Champlain. As it gradually widened to about 1/2 a mile, the fort came into view and we anchored just to the south of it.
The water had cleared up tremendously from the sediment colour of the Hudson River and Champlain Canal and our first order of business was taking a swim. It is hard to put into words the sheer joy of being able to dive into aqua green fresh water off the stern of your boat on a sweltering hot day. While cooling off, I took a brush and gave the water line a light scrub to remove the leftover markings from the river and canal. Wonderful, just wonderful. Some ice cold white wine followed by a BBQ’d dinner and another swim finished off a great day. While we missed out on exploring Whitehall, we had a great consolation prize.
Monday July 17, 2017: After breakfast, we rafted up with Wings and helped Bob and Jan re-erect their mast. Afterwards, we had a leisurely cruise northward on Lake Champlain. The lower section of Lake Champlain is really quite narrow, but the rolling, tree covered hills on both sides makes it look very scenic and attractive. We were making use of a cruising guide given to us by Bob and Jan, which had rated anchorages in terms of their protection from weather and scenic appeal. From it, we’d chosen Cole Bay as our destination, about a 19 nautical mile run under beautiful sunshine, calm water and hot summer temperatures. As we approached our anchorage, ominous dark clouds were rapidly approaching. I checked the weather radar on my iPhone and determined the rain and thunderstorm would start just minutes after we’d anchored, so we hustled right in and anchored quickly. Right on cue, the thunderstorm started, the temperature plummeted and the rain started. Rain, lightning and thunder continued for more than three hours and it took a few more hours for the sky to finally clear up and the sun to re-emerge. In the evening, the wind picked up from the south and was quite a bit stronger than forecast, resulting in a rather bouncy night at anchor, but we seem to be getting used to the sound of wave slap on the hull.
Tuesday July 18, 2017: Another beautiful summer day emerged with the sun rise. We are mostly getting up by 0600, energized by the bright sunshine through our port holes. We were underway by 0900 for one of the next highly recommended anchorages called Kingsland Bay, a relatively short run of only 9 nautical miles. It was a beautiful spot with a state park on one side, one particularly lovely home / property and a small beach on another side. The hilly shoreline was blanketed with lovely forest. After anchoring, I began the long overdue chore of cleaning the dinghy and applying a protective coating on the inflatable tubes to protect them from the UV. After lunch, we took a dinghy ride to a nearby marina to buy a bag of ice and see what else they had in their “Ships Store”. Skimming across the water at 16 MPH, feeling the wind rush through your hair on a hot summers day - what a joy.
The wind died in the afternoon and the temperature rose. We were in the water for a dip every hour or so to cool down. We really have been blessed with magnificent summer weather for about four weeks now.
One of many dips
Lake Champlain is a unique body of water. It is part of the Champlain Valley, which is part of a larger landform known as the Great Appalachian Valley which stretches from Quebec in the north to Alabama in the south. The lake drains north, through the Richelieu River to the St Lawrence Seaway.
The region’s original Native inhabitants used the lake as a means of transportation. Early European explorers used it as a route into the new continent. It was of course named after explorer Samuel de Champlain who discovered it in 1609. Many naval battles were fought on the lake in its colonial period.
Vermont, New York and Quebec share the shoreline of this 490 square mile lake with a shoreline of over 500 miles and a length of 125 miles. There are over 70 islands on the lake, ranging from 13 miles long to some as small as oversized rocks. The water is clear and deep with many areas having depths of 200 feet or more and one area has a charted depth of 399 feet. The west shoreline is dominated by the Adirondack Mountains (New York side) and if one uses imagination, you could easily think you were cruising the west coast of Canada. The shoreline has seen little development and has many fine anchorages for the gunk holing boater. In fact, the scenic shoreline and wonderful anchorages result in this being just about one of the finest cruising areas we’ve seen.
One of 70 islands on Lake Champlain (looks like a moose?)
Wednesday July 19, 2017: A new summer day, a new anchorage! We only moved 3 nautical miles and found ourselves in another lovely, all-weather anchorage called Converse Bay. This good sized anchorage had a lovely wooded shoreline, plus several islands providing protection and great scenery. The morning was devoted to some more chores, the primary one being the anchor locker. Our anchor chain had spent a lot of time in salt water and it looked and felt rather cruddy. So, after we were well anchored, I let out all 175 feet of chain so it could soak and rinse off in the fresh water while I gave the anchor locker a good scrub and rinse.
Views of the Appalachian Mountains from our anchorage
Later, I used Bartender’s Friend (a stainless steel cleaner) to spot clean a small number of areas where the salt water had caused some minor rust stains. Afterwards, I polished the shiny stainless with a marine stainless steel polish.
The day was getting good and hot again, so the rest of the time was spent relaxing, reading, taking regular dips in the lake and watching other boats come and go from the anchorage. Bob and Jan from Wings had spent the previous day and overnight in the nearby town of Vergennes and joined us in Converse Bay this afternoon. At one particularly hot point in the day, Fran and I swam some 500 feet over to their boat for a visit and some exercise - and then back to Tug’n.
Magnificent sunset at Converse Bay
Thursday July 20, 2017: Today, we backtracked a short distance to fuel up at Point Bay Marina, who offered a particularly good price on diesel, before we headed off to Burlington, Vermont.
Burlington is the largest city in Vermont with a population of a little over 42,000. It is home to the University of Vermont, Champlain College and Vermont’s largest hospital, the UVM Medical Centre. In 2015, Burlington become the first city in the US to run completely on renewable energy.
The town’s position on the east shore of Lake Champlain helped it develop into a port of entry and centre for trade, particularly after completion of the Champlain Canal in 1823, the Erie Canal in 1825 and the Chambly Canal 1843. Burlington became a bustling lumbering and manufacturing centre.
In 1978, the ice cream enterprise Ben & Jerry’s was founded in Burlington in a renovated gas station and it went on to become a national brand (and one of our favourites).
Wearing my Canada 150 T-Shirt in Burlington
Due to the summer heat and the wonderful cruising area we were in, our stay in Burlington was brief. We spent three hours there, going for lunch at Gaku Ramen to address a need for Asian food, followed by grocery shopping. Then we were off to another anchorage named Willsboro Bay. It is a unique, fjord-like body of water whose western shore has very deep water, matched by very high, rugged cliffs. The southeast end of the bay is almost the only area one can anchor due to its shallower water. It offers a stunning view of the western shoreline and mountains and that alone was reason enough to visit and anchor there for the night. We swam, enjoyed happy hour in the cockpit, followed by a southwest chicken salad for dinner (one of my favourite meals on a hot summer day. The end of another great day that puts a smile on your face when you fall asleep.
A Pilgram 40 Tug at our anchorage
Monday, July 17, 2017
Here is our route covered by this blog post
The Hudson River was inhabited by native hunters and gathers going back nearly 8,000. Archeologists have found sites with artifacts in numerous locations along the river showing evidence of their existence. Some 1,000 to 2,000 years ago, these native groups started cultivating crops including corn, squash, beans and tobacco and they established semi-permanent settlements along the Hudson River.
In the summer of 1609, Samuel de Champlain was exploring the St. Lawrence River. He travelled up the Richelieu River with a party of Algonquins and Hurons, agreeing to help these two tribes in their campaign against their enemy, the Iroquois. For Champlain, providing this support helped secure a fur trade deal. Champlain was the first recorded European to see Lake Champlain.
Meanwhile, British explorer Henry Hudson, in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, was heading up the eastern seaboard from Virginia. There is an absolutely fascinating coincidence here. Less than 2 months after Champlain reached the south end of Lake Champlain, Henry Hudson reached the northern most point of his exploration on the Hudson River, reaching an area now called Albany. These two explorers were less than two days travel apart.
Not only was the Hudson River a heavily travelled route for trade between native tribes and between the native tribes and the French, English and Dutch, it was also the route used for many significant battles including battles between native groups, battles between the English and French for their colonial objectives as well as battles between the colonies and the British as the colonials sought to obtain independence etc.
Heading upstream on the Hudson River, there are many areas where there is no development in sight and it is quite easy to imagine native groups paddling up and down the river, or European explorers making their way up the river in their search for a short cut to Asia. Those who came long before us would be mightily shocked to see how we navigate the river today. Pleasure craft, commercial barges with powerful tugs pushing them along, or the occasional ocean going vessels make their way up and down the river daily.
Sunday July 9, 2017: This morning, after a noisy night at anchor with lots of freight train traffic right next to our anchorage at Stoney Point on the Hudson River, we raised anchor and back tracked a mile to fuel up at Panco Fuel Dock. It is reportedly the best deal for diesel on the river, and indeed, at $2.59 per gallon for our 165 gallon purchase, we were very pleased. Then we continued our upstream trip, aided by a 1 to 1.5 knot tidal current pushing us along.
While underway, approaching the Bear Mountain Bridge, we heard a call on the VHF marine radio to the “three boats approaching Bear Mountain Bridge”. This was a dive boat who seemed to think we were a police boat and they were calling the police to advise they were ready to “dive for the body”. I did a Google query only to discover that this is a very popular bridge for folks to jump from to end their lives. Very sad…
We continued a relatively short distance to Pollepel Island to anchor for the night. This island was made famous by the construction of Bannerman’s Castle in the early 1900’s. An eccentric Scot named Francis Bannerman became a dealer in military surplus. He bought this island on the Hudson and built a castle and other structures on the island to store his growing arsenal of munitions and military equipment.
Business shrank later in the 20th century due to increased government regulations and restrictions. Francis Bannerman died in 1918 and his castle was partially destroyed in 1920 when 200 tons of shells and gun powder exploded in an ancillary building. The property lay vacant for many years, finally being purchased by the State of New York in 1967. The military equipment was all removed and briefly, tours of the island were offered. Fire, vandalism and neglect left the castle in ruins.
However, this island certainly provided an interesting backdrop for our anchorage today. We had a perfectly relaxing afternoon and evening on a glorious summer day.
Monday July 10, 2017: Today we headed a further 29 nautical miles up the Hudson River to Kingston, New York where we took a dock at the Kingston City Marina so we could explore the town. To get there before noon, we left at 0700 hours and had a current against us for a few hours before the flood tide turned in our favour. Surprisingly, there has been very little boat traffic on the Hudson River so far. However, there has been an abundance of train traffic - freight trains on the west side of the river and commuter trains on the east side. One particularly long and impressive freight train had 138 cars and three engines.
Cruising up the Hudson River has been particularly relaxing with the calm water on the river and the backdrop of rolling hills, forests and small communities making for a particularly scenic trip.
In Kingston, we headed to a particularly well rated restaurant with a name that resonated with us - “Ship to Shore”. What an absolutely delightful spot, filled with character, a great menu and friendly, helpful staff. For example, when Jan asked where a post office was so she could mail a letter, our waiter said, just hold on to it for 5 minutes and our postman will be in the restaurant shortly; he will take your letter for you. Sure enough, in a few short minutes a friendly post man was there. The food lived up to its reputation - we absolutely loved it.
Lunch at Ship to Shore
Fran aboard Tug'n in Kingston NY
Later, we explored a small, but interesting Museum of the Hudson River. It had
- loads of information about the geology of the river valley and the impact of the ice age
- history of the original native inhabitants of the valley and how they used it as a resource for their day to day lives
- information on the European explorers who first visited the area
- for more modern history, there were great photos and write ups on the glorious days of the paddle wheeler ships that took wealthy folk on river cruises. These vessels had huge ball rooms, great dining rooms and luxury accommodations and each ship tried to outdo the competition in its offering
- Poughkeepsie was the site of ice boat regattas for many years where the worlds best and fasted met to compete. There was a wonderful video of interviews of older folk who recalled the days of racing along the frozen river trying to keep up to or even pass the commuter trains that could reach speeds of 70 miles per hour
- Great info and pictures of all the Hudson River lighthouses and the women light keepers
It was really quite a marvellous little museum to visit.
Ice boats on the Hudson
Luxury paddle wheelers on the Hudson
Advertisement for luxury paddle wheelers
Next to the museum was a wooden boat building school with a few projects on the go including the refurbishment of the Woodie Guthrie wooden boat.
Woody Guthrie wooden boat restoration
Later, at the patio of a hotel next to the Kingston City Marina, there was a live band playing great Motown music that we really enjoyed. About an hour after they stopped, there was an informal jam session by various musicians including an accordion player, a fiddler, several guitars and a banjo player, in the park right next to the boats. How great is that. This was certainly an entertaining and fun stop.
Some of the lighthouses on the Hudson
An old tug in Kingston
Tuesday July 11, 2017: Today we headed a further 31 nautical miles up the Hudson to the small village of Coxsackie (pronounced cook-sackie). It was a very hot day and we were after some breeze, so we anchored just off the Coxsackie Yacht Club, partially behind an island. The river is getting much narrower now and the places to anchor (so you don’t interfere with river traffic) are becoming few and far between. Shortly we will be entering the Champlain Canal with a height restriction of 17 feet, so after anchoring, we helped Bob and Jan on Wings, to lower their mast. While undertaking this job, we saw our first ocean going ship on the river pass us. It was a lovely and quiet evening at anchor on the river and thankfully we could only faintly hear the train traffic far off in the distance on tracks that were much further away from the river.
Interestingly, all along the Hudson River, there were free pump our facilities (or just a nominal ~$2 fee), much like in Maine. As many of the boats in this area also boat along the Atlantic Coast and may well have been used to discharging waste overboard in the ocean, this is a very welcome service to ensure boaters do the right thing.
Wednesday July 12, 2017: Today we headed to Waterford, a further 27 nautical miles. They is a uniquely located community. Just before Waterford, you pass through the first lock on the Hudson River, at Troy, New York. This is a “controlling lock” that effectively ends any further tides on the Hudson. Just north of this lock, at Waterford, boaters make a decision: head east (turn left) to enter the Erie Canal to make your way to Lake Ontario, or places further east like the Finger Lakes or even as far as Lake Erie. Or, head north (straight ahead), through the Champlain Canal, to Lake Champlain and further on to the Richelieu River and St. Lawrence River.
Most boaters make a point of stopping in Waterford for at least a day. The stop is made even more enticing with free docking, free hydro, free water, washrooms and showers for up to two days. There are nearby grocery stores, good restaurants, places to walk and/or hike. The visitor centre is staffed by volunteers who are a wonderful source of information on all things related to the town. Clearly the program works. Cruising guides and word of mouth keep a steady stream of boaters arriving and they all spend money in the community.
We were greeted by other friendly boaters who helped with our docking lines, including a couple named David and Judy, aboard a 1969 classic, wooden 36’ Grand Banks named “Katherine”. Later, David and Judy joined us aboard Wings for a Happy Hour and a game of Five Crowns, which was great fun. David proved beyond all doubt that this is a game of luck. It was their first time playing and David won the game!
David & Judy aboard Grand Banks "Katherine"
I’d hazard a guess that most boaters visit a quirky restaurant in Waterford named Don & Paul’s. It looks much like it probably did in the 1950’s with an eclectic collection of memorabilia decorating all available wall space. The menu offers a good collection of basic breakfast and lunch items that are available all day long. The food quality is exceptionally good, very generous and unimaginably inexpensive. For example, my very large and delicious omelette and toast was only $3.50. Fran’s Philly Cheese sandwich was $5.00. The restaurant’s primary focus was catering to their local client base and the place was packed with locals who all knew each other. A room near the back of the restaurant had a pool table and a group of six to eight elderly local men were always playing a game. There was a special kind of interaction between the restaurant and their local clientele that added to the fun atmosphere of the place. Visiting here was great fun.
Thursday July 13, 2017: Today was my 65th birthday and it was filled with lots of memorable activities. Best of all was the phone and FaceTime calls with our daughters and some of the grandchildren. I also had many calls and emails from family & friends plus numerous Facebook good wishes throughout the day. We fit in another visit to Don and Paul’s for breakfast - just as fun as yesterday’s visit. Finally, Fran made a magnificent salmon dinner which we shared with Bob and Jan. It was followed by cake and ice cream. There is nothing quite like a gourmet meal on ones own boat to make it a special birthday to remember.
After dinner, we were delighted to see three deer wandering about on the shores of the island, just across the channel from us.
A well maintained Lord Nelson 37' Tug
Friday July 14, 2017: After a relaxing full day and a half in Waterford, we moved on into the Champlain Canal, passing through locks C-1 and C-2, making it a rather short day trip to Mechanicville, New York. These locks on the Champlain Canal are quite a bit bigger than locks on Ontario’s Trent Severn Waterway and Rideau Canals. We were also surprised and delighted that the Champlain and Erie Canal systems were celebrating their 200th anniversary and they were free this season. What a welcome and unexpected bonus.
Mechanicville, from a boater’s perspective, seems to live under the shadow of the very successful Waterford. We did a brief walk about, had a shore lunch and did some banking at the local TD Bank, but that was about it. I think we were the first customers of TD America's Most Convenient Bank, from Canada, to arrive by boat.
We had a quiet evening with a movie and an early night.
This week, I was reminded of folk singer Pete Seeger and the magnificent work he and his wife Toshi did, beginning in 1966, starting Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Inc. Their non-profit organization based in Beacon, New York sought to protect the Hudson River and surrounding wetlands through advocacy and public education. The organization is also known for its sailing vessel, the sloop Clearwater and for its annual music and environmental festival, the Great Hudson River Revival.
Pete Seeger aboard the Clearwater
The Sloop Clearwater
The Clearwater and the Clearwater Festival worked to draw attention to the problem of pollution of the Hudson River. It included mercury contamination and sewage dumping as well as PCB contamination from GE which caused a range of harmful effects to wildlife and people who ate fish from the river or drank the water. Clearwater gained national recognition for its activism starting in the 1970’s, to force a clean-up of the PCB contamination, addressing pesticide run off and much more. Clearwater played a big role in the EPA’s decision to compel the Hudson River’s biggest polluters to remove their toxic wast from the water. In 2002, Peter Seeger was named a “Clean Water Hero” for his prominent efforts in the passage of the Clean Water Act, which has turned out to be one of the most effective environmental laws in United Stages. In 2014, after Pete Seeger’s death, the EPA sited Seeger’s “incredible work” and “his leadership was extraordinary” all of which helped make the Hudson River cleaner. A great man of our time.