Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Locking our way west

We are docked at the canal bulkhead upriver of Lock E-16, in Mindenville, New York (map), just west of St. Johnsville. We are now about 322 feet above sea level, and have come 71 statute miles since entering the canal at Waterford.

Friday after I posted here we put our new folding E-bike on the dock and I went for a spin through downtown Schenectady and the Stockade area near the river. The city is struggling to reinvent itself, with mixed results, but I enjoyed taking it all in. This is really the first time I did anything more than a test ride on the E-bike and I was very happy with how it ran.

The historic City Hall in Schenectady.

We bought this bike back in Fort Lauderdale to replace a pair of very clunky full-size foldable mountain bikes, which we bought so we could have wheels in places where we had to get ashore by tender. They worked for that purpose, but, in practice, were so hard to load and unload that we seldom deployed them. After five years with them, Louise decided she was done riding, and I wanted something much easier to load and unload from the dink.

We returned to downtown together in the evening aboard the free trolley, the one which was not running the previous evening. After a brief stroll around town we had a nice dinner at local favorite Johnny's. The return trolley let us off at the casino, where we turned $20 in free play into nearly that much in cash before returning to the boat.

Jay Street in downtown Schenectady, now a pedestrian mall. Johnny's was at the end of the block.

While we were at the marina we enjoyed meeting Rev and Sam aboard Here's to Us, and Julie and Jim aboard The Journey. We have seen both boats a couple of times since; the Great Loop cruise is known for that. Both boats are faster than Vector and soon will leave us behind.

Saturday morning we dropped lines and continued west, locking up through four more locks before stopping for the day at the free canal bulkhead at Lock 11, west of Amsterdam, New York (map). This bulkhead has three power pedestals, each with 50 and 30 amp electric services, and is a short walk across the train tracks to the nicest restaurant in Amsterdam, Russo's, which will celebrate its centennial next year. We checked in with the lockmaster before tying up, and he told us to ask if we needed anything; the NY Canal system is very accommodating to pleasure boaters.

Approaching Lock and Dam 8, the first of many "removable" dams on the river. What looks like a truss bridge is really just the dam support. Water constantly pours through gaps between pans.

I once again took advantage of the E-bike and rode the mile or so back to the town of Amsterdam, first weaving around the goose droppings littering the bulkhead. Unlike Schenectady, the downtown here is dying on the vine, with only a billiards bar and a couple of sad looking shops along the main street. In stark contrast to that, however, the city has plowed millions into a waterfront park between the train tracks and the river.

Access to the park is via a footbridge from a shopping plaza frozen in time somewhere in the 70s. But the park itself is a modern and pleasant space, and includes a boat landing along the bulkhead with power and water. Not wanting to pay $1 per foot for the privilege, we had passed right by it in the boat, opting for the free dock at the lock instead.

Vector at the Lock 11 bulkhead, with the lock and dam in the background. We tied to the large bollards designed for barges; one fore and one aft. Even though there are three pedestals, we had the place to ourselves.

The park includes a brand new pedestrian bridge over the river, which provides access to a handful of restaurants on the south bank, as well as a few historic buildings from the early canal era and the old armory, now a boutique hotel. I stopped at the dock and chatted again with The Journey, and met Jim from Keokuk.

The Amsterdam Castle across the river, now a boutique hotel.

I learned later that around 10:30 that night, some youths smashed a few beer bottles against one of the moored boats and untied its lines, setting it adrift in the river. Nothing serious happened, but the crew were hopping mad with both the perpetrators, and the police who seemed unwilling to do anything about it. Having gotten zero traction on three stolen scooters, I know how they feel. In any case, we were glad to have been somewhat out of town at the other dock, where we had a pleasant stroll to an excellent Italian meal at Russo's.

Downtown Amsterdam, dying on the vine.

Yesterday was a short day, through three more locks to another bulkhead, at Lock 14 in Palatine Bridge, New York (map), across from the bustling metropolis of Canajoharie. The latter has a free dock with power pedestals at a city park right downtown, which we again passed right by. In this case it was because what we needed was really on the other side of the river, and that was motor oil and waste oil recycling.

This VW across from Vector, set atop an obsolete smokestack outside of Amsterdam, advertises a repair business that is itself defunct.

We were right at oil change time on the main engine, and just a few hours shy on the generator, and when I had scanned the charts back in NYC, it looked like there was a NAPA auto parts just a short walk from the bulkhead here. As we were approaching town, however, we learned that they had moved and were now a mile away, across from the grocery store, of which we also had need.

When the locks close the river gets calm. Sunset from Lock 11.

I had expected to take the E-bike across the river to check out the downtown, and also to the grocery store to pick up some essentials, but the oil was not something I could carry on the bike. We briefly discussed using our folding hand truck to schlep the oil back and forth, but soon decided that putting a scooter on the ground would not only simplify the oil and grocery problems, but also let us both get across the river for dinner in town. And so after we locked through, I spun the boat around and we tied to the bulkhead on our port side, facing the lock.

It's gosling season, and we've had several families as neighbors.

Landing the scooter meant first raising the mast -- the spreader in the lowered position prevented the scooter from being lifted off the deck. But the winch made quick work of it and we had the scooter down on the bulkhead in short order. I made a solo excursion across the river to explore historic Canajoharie, and then stopped at the Price Chopper on my way home and filled the entire grocery list, including some heavy and bulky items we would have skipped without the scooter. NAPA was closed Sunday so that errand would have to wait.

Shades of our former life. On our way to Lock 14 we passed this TA truckstop off I-90 complete with restaurant and service shop. Would have been a great place to get oil, but the only dock nearby was too shallow.

We made our way back across the river two-up at dinner time and had a casual meal at Mercato restaurant. Italian is the dominant cuisine in this part of the state. We briefly walked around the historic canal area near the old Beech-Nut plant before dinner. Afterwards, we returned to the lock and parked the scooter on the bulkhead next to the boat for the night.

Our view of Lock 14. Little ramp to the left is how we got the scooter to the road.

The bulkhead here is very close to the double-track CSX mainline, and since there is a grade crossing at the access road for the lock, trains in both directions are sounding their horns. Train horns don't bother us, but many cruisers find them disturbing; we had the dock to ourselves for the night. The trains were just a bit farther away at Lock 11; interestingly we saw only freights there, but here we also saw several Amtrak trains.

This family of goslings, our neighbors at Lock 14, has sadly lost a parent.

Yesterday morning I rode the scooter over to the NAPA and picked up seven gallons of oil, in the form of one five-gallon pail and two individual gallons. The pail fit on the floorboards, but only on its side, which made me just a tad nervous. The other two gallons rode in the trunk.

I put the new oil in the engine using the same pump that extracts the old. Thus this "710" inlet is used only to add make-up 710. Uh, OIL.

Changing the oil and filters in both engines took most of the morning. After lunch I loaded the roughly eight gallons of used oil in three large containers on the scooter floorboards and road them over to the nearby auto transmission shop, who gladly took them to burn in their waste oil furnace. I was glad to be able to do the whole process, from purchase through disposal, at a single stop and not have to have extra oil aboard during the cruise. I'll replenish the supply of spare oil and filters at another stop.

Locking through 15 behind Independence, the only Nordy we've seen on the canals.

With everything done by 1pm, we decided to drop lines and move a little further along the canal. Two more lock-throughs brought us here, to the free wall west of lock 16, just a bit west of St. Johnsville. We passed several loopers tied up at the $1/foot municipal dock there, including Here's to Us whom we met earlier, as well as the Nordhavn 59 Coastal Pilot Independence, whom we had met in Charleston and with whom we locked through at lock 15.

Just west of Lock 15 we spotted some tents along the bulkhead; the Canal system allows camping at several of the locks, to accommodate the numerous hikers and bicyclists traveling the Canalway Heritage Trail. We also spotted an Amish family enjoying the park and fishing, their horse and buggy parked nearby. There are, apparently, several Amish settlements here along the Mohawk River valley.

Amish fishing at Lock 15, with their buggy nearby.

We locked through Lock 16, which diverted us away from the Mohawk in order to take us around the falls at Little Falls, one more lock upstream of here. Another few Amish families were enjoying the lock park, and the children came over to watch us lock up. We tied up here on the south bulkhead, where we spotted a lone 50-amp power outlet. It's been cool enough overnight to run the heat, and it's great to have the power when we want it.

Our audience for our lock-through.

Both the trains and the highway are farther away here, so it is much quieter. Instead we were serenaded all afternoon and evening by ... a fish. It sounded for all the world like someone was using a driver-drill outside the hull, with the buzzing sound those make when the screw is fully tightened and the clutch releases. I dubbed it the Makita Fish. Louise looked it up; it's actually the Freshwater Drum Fish, and the sound is much more persistent than the salt water varieties we're used to hearing.

We've seen several horse rails at lock parks, for trail riders. None here so these buggy horses (left) are hitched to the pole guys.

Tonight's planned destination is another lock wall, in Little Falls, just seven miles (and one tall lock) from here. Since it's been raining on and off since our arrival yesterday afternoon, it seemed like a good time to take the morning off and update the blog. In a short while we will drop lines for Lock 17.

1 comment:

  1. As we are preparing for our boat trip; I think about you guys and your journey through the Great Lakes. I hope you LOVE our waters. I was looking through the Notice to Mariners, not sure of your timing going north; but the only things that would probably affect you would be the Boat races. Both in the Detroit and St Clair River. They close the rivers to navigation. Those dates should be in the NtoM. I think July? You will most likely be a lot farther north at that point. If you have any questions about an area; please ask. I would love to help.


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