Thursday, July 4, 2024

Back in the Great Lakes after 50,000 nautical miles

Happy Independence day, everyone. We are under way across the southeast corner of Lake Ontario, en route to Cape Vincent, New York, and the start of the Thousand Islands region. The lake is glassy, with a gentle one-foot swell on our port beam. It was calm enough when we left Oswego that we once again opted to raise the mast underway, rather than drop the hook in the outer harbor.

What 50,000 nautical miles looks like on the chart.

Last Wednesday was errand day in Amsterdam, and we raised the mast, deployed the crane, and put both scooters on the ground. I had carefully planned out how to fit two 5-gallon pails of motor oil on my floorboards, and as I prepared to head off to Walmart to go get them... the scooter would not start. After lots of fiddling I diagnosed it as a dead battery, and even with a jump it was too weak to keep the bike running.

Damage to the snubber from the tree episode in Coxsackie. I will replace this today.

Not wanting to fritter away the entire errand day working on scooter problems, I measured Louise's floorboards and determined I could get the oil on that, so off I went. She was out of fuel so I filled it up at the Sunoco on my way to the store. I texted her that I had put 1.6 gallons in, and she reported back that the bike has a maximum 1.1 gallon tank. Hmm.

Louise obeying the signs.

The only thing worse than being ripped off at the pump for fuel is getting bad fuel at the same pump, and a short time later the bike sputtered to a stop. To shorten the story, I nursed it through all the day's errands with a lot of extra throttle at stoplights, but it appears I will need to drain the tank and fill with fresh fuel and a dose of carb cleaner. I made it to UPS, Home Depot, and two separate Walmart runs.

One of the canal's snag-collecting barges, and snags already offloaded ashore. Dodging these is a daily occurrence.

That second Walmart run was supposed to be Louise's, but it died on her halfway up the big hill to the store. She turned around, coasted back downhill, and gave the infernal thing to me. In the meantime my battery had charged up down in the engine room during my first outing, so she took my more reliable steed and I rode ahead of her on hers. With two of us, we were able to fill out the provisioning list. We ended the day with a nice dinner on board. Unlike the previous night, when we were all alone, tonight there were three other boats with us.

Vector and her mate at Lock 14, Palatine Bridge NY.

Thursday we had conference calls scheduled in the afternoon, and so we made it a short day to Palatine Bridge, a familiar stop, where we tied up at the upper guide wall of lock E-14 (map). I attended to the somewhat overdue main engine oil change, and I also changed the heat exchanger anodes. I ended up having to pull both end caps off the exchanger to clean out bits of old anode and other debris; I found some scale partly occluding the stabilizer cooling supply, so it's good I took the end cap off.

Vegetation hanging from this "guard gate" looked like it was going to graze Vector's top. It just cleared.

Just by sheer coincidence, we arrived at lock E-14 exactly as our odometer ticked past 50,000 nautical miles since we bought the boat. I was keenly aware of this because we needed to "catch up" our odometer by nine nautical miles, the result of instrument issues over the last 10k miles, and so I was watching it tick up to 9,991 so I could reset it to zero when it crossed. While that might not sound like a lot -- a modern automobile is hardly middle-aged by 50,000 miles -- on the water, it's a ton.

Lock 17, Little Falls. Tallest on the canal.

Friday we ran the gauntlet of big locks, including E-17 in Little Falls, the tallest on the system, with Lock E-19 finally depositing us in the vicinity of Utica, where we once again encountered the shallowest stretch on the canals. Last time through we plowed the mud for a hundred yards not long after coming out of the lock; this time we were just grazing the bottom, but we did manage to hit an enormous log that was apparently embedded in the bottom, popping it up behind us like an enormous tiddlywink. Surprisingly, hitting a log that big on the bottom does not sound much different from hitting a concrete wall.

This little tug lives at Lock 20 and we remember it from our first visit.

We were locking up through E-20 right at 5pm, and we stopped for the night on the upper guide wall (map), not far from where we stayed on our first time through, five years ago. Long-time readers may remember I was in downtown Utica when a tug and barge arrived to lock down, leaving Louise scrambling to possibly move the boat on her own. The tug ultimately made it past Vector just where she was. This time, there were two other boats even closer to the lock than we were. Little did we know that tragedy was unfolding just two miles away, as a Utica police officer shot a 13-year-old who had pointed a very realistic toy gun at him.

Vector at Lock 20, tucked up next to a deck barge with snags on it.

The upper pool between E-20 and E-21 is the "top of the hill" for our journey, an elevation of 420' above sea level, and it would all be downhill from here. Saturday's leg brought us down through two more locks and to the summer vacation hot-spot of Sylvan Beach, on the eastern end of Lake Oneida. Normally we would dread ending up here on a Saturday, and both of our previous Saturday arrivals landed us at just about the worst spot on the bulkheads, across the channel in Verona Beach and exposed to the fetch of the lake. But today was cold and rainy all day, the amusement park was closed, and we snagged the perfect spot at the east end of the north bulkhead (map). We did get drenched, though, docking in the pouring rain.

Top of the hill. Yes, there is tent camping at these lock parks.

As it happened, the rain was mostly done, down to just an occasional sprinkle, by dinner time, and we walked to the closest joint, the Crazy Clam, for dinner. They have a phalanx of draft handles, and I got my fix of the Utica-region staple, chicken riggies. After dinner I had a pleasant walk around town, with the rain now done, and I scoped out breakfast and dinner options for a possible second day, with the lake forecast to be uncomfortable on Sunday, and me needing a down day to organize Coast Guard paperwork.

Vector at Sylvan Beach. Power cat in the foreground was moving quite a bit, being just that much closer to the lake.

As it happened, the morning forecast improved overnight, but westerlies would likely push lake chop right up the canal in the afternoon, and so we dropped lines after morning coffee and made our way across the lake, pushing against short-period two footers that were more annoying than uncomfortable. At least all the spray coming over the bow was fresh and not salt. We were in Brewerton before 1pm, and we could easily have continued to Phoenix, except I had Amazon packages coming to a locker in Brewerton, where we had expected to be on Monday.

We have seen many ducklings on this trip. These are in Brewerton.

We tied up to the free bulkhead north of the canal (map), a familiar spot, which is technically in the community of Central Square. Unlike our last visit, this time we found the 50-amp power outlet to be working, and we ran 100' of cable down the dock to plug in. I still had most of the afternoon to work on my paperwork, which has to do with renewing my Merchant Mariner Credential. We were not far from here when my original credential arrived in the mail five years ago. We walked a block east to Jakes for a casual dinner and draft beer, and I ended up hoofing it a mile to the Amazon locker in the evening when one of two packages arrived. The other was delayed to July 2, so I waved it off.

Lots of Loopers in Brewerton, but they all stopped at the marinas. We had the free dock mostly to ourselves.

Just as on our last two passes, after dropping lines Monday morning we traveled just a mile to Winter Harbor marina to take on fuel. Unlike on those visits, we're planning to come right back through here in a month, and so we only topped up the center tank, a bit over 100 gallons. We also took on water and pumped out our waste tank. We were passing Phoenix by mid-day, and we stopped for the night at a familiar spot on the wall in Fulton, between locks O-2 and O-3 (map).

In addition to the birthplace of Nestlé Crunch and Toll House Morsels, Fulton was also home to Hunter Arms, nowadays mostly known for ceiling fans. Industry here was powered by the dammed Oswego Falls.

Fulton was another two-night errand stop, and it proved more than up to the need. I was able to squeeze in a follow-up eye appointment for the scare I had a month ago, get a drug test for my CG license renewal, and finish the provisioning at the Aldi and the Price Chopper in town. I also stopped at two hardware stores, and the Amazon locker for the item they somehow could not deliver to Brewerton. I got rid of five (of seven) gallons of used motor oil, and mailed off the oil sample. We ate at Mama Gina's pizza, just so-so but they had draft beer, and Tavern on the Lock, which was good and we remembered from last time.

We woke this morning to glass calm on the canal, a stark contrast to the roar of the rapids just the other side of a thin concrete barrier.

Wednesday morning we walked to the Dollar General, just a block from the boat, for a couple of last-minute items before dropping lines for the short trip down through four more locks to Oswego, where we tied to our usual spot along the free wall just before the final lock, O-8 (map). We're short one wireless smoke detector, which nobody seems to carry any longer, and after striking out in Amsterdam and Fulton I took the e-bike down to Walmart and Tractor Supply for one last try, but still no dice. Amazon carries them but will not deliver to a locker. We walked over to Azteca for dinner, which was OK for being a long way from Mexico.

It's almost impossible to capture sea state in a photo, but this was Lake Ontario for the first half of today's cruise.

This morning was The Day for a lake crossing, and we dropped lines to make the first lockage at 8am. We have our sights set on Cape Vincent because there are two docks and a backup option there, and it appears there will be no fireworks or other shenanigans there tonight to interfere. I enjoy fireworks, but the navigation restrictions can be a challenge.

Below our fenders here you can see the concrete outcropping on the seawall; we needed to be sure the fenders were fat enough to hold us off.

Update: We are in Cape Vincent, New York, tied up to the harbor breakwall (map). This is a concrete wall that rises vertically 25' from the sea floor; there is a small "step" just at the water line that required careful fendering before we came alongside. We arrived to the harbor to find our "secret" spot on the fisheries pier occupied by our friends April and Paul on their lovely Dutch canal boat Parnassia. The other dock was also full so we came here. I have a skirt steak marinating for dinner aboard, but I might drop the tender and go over to say hello later.

Vector tied to the harbor breakwall. There are harbor entrances at both ends; this wall is not connected to shore. We're tied to two bollards that are further apart than Vector is long.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Back in fresh water

We are under way northbound on the Hudson River, making good time toward the start of the Erie Canal. Once in the canal I won't be able to type under way and so I am taking advantage of this last stretch of relatively open water (the Hudson is wide and deep) to get this update out. [Update: I didn't make it. We're already in the canal and I am wrapping up here in Amsterdam, New York.]

Vector and her reflection at tonight's digs, the canal bulkhead at Erie Canal Lock 11.

Tuesday after I posted here, seas finally settled in the last few miles before the cape. We pressed against the current through the Cape May Canal, high tide making the sometimes skinny transit more comfortable. We arrived late enough in the day that we found the anchorage mostly full, but with lots of experience here we squeezed in behind a green channel marker (map) and had the hook down before 5:30.

Sunset from our Cape May anchorage. That's a looper in the foreground.

Right across the channel from this spot is a restaurant with a dock, which has become something of a regular landing for us. On this visit we were surprised to learn the Harborview closed since our visit just last fall and literally re-opened under new owners and a new name, Port Marina, the day we arrived. Only the deck, completely renovated, has re-opened, while the inside spaces are still being refurbished. The soft opening was just a day earlier and they are still going through some teething pains, but the refresh is welcome, even if the new menu is higher-zoot, with prices to match.

We took a brief walk after dinner, past the parking lot, packed for the grand opening, and sticking our noses into the very casual H&H Seafood stand next door, an option for dinner on a future stop. Wednesday morning I took the tender a mile and a half to the boat ramp in town, hoofed it a half mile to the Wawa for a half gallon of milk, and then dropped into Sea Gear Marine, a well-stocked chandlery that caters to the local fishing fleet. Louise had pre-ordered a pair of A-4 fenders for our upcoming locking extravaganza, and by sheer lucky Sea Gear had the best price nationwide, with the bonus of not having to pay shipping.

We found these arch bridges under construction at the port of Coeymans. They'll be taken by river to their installation site.

We got lucky and the forecast improved over night, and we made ready to weigh anchor at the 9am start of the ebb. Part of my start-up procedure is to transfer the day's fuel into the day tank, and less than five gallons into the transfer, the transfer pump system stopped, complaining of a plugged filter. No problem, I carry a spare, so we should be back in business in just a few minutes. Ha.

I could not find the little plastic loop atop the filter that is normally used to remove it, and after poking around and shining a flashlight in there I learned it had disintegrated, with little bits of plastic all over the filter media. When I finally managed to pull it out by the pleats, I found more disintegration, involving the gasket, underneath. I ended up having to disassemble the separator bowl and clean the whole assembly out before I could put the new filter in. We did not get the anchor weighed until 10:15, an hour after we started.

Some of the current we fought today. This is not a bridge; the trusses pull the dam below them up and well out of the water after navigation season ends, so the Mohawk can flow unimpeded in the winter.

We had such perfect conditions offshore that we were very tempted to continue past Absecon Inlet and run all the way to Barnegat Light. But the late start meant we'd be hunting for anchorage there right at sunset, and in such a tight area with hazards all around, that's a recipe for trouble, and so we stuck to an Atlantic City stopover. We were dropping the hook in our usual spot (map) before 4pm.

Gardner's Basin has re-opened since our last visit, although we can't tell what "improvements" were made -- they appear to be the same dilapidated docks, gates, and ramps -- the dock-and-dine policy is still in force. So we landed there and walked over to the Back Bay Ale House, an old favorite of ours, for dinner and excellent local drafts; the lobster and shrimp roll was particularly good. While the rest of the northeast is in the grip of a heat wave, it was pleasant enough to sit on the patio; in fact it was a downright chilly 60° when we left Cape May.

Faded sign at Gardners Basin. The wait staff gives you the gate code.

We had figured to be pinned down in Atlantic City for a few days, but we decked the tender when we got back from dinner, "just in case." When Louise got up in the morning to check the weather, she judged it to be just within limits, and she roused me for an early start. We weighed anchor on the ebb at 7:10 and had decent conditions for the first half of the trip. Seas started building in the latter part of the day, but we nevertheless bypassed bailout options at Manasquan and Shark River inlets to make it all the way to Sandy Hook.

One of the things I did while we were under way offshore was to work on planning routes, fuel requirements and stops, including the tide and current timing for the portion of the trip up to Troy, New York. I also worked on planning errands that we need to get done before reaching the Great Lakes, which includes groceries, ten gallons of motor oil for changes on the main and gen now due, an eye doctor appointment, and the upcoming renewal for my Merchant Mariner Credential. There are not a lot of places between NYC and Oswego with access to services; I finally determined we'd have to run most of our errands in Amsterdam, New York.

This sign on the lock a short walk from where we are docked gives the stats.

We had dinner in the pilothouse just before making our inbound turn into the Sandy Hook Channel. Rounding the hook, the air temperature went from 70° on the Atlantic side to 80° on the Raritan Bay side, and the water temperature likewise jumped from 67° to 74°. We had the anchor down in a familiar spot just west of Sandy Hook Light (map) by 6:15. There's a bit of rocking here from the wakes of the high speed ferries, which pass about a half mile away, but they tail off and stop for the night.

From here at the southern reach of New York Harbor all the way to the Federal Lock at Troy it is a game of playing the tides. The difference for us between running on a fair tide or an adverse one is literally as much as a factor of two in boat speed over ground, from a little more than 4.5 knots to a little less than 9. Getting it wrong can mean many more hours at the helm, and a lot more diesel fuel to go the same distance.

Vector at Lock 11 Park. We have the place to ourselves.

I very carefully plotted a fair tide transit all the way from Sandy Hook to our next stop at Dyckman Landing at the upper end of Manhattan, and Friday morning we weighed anchor right at 7:40 to have fair tide at both ends. But as Burns wrote, the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley. This time, for a happy reason, rather than yet another setback.

A friend of ours is a tugboat skipper here in NY harbor, and I've been stalking him on AIS, mostly in the hopes of just waving at him in passing and maybe snapping a couple of photos. As we came up through the narrows I was lamenting that we had just missed him crossing the harbor by an hour; his boat was already back at base and out of our line of sight. We texted back and forth a little and he was watching us on AIS.

Vector steaming up the Gowanus Canal. Photo: Tim B.

When we were within spitting distance he reached out to ask if we needed to offload any trash or take on any fresh water, and as it happened we had just been discussing earlier in the day where we might next find a place to take on water. We had to hem and haw a bit, because diverting to have just a quick visit while he was between assignments and take on water meant losing our fair tide, but when we realized he was really looking forward to seeing us, and his chief engineer was as well, we decided to just make that our gig for the day.

Captain Tim takes our lines.

We had a really great time catching up with Tim, and meeting Keith the engineer, who wanted a tour of Vector (we had Tim aboard when we were in the boatyard), and paid particular attention to the engine room. That seems like a busman's holiday to me, but we were tickled to have them aboard. We got a full tank of water, with the 200 or so gallons we added lost in the noise level of the 8,600 gallons they had aboard. The only trash we needed to offload was the old scooter tire, and we all joked about them using it as a tugboat fender, but we forgot to leave it behind when we pulled away.

The happy looks of a serendipitous get-together.

As we were pulling back out into the harbor we were inundated with Sécurité calls on channel 13 about "foiling sail catamarans" pulling out of Liberty Landing and running race patterns between Liberty/Ellis Islands and Governors Island -- practice day for the New York Sail GP. A tugboat called in to Vessel Traffic to ask if they could get through and were basically told they'd have to go around. We looked at the prospect of having to give way to sailboats traveling at 30mph and decided we, too, would go around, and so we pushed our way up the Buttermilk Channel to the East River and then turned west to The Battery, missing the sailing entirely before continuing up the Hudson.

Distant shot of high-speed sailing cats and some statue.

The adverse tide meant it took a full two hours to make it from The Battery to Dyckman Landing, our planned stop north of the George Washington Bridge. We had the anchor down in our usual spot, across the river in Anchorage 17 (map), around 2pm. We usually have this side of the river to ourselves, but today we spotted a couple of boats doing the Great Loop anchored a half mile upriver of us. We're in the tail end of the "Loop wad" and we've been leapfrogging with the same loop boats since somewhere in Florida.

With our "free air conditioning" long astern of us, we enjoyed air conditioning aboard until dinner time, when we splashed the tender and headed across to Manhattan. We paid the $3/ft, four-hour "dock and dine" rate at the marina, saving five bucks over the daily $35 dinghy landing fee, dropped off our trash, and had a slow walk in the heat to Tryon Public House, our local favorite in the neighborhood, for dinner and drafts.

Six-story bird condo. There are occupied nests on every level. Mid-Hudson.

While we were at dinner we noticed it was getting a little breezy, which was welcome cooling as we walked a few blocks after dinner to the local grocery, Fine Fare. Coming back out of the store we were confronted with blow-your-hat-off wind, not a good sign. It did not abate on our walk back to the dock, where we found the Hudson a choppy mess, with winds out of the north at around 25kt, in opposition to the incoming tide.

We got in the dinghy, headed out into the river, and promptly made an about-face. We retreated to a park bench at the marina to check the weather forecast and maybe wait it out, but the forecast now said the wind would not lay down until 11pm. We opted to wait for an apparent lull in the worst of it and then made a run for it. By mid-river I was manhandling the tender through steep three-footers, and it took nearly ten minutes to cover the half mile back to Vector, as I had to angle away at better than 45° to take the waves on the starboard bow rather than the beam. Things were a lot better on the west shore, and the downwind leg back to the boat was better, with the waves behind us. We pressed the ratty life vests we keep in the dinghy into service for the trip.

Harvest moon rising over The Cloisters, with the George Washington Bridge.

I was soaked through when we got home, but we made it safely. Fortunately, the river was unseasonably warm, at 80°. As forecast, the wind laid down at 11pm, and shortly thereafter the river was flat calm. We would have had a nice ride home if we had just walked next door to Hudsons and danced to Latin music for four hours, but I'm not sure our ears could handle it. We heard the music all night a half mile across the river.

I like this view of the Manhattan skyline under the bridge. The river is calm now.

We had a comfortable night and awoke to a calm river Saturday morning. We decked the tender and weighed anchor at the turn of the tide, which gave us a fair tide all the way to Poughkeepsie. We dropped the hook in a new spot for us, in the alluvium in a small indentation on the west bank, south of the bridges (map). This is right across the river from Shadows marina and restaurant, where we stayed a couple of years ago, and we figured to splash the tender and head across to dinner. But as we were setting the hook, weather alerts were coming in for severe thunderstorms, and, mindful of our experience the night before, we opted to just eat aboard.

Our consolation prize for thunderstorms pinning us on the boat.

We had to run the generator for some air conditioning in the evening, and Louise went into the engine room to pop some clothes in the dryer. That's when she noticed the washing machine tub full to the brim with clean water -- a mystery. Either the machine is doing something wonky, or she unknowingly had pulled all the wash out between the spin and the rinse cycles. On the chance the last load had never been rinsed, she stuffed it all into the full tub and ran it through to the end of the rinse cycle. We could detect a slight smell of burnt rubber, pointing to more issues with the drive belt.

This carnival was going on right next door to Shadows restuarant.

We woke Sunday morning to a calm river, the storms having passed through almost unnoticeably, and I used the couple of hours before the turn of the tide to open up the washer and have a look, while Louise ran a small load of rags through. I did not solve the mystery of the full drum, but the drive wheel is wobbling, probably the sign of a failing bearing, and that's the likely culprit for the belt wear. I'll need to take it all apart to even know what parts to order.

20' or so log in the Hudson near Hyde Park. I steered around it.

We again were able to ride the fair tide for the whole day, dodging a passel of sailboats in Kingston and stopping just before dinner time in a new spot for us, behind Coxsackie Island near the eponymous town (map). We immediately dropped the tender and headed in to the Reed Street Historic District in the town of Coxsackie, which provides free visitor docks, and walked to Che Figata for a nice Italian dinner. The food was good and they have nice drafts, but we should have skipped the cake, which was too heavy and a bit stale. We raced home just as the rain was starting. The forecast storm, which had us in the anchorage rather than the very flimsy visitor docks for the night, never materialized.

Lock controls for the downstream gate here at Lock 11.

Sometime around 9:15pm we noticed a lot of clunking from the anchor chain, and when we went up front it was hitting the boat. This is strange, as normally it is hanging straight down due to our snubber arrangement. We spent about an hour fiddling with varying amounts of chain slack, maneuvering the boat, and pulling the chain in until the snubber was above the water, and still we could not figure it out. We finally concluded that the chain slack was being dragged into the boat by the strong current as the boat was horsing in the moderately strong wind, picked an amount of slack that would minimize the clunking, and called it a night. We knew we already had come chain rash from the episode.

There was no way to have any fair tide on the final leg from Coxsackie to Troy, but we knew we'd have less adverse current with a later start, and so we went ashore in the morning for the walk around town that we missed on account of the rain. We stopped in to the cute Coxsackie General Store, which is true to its name inasmuch as they stock several essentials and have refrigerated cases of dairy, vegetables, and other groceries, but in a space that is more boutique than c-store. We shared one of their breakfast burritos.

Fresh veggies at the boutique General Store. Other cases had dairy, frozen foods, and beer.

We came home and decked the tender for the final time until Lake Ontario, and then rigged up the winch and lowered the mast for our transit through the canals. The process of lowering the mast and adjusting all the antennas and electronics took 45 minutes, after which it was time to leave and we started weighing anchor. And that's when we learned what the problem was with the chain: we had wrapped it around a very large tree, which the 2,300-lb windlass dragged through the muddy bottom and heaved up to the surface. Fortunately, in nearly two knots of current, the anchor was still firmly set when the tree broke the surface.

Our chain wrapped around a tree branch. Not visible: the other 20' of trunk, below the surfaces alongside our hull.

With the dinghy now not easily accessible, the simplest solution of going out there with the reciprocating saw and hacking the tree to pieces was unappealing. Instead we managed to get a line with a chain hook onto the chain below the obstruction, and using the windlass and a boat pole we were able to worry it out of the loop of chain with the help of the current. The whole ordeal took about 25 minutes and then we were off. We should have known better the night before: when the boat is moving funny at anchor, always weigh the anchor completely to find the cause.

Our anchor plot. Top is normal, bottom mess is indicative of wrapping something.

Even with the late start and the current against us, we made it all the way upriver through the Troy Federal Lock and onto the start of the Erie Canal, stopping for the night at the free bulkhead in Waterford, New York (map). We were tied up just as the rain was ending for the day, and we walked to dinner at McGreivey's pub. They had a nice selection of drafts and the server was friendly, but the food leaves much to be desired. Waterford is something of a wasteland when it comes to dining.

The tree episode, mast work, and driving had taken its toll, and I did not drag myself out of bed until quarter to eight this morning. Thus I was mid-coffee when the first batch of boats was lining up for the opening of the locks at 8am. We looked at the line of boats and the lock emptying at 8:05 and decided we had just enough time to start engines, drop lines, and make the first lockage for the "Waterford flight" of five locks.

In the conga line for the 8am lockage at the start of the Erie Canal.

And so it is that tonight finds us at the bulkhead on the upper pool at Lock E-11 in Amsterdam, New York (map), a familiar stop. There are pedestals here with 50-amp power, whose voltage is so marginal that we're having to do power management, but it's hard to complain about free. We were tied up just before dinner time, and we walked over to Russo's Grill, a local Italian joint that we remember fondly from our last visit.

Russo's has been here forever, and is the only joint near the lock.

Today's cruise brought us through ten locks, which, with no waiting at any of them, we transited in record time. My log shows we spent less than three hours locking and another five and a half hours under way. We're now at 267.4' above sea level, courtesy of the power of the Mowhawk River.

Vector approaching Lock 10. Photo: Joshua R.

We'll be here two nights, with tomorrow being an errand day. We need to raise the mast so we can put the scooters on the ground -- the first run for mine since the great tire replacement debacle. I have two five-gallon pails of motor oil waiting for me, and we need provisions, hardware, and a UPS store. Now that we're here, we can relax the pace a little, and I expect it to take another week to reach Lake Ontario from here.

Tonight's sunset over the upper pool at Lock 11.


Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Headed to Joisey

We are under way southbound on Delaware Bay, bound for Cape May, New Jersey. As I begin typing we have about a knot of current behind us, but we also have 16 knots of wind on the nose, pushing the seas up into a frothy mess and making for a splashy ride.

Sunday's sunset over the Chesapeake City Bridge, from the anchorage basin.

Wednesday we had the anchor down in a new-to-us spot in the West River (map), near Galesville Maryland, by 3pm. It was definitely a quiet and protected spot, much more so than our usual digs in Annapolis. We splashed the tender and headed to the town dock at dinner time, walking next door to the Pirates Cove Restaurant and Dock Bar for dinner. They have their own dock as well, but we wanted to check out the town wharf for future reference.

We were expecting the typical waterfront fried-seafood tiki bar experience, but the place turned out to be more upscale than that, and we enjoyed our meal on the deck of the main dining room. The "dock bar" with the same menu is on the other side of the building and has more of the tiki bar vibe. After dinner we had a nice walk through town, but there's not much here. One other waterfront restaurant is a short distance away, but the liquor/general store seems to be permanently closed.

Just outside the Galesville Town Wharf we found this propeller garden.

We had to work our way around the Wednesday night sailboat races on our way home, but after that it was quiet. All in all, it was a comfortable alternative to Annapolis for weather or timing and we've made note of that for the future. Thursday morning we weighed anchor with the tide for the short run to Annapolis, with the forecast deteriorating into the afternoon.

Sunset on the West River.

Winds were forecast to be out of the south, and we figured we'd be OK in our usual spot in the south anchorage. But seas following us in and an an absence of other boats there were not good signs. We dropped the hook (map) just to test the waters, so to speak, but it was untenable, and we weighed before even setting the snubber. We knew that in high season, the limited anchorages up Spa Creek and Back Creek would be full to the brim, and the weather out on the bay was already too snotty to want to go back out.

With few options, we turned instead up the Severn, along the eastern edge of the United States Naval Academy, and steamed upriver to Weems Creek, a new anchorage for us. I held little hope there would be any room; a good part of the creek is full of hurricane moorings belonging to the Academy, and a handful of private moorings. Much to our surprise, we found only two other boats already anchored, and we worked our way into the creek to just shy of the USNA moorings before dropping the hook (map).

Honda has substituted this flange bolt for the pan head one I removed; that's what's left of the anode stuck to it. I had to call the dealer to make sure I had the right part.

Conditions out on the bay and in the harbor notwithstanding, Weems creek is very protected, and it was calm enough to get some work done. I spun the tender around on deck to install the parts I had picked up in Solomons. That included new spark plugs, the internal engine anode, and new gaskets for the water jacket cover and thermostat.

New anode installed and cooling passages cleaned up a bit.

The installation went smoothly, although I was mystified that the little spring-loaded flush valve under the cover was nowhere to be found. I had cleaned it up on the last pass and thought I was careful to ensure it stayed in place as I reassembled everything, so I spent the better part of an hour looking for it in the innards of the cowling and poking things into the cooling passages to make sure it had not somehow worked its way in there. My hope is that it popped out during the last service and then blew overboard, and I will just buy a new one.

Cleaned up jacket cover and fresh O-ring. Is it really an O-ring if it's this shape?

After getting it all back together and a quick stationary test tied up to Vector, we headed up the creek to see if we could get ashore. We headed to the public boat ramp at the end of Tucker Street, hoping to find a dock, but no such luck. Fortunately, the bank is quite steep there, making it easy to make a beach landing and then tie off to a post.

Our beach landing. A sign here says the city is planning to put in a float.

We walked about a half mile back over the creek, mostly on the shoulder with no sidewalk available, to Heroes Pub, a local joint if every there was one. Despite the stark exterior, it was very homey inside, reminding us of our favorite watering hole in Mamaroneck. Both the pub and our server have been there for a quarter century, and they offer 48 different beers on tap, from a massive row of draft handles. We're glad we made the trek.

Heroes Pub. Our kind of place; we'll be back.

The dinghy got us to and from the boat ramp OK, but it's still not running right. It's rough when cold and sporadically overheating when warm, so I definitely have more work ahead of me. The next things to test are the automatic choke and the temperature sensor.

Vector anchored in Weems Creek, as seen from the drawbridge. We're a ways back.

Friday morning we returned ashore and walked to the nearby shopping plaza. We stopped in to Naval Bagels for breakfast sandwiches and a couple of bagels to go, which were pretty good for outside of NYC. Then we stopped next door in the very nice Graul's Market, which we remembered from a previous visit, to stock up on a few groceries. In the evening we came right back for pizza and bottled beer at Bella Italia, which was decent but not spectacular. We brought raincoats, but made it home before the rain started.

Naval Bagels. Everything in this town revolves around the Academy.

Saturday the weather finally would have permitted us to make some progress north. But we'd made arrangements to connect with friends Stacey and Dave, from Stinkpot, as we passed through Chesapeake City, and the timing meant we had a spare day on the Chesapeake side. We were comfortable where we were, and so decided to just spend another night. I took the day off and walked all the way to town.

Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, with apologies to our Army families.

Rather than battle my way through the throngs of tourists downtown, I opted instead to stroll the grounds of the Naval Academy. It's a beautiful campus, and I spent a couple of hours just walking around, after clearing security and a quick swing through the visitor center and gift shop. After exiting I made a quick pass by Ego Alley before heading home, partly by way of the free Circulator bus, which did not really shorten my walk, but let me see some more of town.

Bancroft Hall, the enormous dorm at USNA. I lived here for a week in my otherwise misspent youth.

In the evening we returned ashore one final time for the short walk to Chessie's Wharf. This is basically a burger and sandwich joint, but it's also the tap room for nearby RAR Brewery. The drafts were quite good, and I picked up a four-pack of pints at the end of dinner.

The chapel. That's a tour group in front; I passed dozens of people walking in wedding finery and I assume from the midshipmen with swords crossed on the steps that a wedding was imminent.

Sunday we weighed anchor with the tide to make the run up to the Elk River and the top of Chesapeake Bay. I had my sights set on a familiar anchorage in the Bohemia River, for an early morning fair tide the rest of the way to Chesapeake City for our Monday evening meet-up. We made such good time that we ended up just going the whole way to Chesapeake City and dropping the hook in our usual spot (map).

Spotted on campus, by Dahlgren Hall. My first live Cybertruck sighting; they are just as cheesy-looking and impractical as you've heard.

They've dredged the basin since our last visit, and for the first time ever we could have gone to the free dock, but it was full when we arrived. This is our first visit in the height of the season, and oh, my, was it ever busy. We were glad to find a spot to anchor, and we watched the myriad boats coming and going for the day at the Chesapeake Inn. Fortunately, the day visitors, many in swim attire, were mostly going to the outdoor tiki bar, and we had no trouble getting a table in the main restaurant at dinner time, notwithstanding the Fathers' Day buffet still going on in the ballroom.

A giant pear outside of Evelyn's Cafe, a breakfast place we did not sample.

We had our mail forwarded to Dave and Stacey at their marina in North East, a place near the top of the Chesapeake where Vector can not go. It arrived yesterday morning, and when they let us know, we switched gears from a dinner visit to a lunch visit. We tendered across the canal and met them at Schaefer's Canal House for lunch. It was really great to catch up with them, and we hope our paths cross again later in the summer.

Stacey, Dave, Louise, and Sean at Schaefer's. Photo: Dave Rowe

The early visit let us get under way with a fair tide through the rest of the canal, and we dropped the hook in Anchorage Number 4, north of the canal jetty (map), where we had a bit of protection from the relentless southerlies. It was a comfortable night, other than the wakes of the occasional ships passing by a mile away, which would roll us for a few seconds. We know enough now to dog everything down when anchored in the Delaware.

"Ego Alley," Annapolis. Always a zoo on weekends.

It was pretty calm this morning until we rounded the corner at the Hope Creek nuclear station. Things have been getting progressively worse since then, and we are now bashing through 2-3 footers on a short three-second period, made worse by driving into them.  As I wrap up typing, we still have another hour and half of this before we make the protection of the Cape May Canal.

They're wanting to raise the seawalls at Ego Alley. We've been there with the dinghy landing well under water.

With the unreliability of these marine forecasts, we have no idea how long we will be pinned down here. We were hoping for a window to Atlantic City tomorrow, which is a better place to be pinned down for a while, but that's looking unlikely now.

The first time I've noticed dedicated, and apparently free, scooter parking downtown.

Whenever we get a North Atlantic window to get past New Jersey, we will continue directly on up the Hudson and into the New York Canals to head up to Lake Ontario. That will push off any repair work in Mamaroneck on the paint job until the end of the summer, so that we can be in New York City for some other items we've put on the calendar. That should give us about a month in the lake, if we don't get waylaid before then.