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.

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