The Route South

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

If It Suddenly Ended Tomorrow…

If it suddenly ended tomorrow,
I could somehow adjust to the fall.
Good times and riches and son-of-a-bitches
I’ve seen more than I can recall.
“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”
Jimmy Buffett - 1977

At 8:30 on Christmas morning our lives changed suddenly. Chuck was gone. For 45 of my 59 years, he was, in every way, my father. He was two weeks shy of 86 years old yet his passing was totally unexpected. Thankfully, we were there. Sister Jane and Sam flew in from Philadelphia that afternoon. We all grieved in our own way. We held a memorial service that completely filled the church. Then suddenly, life was supposed to go back to normal.

Cindy & I have not, by any measure, lived a normal life the last two years. When we awaken in the morning, we seldom remember exactly where we are. Traveling will do that to you. But we always said that we would wander while we could because we wanted to be there when elderly parents needed us. That day is here and we now are redefining our lives - no longer wanderers, but companions, caregivers and responsible adult children.

So after the new pilings are installed, Morning Star will once again be coming home to Clearwater. No one knows what the future holds. We do know that we want to wander some more. There is still so much that we haven’t seen. But for right now, this is OK. We’ll take what tomorrow brings. After all, as Jimmy pointed out, we’ve already seen more than we can recall.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I Enjoy This Life As A Jester

I enjoy this life as a jester
Seems to keep me moving around
Like the wind that blows, tides that flow
I have my ups and downs
“Stranded on a Sandbar”
Jimmy Buffett - 1979

We had a great visit to Clearwater. Among the highlights was the birth of Conner Preston. He was born on November 11 to Courtney and Rick, our niece and her husband. As if we didn’t have enough to be thankful for at our Thanksgiving table, we’ve added a healthy ten-pound baby boy to the family! Having discharged familial obligations, we were in our rental car long before the sun was up on Friday, heading back to Charleston and Morning Star. Gotta’ get movin’! Food Lion was on the way back to the boat so we were able to get that chore out of the way en route. The courtesy van gave me a ride back from the airport after returning the car to Hertz. We’re Outta’ Here!

Saturday November 24, 2007
7:10 AM. Outside air temperature 41°. Wind NE at 20 kts. Jeez, it’s cold! But we are away from the marina in short order, heading back down the Cooper River to meet the Ashley River and the ICW. As we rounded the southern point of The Battery, the stately old colonial homes were just waking up. It is said that the reason there are still so many pre-Civil War homes left in Charleston is that the Civil War essentially bankrupted the residents and they couldn’t afford to tear down and rebuild so they patched up and got on with their lives. Thank goodness, because that beautiful area is a treasure. At 8:10 we turned hard to port and entered Wapoo Creek, leaving Charleston in our wake. By 8:30 we passed through Elliott Cut and into the Stono River. I just love saying these names (but the spell-checker hates them). At 11 AM we were headed down the North Edisto River at 10.2 mph. Fifteen minutes later we turned up the Dawho River and slowed to 5.9 MPH. So it will be for the next week. By noon we were making 8.2 mph in North Creek. Twenty-five minutes later we turned into the South Edisto Creek…you guessed it! Although the day is bright and shiny, it is still cool. The rivers of South Carolina are beautiful. Today our destination is Beaufort (remember, BEW-fort in SC, BOW-fort in NC) and at 2 PM we left the Ashepoo – Coosaw River Cutoff and entered the Coosaw River. At 4:30 we tied up at the Beaufort City Marina. When we were here in the spring of ’06 it was a construction site since they were renovating the park but now it is delightful. Anchored just off the town dock is the KK-42 Might As Well, with Don and Anne-Marie aboard.

Sunday November 25, 2007
9:00AM Start the engine. We are enjoying a late departure today, waiting for the tide to change. The current is swift at the dock so we went out to breakfast at

”Blackstone’s”, a local eatery. It’s in an old restored warehouse and hardware store. Old brick and big beams overhead make it a neat place with good food and friendly folks. At 9:07 the engine is sufficiently warm and the crew is sufficiently antsy to leave. Outside air temp is 56° and the wind is NE at 9 kts, a considerable improvement over yesterday! By lunch time we had crossed Port Royal Sound, watching several of the area shrimp boats working, then traveled down Calibogue Sound and Hilton Head Island, past the candy-striped lighthouse and the famous resort at Harbortown. We entered a different Cooper River at Daufuskie Island, the home of the now-famous “Gullah” people. The Gullah are African Americans who live in the Low Country region of South Carolina and Georgia. Gullah is a style of cooking, a language and a culture dating back to the days of slavery. After 2PM we navigated through Fields Cut and by 2:30 we were across the Savannah River and into the state of Georgia. Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous in the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, quietly slid by on our starboard side and by 3:45 we were peacefully anchored in the Herb River with nice houses on one side and spartina grass on the other. Our neighbors were a pair of Great Harbour 37’s, Puffin and Lazy Dolphin.

Monday November 26, 2007
Just a few minutes before 7AM and we are warming the engine. Outside air temp is 58° and the wind is 0. Things are looking up….except for the fog. By 7:30 the anchor is up and stowed and we have rejoined the ICW. It is slow going. By the time we neared “Hell Gate”, an area notorious for its contrary currents and constantly shifting, poorly marked channel, the visibility was down to 0. The nav lights are switched on, the foghorn is blowing and the radar is going. After fruitlessly waiting for the fog to lift over 20 minutes, we decide to “shoot an instrument approach” through Hell Gate so with the throttle at “slow bell” and Cindy on the bow as lookout, in we went! It wasn’t as foolhardy as it sounds. The radar image was laid over the chart plotter so we could see where the channel markers were supposed to be as well as where they were on the radar. The tide was slack and high and the chart plotter was showing the track where we had been, the nautical equivalent of dropping bread crumbs, so if we didn’t like the way things were going we had the option of turning back and following our track back the way we came. By 10:20 we were through Hell Gate and into the Ogeechee River. The fog lifted and the sun popped out but it was just teasing us. As we entered Florida Passage the visibility dropped back to 0. Enough is enough and at 11:40 we felt our way into an anchorage called Cane Patch Creek, past another trawler named Lauren Grace, tossed out the anchor, (well, not tossed, more like lowered) and had lunch. As we ate, we heard Puffin and Lazy Dolphin on the VHF radio, talking about the fog. They passed by us but we never saw them. Suddenly, the fog was gone and by 12:15 we were under way again. As is so often the case, the wind blew the fog away and as we entered St. Catherines Sound the wind was 27 kts. across the deck. We suffered with a foul current up the North Newport River and our boat speed was down to 4.7 mph. Is this day ever going to end?? The wind continued to blow as we ran up Sapelo Sound, where we entered the Sapelo River at Dog Hammock Spit. Where did that name come from? The sun was all but gone when we entered New Teakettle Creek. By 5:20 we were anchored, surrounded by tall spartina grass, sharing the anchorage with our traveling companions du jour, Puffin, Lazy Dolphin and Lauren Grace.

Tuesday November 27, 2007
The problem with traveling at this time of year is that there is so little daylight, less than 12 hours. We have to start before the sun rises and run until twilight to make any kind of time. The anchor is up and we are back in the ICW by 7 AM. The outside air temp is a balmy 63°, the wind is NW at 8. Throughout the morning we cross Altamaha Sound, Buttermilk Sound and St. Simon’s Sound. We are lunching in the pilothouse as we pass the hoity-toity Jekyll Island Club, watching the rich folks eat their lunch while they watch us pass by. As we enter St. Andrews Sound our speed is up to 11.1 mph but when we get to the Cumberland River it is back down to 4.8 mph. By 3 PM it is getting downright hot and we have to put on shorts and tee shirts. That’s more like it! At 3:30 we passed the Kings Bay Submarine Base. It looks empty……maybe. Stealth subs?!? At 4 PM we spotted the wild horses as we entered the anchorage at Cumberland Island and fifteen minutes later the anchor was down and set. We so enjoyed this spot in the spring of ’06 but we really don’t have the luxury of a lay day just yet.

Wednesday November 28, 2008
After being gone from Florida for 18 months, Morning Star is back in her home state. After stowing the anchor all it took was a quick 45-minute run from Cumberland Island across the St. Marys River. As we passed through Fernandina Beach we saw the Manatee, Second Star, tied up to one of the town moorings. We tried to hail them but no one was aboard. Mike bought the boat after it was wrecked in a hurricane. We saw photos of his restoration project at the Krogen Rendezvous in Solomon’s Is. in October. It sure looked good. It just shows you what two years and untold amounts of money will do. We crossed the St. Johns River and at noon, entered Cabbage Swamp Canal at MM 750. We have come 750 miles since leaving Norfolk and Portsmouth the morning of the Mass Exodus. We arrived in St. Augustine at 3:15 with every intention of anchoring for the night but the anchorage north of the Bridge of Lions was FULL and we couldn’t find a place with which we were happy. After passing under the bridge we tried the south anchorage. It too was very crowded. Our first attempt left me unhappy with our position, possibly swinging into the channel with the tide change. Up with the anchor and shoehorn ourselves into the only other empty spot. No sooner was the anchor set than the guy on the next boat calls on the radio and tells me that he has 150’ of anchor chain out and his anchor is underneath us. This means that when the tide changes in the wee hours our boats will be meeting. Setting 150’ of anchor chain is unnecessary and discourteous in a crowded anchorage when the water is only 10’ deep, but instead of telling the guy off we called the City Marina on the radio for a slip. After discussing the time of slack water in the morning (the current is FIERCE) and the dock boys’ assurance that we would be able to get out early, we allowed ourselves to be seduced by the pretty Christmas lights and the promise of dinner ashore. And ice cream.

Thursday November 29, 2007
At 6:40 AM the wind is light and Variable, the outside air temp is a pleasant 65° and the current, as promised, is slack. By 6:50 we are away from the dock and headed down the ICW. As we ate breakfast we passed the Matanzas Inlet and the old Fort. The old Florida tourist attraction, Marineland, slid by to port. It is hard to see whether it is still in operation. Today we run the straight and looooong Palm Coast land cut and then the straight and loooong Halifax River. It’s not really a river but rather a calm, narrow, loooong bay. At least we don’t have a bunch of current to contend with. We call it an early day and are anchored in Daytona by 2 PM.

Friday November 30, 2007
Yesterday was intentionally cut short because today will be even shorter. We lolled around until the obscene hour of 9:30 before even thinking about warming up the engine. The anchor wasn’t aboard until 9:45 AM and we were past the bridges of Daytona Beach and Port Orange in fifteen minutes. We navigated past Ponce Inlet at 11:15 and an hour later tied up at New Smyrna Beach City Marina. It is a delightful, small city marina, recently renovated. Cindy wants to do a few loads of laundry and I need to wash the boat so our afternoon is spoken for. We wandered the delightful little downtown and found a place for dinner. Bob and Sharie are driving over for Friday and Saturday nights so we will be staying here for the weekend. Hey, tomorrow night is the Christmas Parade, one by land and one by boat. ‘Tis the season!

Sunday December 2, 2007
We really enjoyed our layover in New Smyrna Beach. It was a great area with a small town atmosphere, but yet we were able to find everything we needed. Cindy stocked up at the grocery yesterday and after a bit of car-exploring we found an ice cream shop after dinner .All hands were up for coffee before 7AM and we walked to the deli in town for breakfast. Sharie and Bob loaded their truck and we were under way by 8:45. 10:30 found us in the fabled Mosquito Lagoon, the home of monster redfish but not for us, at least not today. After transiting Haulover Canal around lunchtime, we entered the Indian River. Again, this is not really a river but rather a long bay. Like Mosquito Lagoon, it is quite wide but very shallow. Just after 1 PM we pass under the NASA Railroad Bridge and then under the Titusville Bridge. We have been able to see the HUGE Vehicle Assembly Building for a long time but now we are close enough that the Shuttle launch pads are visible. It is tempting to stop because there is a Shuttle launch scheduled for Tuesday but these things are so unpredictable that we aren’t going to waste two days waiting and hoping. By 4 PM we are snug in the anchorage at Cocoa Beach.

Monday December 3, 2007
Once again the anchor is up before 7 AM and we are chugging down the ICW. As we pass Eau Gallie, we see that the dragon hasn’t been rebuilt yet. Years ago someone built a cement dragon on the point of land, which, predictably, became know as “Dragon Point”. Over the years it fell into a state of disrepair and the hurricane season of ’04 finally did it in but rumor has it that it will be reconstructed. At 1:30 we arrived at the mooring field at Vero Beach, where we rafted with Tom & Phyllis Davenport and their KK-42 Cocoon. We had them over for sundowners and snacks and had a great gam until the no-see-ums ran us off. Tom and Phyllis have owned Cocoon for eighteen years and they lived aboard full-time in Vancouver while they worked. Tom is a very handy and competent guy and the boat is in beautiful condition. His upgrades and improvements have been the talk of the Krogen Rendezvous for the last two years. They cruised the boat up and down the coast of Canada and to Alaska. When they decided that they needed a change of scenery three years ago, they had the boat shipped from the west coast and now they are cruising the east coast, between the Chesapeake and the Bahamas.

Tuesday December 4, 2007
Tom and Phyllis claim to be early risers, but I’m afraid we got them up. The predicted cold front blew through about 2 AM (22 kts.) so the no-see-ums were not a problem when we cranked up shortly after 6:30 AM. Its 50° and the breeze is light and out of the north as we rejoin the ICW, passing under the SR 60 Bridge by 6:45. That’s the same SR 60 that runs through the middle of Clearwater, just the other side of the state. Port Petroleum, in Ft. Pierce, is a popular fuel stop. This is no luxury marina. It’s where the commercial boats fuel up and we had to wait for a large tug to finish up and clear out before our turn alongside the seawall. We topped off our tank with 150 gallons at $3.099, which came to about $500 by the time you add in the taxes, surcharges, environmental service fees and any other thing they can think of. Jack Dozier, who owns the publication,” Waterway Guide” and a couple of marinas in Virginia was fueling up when we pulled in and was still fueling when we left. Glad I don’t have his bill! Ft. Pierce is also the location of Four Fish Marina, the winter home of a number of our Krogen friends. Cindy’s phone rang as we went by. Pam from Compass Rose spotted us as we passed. Lunchtime found us at St. Lucie Inlet and Stuart, where we crossed our outward track from the spring of ’06. It’s all but impossible to pass Jupiter Inlet without being effected by the tide. If it’s favorable as you approach, its foul as you leave the inlet behind. I remember the fall of 1977 when we came through here in our little 27’ sailboat. Our tiny 8 HP Yanmar one-cylinder engine was wide open and we could barely move faster than the tide! Today was much easier! After a 20-minute wait we were able to go through the PGA Bridge in Palm Beach and a half hour after that, at 4:30 PM we approached the North Lake Worth anchorage. This afternoon we noticed that the engine RPM’s have been irregular, a sure sign of clogging fuel filters. It is unlikely that we got some bad fuel at Port Petroleum. We probably just stirred the tank up good when we filled since Port’s nozzles are high-speed and they had to turn the speed down all the way so we could fuel up. Either way, the fuel filters need changing before toddy time!

Wednesday December 5, 2007
Outside air temp is 56°, cooler than yesterday but the wind has gone west, perfect for today’s plan. The engine is warmed up and Morning Star is back in the ICW by 7:15. Several years ago we took the ICW from here to Ft. Lauderdale and the bridges were terrible. Today we are going to avoid the bridges, which should allow us to make some time. By 8 AM we are going out Lake Worth Inlet and into the Atlantic. The wind is still west and there is a light NE swell left over from the last few days but it’s really pretty comfortable. The grand old hotel, the Breakers, is off our beam at 8:30. They have added two wings of rooms, one on either side, poking east toward the beach. What were they thinking? These two blocks of concrete are absolutely devoid of any architectural styling whatever. It looks like a prison architect designed it! By 10:30 the current is beginning to slow us down. Although the north-flowing Gulf Stream is a way off shore, the strategy is to stay well inshore of the Stream and hope to pick up an eddy or counter current. We moved in closer to the beach, about ¼ mile off and that seems to help. The fishing boats on the VHF radio are reporting catches of sailfish in 150 ft. of water. I’ll bet that it’s rough out there! Boca Raton and Hillsborough Inlets slide by to starboard and by 2 PM we are entering Port Everglades, the inlet at Ft. Lauderdale. We saved at least an hour by avoiding the bridges but it’s too early to stop so we continue on south, through the concrete condo canyons and “No Wake” zones. This is really ugly Florida. The sun is sinking low as we slip into a small basin next to Florida International University and anchor. What a great spot. The college is on one side; a state or county park is on the other and its quiet and peaceful. We can see Baker’s Haulover, the inlet that divides the island that is Miami Beach, at Bal Harbour.

Thursday December 6, 2007
We must be south! The air temperature is 69° at 7:15 when the engine is warming up. Today will be a short one but the anchor is aboard and we are back in the ICW by 7:30. By 8:30 we had passed under the Julia Tuttle Bridge in Miami. That bridge was an “OOPS!” It was supposed to be built to provide a 65’ clearance but is only 56’ instead. Maybe the guy who read the plans was dyslexic. It doesn’t affect us but some tall sailboats have no choice but to go into the Atlantic at Ft. Lauderdale and re-enter at Miami’s Government Cut. The bridge tender at Venetian Causeway was a complete ass and held us up for a half hour but we eventually got through and passed along Miami’s spectacular waterfront. It’s busy and congested and exciting and modern and fun to see. By 10 AM the Cape Florida Lighthouse on the southern end of Key Biscayne is off our port beam and we are looking out over “Stiltsville”, the community of fishing shacks and houses built on stilts in the middle of Biscayne Flats. Through the years the hurricanes have taken their toll and by our count there are only six left. Since they are within the boundary of the Biscayne Bay National Park, they are not allowed to rebuild and when they are gone they will be gone for good. But hey, we can see the bottom, the first time since May of ’05! At 11:30 we ran up the entrance channel to Boca Chita Key and fifteen minutes later we are tied up in paradise. There is a Jimmy Buffett concert on the satellite radio and life just doesn’t get much better that this. We have been warned not to try this on a weekend because of the overcrowded camping area and marina but there is just one other boat today. Boca Chita Key is a part of Biscayne Bay National Park. It is a beautiful little island that was bought by Mark Honeywell (Honeywell Controls, computers, etc) in the 1930’s. He started to develop it by putting in seawalls for the boat basin and building a few small outbuildings, including the lighthouse, the icon for Boca Chita. Built entirely out of native quarried coral rock, it has never been an official working lighthouse, but it’s a neat structure on a neat island. Honeywell used to invite his friends to visit on their yachts in the winter and there are several photos of these old vessels tied up along the very seawall that now welcomes Morning Star. We spent the balance of the afternoon exploring the island and walking the shallow, clear flats, which surround parts of the island. There are some huge iguanas here too, but they are very shy.

Friday December 7, 2007
THE NO-SEE-UMS ARE THICK! as we warm up the engine and escape at 7 AM. We run through the shortcut at East Featherbeds and rejoin the ICW at 8:30, swatting at the nearly invisible pests for a good hour. The nav lights and radar are on in light rain. By the time we passed under Card Sound Bridge the showers had abated and we entered Jewfish Creek at 10:30 only to find that the bridge was timed and we would have to wait 25 minutes. I guess we didn’t do our homework because the cruising guide points that out plain as day. Who cares? We are in paradise! Morning Star is running in familiar territory now. Blackwater Sound, Dusenberry Creek into Tarpon Basin, Grouper Creek into Buttonwood Sound. The water is plenty shallow at Ramshorn Cut and Cross Bank and Morning Star doesn’t like it one bit! We aren’t aground but the pressure wave reflecting off the bottom, caused by the hull moving through the water, makes the boat hard to steer. The autopilot is useless, so we slow down a bit and that helps. At 2:45 we are anchored in 7 ft. of water off Islamorada, one of our favorite spots. We splash the dinghy and putt in to visit Worldwide Sportsman, one of our favorite stores and do a bit of Christmas shopping. Then it’s off to Lorelei for sunset, drinks and dinner outside. The water temperature is 78°.

Saturday December 8, 2007
Today is the final leg to Marathon, our winter home. The breeze is a light SE at 5 kts. The air temperature is 75°. The anchor is up by 7 AM and we rejoin the ICW at Steamboat Channel fifteen minutes later. Just before 8 AM we pass through Bowlegs Cut and decide to try the outside run down Hawk Channel to Marathon. Hawk Channel is a deep channel that runs the length of the Keys, between the Keys and the outer reefs. As we passed beneath the Channel Five Bridge it wasn’t looking very promising and by 9 AM, when we reached Hawk Channel, the wind was blowing 20 kts. It has been said that the most difficult maneuver for some captains to make is a 180° turn, but it was obvious that we had made a mistake. OK, OK, I made the mistake and Cindy got to say “I told you so” as we turned around and headed back under the Channel Five Bridge and back to the ICW, where we belonged. By 1:30 Morning Star was safely docked at Slip #95 at Marathon Cay Marina, her home for the winter.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I Got To Head This Boat South Pretty Soon….

I got to head this boat south pretty soon
New albums old and I’m fresh out of tunes…
Jimmy Buffett - 1978

Monday October 29, 2007
We have been away for what seems like an eternity. It was only two weeks. We warmed the engine up and after stowing the electrical cord and coiling down the dock lines were away from the dock by 7 AM. Within an hour we had passed Drum Point and rounded Cedar Point heading for Jackson Creek, one of our favorite anchorages at Deltaville, VA. With the wind out of the NE at 12-15 it was rock-n-roll, but no pounding. By lunchtime we passed Smith Point Light and altered course 20 degrees, which made the ride considerably smoother. Shortly before 3 PM Stingray Point was abeam and half an hour later we were entering Jackson Creek. We saw Amalia, our dock neighbors from New Bern last winter, heading to Deltaville and chatted them up on the VHF radio. By 3:30 PM the anchor was down and set.

Tuesday October 30, 2007
After a calm and peaceful night we warmed up the engine and were under way by 7:15 AM. It is a fairly short run down to Norfolk today and we ticked off the miles; 9:00 AM-past Wolftrap Light, 11 AM-York River, 12:30 as we passed between Thimble Shoals and Old Point Comfort light. High Street basin, in Portsmouth, was empty so we took advantage of the free tie-up. A $1 ferryboat ride took us across to Norfolk for wings at Hooters and ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s!

Wednesday October 31, 2007
Last night I had to do a bit of math before bed. The next three bridges have restricted hours of operation to accommodate the morning rush hour. By my math we would have to leave by 5:30 AM to make it through unaffected by the restricted operating schedule. I don’t think so! That means that we will make the first opening after rush hour at 8:30 AM, a much more civilized hour. So we warmed up the engine and poked our nose out into the river at 8:20 AM. We were shocked! About twenty-five other boats had the same idea. We had to wait because they were having a problem with the bridge. We all milled around while the marine police and Homeland Security were going crazy with that many boats “loitering”. They were on the radio with the bridge, explaining that all these boats were violating the security areas between the Navy shipyard and the commercial terminals because they are supposed to pass quickly and directly through the area. Jordan Bridge was patiently explaining that they couldn’t open the bridge just yet. By 9 AM they got the bridge fixed and they opened it for forty boats to pass. At 9:15 we arrived at Gilmerton Rd. Bridge and had to wait 1/2 hour for fog and for them to clear a train. By the time it finally opened there were almost 50 boats waiting. Because of the severe drought the Dismal Swamp route has been closed. Normally half the boats would go that way, but with that option shut down we all have to go to Great Bridge lock. Shortly after 10 AM we passed beneath “Steel Bridge” and arrived at the Great Bridge lock at 10:20. After a one hour and fifteen minute wait, we finally were able to lock through! After lunch the Centerville Bridge held us up for only 10 minutes. Albemarle Sound is best transited in the morning and we want an early passage so we skipped the tempting stop at Coinjock, NC and went on for another hour, anchoring in the twilight at Buck Island shortly before 6:30 PM. It is desolate out here! What a miserable day. Less than 50 miles made good in over 10 hours of travel. Tons of other boats, many of them frustrated and discourteous.
There is a fine line between a crowd

...a parade...
...and chaos!
Thursday November 1, 2007
The sun doesn’t come up until after 6:30 AM but we had the anchor up and were well on our way. We entered Albemarle Sound at 7:55 and it was completely flat calm. By 9:30 we were across and entering the Alligator River at #1AR. You couldn’t write a script any better. Three hours later we entered the Alligator River/ Pungo River canal, a straight, boring and lonely land cut. Before 3 PM we were in the Pungo River and once again we have failed to spot any pungos! We have a reservation for the next few nights at Dowry Creek Marina so we can wait out Hurricane Noel. We wound up hunkered down Friday and Saturday while the hurricane skidded up the east coast. The highest wind gust we recorded was 33 knots. Dowry Creek marina has a courtesy car and we were able to sign it out with Pam & John from Compass Rose so we could go into Belhaven for dinner one night. Another night we had dinner with them aboard their boat. We passed a pleasant three days doing who-knows-what.
What hurricane?  The view from our back porch at Dowry Creek Marina.
The Bottle Tree- Dowry Creek Marina

Sunday November 4, 2007
Its ten minutes after six and its 45° outside and I’m in the pilothouse starting the engine. Man, its cold outside! By 6:25 the engine is ready and we have the dock lines aboard for another pre-dawn departure. One of the problems with traveling this time of year is that the days are too short. Compass Rose left a few minutes before us. By 7 Am we are abeam Belhaven and into the Pamlico River before 8:30. Shortly after that we entered Goose Creek and an hour later passed the Hobucken Coast Guard station. At 11 AM we rounded Maw Point Shoal and entered the Neuse River. Last year we turned upriver to New Bern, where we left Morning Star for the winter. Not this time. This year we are headed where it’s warm. Shortly after 1 PM we enter Adams Creek, headed to Beaufort, NC (Bo-fort). The anchor is down and set at Town Creek at 3:45. We didn’t go ashore.

Monday November 5, 2007
Its 6:30 AM and the sun hasn’t shown up for work just yet. Its 50° outside but there is only 5 kts. of wind out of the west. The anchor is up and stowed and we are under way. It is a quiet, uneventful morning. The Marine Corps. firing range at Camp Lejune is quiet so we are able to transit through without delay, just barely making the Onslow Beach swing bridge. We didn’t get that lucky at the Surf City Swing Bridge. We had a fifty-minute wait. Fortunately, our anchorage wasn’t too far beyond at Topsail Beach. We anchored shortly before 4 PM in a quiet cove between the salt marsh and the island.

Flo-Jo is an old Clearwater charter fishing boat
Imagine our surprise when we saw an old sport fishing boat named FLOJO docked nearby. She was a fixture in the charter boat trade in Clearwater for many years.

Company in the anchorage - Topsail Beach

Tuesday November 6, 2007
Today’s mission is to coordinate the timing of our passage with the opening of the Figure Eight Island Bridge. The bridge operation is restricted, closing for maintenance work between 9 &11 AM and again between 1 & 4 PM. If we don’t make it on time, it’s going to be a long wait! Even during the times it operates, it only opens on the hour and half-hour. We had the engine warmed up and the anchor up and stowed by 6:20. We left the anchorage with Ibis (Monk 36), North Star (Nordic Tug 26) and Avocet, a Great Harbour Navigator 37, rejoining the ICW shortly after 6:30.Our timing was good and we arrived at the Figure Eight Island bridge for the 8:30 opening. We had a minor scare when he didn’t open. I guess he was running a bit late and he opened at 8:37. Whew! Why is it that they open late when it suits them but they mostly refuse to wait 5 minutes if you are running late? At 9:15 we arrived at Wrightsville Beach for his 9:30 opening. Today’s going well. By 11:15 we were passing through Snow’s Cut, its strong current slowing us to 5.5 kts. But by 11:45 we were alongside the tee dock at Carolina Beach State Park, a favorite stop of ours. The wind is strong out of the south. A cold front is on the way. We had Susan & Paul Klein from the Island Packet 42, Slow Dancing, aboard for cocktails. Cindy met Susan last June at Anchorage marina in Baltimore in, where else, the laundry room. Turns out they know our cruising friends Lisa & Tom aboard the catamaran, Symmetry.

Wednesday November 7, 2007
The front blew through last night. The highest gust we recorded was 31 knots. By the time we departed the marina before 6:30 AM the wind was NW at only 8 kts. At 8 AM we passed out of the Cape Fear River at Southport, NC. An hour and a half later we passed through Lockwood’s Folly, an area that has gotten much bad press in the last year or so. It was being dredged when we went through last year and we found plenty of water this year. We were blessed with a good current and making 10.1 mph…for a while. This part of the ICW is riddled with inlets. You get a favorable current for a short while and are absolutely flying. Then you turn a corner and “hit the wall” and your speed slows to a crawl. It will be like this until well into Florida. At noon we negotiate the Sunset Beach pontoon bridge, the only pontoon bridge on the ICW. It is dragged out of the way with a cable when it needs to open or close. Shortly afterward we pass into South Carolina. At 2:20 PM we tie up to Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach.

The Rockpile - Myrtle Beach, SC
Thursday November 8, 2007
Its 36° at 6:15! The engine needs to warm up and so do Randy & Cindy. Our cabin is toasty warm because we had the heat on last night but until the sun comes up and warms the pilothouse we will be wearing long underwear, gloves and hats. Thankfully, when we left Barefoot Landing at 6:20 the wind was light and variable. By 9:15 we were in the beautiful Wacamaw River. By 1 PM we had made it to Georgetown, SC, our destination for the night. We took on 125 gallons of diesel fuel @$2.95. We are hearing rumors of $3.60 further south. Georgetown is a favorite town of ours and we took the bikes down and toured for a few hours, enjoying the stately old homes and the beautiful oak trees.
Town dock - Georgetown, SC
Friday November 9, 2007
We’re havin’ a heat wave! At 6:15 the temp is 39°…3° warmer than yesterday. Even so, 6:15 is dark and cold. Thankfully, the wind is 0. With the engine warmed up we are away and rejoin the ICW by 6:35. As we traveled down Minum Creek we heard the Coast Guard on the VHF radio calling for assistance. A bass boat had been reported as sinking in the area through which we were passing. We kept a sharp lookout as we passed the North Santee and South Santee Rivers. Called the CG and reported “No Joy”. Passed the town of McClellanville shortly before lunch. We have never been there but have heard of it for years. Maybe some day.
Miles of spartina grass - ICW north of Charleston, SC
By 2:45 we had passed beneath the Ben Sawyer Bridge and entered Charleston Harbor. This time we turned up the Cooper River (Any true Charlestonian will tell you that Charleston is where the Cooper and Ashley Rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean!) and headed to the county-run Cooper River Marina. Last time we were through here we tied up at the City Marina’s “Mega-dock”. But at over $2 per foot per night and since we are leaving the boat for two weeks while we return to Clearwater for Thanksgiving, it’s quite a bit out of our price range. We got a slip at Cooper River for a month for what a few days would cost at the City Marina. It’s quite a way from town but they have a courtesy van. The marina is secure and very nice. Our niece Sarah and her husband Chris live in Charleston where Chris is doing a post-doctorate internship. We took the next couple of hours getting the boat ready for storage and then Chris and Sarah picked us up. We went to dinner at a local restaurant…very nice…and they dropped us off at the airport to pick up our rental car. I think they were pretty sure we’d never be seen or heard from again. The marina is in a pretty remote part of town but we found our way back with no trouble. We packed up the car and went to bed; ready for another early departure tomorrow, this one by car, to Clearwater.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It’s a Semi-true Story…

It's a semi-true story
Believe it or not
I made up a few things
And there's some I forgot.
But the life and the tellin'
Are both real to me
And they all run together and turn out to be
A semi-true story.
Its’ a Semi-true Story
Jimmy Buffett

Sister Jane and Sam came to Chestertown for a visit. It was less than four hours from their house in the Lehigh Valley. We had a great weekend together, touring the Eastern Shore countryside.

Historic house - Chestertown, MD

Worrell's tavern

Downtown Chestertown, MD

White Swan Tavern - George Washington slept here... No, really!

Main street - Chestertown, MD

Old Customs House - Chestertown, MD

Morningstar's home for a month - Chestertown City Marine
They left after lunch on Sunday and we jumped into a rental car from Enterprise first thing on Monday morning to drive up to Jane & Sam’s cottage in Maine for a week. It was a long 12-hour trek, made worse by Mapquest. We should have known better. They took us through New York City, which was really pretty quick. But then they routed us along the Connecticut coast until we finally went north to Hartford. Finally the traffic thinned out and we were able to make good time. By the time we hit US 1 somewhere in Maine we were in our stride and found our way back to the cottage just as the sun went down. We were able to see well enough to turn on the fuse box and a light or two before heading to dinner. We spent the week discovering new places. We visited Castine (lunch with some trawler friends), Belfast (ice cream), as well as Damariscotta Lake and points north of there. Camden, Boothbay Harbor and Round Pond (more ice cream) are old favorites and worth revisiting. Not counting the trip up and back, we put over 800 miles on the rental car! Jane and Sam showed up in the wee hours on Saturday morning.  We spent a pleasant day with them, eating at one place or another. Cindy looked up from dinner on Saturday night and said, “There goes Leila!” Sure enough, our Krogen friends, Joe and Leila of Last Whale, walked through the restaurant with their son and daughter-in-law. We saw their boat in New Harbor but hadn’t seen them since Calvert Marina in June. We had a nice after-dinner chat (over more ice cream) and caught up.

Pemaquid Light
Harbor scene
Lobster boats unloading the day's catch - New Harbor, ME
Osier's Wharf - The Gut - South Bristol, ME
View from the lobster pound dock - The Gut - South Bristol, ME
South Bristol Lobster Pound
Team photo at MacFarland Cove - Sam, Sister Jane, Randy and Cindy
 Shortly after breakfast on Sunday AM we got in the car and drove back to Chestertown. Monday was Labor Day - Cindy stuck me on a plane at BWI and I went back to Florida to labor.

Monday September 17, 2007
Today will be easy. At 10 AM we warmed up the engine and pulled out of the slip as far as the fuel dock. Diesel fuel is significantly cheaper at Calvert in Solomon’s so we only took on 50 gallons and pumped out the holding tank one last time. We are back in salt water and are able to use the sewage treatment system (Lectra-San) so we won’t need the holding tank until the wintertime, when we are in the Keys. The stop only took half and hour and we were headed down the river. As we passed by the Corsica River we could see the estate that is the Russian Embassy’s “retreat”. I thought it proper to fire off a couple of rounds with the saluting cannon but Cindy vetoed the idea with an enthusiastic “NYET”!! In my best James Bond fashion, I scoped them out thoroughly with the binoculars. In fact, it was just another huge, beautiful estate. I’m sure that during the Cold War there were some crazy goings-on there.

So many people have raved to us about Langford Creek so that is our destination for the day. It’s a short trip to Langford and by 12:30 we were entering the creek. Everybody was right. It is gorgeous! We headed up the East Fork and cruised as far a Beck’s landing, near the small rural churchyard made famous as the final resting place of actress Tallulah Bankhead. We turned around and floated back downstream to Wann Cove, our home for the next two nights.

Tuesday September 18, 2007
It’s a layover day. We splashed the dinghy and put the 2 HP outboard on the back. Made a couple of latch-plates for the doors to the pilothouse and installed the final two screws for the head replacement project.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
With another unambitious day ahead of us we loafed along this morning. After breakfast we warmed the engine up and had the anchor aboard by 8:30 AM. MORNING STAR slowly made her way back out to the Chester River and by 10:50 we doubled the point at Love Point Light and were back in the Chesapeake Bay. An hour later we passed beneath the Bay Bridge and by 12:30 we were in Annapolis, picking up mooring #16 in Spa Creek.

Doctor Jane called out of the blue. She and Fuller were off that afternoon and looking for someplace to cause trouble so we picked them up in the dinghy and they came out to the boat. We had “sundowners” and went in to dinner at “Buddies”. I’m afraid that we weren’t much company that night. My gallbladder was acting up and Cindy has been suffering from some sort of bug and just got CVS to fill a prescription this afternoon. It has been surprisingly easy to get our prescriptions filled. We stop in at the local CVS and they can look up our records in Florida on their computer. No fuss, no muss…it’s a brave new world out there!

Thursday September 20, 2007
Small boat chores and dinghy tours today. We chugged over to Back Creek, on the Eastport side. I’m feeling fine again and Cindy is obviously on the mend.
Spa Creek neighbor - Annapolis mooring field

Friday September 21, 2007
Jane, Fuller and his son, Mike came for drinks aboard followed by dinner at Pussers'. Mike is a physician and in town on business.

Saturday September 22, 2007
Sister Jane and Sam drove down for another weekend aboard the boat. This will be a first because although they have stayed with us before, it has always been at a marina. But now we are out “on the hook” or, more accurately, on a mooring. Fortunately, the weather gods were kind and we didn’t rock and roll too much. They did fine. We spent the entire weekend doing tourist things since neither one of them had been to Annapolis before. We took the jitney tour and ate lunch on the waterfront at Pussers'. We walked the grounds at the Naval Academy, toured the chapel and John Paul Jones’ crypt (first time for me). A harbor cruise in the dinghy is one of our very favorite things to do. We get the chance to see who left, what new boats came in and have the opportunity to meet and chat with new folks. We pretty well explored all the nooks and crannies of Spa Creek and then we went over to Eastport…to eat. After dinner, the dinghy took us back over to the Annapolis side for ice cream at Storm Bros. It wasn’t our fault. The dinghy just goes there!

Sunday September 23, 2007
Back into the dinghy we piled and off to Chick & Ruth’s for breakfast. Proprietor Teddy pulled a couple of red scarves out of Cindy’s ear…Explains why she doesn’t listen to me. Jane and Sam decided to head back to home while they could still fit in the car! This weekend was more like constant eating interrupted occasionally by touring.

Monday September 24, 2007
Stuck in the horns of a dilemma! We have been vacillating back and forth about what to do this week. On the one hand, we have several days and could cruise over to the Eastern Shore and head up the Choptank River. I’ve read that the area above Cambridge is beautiful and seldom visited by cruising boats. Counterpoised against that, we need to work our way back to Solomon’s Island since Trawler Fest will be starting later this week. No sooner does that break up than boats start arriving for the Krogen Rendezvous. It’s been almost two years since we hauled out and painted the bottom. I talked to Alan at Spring Cove Marina in Solomon’s by phone a few weeks ago. He can fit us in for a short haul to pressure wash the bottom like we did last year. If we think we need it, he can go ahead and paint the bottom. What to do…what to do???

Responsibility and maturity won out and we are headed to Solomon’s. Dang it! By 8 AM we have dropped the mooring and are headed out of the harbor with a small parade of boats, both sail and power. Through the day, most of the powerboats pass us. None of the sailboats do, allowing us to maintain our dignity. But the day is a pleasant one and we are on course down the Bay, having passed Thomas Point Lighthouse to starboard shortly before 9 AM. Cindy served up lunch in the pilothouse as we chugged past Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant and by 1:30 we passed our waypoint at Cove Point, staying outside the security zone at the Natural Gas terminal. By 2 PM we are rounding the familiar Drum Point and a short half hour later we are anchored up Back Creek in Solomon’s. I hopped in the dinghy and visited Spring Cove Marina to see if Alan was going to be able to accommodate us on short notice. “How ‘bout tomorrow at 10 AM?” Works for us!

The next week went by in a blur. We arrived at the Travel-Lift well at the appointed hour on Tuesday and they were just finishing launching another boat. After a very short wait, Morning Star was in the slings and on her way to dry land. Cindy can’t watch. They boys pressure washed the bottom clean as a whistle. I was pleasantly surprised at how clean it actually was. They knew we were going to be living aboard while we were hauled out so they took care, blocking us up as level as possible. They had to order the paint and it should be delivered on Wednesday. The UPS man comes just after lunch…usually. The balance of the afternoon was spent cleaning the hull and waxing and doing a bit of light sanding on the bottom. Wednesday morning the boys were back at it again, finishing the waxing by lunchtime. About 1 PM we heard the sounds of the big brown truck downshifting as it came down the hill. UPS came through as promised. The bottom was painted by nightfall. The next morning they were supposed to do a short haul for another boat for a survey. Quick in and out. Cindy & I went out for breakfast since we can’t really use the galley. They assured us that the survey would only take and hour or so. We got back from breakfast at 8:30 AM and the Travel-Lift was in position to lift us off the blocks and splash us. They other guy had cancelled on them. By 10 AM the bill was paid (No Cash, No Splash!) and we were back in the water. We putted slowly over to Zahnisers’ and picked up a mooring for a few nights. The job was done in the promised time, for the agreed upon price. It was perhaps the best haul out experience we have ever had. Spring Cove has a nice marina and its facilities are great. They have very nice, individual tiled shower rooms and an air-conditioned captains’ lounge upstairs. It has a TV, and WiFi and was a great place to hide out on a hot, windless afternoon. But we had taken our bikes down so we had transportation around town. I did a couple of small projects on the boat while we were out of the water. It was a great haul out experience. I almost can’t wait to go back next year!
Morning Star on the hard at Spring Cove Marina - Solomon's Island, MD
Exhause pipe extension
We spent a full day crawling over under and through the boats on display at Trawler Fest. One nice calm day we put a couple of coats of Cetol on the teak cap rail. To do this we had to stand in the dinghy. I’d position the dinghy alongside the boat and try to hold it in place while Cindy brushed on the Cetol finish. At the end of the day, it looked great!
The view from the anchorage - Solomon's Island, MD

Trawler Fest was over on Saturday night. Displayed boats started pulling out early on Sunday morning. Good thing because the Krogen Rendezvous is about to get started. The first group of boats, including Morning Star, started coming in on Monday. By Wednesday, most of the boats were tied up. Although the Rendezvous didn’t officially start until Thursday PM, there was an unofficial “docktail” party every evening as people caught up with old friends and made new ones. This was a special Rendezvous because it is Krogen Yachts 30th anniversary and it promises to be a huge party. Denny Maud was the dockmaster and Randy was the deputy junior assistant dockmaster. Before we were done, we shoehorned 55 Krogens into the docks by Med-mooring and lots of fenders. Another five boats were docked elsewhere at Calvert and five others were in attendance but docked at other marinas. 65 boats, almost 300 people! Mr. Lin, the owner of the yard in Taiwan that builds Krogens, his wife and two grown children even flew in for the event. Krogen closed down their office in Stuart, Fl and flew their staff and their families in! What a party it was. We had speakers in the morning on Friday and Saturday and the usual “Krogen Crawl” in the afternoons, followed by an open bar and dinner on both nights. There was a band on Saturday night and from the first note the dance floor was FULL – like to overflowing. The band played nothing but oldies, mostly 60’s. You know, lots of Beatles and beach music. When they got started you could see everybody’s eyes light up. Music from our misspent youth!! Krogen picked up the tab for the bar both nights, the meat for the Friday potluck, the tent, the Saturday night dinner and the band. The only thing we paid for was our dockage and $50 for registration. Sunday morning, prior to breaking up the raft of boats, we had a brief skippers’ meeting at 8AM. I fired off the cannon at 8:30 followed by a horn salute by all the boats and then everybody started leaving. It took less than 45 minutes to move out all the boats. 55 boats in 45 minutes and not a scratch anywhere! We had to move Morning Star to her permanent slip and get her put to bed since we were flying back to Florida. I need to do some business and Cindy has a baby shower for Courtney next weekend. So, we’re off!
Dockmasters for the Rendezvous

Foggy morning - Krogen 30th Anniversary Rendezvous
Calvert Marina - Solomon's Island,MD
Foggy morning - Krogen 30th Anniversary Rendezvous
Calvert Marina - Solomon's Island, MD
Showing the colors - Krogen 30th Anniversary Rendezvous
Calvert Marina - Solomon's Island, MD

Saturday, August 18, 2007

If I Had A Boat…I’d Go Out On The Ocean

The Mystery Masked Man, he was smart He got himself a Tonto
'Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free.
But Tonto he was smarter
And one day said,
"Kemo Sabe,
Kiss my ass I bought a boat
I'm going out to sea"!
"If I Had A Boat"
Lyle Lovett

Well actually, I do have a boat! And its time to go out to sea! We returned to Newburgh, NY from Florida on Friday afternoon, August 17. By the time we picked up our rental car and drove back to Kingston, stopped for groceries, restocked the galley, it was time to go to dinner and return the rental car. A cab met us at the Hertz office and we were back aboard Morning Star and in bed early. All in all, it was a pretty exhausting day of travel.

Saturday, August 18, 2007
We want to make some miles, the wind is forecast to be out of the north and the current will be fair, at least early in the day, so we have the engine warming up by 6:15 AM. We are away from the slip shortly before 6:30. On the way out Rondout Creek we saw folksinger Pete Seeger’s replica Hudson River sloop, Clearwater, tied up to the town dock. It is a beautiful, sleek hull with a sharp bow and mast raked back. Clearwater conducts environmental education, advocacy programs and celebrations to protect the Hudson River, its tributaries and related bodies of water. You can read more about her at
Pete Seeger's Hudson River sloop, "Clearwater" in the early morning light
At 6:50 we turned south and headed back down the Hudson, with the wind at our back. The current was about to change so we had slack water and were making 6.9 kts. Shortly after 9 AM, the Krogen 48 Jaberwok hove into view, headed north up the river. We met Phillip and Catherine in Deltaville last year and had a nice chat on the VHF. Their boat’s name is taken from the Lewis Carroll poem “Jabberwocky” and their boat card displays one of its curious passages.

"`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe."

They are headed north to Lake Champlain and from there ??? The current was starting to favor us by 10 AM when we passed under the bridge at Newburgh and we were making 8.1 knots. It looks like a good traveling day. The wind is behind us, blowing hard. It was blowing 28 knots across the deck as we passed by West Point at 11 AM. If the wind hadn’t been behind us, we couldn’t have traveled today.
The fieldhouse at West Point
The United States Military Academy at West Point
Anchorage in front of West Point

Bannerman Castle
By 1 PM we were passing by Croton-On-Hudson. The anchorage where we spent the night before Independence Day was completely untenable so we decided to continue on to New York City. Although we were no longer in the influence of the Appalachian Mountains, the wind continued to gust over 20 knots and we were flying! Tappan Zee Bridge at 2 PM - George Washington Bridge at 4:20. As we approached Manhattan an eerie, dark smoke filled the sky in the void space where the twin towers of the World Trade Center used to be. Although we were listening to the VHF radio as well as broadcast radio we were unable to find out until after we anchored what it was all about. The former Deutsche Bank building, which was irreparably damaged on 9-11, was being demolished. It caught fire sometime on Saturday. Fortunately, it was Saturday, not a normal business day in Manhattan. Tragically, two fire fighters were killed fighting the fire.

Fire at the 9-11 site
We passed by the Statue of Liberty at 5:45 PM and fifteen minutes later the anchor was set in 10’ of water in the anchorage at Liberty Island State Park. The wind finally laid down to 10 knots and we should have a peaceful night. We did over 11 hours today, putting 81 nautical miles under the keel!
What a view!  Peaceful anchorage on a breezy night.

Sunday August 19, 2007
The anchor is up once again before 6:30 AM. The bottom is sticky, sticky mud and it takes quite a session with the wash-down pump and hose to clean it and the deck off. New York harbor is always interesting. It is said that time and tide waits for no one and this is never more apparent than when you transit through New York harbor. The is the sixth time we have gone through part of the harbor and even though it is early Sunday morning, it is still a full-time job for the two of us navigating out under the Verrazano Narrows bridge. Despite the early hour, the Staten Island ferry still runs its route, the smaller, high-speed ferries buzz back and forth and the commercial traffic - tugs, barges, freighters, tankers and cruise ships – are all about with schedules to keep.
The view at sunrise - Lady Liberty in the foreground and the Manhattan skyline in the background
We timed the current just right and are making 8.8 knots. In just a few short hours we have passed through the Verrazano Narrows, leaving Coney Island to port, across busy Ambrose shipping channel and are sliding down the New Jersey coast, past Sandy Hook. By 11 AM we are passing Shark River Inlet and 25 minutes later we see a familiar sight. It is another Krogen Manatee! We hailed the northbound Auk on the VHF. New owners are aboard, heading for Wisconsin. We know the previous owners, Bob & Sue Lynch, as we met them several years ago in the Keys. You can read about Bob’s fight against cancer at

Shortly before lunch we passed in Manasquan Inlet. We had such a lousy experience with the marina in June that we decided to head further down the New Jersey ICW and anchor. As we passed through Point Pleasant Canal the current was ripping. We were making 7 ½ knots even though we were at idle! The canal is barely wide enough for us to turn the boat around and once you are committed, you are there until you squirt out the other side. It’s a good thing that we are making good time because the weather forecast is pretty crummy for the next several days. By 2:50 PM we found a place to anchor by the yacht club at Seaside Park. It was raining within an hour!

Monday August 20, 2007
It rained off and on throughout the night. It was raining when we got up this morning and the weather girl on TV and the Internet weather sites all agree…100% precip today with 10-20 knots of wind. Looks like a good morning to loaf. Lunchtime brought brightening skies so we decided to put a few miles under our keel. The engine was warmed up before 12:30 PM and we were under way. Grey overcast, breezy and 65° – not your typical August day. By 2 PM we were past Barnegat Inlet. Around 3:45 PM, just as we rounded a small island we ran into a wall of Sunfish sailboats sailing in from Egg Harbor, at Brant Beach. All the sails were absolutely identical, giving us cause to believe that it was some kind of national-level regatta. As we idled down to let them all pass in front of us and cross the ICW, we hailed a Race Committee boat and chatted him up. Turns out we had stumbled across the Sunfish Nationals. They had over 90 boats and a full week of crappy weather! By 4:30 we found a small anchorage behind Mordecai Island. Barely a lee from the wind but it will have to do since there are very few anchorages along the NJICW.

Tuesday August 21, 2007
Today is a rain day. Another 100% precip so we stayed put. The anchor dragged about 50’ and stopped. We monitored our place in the anchorage by taking compass bearings on two locations ashore. The wind is NE at 15, gusting to 20-25 knots and it rained off and on all day. We ran the generator for an hour in the morning and again in the evening to charge the batteries and make hot water.

Wednesday August 22, 2007
With the engine thoroughly warmed up, we pulled the anchor up before 7 AM. It was very muddy and tangled with fishing line. The wind is 10-15 knots; the visibility is ¼ mile in fog, mist, drizzle and rain. New Jersey sucks! Shortly after 9 AM we past through Absecon Inlet and by Atlantic City. However, because of bridge timing restrictions it took us until 10:45 AM to get clear of Atlantic City. By noon we were passed Great Egg harbor Inlet and passing through Ocean City. The 9th Street Bridge delayed us for thirty minutes for no apparent reason. Finally we were away from the constant development and “No Wake” zones and into the marsh where we could make some time and shortly before 5 PM we had the anchor down and set in Sunset Lake at Cape May, New Jersey.

Waterfront living in New Jersey
Tomorrow we hope to be able to cross the length of Delaware Bay. We would both prefer to transit New Jersey out in the Atlantic rather than via the ICW. It is a shorter distance and quicker since there are no “No Wake” zones, bridge restrictions or other impediments to travel. However, we had no choice since this predicted front had the wind swung around from the east making a coastal passage impossible. Fortunately Morning Star has a shallow enough draft to make the inside route possible.

Thursday August 23, 2007
Sunset Lake is about an hour north of the Cape May Canal, which leads directly into the Delaware Bay. We had the anchor aboard shortly after 7 AM and passed through Cape May and had cleared the Canal by 8:25. Lest there be any doubt about the current in the Bay, the course to our first navigational mark at Miah Maul Shoal was 324° but the computer in the GPS calculated our required heading at 337°, meaning that we were being set 13° by the current! Since Miah Maul is almost 15 miles away, it is important to steer in the right direction! Sure enough, a little over two hours later we arrived at our waypoint and changed course to Ship John Shoal Light, which we fetched two hours later. The current was our friend, well, at least it wasn’t working against us and we were abeam the Salem Nuclear Power plant on Artificial Island by 3 PM. Fifty-five minutes later we entered the C&D Canal and were immediately slapped in the face by a strong foul current. Our boat speed dropped off to 5 knots! But by 6 PM things were looking up. We passed Chesapeake City doing 6.3 knots. Thirty minutes later we entered the Elk River and were back in the Chesapeake! It had been a long, productive day when we slipped quietly into Cabin John Creek at 7:15 and anchored in 7 ft. of water.

Friday August 24, 2007
The anchor was washed down and aboard by 7 AM. Visibility is only about ½ mile with fog. We have the nav lights on and the radar is running. This area of the Bay is very narrow and there is quite a bit of commercial traffic to keep tabs on. By 8:45 we are passed Still Pond Cove, an anchorage we enjoyed in June on our way north. The fog has lifted some but visibility is still restricted to about 1-½ miles. We heard Traffic Control for the C&D Canal announcing on the VHF radio that they had closed the Canal to all traffic because of the fog. That’s got to be a nightmare for the tugs, barges and ships that now must wait since they can’t just stop and drift. We overheard several of them talking on the radio about adjusting their speed downward to delay their arrival at the Canal. At noon we entered the Chester River for the first time. This is perhaps the most beautiful river on the Chesapeake, with beautiful farms and horse pastures leading right down to the river’s edge. It’s a long twenty-mile trek up river to Chestertown Marina, our home for the next three weeks. Jane and Sam are coming to visit for the weekend and then Cindy and I are renting a car and driving to Maine to stay at their cottage for a week. Then I’m flying back to Clearwater for two weeks while Cindy boat sits and gets familiar with the beautiful little town that is Chestertown.
Sister Jane checking out the tourist maps - Chestertown, MD
Saturday Farmers' Market - Chestertown, MD

Sunday, July 22, 2007

You’ll always know your neighbor...

I got a mule and her name is Sal Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal…
Low bridge everybody down
Low bridge for we’re coming to the town
You’ll always know your neighbor
You’ll always know your pal
If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal
Thomas Allen

We flew back from Florida on Friday afternoon. Our plane was delayed in leaving Tampa because of a lightning storm so we were almost 1-1/2 hours late arriving in Newburgh. Since Newburgh is such a small airport, that meant a delay in getting our luggage. They unloaded the plane and left all the luggage on the carts outside while they loaded two or three other planes, the upshot of which was that we were delayed yet another hour. So instead of an early afternoon arrival, by the time we drove to Kingston and stopped at Hannaford’s (grocery store) for provisioning, it was time for dinner and we didn’t get to the boat until after dark. Saturday was taken up with chores, installing a new head and a new exhaust fan for the fridge and returning our rental car. Thanks to Kate Unger, who generously gave us a ride back from Hertz.
On the Hudson River a lighthouse is a light and a house.

Sunday July 22, 2007
We really want to get out of here and are up for an early departure and out of the slip by 6 AM. By 6:20 we are back in the Hudson River, riding the last of the tide North. Passing under the Rhinecliff Bridge Morning Star was making 7.5 kts. By 10:15 we had passed Saugerties, Esopus Creek, the town of Catskill and our speed had slowed to 6.4 kts. by the time we reached the town of Coxsackie. Cindy served up lunch as we passed by Castleton-On-Hudson. An hour later the state capital, Albany slid slowly by as our speed eroded away to 5.9 kts.

Waterfront - Albany, NY, the state capitol
By 4:25 we were finally at Troy Lock, also known as Federal Lock since it is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, not the State of New York. It took twenty minutes to lock through and we were finally out of the tidal effects of the Hudson River.

Federal Lock - Troy, NY
Shortly after, we arrived at Waterford and tied off on the town wall shortly after 3PM. Waterford is always a busy place since boats there have a choice of continuing north up the Hudson to Lake Champlain or doing as we intend and hanging a left and going west through the Erie Canal.
The wall at Waterford, NY
The first lock on the Eire Canal - Waterford, NY

Monday July 23, 2007
Today is a layover day because of the rain. We loafed and did small chores and rode our bikes to lunch and explored between the rain showers.
Canal boat alongside the wall in Waterford. 
The gates of Lock 2 are just beyond the bridge.
The canal boats are available for weekly u-drive charter.

Two-headed Canada goose.  The water here is polluted with PCP's. 

Tuesday July 24, 2007
No reason to get up. The lock doesn’t open early. The first thing we have to do today is the “stair step” of five locks. At 7:40 AM we entered the first of the locks, called Lock 2, and before 9AM we are through Lock 6 and into the Mohawk River.

Lock 2
The Erie Canal will follow the Mohawk, on and off, for the next several days. The river is beautiful and after leaving the outskirts of the city it is very much in the country. We aren’t finished with locks yet though and by day’s end we have negotiated Locks 7, 8, 9, 10 & 11. The ten locks today have lifted us up a 253’ vertical rise.

View of the dam from inside the lock.
By 3:15 we are ready to call it a day and Putman Park, the site of the old Yankee Hill Canal Lock, has a small dock which we are able to tie to for free. After the locals went home we had the place to ourselves. It is a quiet and peaceful place with the only sound being the trains passing by on the opposite side of the river. The little stone cottage Cindy & I had when we were first married had a railroad running right behind it so the sound of the train horns and the quiet rumble and clickety-clack of the railroad is a pleasant and nostalgic memory.
Morning Star at Putman Park
The old store alongside the old canal
Cindy as storekeeper
The bones of the old canal lock at Putman Park
Interesting stone work on the old lock.On the left is the old sill, the bottom of the lock.
The canal and locks were very shallow in the beginning
Pleasnt afternoon in a peaceful setting

The locks are easy to negotiate. As we pull in to the lock there are long lines hanging down the sides. With our gloves on, we grab a bow and stern line and hold the boat close to the lock wall. The walls are slimy and dirty and have the potential to damage the boat but thanks to our fenders, we are able to prevent anything serious except for the filthy marks on the hull where the fenders rub. Oh well, every boat has the same problem. Everyone leaves their fenders over the side while on the canal! Thank goodness for the gloves!

Wednesday July 25, 2007
Slow getting under way today. The outside temp is 62° and it’s foggy. We sure aren’t in Florida any more!

Foggy morning.
The engine gets a warm-up and we’re away from the dock shortly after 8 AM. Although the fog is lifting the navigation lights and radar are on…just in case.

Under way on the Mohawk River
Somewhere between Lock 12 and Lock 13 four other boats passed us. Fortunately by the time they all got loaded in Lock 13 we were able to catch up and lock through with them. They all went on ahead of us and shortly after passing the town of Canajohari (The Pot That Washes Itself) we approached Lock 14 just as the lock doors had closed. When I called the lockmaster on the VHF radio he told us we’d have to wait for them to be lowered down and then the lock chamber to be refilled again. According to him, they didn’t mention that we were back there. Thanks a lot! Locks 15 & 16 were no big deal but just before the town of Little Falls we had Lock 17. Lock 17 is a 40’ vertical lift, the largest on the Erie Canal. You get to experience sunset and sunrise when you go through that lock because unless it is mid-day, it’s dark in the bottom of that lock! Its has a lifted gate rather than doors and looks like a huge guillotine when you pass beneath it. When we arrived, we had to wait for the lock to be drained before we could go in but shortly after 2 PM we were through. By 3 PM we were tied alongside the terminal wall at Little Falls. The fee was $1 per foot but we got a $5 discount since we didn’t have electricity.

The canal park at the Litle Falls wall

Many towns have redeveloped thier town walls to attract visiting boaters.
Little Falls is one of the best.

Captains swapping sea stories.  The boat was from Naples, FL
Cindy pronounced that it was Dinner Out Night and there was a menu for the Eastern Steakhouse in the dock master’s office as well as a sign telling us that they would pick us up and drop us back after dinner. I asked the dock boy what he knew about the restaurant and he explained that he’d never been there but he heard it was pretty fancy. Arrangements were made for a pick-up and one of the waitresses came down in her personal car and drove us back for dinner. The bartender drove us back after dinner. The food was OK…just OK. As for fancy, how fancy could it be with cowboys on the menu!

Thursday July 26, 2007
Today we have a new experience! At 8:15 AM we started the engine and pulled up to the pump-out station. Since we have an onboard sewage treatment system (called Lectra-San) we normally don’t have to use our holding tank. However, the entire Erie Canal is a No Discharge Zone so we had to switch over to the holding tank. Last fall we pumped it out just to see how it works. Since we never use the holding tank we have no earthly idea how long it takes to fill it. Little Falls has a pump-out right at the end of the wall and its price is included in our dockage fee so what the heck…let’s give it a try. It really wasn’t such a gross job if you wore rubber gloves and didn’t look at the part of the hose that was clear plastic tubing! There..…That wasn’t so bad..…Its almost 9 AM….. Let’s get the hell outta’ here. After negotiating locks 18, 19 & 20 we are now at the highest elevation of the Canal – 420’. Shortly before 2:30 we are able to tie up along the terminal wall at Rome, NY.
Low bridge!  Everybody down!

Perhaps a short explanation about the Erie Canal is in order. The Erie Canal is owned by the State of New York. In its various iterations, it has gone from a small, shallow, hand dug canal with a towpath for mules to tow the barges to a larger canal and finally to what it is today. It was a canal of commerce, and towns and factories grew along its shores and where possible it follows the course of the Mohawk River, allowing for large barges and the tugboats needed to push them. Today most of the factories are gone and the canal is used strictly for recreation. With the closing of the factories many of the towns have fallen on hard times and the State has provided funding to spruce up the town canal walls, called terminals, in an effort to encourage visitors to stop and visit the towns and spend money at the local business establishments. It hasn’t always worked well. For us, it worked well in Rome. We took our bikes down, rode into town and found the grocery store, where we did a bit of provisioning. We must have been a sight with two backpacks full of groceries and bags hanging from our handlebars containing the surplus.

We met an interesting young couple in a 40’ steel sailboat. They were tied up behind us in Waterford and we spoke briefly there but invited them over for a drink and a chat tonight. They are from Switzerland and had bought the boat in Turkey. After cruising the Mediterranean they went through the Straights of Gibraltar and cruised down the coast of Africa and up several of its rivers before heading across the Atlantic to Brazil. From there they cruised through the Caribbean, touching in the Bahamas before arriving in the USA. They headed up the ICW to New York. After unstepping their mast on the Hudson River they were taking the Canal to Oswego on Lake Ontario where they would restep the mast. Their plan was to continue on through the Great Lakes to Duluth, on Lake Superior where they would truck the boat to Vancouver, where they were planning to winter over. Mighty interesting young couple with great stories to tell.

Friday July 27, 2007
Since we know that today will be a short one there is no compelling reason to start out early. The engine was warmed up and we were away from the dock by quarter to nine. At 9:50 we arrived at Lock 21 and after a five-minute wait we were in and fifteen minutes after that we had locked down and were on our way. That’s right …we locked down. The Erie Canal is now beginning to descend. Lock 22 is only ten minutes away and after a ten-minute wait we did a quick ten-minute descent and then ten minutes further on we were in Sylvan Beach, our destination for the day. Before tying alongside the terminal wall we traveled the length of the Canal to get the “lay of the land” and to run out into Oneida Lake. Shortly after 11:30 we were tied up to the wall. If we cross Oneida Lake and pick up the Oswego Canal, its only another 25 miles or so to Lake Ontario and then a like distance to Canada! However, this will be our turn-around point for our summer’s travel. Next time!

Shortly after we tied up a, Sabre 42 sailboat, Gypsy, from Michigan came in from the other direction. After helping tie them up we met Ron & Pat, who are headed to Hampton, VA Where they will be participating in the Caribbean 1500 Rally, a sailboat race/cruise to the Virgin Islands. While cruising around town on our bikes, Cindy found a hair salon and made an appointment for later in the day. While she was getting her haircut we had a strong thunderstorm, the first of those we’ve seen in a long time. I ran the generator and air conditioning since there is no electrical service on the town wall. Ron & Pat came by for a drink and we went out for dinner afterwards.

Saturday July 28, 2007
Today is a lay day. The storm rained itself out last night during dinner. We were even able to walk around and find an ice cream shop, thereby maintaining our reputation. The bikes got a workout today, as did the riders. We biked all around town and quite a way north. The town is mostly beach cottages…small, quaint bungalows, not the huge McMansions we have become use to seeing along the Atlantic coast. After lunch we traveled south to Verona Beach State Park. As we biked back north we passed a lighthouse. When we went out to investigate it the first thing we saw was a car with a license plate from Clearwater, FL! Sundowners aboard Gypsy.

Sunday July 29, 2007
7:35 AM departure, but a short trip. Going to the pump-out again. Thirty minutes later we were away again. The pump-out was pretty weak and ineffective so we are five bucks poorer but the load was only lightened by half. There is no choice but to back track your course from before so we headed back through Locks 22, 21, 20, 19 and 18 before calling it a day at Little Falls again, where we tied up to the town wall just five minutes short of 4 PM. We are going to skip the cowboy steak place and eat aboard tonight.
Approaching a lock.

The Lockmaster will invite you into the lock by turning on the green light.

Monday July 30, 2007
By design, today is going to be a short day. At 9:35 we started up and slipped back to the pump-out station. Since we had such a lousy experience yesterday at Sylvan Beach we are going to pump out again today. We had a good session, pumping out, flushing the tank with fresh water and pumping out again. Besides, it’s free! That dreaded chore was over and we were underway again before 10:30. We negotiated our old friend, Lock 17, this time dropping the 40’ and passing from daylight into dark.

This lock resembles a guillotine!
The next three hours sent us through three more locks and by 2 PM we passed through Lock 14 and tied up at the town terminal at Canajoharie. The bridge is under construction and the dock is only a few yards away from the noise and bustle and dust of the construction site. Fortunately, this is one of the few towns that have electricity at the dock and it’s free so we gratefully plugged in, closed up the boat and turned on the air conditioner, blocking out the noise and dust. We’ve read good things about Canajoharie so after eagerly unloading our bikes we set out to explore. The Town Library is supposed to have a wonderful, small art gallery but we were disappointed to find the library still drying out from the floods of last year and their gallery being expanded. Yet another construction project! The librarian was kind enough to find us a map of the town so we set off to see the sights. We made our way into the heart of town, which was only about a three block pedal, where we saw the local tourist information kiosk, manned by a volunteer. We chatted with her for a minute or two and got some more information. She directed us up the street to see the town’s first stoplight (no, I’m NOT kidding) and then left across the small bridge and then right down a small road, past General So-&-So’s house and then on to the stream and pool which gives the town its name. General So-&-So was famous in his day but the darn place was closed when we went by. An old timer was walking by and informed us that the place was almost never opened any more. This was disappointing because although we had turned right and gone down the road, it was UP the hill…the hill was so steep that we had to walk our bikes up much of it. Press on! The park isn’t much farther. Good thing because its straight up hill. Boy, are we going to have a great coast back down! We finally found the stream and pool that give the town its name. Apparently “Canajoharie” is an Indian word meaning “the pot that washes itself”. The stream cascades down over a small waterfall into a small pool (that’s the pot) that is eroded out of the rock, before continuing on its way to join the Mohawk River. Maybe it’s more impressive during the spring rains. I’m beginning to see a pattern develop here. We decided not to tour the Beechnut Foods factory. Although the ride back down the hill was great, our general impression of the town was that it was very depressed. The river was three blocks or so away from town and the town seemed to have turned its back on the river. To top it all off, we couldn’t find a nice cream parlor, jeopardizing my standing as an ice cream slut!
Locking down

Tuesday July 31, 2007
The engine warmed up for the five minutes it took to bring the power cord aboard and we were away from Canajoharie by 8:20 AM. Over the next ten hours we passed through Locks 13 through 6 and suddenly we were at the flight of locks that would deliver us back to Waterford. It was a long and grueling day but we left Lock 2 and tied to the floating dock at the Waterford terminal ten hours after leaving Canajoharie. We have done 225miles on the Erie Canal! Tonight we are going to find dinner out and call it a day.

Wednesday August 1, 2007
Lay over day. The boat is filthy from the locks and we need to clean it thoroughly. We had lunch out in a small diner on the main street and then went touring on the bikes. We found the old Champlain Canal. It is now a public park and the old mule towpath is a bike and walking trail so we followed it for several miles before the threat of rain forced us to turn back.

Thursday August 2, 2007
Shortly after 9 AM we were entering the Federal Lock at Troy. We had left Waterford only 30 minutes earlier. We had a pleasant chat with the lockmaster while we were waiting to go down. He told us that they empty the 3 million gallon lock in 8 minutes! There are tunnels built into the bottom and outside the lock that are large enough to drive a truck through! Even though the lock is huge and the volume of water is staggering, the ride down was quite gentle and we were out the other side and under way in the promised 8 minutes. By 10:30 we were passing through the Port of Albany and an hour later slipped by the town of Coeymans. At 1:50 we passed beneath the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and fifteen minutes later entered the beautiful Catskill Creek. Within ten minutes we were tied up in our slip at the Catskill Marina and plugged in to power with the air conditioner on. It’s hot! Let’s hit the pool!
Replica of Henry Hudson's little ship "Half Moon"
Catskill Creek marina
Catskill Creek marina

Friday August 3, 2007
It is just a short ride down to Kingston so we didn’t leave Catskill until 9:30. After a five-minute side trip further up the creek to the bridge we turned the boat around and headed down the creek and back into the Hudson. Tide and current is once again an important consideration in planning the day’s travel and at 9:45, when we turned into the river Morning Star was making 8.5 kts. By noon we turned once again into Rondout Creek at Kingston, Morning Star’s home for the next two weeks. Before going to our slip, we stopped at the fuel dock and took on 100 gallons of fuel ($2.999 per gallon, the most we have EVER paid) and pumped the holding tank one final time. There to greet us was Ewe, from the Manatee The Duck. We have never met Ewe but knew his boat before he owned it. It used to be slipped in Bradenton at Regatta Pointe Marina. Our paths crossed twice in Portsmouth, once last fall as we were on our way south and we were tied up in the marina that they winter over in, and again this past spring when we stopped for two nights. He stopped by and left a card when we were out. Finally we can put a face to the name. He took a tour of Morning Star and left after we promised to stop over and see his boat after lunch. Its always fun to compare boats. Not only do we like to see what personal touches folks have put on their boats, it’s interesting that the boats are all built a little bit different. It’s not something that anyone but an owner would ever notice but there are subtle differences. I guess our boats really weren’t factory mass-produced.

Saturday, August 4, 2007
Tomorrow we will be driving back to Newburgh and hopping a plane to Florida where we will spend the next two weeks. Today we need to pick up a rental car and do a few errands. We took a taxi to the Hertz office and got our car before lunch. After lunch out and running a couple errands we went back to the marina. Shortly after we returned our laid-back afternoon’s plans were shattered. I wrote of the event to my friends on an Internet trawler cruising forum to which I belong. It is reprinted below.

Cindy was doing a couple of loads of laundry while I changed the oil this afternoon. I was crawling around in the bilge when I heard a loud thump and felt the boat move. I thought someone had hit us so I jumped up and ran outside. Nobody there. Out in the creek I heard the sounds of kids screaming. As I jumped onto the dock I could see several people looking out into the creek. As I ran down the dock my field of vision changed and I could finally see what the commotion was all about. An old woodie Chris-Craft, docked two slips down, had gone out and was idling in the creek, waiting for their turn at the fuel dock. Suddenly it exploded, sending the family of five (Dad, Mom and three teenaged kids) into the creek. The boat started sinking almost immediately. There were several people swimming to help the five victims as well as several small boats and jet skis. I ran to get Cindy since she is a nurse by training and generally acknowledged as the brains of our outfit. As we got back to the dock the first of the victims was making his way to the dock. The other four were on the dock in short order. All were badly burned. Their skin was sloughing off their feet, hands and arms, in large sheets. Much of their hair had been singed off. The father was bleeding. 9-1-1 was called and responded in unbelievably quick time, the first of probably 5 vehicles arriving in about 5 minutes. Boat owners had been tending to the victims as best they could and they were slowly replaced by the EMT's as they arrived. Dad was sitting in a chair and getting shocky. The rest of the family was laid out on the wood deck at the head of the dock. All were in extreme pain and going into shock. The EMT's triaged them, got oxygen going and put them into the ambulances. The head EMT declared that three of the five were critical and called for chopper evac, which they had to do up at the top of the hill. The other two went to the hospital by ambulance. (They were also ultimately air evac’d from the hospital to the burn unit) I was very impressed by the EMT's. They were either mostly volunteers or else were on their day off judging by the clothing they wore when they arrived. I only noticed about two or three uniforms.
My heart ached for the father who sat in the chair, burned and bleeding and in excruciating pain and watching his wife and kids laid out on the wood deck and crying out in such pain. SEA TOW arrived quickly and put two boats alongside the Chris and tied it up tight to keep it from sinking on the spot. All the planks were blown and the seams were opened. Don't know where they took it.

The morals of the story are many.
1) If you have a gas boat make sure you ventilate it adequately. Then ventilate it some more.
2) Take a first aid refresher course. You never know when you may need it. CPR also. Nobody needed CPR but easily could have.
3) Tell your family you love them. You never know when it will be the last time you see them.
The world is a messy place. Be careful out there.
Randy Pickelmann
lying at Rondout Creek, Kingston, NY

They were all taken away, all in critical condition. Suddenly, for us, it was all over. Back to normal. Yeah, right! Needless to say, our day was shot. We took the memory of the afternoon to dinner with us that night. Understandably, it was hard to talk about anything else. On a more positive note, the last we heard, the family is all recovering although I’m sure that their recovery will be a long and painful one.

Impressions of the Erie Canal
The Erie Canal was not at all what we expected. That’s not to say it was bad, just not what we expected. Friends once said, “Why go to the expense of cruising the canals of France or England? We’ve got the Erie Canal and it’s just as nice.” With that in mind we set out to travel north and avoid the brutal heat we experienced last summer in the Chesapeake. But the Erie is nothing like France. We were expecting a smaller, more intimate setting. Much of the Erie Canal is within the Mohawk River. It was absolutely beautiful but it wasn’t small and intimate. We should have known this…after all, in its earlier life it was used by commercial barges being pushed by tugboats.

As we analyzed what we were seeing, we began to realize that the Erie was there first to support commerce and was an earlier century’s version of an Interstate Highway. Today we don’t locate the most beautiful part of town under the Interstate overpass and they didn’t yesterday either. Quite to the contrary. Waterfront real estate was too valuable a commodity to “waste” on housing or a town park. Why build a house on a site that could be used for a factory or shipping warehouse. Commercial utilization meant jobs and profits within the community. You can build houses anywhere.

But that was yesterday. Today the factories are closed down and the warehouses are empty. We saw the skeletons of General Electric, Mohawk Carpet, and numerous textile mills and of course all the supporting industries that fueled the economy of the region. As these plants closed, the jobs went away and so did the vibrant economy of the area. Many of the towns along the Erie are economically depressed. The State of New York recognizes that although the Canal has outlived its usefulness as a commercial enterprise, it is a viable and valuable recreational resource. They have spent money fixing up the old city terminal walls or wharfs and most towns offer dockage space to traveling boaters for little or no fee, hoping that the boaters will patronize the local merchants. The old towpaths are being converted into bike trails and it is now possible to bike from the State Capital in Albany nearly all the way to the Great Lakes.

Unfortunately, many of the towns seem to have turned their backs on the Erie. Many businesses adjacent to the canal are run down and dumpy and we couldn’t help but feel that these places were a bit too “long in the tooth”. They have a way to go in putting their best foot forward. But there are glimmers of hope. We saw towns like Little Falls who were willing have a waitress provide us with round trip transportation so we could dine in their restaurant. Canajoharie was busy rebuilding its library and expanding their art gallery. We heard that Rome was not a good place to stop…too dangerous. Someone knew someone who knew someone who had a problem there once. But we saw people fishing and enjoying the waterfront and we saw a police presence in the area of the terminal and we had absolutely no problems. In fact, without exception, the people we met were friendly and helpful. Clerks in the stores were willing to give us directions to where we needed to go, although many of the kids had a hard time with the concept of old folks riding bikes because we didn’t have a car. Folks were usually quick to strike up a conversation if they were enjoying a walk along the river or Canal, especially when they saw the Florida port of hail on Morning Star’s transom. “Did you really come all the way from Florida? - ”How long did it take - “Can you really sleep down there - “What do you do in bad weather?” were popular questions. In town we would frequently be asked if we were here on a boat. We must have “the look”. Many folks went out of their way to offer directions or recommend a restaurant. They would be sure to point out the next concert or great event in their town or fill us in on the one we just missed last night. And most of the boaters we met were friendly and helpful. But most were going somewhere or going home from somewhere else. For most folks, the Erie Canal is still a highway, not a destination.

Once we reminded ourselves that we do this so we can see different parts of the country and that this is about the journey and not the destination, we were more at peace with the Erie. The countryside was absolutely beautiful and different from anywhere we have boated before. But Cindy and I seem to always be interested in what is around the next bend. Would we go back? Well, there is still a lot of the Erie we haven’t seen yet!