The Voyage of FORTY TWO – Leaving the Great Lakes

September 1 we left Put in Bay for Cleveland, Ohio. The supposed WSW winds became NE which we were able to carry on a reach for about half the trip, then back to the motor. Another long day of just over 11 hours but at least we are now heading east towards the Erie Canal and the East Coast. We were so tired that we just had dinner and collapsed. This was one of the few evenings we did not get out the cards for more rounds of our ongoing Cribbage competition. We stayed in the East 55th Street Marina and were surprised to find another Newport 41 Aurae in the marina. Obviously a local boat with no one aboard.

Next morning was a 25 mile run to Fairport Harbor. A very light SE wind meant that once again we were motoring but the lake was flat and the sun was out so at least we could work on our tans. Nothing much to note in either Fairport Harbor or the town of Grand River on the other side but took the opportunity to explore both on our bikes. Across the river from where we were moored was yet another Newport 41, Missy.

Another 25 mile run put us in Ashtabula where we stayed at the Yacht Club. Getting up the river was an experience as an ore ship was in port and had its unloading device extended over the river. Fortunately they had it high enough that we were able to pass under but we did not have a lot of clearance. Once we were tied up we asked one of the members for directions to the local grocery. She promptly offered to drive us there as it was a mile from the club. Then in the evening we were invited to join in the Friday evening get together and met some more interesting people. This was a wonderful and friendly club with very good facilities.

Once again the winds co-operated and we were able to sail most of the 44 miles to Erie, Pennsylvania. However, when we got in found that all transient facilities were full due to the Labor Day weekend activities. Fortunately there is a very protected anchorage in a bay on the south side of Presque Isle so we went there. Had to pump up the dingy to get the guys ashore and then visited with some other yachts in the anchorage. Erie also marked another milestone – just over 1,000 miles since leaving Racine.

We got an early start from Presque Isle and found great conditions once we were outside the Erie entrance – 10 – 15 knots on a beam reach to Dunkirk. Carried this wind to within five miles of Dunkirk when it shifted to straight ahead so time to switch the engine on. This sail was one of our best in recent weeks, averaging nearly 6.5 knots for the whole trip. During the night the wind got up to about 30 knots from the south east. Ideal for Buffalo but gusts were more than 35 knots regularly so we decided to stay put, along with two other yachts headed that way. The real problem was that the marina design made pulling out of the slip a very dicey proposition. So we stayed an extra day and left on the Tuesday in company with C&C Crusader a C&C 40 going to England. Dietmar is single handing to New York and on to England and we find it pleasant to have some company. A long day took us across to Buffalo where we entered the Niagara River. There is a side passage – the Black Rock Canal – that kept us out of the main river and the currents. We stayed at Bow and Stern Marina where we had arranged a haul out to fix the damage to the keel. The mast was taken out and we spent several hours building a base for it to sit on while on the ground, then we prepared to live 20 feet up a ladder in a boat yard while on the hard. The good news was that the damage was not too bad, and with careful use of a heat gun we were able to dry the section out, grind back the fiberglass and get a coat of filler and new glass fiber on the first day. Just as well as the next day the remnants of Hurricane Francis hit upstate New York and dumped about 5 inches of rain, most in the morning! Given the conditions we decided that a rental car was worthwhile so the three of us took off for shopping at Sam’s Club, then on to view the Niagara Falls and finally a stock up at West Marine. We were the only tourists appropriately dressed as we wore our foul weather gear. Only the second time Brian has driven a vehicle since July 14. The weather brightened in the late afternoon and we were able to complete the keel repair except for final sanding and bottom paint. All of this under a tarp we wrapped the whole boat in. We were thankful we had brought them along. The dog bed was sacrificed for its foam padding which became protection under Brian’s back as he worked on the keel in gravel and four inches of mud. It is a glamorous lifestyle!

Next morning we got up early to complete the bottom paint so we could be launched that morning. What we found was a marina absolutely choked with debris, including whole trees some 40 feet long. Chris and his mother and the marina staff worked all day clearing and finished about 0300 that night. It was a nightmare for them as no sooner had they pulled one pile of debris away another came down the river. Each group of trees had to be moved around or under their floating docks. We were more than pleased to be on the hard and not have trees and rubbish pushed up against the hull as Dietmar had.

Saturday morning the yard got us back in the water and the mast loaded on the deck. We secured it ourselves and put saran wrap and duck tape around the hole left to keep the rain out. So now we are a powerboat 41 feet with an additional 8 feet fore and aft, for the next 300 miles or so. We decided to get away at 1200 and motored around to Wardells for fuel. We had not heard good things about Wardells and were surprised to be told “We have no diesel for you, we are keeping it for another boat” and “You should have had us unstep your mast”. This only cemented our opinion and made us happy that we had stopped at Bow & Stern where service is still a priority. The first eight miles or so up to the canal proper were still very messy with lots of debris to dodge. We feel we did well to only hit one log on the way. This area has a lot of firewood cut and stacked along the canal banks, unfortunately it was claimed by the flooding. They bob up and down hindering sighting in time to avoid them. Once we got in the canal proper we found we were getting a push of about ½ knot so were able to keep our speed up around 6 – 6.2 knots. At Lockport we purchased our permit and began the drop to the Hudson River. These first two locks took us down 49 feet and are the only ones until we pass Rochester. First night stop was Middleport where we had been told that Mr. Ed’s is the place for wings. We had mild wings that were ‘out of this world’ they were so good. Tie up is at a town wall dock – free mooring and showers make a change from the charges we have had at other places.

Sunday we set out for Pittsford on the other side of Rochester, a fifty mile day. But once again the weather gods intervened. We got as far as Spencerport, some 35 miles along the canal to find that the Genesee River, which flows across the canal at Rochester, was flooding at 10.5 knots. The Canal Authority required us to sign a waiver of responsibility if we went on. We had a conference with Dietmar and decided that we would stay in Spencerport until conditions were favorable. Of course, Monday found us still there as although the River had slowed to 5.9 knots we still wanted the flow to be below 5 and preferable below 4 knots.

Finally on Tuesday we left for the next leg and found the crossing of the Gennesee River to be anti-climatic. We just pointd the bow a little upstream and executed a classic ferry glide across the junction. This leg really showed the beauty of upstate New York as the early morning sun shone through the leaves of the tress that are now starting to streak with fall colors. The rock formations alongside the canal show signs of the efforts that went into creating the canal, while turn of century farm houses echo the length of time the area has been seetled. We passed an old manual lock on a side channel that stimulated memeories and a conversation of the trip Brian had taken years ago on the English canal system. We finished the day in Newport tied up to a very nice town wall with electricity, great showers and free laundry. Many of the towns on the canal have free tie ups, but this was the best we have encountered so far. With the addition of Deitmar and us there were a total of nine boats waiting further progress on the canal, and one other – Boxer – came in just before dark.

Once again we lost a day as locks 24 to 27 were still closed. Brian took the opportunity to fit the new main traveler system while Judy went in search of medical treatment for her shoulder that she had strained. Another yacht – Aidrianna – showed up that afternoon so now we are eleven! That evening the boats holed up held a ‘Hurricane’ party which was a great opportunity to get to now each other. We are all cruisers headed south with the exception of Dietmar who is going on across the Atlantic and Parker who is headed back to Rhode Island.

Next morning we got the news that lock 27 and 26 were open so we all left for Lock 25. By the way, as we are east bound, lock numbers decrease as we go as they are numbered from the east entrance to the canal. We started at lock 33 so by the end of the day we had passed through eight locks and traveled 116.2 miles. We all tied up at the wall before the lock and again waited. Six of the boats decided to leave for Seneca Falls, which is a side trip five miles up a branch canal, but we decided to wait with Dietmar and Parker rather than add a further ten miles to the trip. The downside of this spot was the mosquitoes that attacked ferociously any exposed skin that was not well covered with repellant. That evening Judy and Jerry gathered firewood and built a beautiful fire under the bridge. It started with a can of beans in a pot, then out came some ham and an onion added to the pot as well as the five gallon buckets to sit on. Soon it turned into a real cook out complete with hot dogs, beans and potatoes rolled in foil and thrown in the fire. Felt more like homeless people than boat people but it was a fun time with conversations about Rhode Island from Parker, England from Dietmar, cruising New York from Jerry and general sailing stories. The best news was the lockkeeper announcing that the canal would reopen at 0700 the next morning.

Finally at 0730 on Sep 18 we departed Lock 25 only to be informed at lock 23 that locks 12 through 8 were closed! This did not really affect us as today’s run was 38 miles to Brewerton at the start of Lake Oneida. Nice stop over at the town wall although no facilities. Next morning we played “Happy Birthday” to Max Harvey on the kazoo while he was walking in the park. He is 10! Then a convoy of 9 boats left to the strains of “Palladio” on the CD for the crossing of Lake Oneida. This was one of those mornings that make everything worthwhile – mist lifting off the lake, calm waters, and a glorious sun shining down on us all. All was well until a stinkpot motored through just as Judy was making a cup of tea. The contents missed Max, Lil and Judy, but the rugs had to be dried on top of the dodger. Crossing the lake was a smooth trip and after refueling at Sylvan Lake we reentered the canal. This section took us up to the summit at Rome through two uphill locks and finally started down again on the run to the Hudson River. We made the trip all the way to Ilion where we stayed at the terminal wall. Unfortunately this was where we broke our record as this was the first tie up we had to pay for on the canal system, Ilion is the home of the Remington Arms Company so we took the opportunity to visit the museum at the plant. Interesting collection of all the sporting guns they have produced over the years.

Left at 1045 for Lock 16. Locks 12 to 8 were still closed and because of the backlog of boats waiting to get through we were held at lock 16. After Judy almost added Brian’s bike to the lost items claimed by the canal we took the bikes and rode into St Johnsville to check e-mail and find ice cream. We found the ultimate deal of a hand packed pint for $ 1.75 which was cheaper than a double cone. The next morning found us still at lock 16 but at noon we got the welcome news that the locks were open once more. Everyone scrambled to get going and we all made it to lock 11 for that evening. Our highlight was getting fresh baked cookies from Mike of “Sabbatical” at lock 13. We were able to reciprocate later when Mike ran out of soft drinks. We often field questions from visitors to the locks while going through them. Always interesting comments made about our boats and lifestyle.

Next morning we were up early and away at 0730 for the trip to Waterford. Ten locks altogether with the last five a flight that drops over 150 feet in a couple of miles. The first lock of the five was a problem as a Canadian power boat pushed in and the lock staff decided to try and get everyone though in one group. The sail boats on the port side were jammed to a point where our mast was hitting Mike’s mast support. We all complained so they decided to hold two power boats at the next lock. Judy’s refusal must have been loudest since the locksman asked her directly:” Are we having a bad day?” This was our only bad lock experience; all the others were very professional and helpful. As the gates opened at the last lock Brian imitated Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” with a cry of “FREEDOM”! Judy wanted to know what crime the owl hanging by the neck from the center of the gate had committed. (It is there to ward off the gulls). Or had he just had a bad day. Our tie up that night was the wall at Waterford, which is free, so for the entire Erie Canal we only had to pay for one night’s dockage. Not a bad record we felt.

We officially entered the Hudson River on September 23 and traveled to Catskills Creek and Riverview Marine to have our mast restepped. Mike and his crew did an excellent job of lifting the mast and dropping it back through the deck. A very professional staff and one marine service we would highly recommend. A full day found us with the mast in place, the sails on, the deck washed off and “Forty Two” transformed back into a sail boat.

Of course, when we left on September 25 the wind was once again on the nose so we finished up motoring 44 miles to Newburg – about halfway to New York. As we worked our way down the Hudson we noticed the array of mansions along the waterway, most set back from the river with manicured lawns leading down and a vast array of architectural design. We are about a week too early for the fall colors but the change is coming with many trees going towards olive greens and yellows with the occasional brilliant fire red foliage. Newberg was an expensive stop, the original quote for a marina berth was $120 but we got them down to $80. We were warned by several of the boaters in the marina not to venture beyond the main street and waterfront restaurant area - welcome to New York!

Leaving Newberg we continued down the Hudson, past West Point. A really imposing site and interesting to see the buildings from the water. Once past West Point we entered a wider stretch of the Hudson and were able to set the jib and sail once more. Gradually the riverside became more industrialized, then built up with apartments until we finally sailed under the George Washington Bridge and officially reached Manhattan. Our stop was at the 79th Street Boat Basin on a mooring ball. Quite a job getting on the ball as there are no pennants attached and a fierce current running. Judy did a great job lassoing the ball so we could get a mooring line on. By New York standards 79th Street is a deal – $30 a night. During the day several others that we had been together with on the Erie Canal came in. We have formed a loose club, the Erie Canal Yacht Club with a burgee designed by Patty on Renaissance of lock gates with a red circle and diagonal slash across. This is a perfect symbol of our desire to never travel the Erie Canal again.

Hurricane Jeanne came ashore in Florida and traveled up the east coast and dumped wind and rain on New York so once again we were weather bound. The New York Times reported 3 ½ inches of rain up till midnight in Central Park which was about six blocks from 79th Street Basin. When we got up in the morning the dingy had at least six inches of water in it and the river was full of junk and rubbish. The next night we were woken at 2:00 am with banging against the hull. We found a long timber caught in the mooring chain. Tried to get it off by towing it with the dingy but it was stuck fast. We finally lashed a throw cushion to the hull so the board was not hitting us directly. Got up in the morning and found the board was gone! It must have worked loose as we swung with the tide. After four days the weather finally settled and we had had enough of New York – though we did do the tourist thing - museums, Times Square, Ground Zero etc. and no visit would be complete without seeing a cowboy in times square with nothing but underwear a hat and boots, a Johnnie Cash look-a-like with a boom box singing “I Walk The Line.”, and the rats running from tree to tree in the park where we walked Max and Lil. So on the last day of September four of us left for the Atlantic Ocean stretch – Mskoki, Renaissance, Tippen and Forty Two. A wonderful view of Manhattan as we sailed down the river, past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and under the Verrezano Narrows Bridge at 9.5 knots with the tide and current behind us. Our last night in September was spent at anchor in the Atlantic Highlands harbor just behind Sandy Hook.

Our mileage to date is 1551 nautical miles, which we estimate is about half way to Key West. We have also got our act together and now have pictures up through New York. Please go to the Picture Gallery for the photos.

Fair winds,

Brian & Judy