Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday - August 30th - Weehawkeen (New York City)

Jerry and I took the “bus tour” of the United States Military Academy at West Point.  This was not the official tour – I presume they have one, but rather what happens when you walk on with Military ID and ask “where is the PX?”  It turns out on the other side of the base.  So we were directed to the academy bus service stop.  We then joined plebes and civilian workers as we drove all around the facility.  It was a rainy day so we were not motivated to hop on and off to visit the hot spots on the tour.  We picked up a few necessities at the PX (for example I was running out of sun block) and headed back to the gate and the boat.


We set sail (mostly engine) in rain and fog headed for Tarrytown NY. Within the first 5 minutes we had man overboard drill.  We knocked the boat hook overboard and had to retrieve it.  Fortunately it floats.  We arrived at Tarrytown in the evening and Jerry and I had a nice farewell dinner.


I wanted to take advantage of the early morning current flow down the Hudson so we were up early, Jerry headed out to the airport, and I was on my way again in rain and fog under the Tappan Zee Bridge at 0800.  It was a pretty miserable trip.  A few miles south of the bridge all sorts of contacts started showing up on the AIS and the radar.  It turns out that rather than fight the adverse current the tugs pushing barges up the river just anchor the barges and wait for the turn of the tide and the current.  I passed about 8 or 9 barges and then continued down the river.


Going under the George Washington Bridge was coming home again.  I went to college on the New Jersey side at Stevens Tech, Ace went to Columbia, and I lived in Manhattan for many years.  What came as a total shock was the development on the New Jersey side of the river.  What had been a hodgepodge of empty piers and abandoned real estate on my last visit was now chock-a-block with condo developments.  Knowing they must cost a fortune I laughed to myself because they were ugly as sin.  Ask a developer how many units he can put on a plot of land and he will invariably put twice as many up.


I took a slip at the Lincoln Harbor Yacht Club in Weehawken, NJ for the month of September.  This will hopefully give me ample time to sort out Reboot and get prepped for the next leg of my journey.   Weehawken is almost directly opposite 34th street in NYC, the Empire State Building is directly in front of my bow.  There is also a ferry that runs from here over to Manhattan, I am sure I will hop on it a couple of times.  I also expect to spend some time with family – my brother’s family all lives in the area – and catch up with some old friends.


Today is another rainy and overcast day.  The good news is that my original plan was to go up the St. Lawrence River to Nova ScotiaNova Scotia has been visited by the past couple of hurricanes and the current one seems on track to go there too! 


This afternoon is Ace’s official 65th birthday party.  His son Bill lives in Hoboken, about a mile from where I am docked.  He is going to pick me up and drive me out and back.  Even better news – I can take my laundry and get it done for free!  I hope Sally doesn’t read this before I arrive.


I have posted more pictures of my trip on Facebook.  I encourage you to become a fan of RebootRacing.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday - August 28th - West Point - 7AM

We are docked just below the US Military Academy at West Point at Highland Falls Marina. Jerry and I intend to walk up the bluff in a little while and visit. We spent the night at a small marina in Highland Falls, NY. The main marina building is a train station. A set of very active railroad tracks runs between the marina office and Reboot. We listened all night long to the sounds of the train wheels squealing around the curve. And of course they have to blow their whistle for the grade crossing. We got in last night after dark so we really didn’t get much of a chance to scope things out. This morning I checked out the “grade crossing.” It is complete with signal lights and gates. It leads down 25 feet to the boat ramp! So all night long the railroad engineers were blowing their horns to warn boaters who might be launching or retrieving their boats. LOL!

On the subject of trains when we were in Castleton-on-Hudson there was a high speed Amtrak line going thru town. We made jokes about the fact that the frequent trains were carrying graft between Albany and New York City. But in general they were far enough away that they did not disturb us. After we got the mast up and were done for the day we decided to go into Castleton for dinner. We ate in the only restaurant in town, actually the local tavern. The bar man/owner was very nice and the food was cheap and good. We had eaten a nice dinner – fish fry for Jerry, hamburger for me and had a drink. We were feeling very mellow and discussing a trip up the block to the ice cream shop for desert. All of a sudden we hear the sound of the train horn signaling its imminent arrival. The next thing we know the entire building is shaking, the train is blowing its horn 20 feet away out the back of the building, the lights are swinging on their chains, etc. Now this was exciting in its own right, but what was funny was that no one else in the bar reacted at all.

On the subject of trains this has been the trip of trains. Trains can’t go up steep hills and of course the rivers tend to be very flat so railroads since the dawn of time have build rights of way along the river banks. This was true of both the Erie Canal and is also true of the Hudson River. We have seen a surprising amount of passenger traffic, both the AlbanyBuffalo and the AlbanyNew York route have had a lot of trains. It makes you wonder if any people are on them.

Jerry is planning on leaving me tomorrow, his mission to help me get the boat thru the Erie Canal finished. He will go back to Avon, IN until he decides to sign up for another transit opportunity. I will be taking the boat down to the New York City area and now have to figure out where to put it. Transient dockage rates in the city are very expensive so I will anchor out most of the time. On the other hand I need access to parts and stores so I will have to bite the bullet every once in a while. It will also be a great opportunity to see my brother.

The weather has turned much colder in the last couple of days. We were sweating bullets when the sun was out on the Erie Canal, yesterday it did not get nearly as hot and this morning it is actually overcast and chilly. I need to get the autopilot fixed as long transits (such as to the Chesapeake Bay) would be quite difficult alone. Also the wind instruments got smashed in the Troy lock and need to be replaced. It is possible to sail without them but they do make it much easier.

Before I forget we did see The Concept II at Castleton Boat Club. They swung around and said hi from the river. I thought they were coming in for the night but it turns out that they were continuing on down to Catskill. I continued up to the office to pay my bill and only found out later they were not docking. So we didn’t get a chance to swap Erie Canal stories.

August 28th - Evening

A 25 mile slog thru rain to the Tarrytown Marina.  Jerry will leave by train to Grand Central tomorrow, Reboot and I will continue down to Weehawken.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday - August 27th - Castleton on Hudson

We are a sailboat again!  We spent yesterday putting the mast back up, the sails on, and so forth.  This morning we will continue down the Hudson River to NY City.


Congratulations to Ace on his last day of work!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Erie Canal Transit - Reflections

Erie Canal Transit – August 2009 – Reflections


We transited the Erie Canal from Tonawanda (Buffalo) to Troy (Hudson River) in Reboot, a Catalina 42 Mark II Wing Keel sailboat.  We were 60 feet overall with mast down, 14 foot beam, 5 foot draft.  We had a total of two people on board.


Reflections, in no particular order of importance:

  1. No matter what the tour guides say this is a transit, not a cruise.  You motor 337 miles along a river that is almost uniformly covered on either bank by trees.  There is little or nothing unique to look at.  We hand steered the entire way, if your autopilot is on the blink I strongly suggest you get it fixed before entering the canal.  This transit challenges watching grass grow or paint dry for excitement.
  2. Crew:  You can do the transit with two people but three will reduce the tension level in the locks.  The best setup in the locks is for someone fending the bow, someone fending the stern, and a third person grabbing and/or rigging the ropes/cables.  There is little or no need for anyone at the helm once the boat is stopped in the locks.  Actually, bring as many people as you can for entertainment – see #1 above.
  3. The Niagara River from Buffalo to Tonawanda is a trip in its own right.  There are substantial currents toward Niagara Falls (North.)  Coming westbound expect to be fighting your way up the River.
  4. In Tonawanda there are two places to take your mast down – Smith Brothers and Wardell’s Boatyard.  We took ours down at Wardell’s as the Smith Brothers crane was broken.  The going rate is $6.00 per foot.  You will also be charged transient berthing while you work on the boat.  The $6.00 per foot buys you the crane operation.  All de-rigging, building mast supports, etc. are not provided by the yard as part of the $6.00 per foot fee.
  5. Dennis Wardell runs Wardell’s.  He took over from his father who we also met.  He was very helpful.  He showed us a pile of previous supports.  We chose to adapt them rather than make from scratch even though we had brought the parts to make our own.  BTW, we brought 2x6’s and lag bolts.  In the future we would bring nails.
  6. Build your mast support high so that the mast is out of your way.  You do not want to be climbing over it for the 3 to 7 days it will take you to transit.  Also, make sure it is out of the way so you can work the sides of the boat.  You need to be able to go forward and aft quickly as you enter a lock.  Also, tie the bottom ends of the shrouds and stays to the bottom of the mast.  They are a very natural place to grab when walking fore and aft.  Ours were tied to the mast but not tied down.  As a consequence if you pulled on them they would simply come to you and provide no support whatsoever.  We left our spreaders in, we did not, but should have secured them to prevent the mast from rotating in the supports.  They were just too handy to grab and again provided no support, the mast just rotated.  Also, we purchased some equipment tie down straps at the local auto parts store.  They came in very handy holding the mast down to the boat.
  7. Locking thru equipment:  You should have enough fenders to line the side of the boat from bow to stern and two sturdy boat hooks and two sturdy poles (we used 2x2’s about 8 feet long.  The boat hooks are to grab either the cables or lines that run down the inside of the locks.  The poles are to push you off the sides of the lock.
  8. Locking thru:  Even though it was mid-August we saw very few other boats and only shared a lock three times.  Under these conditions the lock tenders let you pick your spot and side in the locks.  For a single screw sailboat I would recommend port side.  There is always a current pushing you toward the lock exit as you enter the lock so you will use the engine to back down.  On Reboot this throws the stern to port. So with a port tie the bow person can grab a line, the helm/stern person backs down, and the stern of the boat comes right against the side of the lock.  You will quickly discover that the most important thing is keeping the boat parallel to the wall so that the mast does not strike the wall.  Also, consider the strength of the people on your boat.  With an 11 ton sailboat it was a good thing that we had two strong men to get the boat positioned in the locks.  We were blessed with good weather and light winds.  It would have been more of a struggle in heavy winds.  Beyond that, you will figure out what works for you in the lock after a couple of locks.
  9. Locking thru – Federal Locks:  The first and last locks of the canal – Black Rock and Troy depending on your direction – are not run by the NYS Canal Corporation.  We found nothing to tie on to in the approach wall of the Black Rock lock.  The Troy lock has no ropes, cables that prevent all but the largest of boats from using more than one cable, and very nasty currents.
  10. Speed:  The speed limits in the canal are 5, 10 and 30 mph.  In other words, 4 knots, 8ish knots and faster than Reboot can go surfing down the back side of an ocean wave.  Distances that seem short on the charts (for example 10 miles) take a long time to transit.  Even with a fast boat you will find yourself constrained by the speed limit to long slow passages.
  11. Think camping:  The route passes thru rural countryside and a large marsh.  You will need to be prepared for the mosquitoes and other bugs that will try and drive you nuts.
  12. Weather:  In August it was sunny, very hot and very muggy or overcast and/or rain.  We preferred the overcast days by a long shot.
  13. Charts and guides:  The must have is the New York State Canal Corporation Cruising Guide to the New York State Canal System.  The NOAA charts do not cover a large part of the canal and were of no use as the Canal Corporation guide was so much better.  We had a copy of Dozier’s Waterway Guide.  It also stayed on the shelf as it was no where detailed enough.
  14. “Legs:” Make sure that your boat has the “legs” for the trip.  Much to our surprise getting diesel fuel was not easy.  There are long stretches without marinas and many of the marinas either do not have fuel or only have gas.  We also spent most nights without electricity.  Plot out your refueling strategy and remember how slowly you will be transiting.  The towns are quite a bit further apart than we expected and not all have good places to tie up.
  15. Operating:  The Canal operates from 7 AM to 10:30 PM (the hours vary by season and also we understand year to year.)  You do not want to try and navigate at night!  The marks are unlighted and steering by following a canal bank might easily run you over a shoal.  After storms the Canal is filled with natural debris, tree limbs, branches, etc.  You need to be able to see where you are going at all times.  Even so, expect that you will most likely hit a submerged something somewhere along the trip.  We stopped early in the evening after our one experience of trying to make the next town by dark.
  16. Dockage:  By far the cheapest and easiest is at the approach walls to the locks.  The lock tenders are very friendly.  We understand that some lock tenders will let you use the showers that are in the tender’s support building.  The next step up are those towns that provide free or cheap (e.g. $5.00 per night, $11.00 per night) transient dockage.  Usually these towns also provide electricity and showers.  The marinas are all listed in the Cruising Guide.  Be aware that some of the items listed on the guide are not very suitable.  For example, as we came into Schenectady NY there were floating docks indicated on the charts.  One was unreachable due to shallow water, the other did not look strong enough to hold our 11 tom sailboat.
  17. Local Knowledge:  Beyond a shadow of a doubt the lock tenders have it nailed.  Ask about anything – where to tie up, where to eat, etc. and they will know.  Part of the locking thru procedure puts you in face to face contact.  Be polite, ask your questions and expect a high quality of answers.  The restaurant recommendations we were given were great, as were the answers to the “how far you can we get today” and “where should we tie up tonight” recommendations.  The lock tenders are in constant touch with each other by telephone.  Tell each lock your intentions for the next lock and you will find it (at least most of the time) with the green light beckoning you in.


Pictures - Erie Canal Transit


Monday, August 24, 2009

August 24th - Evening

We made it thru lock 2 and docked in Waterford NY.  We are officially thru the Erie Canal as Lock 1, like the Black Rock lock in Buffalo is a Federal lock.  The Erie Canal is run by New York State, or to be precise the New York State Canal Corporation.


We will get our stuff together for putting the mast back up and then head out into the Hudson  for the marina and crane.

Monday - August 24th - Schenectady Yacht Club

We are at the Schenectady Yacht Club.  It reminds me of the Hempstead Harbor Club that my parents belonged to when I was young.  It is a bunch of floating docks and a couple of buildings.  We asked about a bar and restaurant when we called them and they said, no, we don’t have one.  We will give you a beer but we can’t sell you a bear!  As a point of reference for my Milwaukee friends, South Shore is way upscale!   We arrived late in the evening when our other docking options turned out not to be docking options.  Several members of the club were on their fuel dock to take lines and swap stories.  We had pizza delivered and spent the evening swapping tales.  We also met a couple that were transiting west, they had come east several weeks ago and were on their way home.


I have not blogged for the last couple of days as nothing much has happened, just more watching paint dry with one exception.  As we were transiting Lake Oneida we passed a powerboat exhibiting an orange flag with a black square and circle.  Jerry and I both dredged in our deep memory and finally said “ah ha” – that is a distress flag.  The guy waving his arms overhead was a clue too!  We were able to raise them on the radio to find out that their battery was dead and they could not start their engine.  We carry a jumper pack for just the possibility of the same problem so we figured we would go over and lend it to them.  We reversed course and headed back to them.  As we are making our approach they yell over that they have raised a friend on the cell phone who is coming to their rescue.  Given the relative shapes of the two boats we figured that it was safer not to push the point that we were there with the necessary rescue equipment but just said OK and reversed course again.  As Jerry would say, we checked off “rescue” on our experience checklist.


Everywhere we go there are signs of the bad economy.  The locals in every town mention how business is down; the marinas tell us that the number of transient boats is way down this year.  We went thru one lock where we were the only boat to transit the entire day – and this is high season.


Congratulations to my brother Ace on his 65th birthday last Saturday the 22nd.  He is now firmly in the grips of the government dole!  I guess it is time for him to join AARP and become a Democrat.  He also retires from the bank this next Thursday.


Our plan over the next couple of days is to finish the Eire Canal today and then overnight before transiting the “Federal Lock” that leads into the Hudson River.  I intend to do some preparatory work on the mast, then down to the Castleton Boat Club.  This is “the” place on the east end of the canal where everyone puts up or takes down their masts.  Once we have put the mast back up – a much shorter process than the two days it took us to take it down and build the supports - we will head down the Hudson River for New York and an in person reunion with my brother and sister-in-law Ace and Sally.  Of course, since I saw them at EAA a couple of weeks ago after not seeing them for several years it will no quite be the same.  Jerry will jump off at some point after we get Reboot back together and head home to attend to other things.  I believe he will then be doing a transit with friends to the Caribbean in late October or early November.


My plan is to muck around in Long Island Sound for much of the month of September.  I will visit Glen Head where I grew up.  I also plan on visiting my parents’ graves at Trinity Church in Roslyn, NY.  I have a bunch of stuff to fix and install.  Then down to the Chesapeake Bay for October.  At that point I will have to decide on next steps for the winter.


In the small world department the Dockmaster at SYC is from Long Island.  He tells me that visiting cruisers told him that the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club has the least expensive transient dockage on Long Island.  Of course I sailed out of Manhasset Bay several times as a kid.  It was (is) one of the most high end clubs on Long Island.  Go figure.

Reboot position


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thursday - August 20th - Into the wilderness

We left Fairport early this morning and spent the entire day motoring the canal.  We reached Lock 25 in the middle of the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge in the early afternoon.  We determined that we could not make the next lock and tie up point before dark so we called it an early day and stopped in mid-afternoon.  The weather continues to be hot and we look forward to those times when the sky is overcast.


The next 50 miles is in very sparsely populated country.  We expect to make it thru to the west end of Oneida Lake by tomorrow at sundown.


Wednesday - August 19th - No Cows!

Jerry told me that his friends were all kidding him about the canal trip.  They said, “You will see a lot of cows.”  Well, so far we have only seen one group.  And they turned out to be llamas!  We are, however, keeping a sharp cow watch.


It appears that Tux the cat may have jumped ship in North Tonawanda.  She had been very good about staying on board.  Then one night she jumped off and went prowling on shore.  We thought we had lost her but in the morning she was back on the boat.  The following night she went prowling again.  My last memory of her was her jumping down on my body and disappearing down into the boat.  So when we left we thought she had come back.  However, we have not seen her and she has not used the box for a couple of days.  She may have started a new life with another sailor cat.  Jerry suggested she just came back to pack a bag and wait for me to doze off again so she could make her escape.


Another long grind watching the grass grow.  We navigated two more locks and are getting better at the procedure.  As the owner of course I am always concerned that something will go wrong in the lock and we will break Reboot.  So I will never like them, but they are a sign of progress.


We took a mid-day break in Brockport NY.  We walked quite a distance in search of lamp oil for our anchor lamp and ended up at an old lumber yard and Ace hardware store.  Most of the stock was so old that the printing had faded on the boxes.  But if you need a Bakelite power cord for your grandmother’s electric skillet they have one in stock.  Of course the lamp oil was out of stock.


In the small world department I went into a local florist (Brockport is a cutesy canal town) to inquire where I might find lamp oil.  As the conversation unfolded the owner asked me where I was from.  It turns out that he graduated from North Shore High School in Glen Head in 1967, three years after me.  He has an older brother that graduated in 1963.  I believe he said his family name was Strong and that they lived on Smith Street in Glen Head.


The town names are very familiar.  My first post college job was with Eastman Kodak in Rochester.  The canal passes thru about 4 miles south of Rochester and intersects the Genesee River.  It is interesting that during my stay in Rochester I was never aware of how close the canal is to the city.  My experience was all north, sailing on Lake Ontario.  As we approached the Genesee the amount of garbage in the river took a dramatic upturn.  Coffee cups and such toss off the boat refuse was quite common.  After crossing the river junction we caught up with a rowing team.  They were rowing at 5 mph.  That is the speed limit in the canal at that point so we paced them for the better part of an hour.  They did not choose to lock thru with us.


Later in the day we passed a one man racing kayak.   As I came up from the cabin I looked back past Jerry at the helm to find the kayaker was surfing our wake.  He got about 5 feet behind us and took advantage of the suction from the boat to stay with us for a couple of miles.  We had a nice chat, he apparently does this frequently, and then he turned off.


We of course try to use local knowledge when ever possible to find the best places to eat and overnight.  The canal keepers are very helpful.  (Jerry, joking, says they get a commission from the towns for each cruiser they send along – kind of like the commissions paid to the cruise ship guys who steer the passengers to the jewelry, liquor, perfume, etc. stores in the Caribbean ports.)  The advice today was to go to Fairport.  We were reminded of Cornelius Ryan’s book A Bridge Too Far.  As the sun set and it got darker and darker in the unlighted channel of the canal we realized that the bridges and locks may be open until 10 PM but it is not wise to continue on after sunset.  Tomorrow we will be more careful to pick our destination.


Reboot position


Heart of Darkness

Spencer introduced me to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  At least I think it is Conrad, hard to do reference checks out here.  The book describes the voyage up an un-named river.  If you have seen Apocalypse Now you know most of the story.  The further up the river the more wild, the more primitive, and the more bizarre the behavior.


As we have travel the Erie Canal I have had some small appreciation for what it must have been like to be a Swift Boater in Vietnam.  You are constrained on both sides by a narrow channel.  You can’t go particularly fast – of course the combat boats could go much faster than Reboot.  Every grove of trees, every cut thru limestone represents a potential ambush location.  That my brothers in arms did this on a daily basis in pursuit of freedom (as did all the other forces in Vietnam and every other military action by the United States) is beyond my comprehension.


August 21st - Making it to the Lake

Montezuma got his revenge in the form of mosquitoes.  After we had been docked for some time a couple from another sailboat came up with their dog to visit.  We noticed that the dog started rolling around in the grass.  A few seconds later we too were inundated by the mosquitoes that had been stirred up by their walk.


We closed up the boat and put up screens but it was far too late. We both were covered with bites.  Fortunately Jerry had some antihistamine tablets and after a bit our bodies did calm down enough so that we were able to get some sleep.  Of course then there was the thunderstorm thru the open hatches that woke us up.


Today was more of watching grass grow with two exceptions: we finally saw cows; and we played I Spy the Lighthouse.  The local Home Depot must have had a sale on replica lighthouses because every third dock along the Seneca River had one.


Our fuel supply started to get low so we transferred 5 gallons of fuel from one of the plastic jugs to the main fuel tank.  We realized that it would be much easier if we had a long neck funnel on board so I will be looking to Trevor to get me one.


We made it to Brewerton at the west end of Lake Oneida in late afternoon.  We refueled, pumped, and took on water.  We had a nice dinner in a local restaurant only to find out they were also hosting the 20th reunion of Cicero High School.  It made for some fun people watching as the Yankees demolished the Red Sox.



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18th - Locks 35 & 34

This morning we met Dennis Wardell’s father, the founder of the Wardell boat yard.  He is working on restoring an old boat at the yard and was quite fun to chat with.  Dennis was kind enough, after we had walked over to the grocery store for provisions to pick us up and drive us back.


So, with the mast, boom and everything else of ours back on the boat we proceeded down the Erie Canal.


Jerry and I agree that for at least the first 30 miles the Erie Canal was about as exciting as watching grass grow.  Like most similar canals you simply run down a narrow ditch for mile after mile.  Yes, the scenery does change – corn fields, private homes, etc. but in general the entire idea is to get from point “A” to point “B”.


So far we have seen 2 other sailboats making their way east to west.


For those considering a transit:


The entire canal is on channel 13 ---


We locked thru the first two locks coming east – locks 35 and 34.  The lockmaster was very helpful and after purchasing our 10 day canal pass got us hooked up and ready to go.  These are very deep locks back to back in Lockport, NY.  That is, lock 35 feeds you directly into lock 34.  You loop a line around a cable and the line slides down the cable as you are lowered quickly it turns out in the lock.  What we were unprepared for was the bow and stern of the boat swinging against the side of the lock.  We had brought two long 2 x 2 poles on board and spent quite a bit of the time keeping Reboot parallel to the dock.  Since the mast sticks about 10 feet out in front and behind the boat the impact of even small swings are exaggerated.  We were OK with only two of us on board but a third hand would have been nice.  A lot happens in a very short time.  Our mild trip thru the Black Rock canal lock did not prepare us well.


What we didn’t know was that the lower lock feeds into a 200 yard stretch of the canal with a lift bridge that does not open unless you call it separately.  I guess there are lots of boats that come out of the lock and then stop (there is no place to stop!)  Fortunately a tour boat was in the lock with us and notified the bridge that we were coming thru also.  Then, just so that captains can exhibit their skills holding an 11 ton sailboat in the center of a 100 foot wide channel in a crosswind there is a second lift bridge 500 yards further down the canal.  It too does not open.  We have been told that the bridge operator opens the first bridge, closes it, gets in his car, drives to the second bridge and opens that.  Clearly a system that provides a major hazard to navigation, fortunately for us canal traffic has been very light and we only shared the “holding pen” with the tour boat so we had a bit more room to maneuver.  I bet with three or four sailboats it could be quite a show.


So far the cruising guides have not been much help, and the NOAA charts do not cover the area we are transiting.  The NY State Canal Corporation publishes a guide that includes charts of the canal and that is what we have been using to keep track of our progress.  With all the focus on locks it is easy to forget that there are quite a few lift bridges.  They are marked on the charts but not in an obvious way.  Each bridge that crosses the canal is labeled.  After a couple of surprises you start looking for the word “lift” in the bridge description.


Garmin obviously did not put a lot of stake into getting the Erie Canal charts accurate.  We have been at various times in the canal, parallel to the canal, on roads near the canal, and harvesting corn.  The equipment keeps a track of our route; it will be fun to compare it to the charts.  Also, the west part of the canal does not have official NOAA charts.  We will see what happens when we get to “official” NOAA chart country.


We spent the night in Middleport, NY.  Jerry bought me a celebratory dinner at The Basket Factory.  It is a great moderately priced restaurant right on the canal.  It was recommended by the lockkeeper at Lock’s 35&34 and we would recommend it too.


Tomorrow we grind thru as many more miles of the canal as possible; we have about 300 more to go.  We go about 7 miles an hour, so you do the math!


Lake Erie

We left Cleveland headed for Buffalo and the autopilot started acting up again.  We are coming to the conclusion that it is the control head and not the computer but there is no real way of telling until we have more time and equipment to test with.


We had a long, hot, flat no wind trip up the lake.  We put in at Erie PA for the night.  At first we tied up at the public dock, but it was quite public and not very appealing.  Se we went across the small inlet area and tied up in front of the convention center.  We made some soup and while we were sitting in the cockpit a boat covered with disco lights with the music blaring came by a couple of times.  On the third pass we realized that it was one guy alone on the boat – he was dancing with himself.  I guess disco lights just don’t get the girls at Pasquile Isle.  Fortunately his third pass was his last and we were able to bed down for the night.


The next morning we left and went direct to Buffalo.  Another flat, hot, windless boring trip across Lake Erie.  We got into Buffalo late in the evening, headed for a restaurant called The Pier only to find it long gone and replaced with a park.  We then went up to Lake Erie marina and had a nice dinner in the marina restaurant.  We headed back down the harbor break wall and anchored for the night at the location of the missing Pier restaurant.  I am glad to have Lake Erie behind us.

The Niagara River

We left our Buffalo anchorage and proceeded to a local marina to have the mast taken down.  We spent about four hours chatting with some people that were at the marina, and then concluded that we just did not like the state of the equipment at the marina and we would go elsewhere to get the mast taken down. 


So we left Buffalo on Sunday afternoon and transited the Niagara River to the head of the Erie Canal.  It was an interesting trip.  We were both well aware that Niagara Falls was somewhere in front of us and entertained each other with commentary about going over the Falls. One starts the process by going up the River proper.  There is not much current – of course it was pushing us down toward the Falls.  You then enter the Black Rock Canal.  This takes you past the Niagara River rapids.  We had trouble getting the first bridge to open.  He did not respond on the radio and finally came out and told us a train was coming but he would open after the train.  The second bridge did open right away and just beyond that bridge is the Black Rock Canal lock.  We of course had our fenders on the wrong side, there were no lines to hold on to against the wall waiting for the lock to open, and Jerry got yelled at for climbing up the wall.  Which was strange since the entire wall is lined with bollards but no lines.  Our first lock – for me, for Reboot, and for Jerry.  We exited the lock in fine order and started back up the Niagara River.  It is very wide here and the current is less but we had been warned to stay in the marked channel.


There was a two to three knot current in the river pushing us on our way.  We were surprised to find a very large number of powerboats traveling all over the width of the River.  But of course they have the power not to be concerned but such a mild (for them) current.  I was also surprised at the number of marinas and restaurants along the way.  All in all a very active boating area.


We eventually arrived at Wardell’s boat yard at the head end of the Erie Canal.  Talk about the Last Chance Saloon!  About 50 feet beyond Wardell’s crane is the first bridge too low for Reboot to navigate.  We tied up at the fuel dock only to have Mr. Wardell (as far as we can tell the sole employee of Wardell’s) ask us to move the boat down under the crane.  We did, and spent a noisy night listening to the traffic crossing the highway bridge.



Taking down the mast (Part 1)

After a long night of worrying about Tux who had become bold enough to wander off the boat on to shore we started the process of building the supports and taking down the mast.  It was a very hot and sunny day and the work was hard and tedious.  By the end of the day we had the forward support built, the rear support 90% complete, and the mast (sans boom, sails, etc.) hanging in the crane next to the boat.  We agreed that it was late and we were too tired to cope with trying to get the mast into the cradle on the boat so we called it a night.


Mr. Wardell is a Prince.  He has been helping us on and off all day by pointing out stuff we can use, setting up and pulling the mast out (he did it straight up which is a very big trick!) and in general making sure that we paced ourselves by saying – hey, if you need to spend another night that is OK.  I would recommend him to anyone who needs a stick up or down at this end of the canal.



Thursday, August 13, 2009

In Cleveland

I left Put-In Bay early in the AM on my way to Cleveland.  Out about ½ hour the autopilot decided to go sneakers up so I had to hand steer for the next 6 hours.  I got into Cleveland, got fuel, and settled the boat in a marina for the night.  Today Jerry flew in (my pick up crew for the Erie Canal transit.)  We got the gooseneck fixed – hopefully for good and the antenna that will let us use both the high power VHF radio and the AIS at the same time working.  We plan a quiet night and an early morning departure.  If the autopilot stops acting up we will go direct to Buffalo, if not we will hand steer to Erie, PA and anchor out for the night.




Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's AMAZING how that worked out!

Sometimes a picture is worth 10,000 words.  Today I was transiting the Detroit River from North to South.  First I passed the City and Renaissance Center with it’s proud Government Motors (sigh) sign.  Then down past the River Rouge plant, at least at one time the largest steel plant in the world.  Of course “lakers” full of iron ore have been passing me in my travels on Lake Huron.  So it clicked.  Detroit builds cars.  Cars take lots of steel – not so much now as before, but still a lot.  Steel takes iron ore and coal.  Isn’t it just amazing how that all worked out?



Monday, August 10, 2009

The Marinas are empty

As I reflect on the past few days I realized that each time I stopped in a marina for fuel it was empty – at least 50% of the slips had no boats in them. As I came up the Black River this evening there were maybe 5% of the total slips with boats in them. It is obviously a tough season.


What a day!

Well… A day for some firsts. I spent the morning working on getting some of the electronics sorted out on the boat while waiting for the waves to subside. Of course at dawn there was a pretty good sized thunderstorm but I didn’t care as I had spent the night in a slip. By noon it was clear and bright and I finished up my tasks and set sail. Would you believe, by 2 PM there was a special marine warning for thunderstorms exactly where I was sailing. And of course, within ½ hour they hit. So now I have survived my first single handed offshore thunderstorm in Reboot. In general thunderstorms are pretty nasty things at sea, but I have a particular aversion to them since in my first offshore sailboat race at the tender age of 21 we were hit in the middle of the night with a particularly nasty one in Lake Ontario. It demasted three of the boats in the race. I was pretty scared.

Today after the second wave of thunderstorms rolled over the boat I heard a strange banging noise. On further investigation I found that two of the four screws holding the mast to the gooseneck were missing. I found one on the deck. Not a good thing. I immediately took down the main sail and reinforced the boom with the main halyard to position it back in the gooseneck. So now I am a one sail sailboat (jib) until I get it fixed. Of course it was something I though I had fixed before setting out, but the repair was obviously not adequate.

What a typical Lake Huron voyage – complete with biting flies, miserable weather, and long stretches of uninteresting coastline. I have elected to shoot straight from Presque Isle to Port Huron – a very long voyage. I look forward to Detroit where I can purchase parts and will meet up with Jerry who is going to help me take the boat thru the Erie Canal.

To top it all off, as I was coming under the Blue Water Bridge I encountered dense fog. I had turned on my almost useless old radar when I realized I was going into a fog bank. It came up and there was the channel with a big blob in the middle. I of course thought it was the reflection from the bridge. At least I did until a HUGE cargo ship came steaming out of the fog two football fields away directly at my bow! Fortunately he was going dead slow. I am sure he did not see me until I passed him. Then, and only then did he decide to actually blow his foghorn!

Two Lakes down 1 ½ (Lake St Clair) to go before the Erie Canal. I will rest tonight in a slip (there is no place to anchor in the river) and head down the St. Clair river tomorrow morning.

I am finding myself sore from cranking winches and working around the boat. I remember the feeling from doing long distance races and know that as I rebuild my upper body strength the problem will go away. In the meantime I just take it slow and easy.


Reboot position

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Presque Isle Harbor

A long day. The wind and the waves were against me all of the way. I stopped in Presque Isle Harbor for fuel, only to discover that the forecast for tonight was for 8 foot waves. Tomorrow should be better. I am planning on shoving off at dawn.

Leaving Lake Michigan

I spent last night in Frankfort, MI.  I purchased fuel and then went down to the end of the lake and anchored out for the night.  There was no wind to speak of so the anchor chain just hung down in the water.  I never did get to the rode (the chain is 50 feet long.)  I slept in the cockpit and woke with the dawn as the fishermen were heading out to the lake.  I decided that I might as well raise anchor and take off for points North.  The problem with this stretch is that there are no good places to pull in that don’t require a significant deviation for the straight course to Grey’s Reef. I passed thru Grey’s Reef at about 9 PM and turned the corner heading for the Mackinac Bridge.  Since it is 16 miles to the bridge I will leave Lake Michigan at the beginning of a new day. It is 4.6 miles in front of me as I write this post.


The biggest accomplishment of the day was to get the chart plotter set up so that I can use the computer to write and journal and not for navigation.  In the last ½ hour that it has been working it has been a treat to be free to use the computer as a computer and the chart plotter for navigation. Setting it up was quite a project.  First I had to find the box with the drill, not an easy project with my entire apartment in boxes on the boat.  But I accomplished that feat and was able to screw the mounting bracket down.  Of course the screws were ½  inch shorter than I wanted,


More tomorrow… or the next day…

Roger J. Jones

c/o A. Jones – Agent – s/v Reboot, 712 Belmont Rd, Ridgewood, NJ 07450


Reboot Phone: (414) 248-0345

Web Site:


Reboot position

Ham Radio: W2ZDB via Maritime Mobile Service Net 14.300 Mhz


This email is sent from an infrequenctly monitored mailbox.  It may take several days or weeks before I am in port where I can receive it.  Should you have an immediate need please contact me via Reboot's agent.


This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are the confidential and proprietary information of Roger J. Jones and are intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to which they are addressed.  Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system.  If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that you are not authorized to disclose, copy, distribute or take any action in reliance on the contents of this e-mail.


Thursday, August 6, 2009


I left the Milwaukee Yacht Club at about 7 PM last night and have been sailing and motoring north in Lake Michigan.  It was a beautiful full moon with very flat seas,  This made for a comfortable ride except for the fact that there was very little wind so in order to make any significant progress I have been forced to run the engine most of the time.  So much for sailing around the world!  I am sure I will have many hour under sail alone in the next months or years.


Ed King stopped down in the late afternoon to see how I was doing.  He helped me get the last few items tied down and stowed.  We agreed that since the boat was ready and the weather favorable there was no point waiting until morning so after a brief handshake I was off.  It was appropriate that Ed was the one to see me off, he has been a great friend and a constant racing companion for several years.


Early in the AM I heard the plaintive cry of a black and white kitty.  Yes, Tux climbed up in the cockpit and joined me.  She then did a bit of exploring and settled down for a long rub session.  She is well on her way of becoming the Reboot boat kitty.


I expect to stop in Frankfort MI for fuel.  I will probably spend the night there as the next stretch is a passage between islands on the West and Michigan on the East.  That would make it very difficult to doze as is required when single handing.  I wondered how I would sleep and wake.  Reboot tells me when it is time to wake up as the entire motion of the boat changes when I need to do something, for example because the wind has shifted.


More later


Roger J. Jones

c/o A. Jones – Agent – s/v Reboot, 712 Belmont Rd, Ridgewood, NJ 07450


Reboot Phone: (414) 248-0345

Web Site:


Reboot position

Ham Radio: W2ZDB via Maritime Mobile Service Net 14.300 Mhz


This email is sent from an infrequenctly monitored mailbox.  It may take several days or weeks before I am in port where I can receive it.  Should you have an immediate need please contact me via Reboot's agent.


This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are the confidential and proprietary information of Roger J. Jones and are intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to which they are addressed.  Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system.  If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that you are not authorized to disclose, copy, distribute or take any action in reliance on the contents of this e-mail.