Monday, September 27, 2010

Last post of the season

Down Time's winter home
We have arrived at Ess-Kay Marina in Brewerton, NY.  This is where Down Time will be spending the winter.  You may remember that last winter we put the boat in a "boat garage" where she stayed in the water but was inside a building, protected on three sides with a roof.  This year she will be hauled completely out of the water and put inside a shed.

Lift slip

Getting her into the shed involves driving her into a special slip and then having her lifted from the water using a marine lift.  The lift is positioned on both sides of the slip and it lowers large straps into the water across the slip.  You then drive the boat into the slip, positioning the boat above the straps.  The lift operator then tightens up the straps and as they tighten up they lift the boat out of the water.  With the boat held by the straps, the lift operator then drives the lift away from the slip to wherever the boat is going.  A lift is like a special purpose truck, it has an engine and can be steered by turning any of the four wheels.  Maybe you can get a better sense of it from this picture of a boat in the lift.
Boat in the lift

Next spring we reverse the process and put her back in the water.  Our crusing plans for next year are to cruise Canada.  We'll leave here in late May or early June (the Erie Canal doesn't open until the middle of May).  We'll head up the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario, travel east across NY, then visit the Thousand Island area of the St. Lawrence River.  From there, around the end of June, we'll travel west to Kingston, Ontario, Canada and enter the Rideau Canal.  We'll wander up the canal to Ottawa, drop back into the St. Lawrence River to visit Quebec, then come down the Richlieu Canal to Lake Champlain.  From there we'll come back into the Erie Canal and back to Ess-Kay to sotre the boat again for the winter of 2011/12.  If any of that sounds like something you'd like to do with us, get in touch.  Company is alway welcome.

Tomorrow we're hading back to Cleveland, so this is it fot this year.  Everyone have a wonderful holiday season and a safe winter.  We'll be positng again in June.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Erie Canal

We've been busy since my last post. From Kingston we went up to Catskill, NY for two nights, then on to the Albany Yacht Club for the weekend. We had to stop in Albany because Waterford, NY, the gateway to the Erie Canal, was closed for the weekend. They were hosting an antique tug festival. We actually saw the best part of the festival from our dock in Albany. The tugs met up Friday afternoon in the Albany harbor and then paraded up the Hudson to Waterford, right past our marina.

We hit the farmer's market in Troy, NY during our Albany weekend. I never realized how much farming is done in the Hudson Valley. The farmer's market was wonderful, we were able to load up on heirloom tomatoes and I treated myself to some of the first apples of the season, along with fabulous raspberries and blackberries. Too bad we can't store much fresh stuff aboard.
After the tug festival ended we moved to Waterford. Waterford is the eastern entrance to the Erie Canal. The first five locks in the canal follow one after the other, you have to do them all in a single day, you are not allowed to stop between them. It actually only takes about two hours to do them all, the lock tenders have this process down. This set of locks, called the Waterford Flight, lift your boat 150 feet. To get some perspective on that, the Panama Canal only lifts boats a total of 85 feet. The picture is of another boat coming out of lock 2. This boat is bigger than Down Time so you can judge the size of the lock. Lock 2 raises your boat about 35 feet. In the 17 locks we have been through so far, the lift has varied from 8 to 40 feet. In total, we are now 363 feet above the Hudson River. At our highest point we will be 420 feet above the Hudson.

To "lock through" you pull up to the outside of a lock and call the lock tender. If the lock is open in your direction, he gives you permission to enter. If not, he tells you about how long you will have to wait for the lock to open. If the lock is not open it is usually because there is a boat coming the other way. Once you enter the lock you look for cables, pipes or ropes down the side of the lock. With the cables and pipes, you wrap a line around the cable/pipe and tie it to your boat. With the ropes you pick one up and tie it to the boat. I do this part while Jim steers the boat close enough to me to lean over and do it, but not so close that the boat hits the concrete side of the lock. Then Jim puts the boat in neutral and goes to the back of the boat to grab one of the lines hanging down. Once the boat is secure, the lock tender closes the gates and begins to fill (or empty) the lock. We hold on to the lines to keep the boat from moving around in the turbulence caused by the incoming (or outgoing) water. Once the lock is filled or emptied completely, then the lock tender opens the other end and you motor out.

Most of the locks have places on either side where you can tie up and spend the night for free. Many of the little towns along the canal have free or low cost docks you can stay at over night. Most nights we hang out by a lock. Last night we stayed in the town marina in Little Falls and had dinner at a restaurant recommended by our friends Don and Ruth.

In addition to the locks, there are also gates on the canal. The gates are big guillotine structures used to regulate the flow of flood waters in the spring and to drain the canal in the winter. I'll bet you didn't know that the Erie Canal is drained every year, even the part that is actually the Mohawk River.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Great grocery store technology

Maybe you all will say "We've been doing that for years, why is she so excited?" but I have to gush about a new grocery store technology we have found here in the northeast.

In Stop and Shop stores up here, when you enter the store you can pick up a hand-held scanner to carry with you as you shop. They even have specially designed holders in the shopping cart to carry the scanners. Whenever you put an item in your cart you scan it first using the scanner. At the end of your shopping, you simply scan an End of Order tab at the cash register and pay. That is it -- you are done.

This means you can bag your groceries in the shopping cart as you go. You only have to touch them once, not three times (shelf to cart, cart to checkout scanner, then bagging). It saves an amazing amount of time, keeps a running total of how much you've spent, and even displays specials in the store on items you've purchased before, or items that go with other things you've already purchased. They also have an automated deli order machine near the scanners, so you can place your deli order online when you enter the store; they call your number after the order has been assembled and is ready for pick-up.

I want this in every grocery store I use!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hurricane Earl and the middle Hudson River

We continue our trip up the Hudson River. This is a beautiful River Valley with high cliffs and trees lining both sides. You can see river side houses occasionally, but many of them are obscured by trees.

We've done quite a bit of site-seeing. We visited West Point and Washington Irving's house while we were in Croton-on-Hudson. Washington Irving was the first American to be able to live of the earnings of his writing. He built a charming house on the banks of the Hudson in 1835 and in 1850 a railroad track was built between his house and the water. A train runs by there at least 4 times an hour now, from 5:00 AM to 1:00 AM. I don't know how often they ran in the 19th century, but I'm betting nearly as frequently. How mad would you be!?!

West Point was interesting, but not as informative as our trip to Annapolis. The campus is much bigger and the tour shows you much less. We discovered that you really get the best view of West Point from the water. From there you can see the old fort as well as the newer buildings. On the tour you really never get much of a sense of the military installation, it mostly seems like a college with a strict dress code.

From Croton-on-Hudson we moved north and stopped in Hyde Park, in a marina that was within walking distance of the Culinary Institute of America. Taking advantage of the location, we ate all three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) at the CIA. As you would expect, the meals were fantastic. We also took a tour of the campus and the classrooms. Imagine 4,440 students paying $35,000+ a year to learn to cook. The associates program is two years long and the bachelor program is four years. Granted that when you leave there you do know how to cook (they teach how to make chocolate starting with roasting cocoa beans), but food service doesn't pay very well. For every Thomas Keller the CIA creates there must be several hundred graduates working for Hilton hotels. Our guide told us that 90% of the students get financial aid; I hope it is scholarships and not loans.
We also visited another set of gilded age houses, more Roosevelts and Vanderbilts. In this case, it was FDR and Frederick Vanderbilt. [The top picture is FDR's place, the bottom is the Vanderbilt house.]

Turns out that Frederick was the only Vanderbilt who grew rather than spent his inheritance from old Cornelius. His home wasn't as ostentatious as the family places in Newport, RI, but it gaudy enough. It is unfortunate that they won't let you take pictures inside these places, the size of the rooms and the furnishings are quite something.

With both Hurrican Earl and the weekend approaching, we ducked into Kingston, NY for the weekend. Kingston was settled by the Dutch in the 1650s. The first plan for the town was laid out by Peter Stuyvesant. the British burned it in 1777, but it was rebuilt after the Revolutionary War and became the first capitol of New York. Nowdays, it has a mostly abandoned downtown because Wal-mart and the nearby mall have driven all of the local businesses out of business in the last 20 years. Across the river is Rhinebeck, lately of Chelsea Clinton wedding fame.

In Kingston we are only 15 miles from Woodstock, so we made the pilgramage up to see it. As I'm sure you all know, the Woodstock music festival didn't take place in Woodstock. It was on a farm about 43 miles from the town. But that hasn't kept the town from cashing in on the association. Jim described Woodstock as a "Groundhog Day" town, where every year they wake up and it is 1969 again. Every store reeks of patchouli and sells tie-dyed T-shirts. The locals dress like escapees from Haight-Ashbury in the '60s. It is all too deja vu for me. Maybe if you weren't around for the original experience it is kitschy; for me it is just creepy and weird.