Gilded Age and FDR – 5/31/16

First of All -

  • First visit to a Presidential home and library
  • First woodchuck seen

Namely Speaking-

  • Hyde Park
  • Spring Hill

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover Day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,044
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.4 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: 67

DSCF3779Most of the historic sites we’ve visited thus far on the trip have spanned the Colonial through Civil War era. Today, however, we will tour homes from a more recent past. First on our itinerary is the Vanderbilt Mansion, located just a few miles from the Yacht Club. Richie, the guy on duty today, is kind enough to drive Richard, Jill, Sandy and I over to the mansion. This place was the part time summer home of Fredrick Vanderbilt, grandson of shipping and railroading magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt from 1895 through 1938. It was donatedDSCF3772 by his heir to the National Park Service, with encouragement from Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose Spring Hill home is located just a few miles away. Because the property passed directly to public ownership, virtually all the furnishings inside the home date back to Vanderbilt’s occupancy, thus giving visitors an outstanding sense of what life was like for the “nouveau riche” of the Gilded Age. A young but knowledgeable Park Service ranger serves as our tour guide, leading us through opulent rooms and sharing stories and descriptions of life in that era.

Before starting our tour I call a taxi located in Poughkeepsie, requesting a ride from Vanderbilt to the Roosevelt estate. It’s only a few miles away, but further than we care to walk. After our tour we wait 15 minutes or so for our ride, but it doesn’t show up. I call the taxi company and am told our driver will arrive in 15 minutes. Twenty minutes later I call once again and am told he’ll be there any minute. Fifteen minutes later I call again and, this time I get a voice mail recording whose mailbox is full. Richard then calls another cab company and they assure him they’ll be by in 20 minutes. The second taxi get there in 15 minutes and, after we get DSCF3774in, my phone rings. The first taxi is calling from the wrong place. I tell him he’s more than an hour late, and we’ve made other arrangements. Our pleasant driver delivers us to our destination efficiently, and earns a decent tip. We walk over to the visitor center and pick up tickets for both the Presidential home, called Spring Hill, and for the Presidential Library and Museum. After a quick lunch in the adjacent cafe we go on our escorted tour of the Roosevelt home. Our Park Service guide is animated and compelling as she tells the story of Franklin, his parents, and his wife Eleanor, and their association withDSCF3797 this home. Franklin grew up here and lived here after his marriage to Eleanor, and even though they lived in many other places during their lives, they frequently returned here. Franklin especially drew strength and inspiration while living here in the beloved family home. Foreign dignitaries, including the King and Queen of England and, of course, Winston Churchill, were guests here. Everywhere we look we see furnishings and memorabilia connecting us with this great figure in recent history.

Following our tour of the home we walk over to the Presidential Library. We learn that FDR’s Presidential Library holds several distinctions. It was the first Presidential Library ever created, and is the only one established while the subject President was still in office. FDR began using this Library as his personal office during his 3rd term as president. Every president after him, as well as Herbert Hoover in retrospect, established libraries as public repositories for their presidential papers. This place is more than a document repository, however. It’s more of a museum telling the story of his remarkable life. One of the great highlights is his personal office, which remains intact in every detail, as it was on the day he died. Somehow, knowing that as I viewed the room was a very moving experience. We also saw his 1936 Phaeton automobile, which was specially modified with hand controls so he could drive it himself, despite his paralyzed legs. His wheel chair and leg braces, hidden so effectively from public view during his lifetime, are also displayed. On our way back to the visitor center we pause at the rose garden where, in accordance with his wishes, both he and Eleanor are buried.

We phone Richie up for a ride back to the Yacht Club. He drives right over and picks us up, and we tip him for his kind and prompt service. We order a pizza delivery and all 6 of us gather in the Yacht Club room to eat and chat. It’s a lovely evening out, and we linger on the patio enjoying this time together. Soon we will part ways, with 2 boats heading west on the Erie Canal while we continue north, up the Champlain Canal.

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Last Day Together for 3 Looping MacGregors – 6/1/16

First of All -

  • First bird – mute swan
  • First time 3 loop cruisings Macs go out to dinner with a MacGregor Sailors web page moderator

Namely Speaking-

  • Saugerties
  • The Maelstrom
  • Catskill
  • Coxsackie
  • Coeymans
  • Albany

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 60; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,104
  • Hours Underway: 8 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.7
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction: N
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: 72

DSCF3813Today will be the last day our 3 MacGregors will be cruising together. We get an early 6:30am start so as to benefit from the morning flood current. Rich leads the way and I follow. Lee starts a bit later, since he must row Boomer, his faithful dog, ashore for some important business. Before we’ve gone very far upriver, however, Lee catches up and then passes us. We keep in touch over the radio, and Rich establishes contact with Steve, the MacGregorSailors moderator, who livesDSCF3815 near Albany. Steve wants to photograph all 3 of our boats together before we put in at Albany Yacht Club. We arrange to meet Steve at Green Marker 205. I speed up and Rich slows down, so we can arrive at the rendezvous point close together. Steve is waiting for us with his camera set up on a tripod. We circle around and say hello, and then pass by in close formation. We figure this is a somewhat unique event, and we’re enjoying the experience, as is Steve. We feel properly welcomed to the Albany area, and then continue another 6 miles upriver, to the Albany Yacht Club docks. All 3 of us stop for fuel and then tie up at their docks for the night.

Once we’re secured the chores begin. We all pull our dinghies up onto the dock for cleaning and stowage. It’s a hot afternoon, so this chore is quite draining. We have just enough time to hit the showers afterward before it’s dinner time. Steve, his wife, and daughter arrive at the marina at 6pm and then shuttle us to their favorite dinner spot. We settle in at a nice, long table for a delightful evening of sailing and cruising stories. Steve is one of the primary website moderators, and since we all regularly use the website, we DSCF3822really appreciate the work he and the other moderators do in keeping this website the top notch site that it is. It’s a great resource for MacGregor boat owners. The time passes all too quickly, and after dinner Steve shuttles us back to our boats. Tomorrow will begin the process of parting ways. We’ll bid farewell to Jill Kristy and Seeker. They will both begin their westward passage along the Erie Canal. At the Oswego Canal Rich and Jill will turn north for Lake Ontario, while Lee andDSCF3832 Becky will stick to the Erie Canal for its entire length. We will be taking a week long break from cruising before starting our cruise up the Champlain Canal and Lake, on our way to the St. Lawrence River. In the morning I’ll pick up a rental car and we’ll then drive some 220 miles west to Wayne County, where Sandy will pursue information on her ancestors, who first moved there in 1824, the year before the Erie Canal was completed. On Saturday we’ll return to the boat and then take off on Sunday for a visit with an old high school friend of mind, who lives in nearby Troy. On Monday we’ll drive north and east, heading for Mt. Washington, Mass., where her ancestors lived prior to and during the Revolutionary War. She hopes to find some traces of them there. Following these road trips we’ll lower our mast, provision up, and do final preparations for the start of the northern lock and canal phase of our trip. I’ll be taking a break from posting while these side trips are ongoing.

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Road Trips out of Albany – June 1-7, 2016

First of All -

  • First road trip longer than 200 miles
  • First visits to graves of Sandy’s ancestors
  • First time examining original documents mentioning Sandy’s ancestors
  • First time staying in a bed and breakfast while on the trip

Namely Speaking-

  • Wayne County
  • Lyon
  • Clyde
  • Meadville
  • Mt. Washington
  • Great Barrington

Loop Log:

  • Miles driven in rental car: 600
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,104

DSCF3878We began this past week by saying goodbye to our friends Rich and Jill; Lee and Becky, helping them with their bow lines and waving to them as they pulled away from the dock last Thursday morning, on their way to the Erie Canal. We started a journey of a different kind that morning, a journey into the past. I picked up a rental car from Enterprise and we drove west, through the Mohawk Valley and catching glimpses of the Erie Canal along the way. Our destination was the courthouse in Lyon, county seat for Wayne County, where we hoped to locate records mentioning Sandy’s ancestors. She knew from her research that her great, great, great, great grandfather Jesse Mead had moved from western Massachusetts to Wayne County in 1824, where he and his family took up farming on land adjacent to the old Erie Canal. We hit paydirt, locating and photocopying more than 10 property deeds reflecting land which Jesse’s son David purchased there.DSCF3860 We also found cemetery records and information on a long defunct hamlet named Meadville, where her ancestors farmed. We visited a cemetery where some of her ancestors are buried, and we drove out to the site of old Meadville, which is located on either side of the original Erie Canal. We could see where the old canal actually ran, now just a long, shallow depression in the land, grown in with weeds and brush. We stayed in the area for 2 nights, at a lovely bed and breakfast a couple miles out of town. This place, called Peppermint Cottage, is the home of Mark and Diane, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay with them. Their home was originally a schoolhouse, and part of the structure dates back to 1831. It served as a school until 1947. Mark and Diane have done wonderful things with the place, and it perfectly fits into its forested hillside setting. The interior is warmly and tastefully decorated, with numerous connections with the home’s schoolroom past, and we delighted in Diane’s breakfast preparations, which included stuffed french toast one morning and a fabulous omelet the next. On the day we left, on Mark’s recommendation, we stopped in town at the Hotchkiss Peppermint museum, and went on a fascinating guided tour of the DSCF3940building. We learned that Lyon was once the location of a renowned peppermint factory, which produced peppermint oil known world wide for its quality. Many farmers in the vicinity grew mint and delivered it to the factory which was located right adjacent to the Erie Canal, and the final product was shipped via canal to New York City and the rest of the world, winning many awards for excellence. We couldn’t help but wonder if Sandy’s ancestors grew mint for this factory.

On Saturday we drove back, spent a night on the boat, and then drove out to the countryside just east of Troy, where we dropped in to visit a former high school classmate of mine, who I hadn’t seen in more than 50 years. We had been closely connected in high school, since hisDSCF3959 grandma lived right next door to our house and we would see Kevin and his family when they came to visit his grandmother. We had a lovely visit with him and his wife, who live on 10 beautiful rural acres, in a home which dates back to the 1700’s. They’re fascinating people and the time passed way too quickly as we rushed to learn about what had happened in each others’ lives over the past 50 years.

We left Kevin’s house on Monday morning and drove southeast, further back into the past, crossing the border into a remote corner of western Massachusetts. It was close to frontier country in the mid 1700’s, when Sandy’s great 4X grandfather Jesse and his father Daniel moved there from Connecticut, and that feeling of remoteness lingers to this day. The country is hilly, even mountainous, and the roads are narrow and winding, thickly forested and poorly signed. Our GPS worked only part of the time, so we resorted to stopping and asking for directions as we made our way to the little town of Mt. Washington. This place is so small that about the only buildings there are the Town Hall and a rural church. The Town Hall is only open 3 days a week, but we were in luck, and arrived to find it open. In response to our inquiries, the Town Clerk pulled out a key and opened the massive doors of their safe, and allowed us to open and examine original proprietor books and other documents which date back to before the Revolution. We found amazing things there. One entry in the proprietor’s book described the pattern of ear notches which were unique to cattle owned by Jesse Mead. We then drove to the nearby town of Great Barrington, where we commenced a search of property records relating to the Mead family. Once again we found a dozen or more quit claim deeds, warrantee deeds and other property related documents dealing with real estate transactions involving Sandy’s ancestors. We even saw an original mortgage with Jesse’s signature on it. We saw where they sold out, just prior to their move to Wayne County. Those early Meads were certainly active when it came to buying and selling farmland, and it’s interesting to consider that this habit which Sandy’s father also shared.

On Tuesday morning it was time to head back to Albany Yacht Club and prepare the boat for the next leg of our journey. We stopped at Walmart for provisions, refilled prescriptions (another painful ordeal, but I’ll spare you the details), and lowered the mast on the boat so we can move upriver under the many non opening fixed bridges ahead of us on the Hudson River and Champlain Canal. It feels odd to be exclusively a power boat once again, with the dinghy stowed on the foredeck, but traveling in this fashion is necessary for boats cruising the Great Loop.

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Locking up the Hudson-6/8/16

First of All -

  • First time cruising with the mast down since we were on the Illinois River
  • Passing through the first locks on the Hudson
  • First birds: northern “yellow shafted” flicker, great crested flycatcher

Namely Speaking-

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 38; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,142
  • Hours Underway: 8
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.89
  • Wind Speed: 12 ; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 71
  • Water Temperature: 71

DSCF4076It rained a bit last night, but we have sunny skies this morning. The air is crisp and cool, just a bit breezy. First thing, I must return the rental car, and that goes smoothly. Enterprise gives me a ride back to the marina and we make ready to depart. Shortly after 9am we are, once again, underway, motoring up the Hudson past Albany, Troy, Watervliet and Waterford. We pass beneath numerous fixed highway and rail bridges, each of which reinforces the necessity of lowering our mast for this phase of the cruise. One rail bridge has only 15 feetDSCF4077 of clearance. The tip of our lowered mast, with the radio antenna rigged to a near verticle position, clears the bridge by less than 2 feet. After a few miles we enter Troy Lock on the Hudson. It’s a federal lock, and is free of charge to use. We pull up and Sandy secures a midships line around one of the vertical pipes which are installed inside shallow grooves in the lock wall. As the lock fills she inches the looped line upward, keeping the boat close to the slimy wall. At Waterford we pass the entrance to the Erie Canal, where our Macgregor friends turned west. We continue heading up the Hudson, approaching Lock Number 1 of the New York Champlain Lock system. This lock is set up in the same fashion as Troy Lock, but this time we try holding onto one of the many lines. The lines are slimy and almost too thick for the size of cleat on our boat. When we reach the top of the chamber the lockmaster walks over to check and date our 2 day canal pass. He says that since it’s noon, he’ll give us an extra day, which is really nice. Once the lock gates open we shove off and continue up the Hudson. The country along the river is lovely, lush forest covers the rolling hills and the occasional cleared field expanding our view. We reach Lock No. 2DSCF4079 just below Mechanicville and this time pull up to one of the safety ladders which descend into the lock chamber. Sandy grabs onto the ladder with our boat hook and I hold one of the lock lines. We like this technique, and use it in Locks 3,4, and 5. Some locks are only 15 minutes of run time apart, but we go for 90 minutes before reaching Lock No. 5. Along the way we pass by the Saratoga Battlefield National Monument. From the river we can just barely see a few cannons emplaced on the crest of a hill. On this ground in 1777 the Continental Army, under command of General Horatio Gates, defeated and captured an invading British army led by General Burgoyne. The real hero of this pivotal battle was Benedict Arnold who, although temporarily relieved of his command due to a disagreement with Gates, nonetheless rushed from his tent to the sound of the guns and led a counterattack at the critical moment in the battle. DSCF4081Arnold suffered a severe wound in the action, but his appearance on the battlefield at the key moment made all the difference. Saratoga is considered by many historians to be the most significant American victory during the Revolutionary War, since this victory persuaded France to enter the war on the American side, thus setting the stage for ultimate victory at Yorktown.

It’s 4:30 by the time we clear Lock No. 5, so we decide to hold up for the night at the free floating dock located just above the lock. After tying up we decide we have time to go for a nice walk along the canal bank trail. We cross the river on the narrow walkway which runs along the top of the lock gates and continue south, with the Hudson River on our left and a section of the old Champlain Canal on our left. Lovely homes sit on either side of the old tow path we’re walking along. It’s a great place to look for birds, and we get good looks at a new woodpecker and flycatcher. On our return walk we visit with an interesting fellow who lives here, along the towpath. After learning about how we got here, he invites us down to his large motor yacht, which is docked on the river, so he can show us some cool places to visit when we reach Lake Champlain. We swap stories for the better part of an hour, before resuming our walk back to the boat. It’s turning windy and chilly. I fire up the barbque and grill some tasty hamburgers, which we eat in the comfort of our snug little cabin.

 

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:Painful passage to Whitehall on the Champlain Canal – 6/8/16

First of All -

  • First locks and miles traveled on the Champlain Canal
  • First white birch and white pine seen on the cruise
  • First worrisome call from home

Namely Speaking-

  • Schuylerville
  • Fort Edward
  • Fort Ann
  • Whitehall

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 34; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,176
  • Hours Underway: 6
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.8
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 74
  • Water Temperature: 71

DSCF4126Undertaking an extended cruise which is expected to take more than a year to complete exposes one to many uncertainties and vulnerabilities. Family situations, financial issues, problems associated with dealing with one’s home while gone, mechanical problems with the boat, health issues, and even world events beyond all control — all can intervene to disrupt the cruise. Lots of things can happen over the course of a year. One of those things which in the back of our minds we’ve most worried about, materialized today. Sandy’s mom is 87 years old, and both of my parents are 91. At their ages, something can go wrong at virtually any time. Yet, none of them would wantDSCF4132 us to put our lives and plans on hold while awaiting a medical emergency on their part. So, we took off on this Great Loop cruise, hoping that we would not receive that ominous phone call, notifying us that one of our parents had serious problems. Well, that call was received today. Messages from siblings relayed the unwelcome news that my 91 year old father has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Both mom and dad sound good, and have reassured us that this is not an immenent emergency, and that we should not alter our immediate plans. It’s so typical of them that, with this dire news, their first thoughts would be about us. With roughly 1200 miles to go, at a speed of 6 mph, we’re 3 months away from being able to complete our journey on the preplanned schedule. Obviously, if dad’s condition progresses rapidly, all considerations of boat cruise will be on hold and we’ll be flying home to be with him and mom. It will make the coming months difficult as we try to monitor his condition from long distance phone calls and attempt to make prudent decisions on how to proceed on the water. Dad hasn’t smoked since 1962, but his doctor says that’s probably the explanation for his cancer. Word to the wise for those reading this who puff.

DSCF4145Otherwise, things should be great. The boat is performing well, the scenery in this part of New York is fabulous, and the weather is finally close to perfect. Sandy is feeling good, however, I’m now experiencing a frustrating problem. The sciatic nerve in my left leg is giving me fits. It all started a few weeks ago with pain at night, but in the last several days the pain has gone from hip to knee and it bothers me throughout the day as well as at night. I’m taking maximum ibuprofen, which helps some, but it’s still not good. It’s painful when sitting, standing, or lying down. Walking seems to help a bit, but that’s hard on a little boat. I called my doctor back home and got a prescription for some steroids which will hopefully allow things to settle down. It’s frustrating to be in the midst of what should be the most enjoyable phase of the cruise and be bothered by this nagging pain in the butt. I had this happen once before, 3 years back, and it went away of its own accord. I’m hoping that will be the case this time too, and sooner the better.

Despite these problems, today’s cruise up the Champlain Canal takes us through some delightful country. Beautiful deciduous forest, rich farmland, friendly lockmasters all combine to make this a wonderful place to visit. We pause at Schuylerville for lunch, but decide to proceed on to Whitehall, in hopes that a medical clinic will be able to see me about my leg pain. We reach Whitehall around 4:30pm and tie up at the free town dock. In addition to a long tie up wall, they provide free electricity, water, restrooms and showers here. It’s amazing how friendly they are to boaters here. The library even has a free, unsecured wifi connection. The town is beautiful, and we look across at the dramatic Skene Manor Mansion, built into the hillside to our east. This town regards itself as the birthplace of the American Navy, because it was the site, in 1776, of the construction of a fleet of gunboats which contested the advance of the British down Lake Champlain in the fall of that year. Benedict Arnold supervised the construction of that fleet here, taking advantage of the sawmill which was located here. With his hastily constructed fleet he boldly led his ragtag fleet northward and fought a heroic delaying action against the superior British fleet, thereby delaying their advance for a full year, and helping set the stage for the American victory at Saratoga in the following year.

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Layover in Whitehall – 6/10/16

First of All -

  • First long distance prescription from home doctor

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: NA
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: 75
  • Water Temperature: 71

DSCF4162I sleep in late today, determined to give my troublesome leg some extra rest. It seems to help. After breakfast we walk over to the local pharmacy to see if they have anything over the counter which is stronger than ibuprofen. Answer is no. After 11am I call my home doctor and explain the situation, and he prescribes a 10 day dose of steroids. Fortunately I’m not a professional baseball player. Hopefully this will help. Walking to the pharmacy and back seems to be beneficial. We stop at the nearby museum on our way back, and enjoy the exhibits, which tell the story of the building of Arnold’s gunboat fleet. All this activity has worn me out, so I welcome some nap time back on the boat.

In the afternoon I inflate the dinghy, in anticipation of visiting some of the many beautiful anchorages on Lake Champlain. If I’m up to itDSCF4164 tomorrow, I hope to raise the mast so we can get some sailing time in on the lake. This lake is more than 120 miles in length, and is famous for its history, scenery, sailing, and bass fishing. The weather is looking good, and it should be a beautiful cruise.

Too Sore to Travel – 6/11/16

First of All -

  • First day spent mostly lying down

Namely Speaking-

  • Prednisone

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,176
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 12; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 72
  • Water Temperature: 71

DSCF4168Today is our 47th wedding anniversary, but not spent in the most ideal fashion. We plan to hang out here so I can see how I respond to the prednisone, which I start taking this morning. I discover one thing right away. The ibuprofen which I’ve been tossing down at maximum dosage have definitely been helpful. I know this because I can’t take them in conjunction with the steroids, and my hip and leg are really shouting at me this morning without them. I hobble over with Sandy to a neat breakfast place called Historic Grounds, but struggle to enjoy breakfast. I have to stand most of the time, since sitting simply isn’t an option. We walk back to the boatDSCF4169 and I lie down for much of the day, hoping that rest will settle the upset nerve down. I really don’t know what’s best, rest or movement like walking. And I can’t help but ponder the future if things don’t improve, and soon. I do get up and we walk around in the late afternoon, and the walking seems to do me some good. We check out an old 3 story brick building which is seriously bulging out at mid level. It can’t be long for this world, and I can’t imagine why it’s allowed to stand in such precarious condition. A single strand of yellow ribbon is tied around part of the building. I walk up onto a bridge and take pictures of our boat, tied up along the town dock between two large looping power boats. While barbqueing dinner, I chat with the guy in front of us and learn that, several years ago he phoned me up. He was considering buying a MacGregor (he did and still owns it), and he’d seen the blog on our Alaska trip. It’s fun talking with him, and distracts me from my leg pain. Tomorrow morning I take my second dose of prednisone and I’m hoping that I’ll fee up to untieing the boat and heading into Lock 12. After passing that lock we’ll be at the headwaters of Lake Champlain. The winds are forecast to be very strong tomorrow, however the first 20 to 30 miles of lake are extremely narrow and twisty, so it will be more like the upper Hudson than a large open water lake. We can stop at a marina before the lake widens out, and wait for good weather, if necessary, from there. One way or another we need to get up to Plattsburg NY, at the north end of the lake, in order to have reasonable access to doctor services, if that seems necessary.

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Heading Northward on Lake Champlain – 6/12/16

First of All -

  • First day cruising on Lake Champlain
  • First day cruising in Vermont (19th State)
  • First lake monster sighted
  • First marina stayed in which dates back to 1810

Namely Speaking-

  • The Narrows of Dresden
  • Pulpit Point
  • Chipman Point

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 20; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,196
  • Hours Underway: 3 1/2
  • Fuel: 13.4 gallons; $39; 7 mpg
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 12; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 66
  • Water Temperature: 66

DSCF4173I’m feeling pretty good this morning, so we’re taking off. By the time we’re ready to cast off lines the wind has piped up, so it’s a little tricky maneuvering around just above the lock entrance, while we wait for the doors to open and the light to turn green. When the downstream lock gates swing open, Lake Champlain lies before us. It’s a deceivingly narrow thing at first, about the same width as the canal we’ve been navigating ever since leaving the Hudson River. The channel is snakelike as it winds its way around projecting hills, thickly forested with mixed deciduous and evergreen trees. This lake is the storied avenue of invasion between Canada and New York,DSCF4175 during the French and Indian Wars as well as the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. It was well known by all concerned that control of this lake meant control of the entire Northeast, and so its history is one of heroic deeds and desparate conflict. As I gaze at the forest which lines the shores, it’s not hard to imagine a Huron war party sneaking down a shadowy trail, intent on taking Mohican scalps. These days, for Great Loop cruisers such as ourselves, Lake Champlain will serve as our corridor for invading Canada, albeit with completely peaceful intentions.

We pass numerous bass boats on our way down the lake. Lake Champlain has earned a reputation for being one of the premier bass fishing lakes in the country. Judging by the numbers of boats and fishermen out this morning, it’s a good bet that a bass fishing tournament is underway. We dodge several nasty looking deadheads, and then encounter a very strange sight. From the distance it looks like an odd floating log, but on closer inspection it can be none other that a dreaded lake monster.

A chilly wind is blowing out of the north and the clear skies which greeted us first thing this morning have given way to leaden skies and the threat of rain. Fortunately, precipitation holds off until we arrive at our destination, Chipman’s Point Marina. We stop at the fuel dock to DSCF4176top off tanks, and then wait for the owner to arrive so we can take a slip. This place has a unique quality about it. The marina buildings are 2 and 3 stories tall, with stone foundations below, brick structure above. Intriguing boards near the roof peak display dates of 1810 and 1812. We learn that they are accurate, and a certificate inside the office proclaims that this marina dates back to 1810. Bronze plaques proudly proclaim that Chipmans Point is enrolled on the National Registry of Historic Places. The staff is friendly. We’re told that ice is $1.50 a bag. Just toss the money into a jar next to the freezer and help yourself. Laundry is $1/load. Once again, a jar serves as the cash till. Restrooms and showers are located up a very old, extremely steep yet sturdy set of stairs. The floating docks are surfaced with weathered planks and linked together with pins and “U” bolts. The wind chop which rolls in sets the docks to bobbing and twisting, and this results in a loud butDSCF4184 not displeasing musical chorus, rather like an orchestra tuning up.

After lunch I decide to rest up and nap before tackling the chore of raising the mast and rigging the boat for sailing. The prospect of traversing this 100 mile long lake with mast down is just too much to bear, even though I know that, with my sciatica condition I will pay a price. When I get started, a couple of guys wander over and offer welcome assistance. One asks me why I waited to start until the wind has kicked up. While I was napping it was dead calm outside, but now its raw and gusty. Oh, but that nap felt really good. The mast goes up with fewer than usual hitches, but I’m really beat by the time I finish up rigging all the lines and tidying everything up. It’s nice to see the boat once again fully rigged for sailing. Now the only question is whether I’ve pushed myself too hard.

Sandy and I go for a short walk up the hill after chores are done. The rolling Vermont farm country we’re in is verdant and lush. Woodlots alternate with hay fields and small groups of cattle. Taller ridges of mountains frame the horizon. Even under overcast skies the vegetation is rich with greens and spots of wildflower color. Back on board, Sandy cooks up a delicious pork stew which is just perfect on this chilly day.

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Historic Forts on Lake Champlain – 6/13/16

First of All -

  • First time unfurling sail since leaving New Jersey
  • First sighting of a red fox
  • First bird: northern “Baltimore” oriole

Namely Speaking-

  • Fort Ticonderoga
  • Mt. Defiance
  • Crown Point Fort
  • Arnold Bay
  • Button Bay

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 29; Sail: Motor sailed 1 1/2 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,225
  • Hours Underway: 4
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 10; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 70
  • Water Temperature: 58

DSCF4202I’m paying the price for my exertions in raising the mast yesterday. Sciatica is fired up when I try getting out of bed. I take my time, and things slowly improve. After walking around I start feeling better. We coordinate cruising plans with our new friends Jim and Gwen, and we both decide to head for Button Bay today. It’s only 30 miles away, and offers good protection from the forecast northwest wind. As an added bonus, the shoreline is all part of Button Bay State Park, so we should have a good opportunity to go ashore for an afternoon walk. We pull out first, around 10:30am under an overcast sky which shows encouraging signs of breaking up. The breeze is light, offering noDSCF4204 opportunity to use my newly raised sailing rig. After we round the first corner, Fort Ticonderoga looms into view. This historic fortress figured hugely in the mid to late 1700’s. The venerable old fort fell to ruin in the following century, however its supporters rallied and generated the support needed to sponsor a reconstruction to its original appearance. Having visited there 13 years ago, we opt not to stop, rather simply admiring the view as we cruise on by.

Next fort to appear is the old fort at Crown Point, which dates back even further. The mighty star shaped earth works are still clearly visible from the lake. This fort dominates a narrow bend in the lake, and today a major highway bridge crosses the lake there. An omposing monument stands near the west bridge approach, featuring a statue of Samuel de Champlain, first European explorer in this area. Our views are enhance by bright blue sky and warming sunshine. We have a nearly perfect sailing breeze, the only problem being that it’s right on the nose, and as much as I’d love to sail, I really don’t want to spend the entire day tacking back and forth. Eventually the lake bends slightly to the east of dead north, DSCF4210and the wind backs just enough into the northwest to allow me to pay out the genoa for a bit of motor sailing. It’s a nice reward for all my efforts in getting the rig up yesterday.

Just past Rock Island on the Vermont shore we pass the mouth of Arnold Bay. Following the naval Battle of Valcour Island, Benedict Arnold managed to lead his surviving gunboats in an escape under cover of darkness. The frustrated British gave chase and, in a running sea battle, threatened to overtake Arnold’s little flotilla. Arnold turned on the British in his flagship Congress and a few gunboats, andDSCF4206 held them off long enough for his slower vessels to make good their escape. His valiant boats badly damaged, Arnold let them into the bay we’re passing, which now bears his name, where he burned them to prevent capture by the British. He then led his remaining crewmen on an overland march back to the Patriot army camp.

Our destination of Button Bay is clearly in view from the mouth of Arnold Bay. It’s a broad, sweeping bay guarded at its mouth by a sharp penninsula and island, which creates a nice anchorage well protected from north and west winds. We drop the hook in 6 feet of water, which is clear enough to show good bottom detail. It looks to be good holding ground and the anchor grabs firmly right away. Our friends Jim and Gwen arrive shortly after and anchor a little further out. I mount the kicker on the dinghy and we go ashore near the point. A nice trail network runs through the woods along the shore. Out near the point we come across a neat little nature center, situated in an old cabin. It houses nice exhibits on the local natural and cultural history. We follow the trail toward the main park area, and get a nice look at a red fox which is trotting along between the trail and the lakeshore. He doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by us, in fact, he pauses to stare at us as we peer back at him. On our way back we meet up with Jim and Gwen, who have likewise dinghied ashore for a walk.

We get back to the boat with just enough late afternoon sunlight available to enjoy chips and dip in the cockpit. We’re thankful for the perfect temperatures and lovely scenery.

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Maritime Museum and Sidetrip to Vergennes – 6/14/16

First of All -

  • First loon call heard in northern waters
  • First excursion into the interior of Vermont (up Otter Creek to Vergennes)
  • First bird: eastern flycatcher

Namely Speaking-

  • Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
  • Otter Creek
  • Vergennes

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 13; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,238
  • Hours Underway: 3
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.78
  • Wind Speed: 5 ; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 62

DSCF4238Button Bay is glassy smooth this morning. We take our time getting underway, raising anchor around 9am and motoring a short distance around the corner to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Our two trawler friends are already anchored in North Bay when we arrive, but there’s plenty of room for us. We’re pleased to see the Philadelphia, a precise replica of one of Benedict Arnold’s gunboats, proudly afloat at the dock. We walk up the path to the museum with our friends, stopping along the way to visit with the resident blacksmith, who obviously enjoys demonstrating the blacksmith trade. He’s a retired orthopedic surgeon, who has taken up blacksmithing. He has a fascinating shop, and it’s apparent that he’s mastered the trade.

It’s a perfectly beautiful day, and we take our time visiting the several buildings which make up the museum. They’ve accumulated aDSCF4248 wonderful collection of classic old wooden boats of all kinds, including Indian dugouts, canoes, fishing boats, and larger craft. One building showcases a huge racing iceboat named Storm King, and it’s been clocked at over 100 mph on the ice. The exhibit which most fascinated me tells the story of the Revolutionary War campaigns on Lake Champlain, with particular focus on the Battle of Valcour Island and its immediate aftermath. Other interesting historical displays focus on early steamboats on the lake, and on the tremendous underwater archeology work which has been done to study and, in many cases, recover and preserve historic shipwrecks in Lake Champlain. After we complete our museum tour, Sandy and I walk over to the nearby lodge on Basin Bay. It’s a lovely place with many historic buildings, beautiful flower gardens, and a delightful view of the lake.

We get back to the boat around 12:30, raise anchor, and make another short run up to the mouth of Otter Creek. This 7 mile long navigable channel winds its way up to the historic town of Vergennes, which is the oldest city in Vermont. It’s located at a striking waterfall, which in early days powered sawmills and grist mills. As with Skeenesboro, a major shipyard took advantage of these natural advantages. In DSCF4255addition, iron was locally mined and forged here. During the War of 1812, several of the ships which Commodore MacDonough employed to defeat the British at the Battle of Plattsburg Bay were built here. We are welcomed by a free town dock, and our 3 boats are the only ones here today. We understand that a bit later in the summer, boats can be rafted up here 4 and even 5 deep. It’s a warm afternoon, so we all grab cool beverages and lounge in the shade, admiring the falls, before walking up into the town. Vergennes is a pretty place, with many interesting old buildings, some of which date back to the late 1700’s, however, the number of empty downtown storefronts suggest that things could be better here. We all gather for dinner at the Black Sheep Bistro, and enjoy a fine meal together. Afterwards, we stroll back down to the dock. Jim and Gwen have us aboard for an evening visit. We say our goodbyes, since we’re likely to be splitting up in the morning. I’m planning on making a long run all the way to Plattsburg, with an early start. I’m hoping to get in to the emergency room to get this sciatica problem checked out, and I don’t have any idea just how long it will take to get the answers and treatment I may need.

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