"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

August 31, 2012

Aug. 31 - Waterford, NY

Completed Our Loop
Canal Welcome Center Dock

It may not be the great loop, but we completed the small loop today. We left Waterford on June 18, heading west on the Erie Canal and today we have returned, coming down the Champlain Canal...889 miles. We have gone through 103 locks, crossed a great lake, seen some amazing places and met a lot of wonderful people, by far our favorite places were the Thousand Islands and the first half of the Rideau Canal. The beauty is indescribable...it's a place you just have to see and experience to truly soak in the beauty. Pictures capture only one small part of it at a time. The water, the islands, the trees and the wonderful smell of fresh air and evergreens are memories I will keep forever. It's hard for me to find the words to do the experience justice. 

We enjoyed the larger cities of Ottawa, Montreal and Burlington with their farmers markets, shops and restaurants, but all the little towns in between were just as great. The real gems of the trip were the beautiful anchorages we found Shanty Island, Morton Bay, Valcour Island, Kingsland Bay and Partridge Bay...each were a vacation in themselves. The thing that made this trip even better was the absolutely incredible weather. We were able to sleep with the windows open and woke up most mornings to temperatures in the 50s or 60s. The afternoon temperatures were in the mid 70s to low 80s. We had to keep reminding ourselves it was summer.

Our trip from Mechanicville to Waterford today was very short...only nine miles. We went through our last two locks on the Champlain Canal and have the Troy Federal Lock to go through when we leave here. We'll definitely be glad to be done with the locks. It felt nice to be back to a familiar place where we already know where things are...like Don & Paul's Cafe. Their special on Friday is a fish fry, so we went there for lunch. We met another couple (Pat and Wayne) on the dock from Texas, who are heading up the Erie Canal. It was nice to see someone else from home. Laura and Bill on Kindred Spirit III, who we met in Kingston Ontario, also arrived today. So we all got together this evening on Envoy to exchange stories. We'll spend the weekend here...hiding from the holiday weekend craziness on the water and start heading down the Hudson on Tuesday.

Coming into Waterford

August 30, 2012

Aug. 29 – Mechanicville, NY

Just Another Day on the Water
Mechanicville City Dock
We woke to a beautiful day; clear blue skies and the temperatures were going to stay in the 70’s all day…a perfect cruising day. Between the last lock we went through yesterday (lock 7) and the first lock we were heading for today (lock 6) there were a lot of barges and work going on. We thought they were dredging the canal, but we found out from people in Mechanicville they were actually cleaning up PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyl) in the water. I guess I won’t be swimming again until we get back to the Chesapeake. 

Today’s trip took us through part of the Hudson River and through dug canals that went around the rapids. Some of the trees are beginning to change color…a sign that boaters need to be heading south. We are in Mechanicville tonight, not full of history like some of the other towns on the canal, but there are plenty of basic stores for provisioning. We walked around town a little this afternoon and then went by the grocery store to get a steak and a piece of salmon to cook on the grill.

Mechanicville History: The first listing for a settlement on Thenendehowa Creek is 1721 and the first documented occurrence of the name "Mechanicville" dates back to 1829. The name comes from the early settlers, who were independent master craftsmen such as millers, carpenters, or butchers, whose professions were commonly known as the "mechanicalarts" at the time.

When the Champlain Canal reached the settlement in 1823, and especially when the railway laid a track through the area in 1835, Mechanicville became an important commerce interchange. The first conspicuous casualty of the American Civil War, Elmer E. Ellsworth, was buried in Mechanicville in 1861. In 1898, a hydroelectric power plant was built on the Hudson River and is now the oldest continuously-operating hydroelectric plant in the United States. The Mechanicville Hydroelectric Plant was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. With the decline of the railroads and loss of industry in the area, the once thriving city is today a quiet residential city, whose residents work in nearby communities.

We haven't seen this much barge traffic since we left the Gulf Coast
Digging up the contaminated dirt
The first covered bridge we've seen
Trees beginning to change colors
Low bridge ahead...they say it's 15 1/2' but we think it was just a little higher
Going slow just in case!
No problem...a whole foot or so to spare. The river is a little low this summer so there was a little more room.
The Volunteer Fire Department were out practicing this evening along the city dock

August 29, 2012

Aug. 28 – Fort Edwards, NY

Locks, Locks, Locks
Fort Edward Yacht Basin

We went through another four locks today. We only have six more locks in the Champlain Canal and the Federal Lock at Troy, and then we will be back to open water. Once we pass the Troy lock we'll have to start looking at the tides and current again...there's always something trying to slow us down. Two more travel days and we'll be back in Waterford, where we started the Erie Canal. From there we'll start back tracking through familiar waters south.

We're docked in Fort Edwards tonight. The town provides a great place to tie up with free water and electricity. It's in a little park right in the heart of town. Fort Edwards was established in 1859 and a lot of the old homes are still in beautiful shape. We rode our bikes along Old Champlain Canal Towpath to the Glens Falls Feeder Canal. It was interesting to see the old locks; they were just like the locks we've been in, just smaller. The Glens Falls Feeder Canal is a canal from Glens Falls, New York, through Hudson Falls and into Fort Edward. It's seven miles long and delivers water from above Glen's Falls on the Hudson River to the highest point of the Champlain Canal. The first Feeder Canal was constructed around 1822. In 1832, the Feeder Canal was widened and deepened to accommodate boat traffic as well. The locks were 15 feet wide and 100 feet long; these dimensions controlled the size of canal boats in the Champlain Canal system while the locks were in use. The present-day Champlain Barge Canal eliminated the need for boat traffic on the Feeder Canal in the early 1900s. Today the canal is still an important source of water for the Champlain Canal. When all these canals were opened, mules and horses pulled the barges through, so the canals were just wide enough for one barge. Turning basins were created in certain areas so barges could pass.

Coming through the locks today made me start thinking of all the locks we've done this summer and how different all the canals were. We've come through six canal systems and four stand alone locks. Their size changed drastically and each canal system had a little different way to tie up as you locked through. Park Canada's locks were the oldest locks we were in, but seemed the cleanest. I think it only seemed that way since you use your own lines to place around cables...no need to grab an old slimy line that has been hanging in the water all season. The locks on the Ottawa River were the easiest, because we were tied off to a floating dock, we didn't have to hold onto any lines at all. Generally we didn't have any trouble in the locks, our boat's size and layout of the deck made it easy to hold it in place once we were in the lock...of course the captain did a wonderful job maneuvering the boat into place. The locks have been fun, but we're both looking forward to being through with them.

Lock Statistics:
Troy Federal Lock (1 lock) 45’ x 520’ (We’ll go through this one twice)
Erie Canal (22 locks) 45’ x 328’
Oswego Canal (7 locks) 45’ x 328’
Rideau Canal Locks (48 locks) 33’ x 134’
Carillon Lock (1 lock) 33’ x 134’ our largest lift @ 65’
St. Anne de Bellevue Lock (1 lock) 40’ x 180’
St. Lawrence Seaway Locks (2 locks) 80’ x 766’
St. Ours Lock (1 lock) 39’ x 325”
Chambly Canal Locks (9 locks) 23’ x 120’
Champlain Canal Locks (11 locks) 45’ x 328’

Champlain Canal Lock 11
We're getting into flatter country...a lot more farms today
Happy cows of New York
Not everything we see is beautiful! This is located right after lock 7.
Lock one on the feeder canal - it looks smaller than 15' to me
The five combined locks on the old feeder canal

August 28, 2012

Aug. 27 - Whitehall, NY

Champlain Canal
Champlain Canal Lock 12 Wall

Today’s journey took us through farmland, mountains and marshes…the lake narrowed to a small meandering river and we had to begin to watch our depth again. It was a beautiful area, but different from the rest of Lake Champlain. We are officially out of Lake Champlain and in the Champlain Canal. 

The Champlain Canal connects the Hudson River to Lake Champlain, a total distance of 64 miles from Troy on the Hudson to Whitehall on Lake Champlain, with twelve locks. The Champlain Canal, which begins where the Erie Canal leaves the Hudson, is comprised of eleven locks. From Troy north it follows the Hudson for 40 miles to Fort Edward, with locks, dams, and dug channels to bypass falls and rapids in the river. At Fort Edward the canal leaves the Hudson and follows a dug channel for an additional 24 miles to Whitehall, at the bottom of Lake Champlain. We went through the first lock today and then tied up to the wall near the Skenesboro Park in Whitehall. The town provides water and electricity at no charge.

Whitehall was settled in 1759 at the southern end of Lake Champlain. It was originally known as Skenesboro, it became the first settlement on the lake and was a center of maritime trade. During the Revolutionary War Benedict Arnold built his fleet here. Because of this action and the significance of the battles that took place afterwards, the New York State Legislature, in 1960, declared Whitehall as the Birthplace of the United States Navy. The Whitehall harbor also produced ships used for service by the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812.

We spent the afternoon riding our bikes around the old section of town and doing a little grocery shopping at the Dollar Store. This evening we had dinner at Lucia’s…wonderful 1/2 priced pizzas on Mondays. We then walked over the canal and looked around. We ended up visiting with a few very nice ladies that shared a little of their local knowledge of the area. Tomorrow’s weather doesn’t look the greatest, so we don’t know whether we'll move on in the rain or stay put.

Some of our scenery today
Approaching the lock at Whitehall
The canal in Whitehall
Skene Manor built in the 1870s, looks down on the town
Our view across the canal
Looking back at Lock 12

August 27, 2012

Aug. 26 - Crown Point, NY

History Lesson
Crown Point - Anchorage

Our destination today was Crown Point. It's at the narrowest part of Lake Champlain and for that reason it's full of history. An important spot first to the Indians and then the French, British and American armies...a place fought for centuries ago.

Fort St. Frédéric was the first fortress built on this point in the 1730s, by the French. British forces targeted it twice during the French and Indian War before the French destroyed it in the summer of 1759. That same year the British began to build Fort Crown Point, close to the same location as the earlier French fort. Built to secure the region against the French, it was the largest earthen fortress built in the United States.

The Fort was never directly assaulted. Completed after the threat of French invasion had ended, it was used largely for staging. In May 1775 the Americans captured the fort and its 111 cannons, which they moved to Boston to use against the British. The Fort was then used as a staging ground by Benedict Arnold's navy on Lake Champlain during the Revolutionary War. After the destruction of that navy in 1776 during the Battle of Valcour Island, the Fort was abandoned to the British in 1777 and abandoned for good in 1780.

We not only had two forts to learn about today...we also learned about the Crown Point Lighthouse (also known as the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse). First built in 1858, it was redesigned and restored in 1909 for the tricentennial of Samuel de Champlain's discovery of the lake. Today the lighthouse serves as a navigational beacon and as a monument to the exploration of Lake Champlain.

Port Henry, New York

Fort St. Frédéric
Fort Crown Point - looking out over Lake Champlain
Crown Point Lighthouse 
Views from the top of the light house

August 26, 2012

Aug. 25 - Westport, NY

Partridge Bay - Anchorage

The last week or two we've been moving slow...very slow. Killing a little time, enjoying the great weather and exploring some out of the way little coves and bays...Gunkholing. Gunkholing is a boating term referring to a type of cruising, meandering around on the waterways, exploring and finding interesting and/or out of the way places to anchor. The term refers to the gunk, or mud, typical of the creeks, coves, marshes and rivers that are referred to as gunkholes, but here in Lake Champlain the coves and bays are beautiful with clear, clean water. Gunkholers typically seek out the serenity of isolated anchorages over the crowds of marinas and larger bays. Gunkholing is a little like backpacking with your boat, except at the end of the day you're looking for a place to drop the hook instead of put up the tent. To many, gunkholing is cruising paradise and for us it has been. 

Today we only cruised 2 miles down the lake to Westport, NY. It's a beautiful little town crowned by the Adirondack Mountains. We anchored in front of the old yacht club, that is now the Bistro du Lac restaurant and dinghied into the marina. We walked up the hill (everything here is up hill) to the main street and went through a couple of shops then through the park and back to the marina for a little lunch. We live on a boat and our favorite places to eat are still on the water. You just can't beat the view.

After lunch we back tracked to a small, very protected cove called Partridge Bay...surrounded on three sides by cliffs and trees. The bay is very small, room for only a couple of boats and we had the anchorage to ourselves most of the day. It was a great place to spend the day relaxing, reading and swimming. I'm actually getting used to the temperature of the water and really enjoyed swimming today, not just floating on my raft. We've noticed the Canadians and local boaters wash in the lake...jump in, stand on the swim platform and soap up and then jump in to rinse off. Today I used the lake to wash my hair...it felt wonderful.

Westport, New York

Westport Marina
Looking down the hill to the lake
Our little piece of paradise

August 25, 2012

Aug. 24 - Mile Bay, VT

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Basin Harbor Club Mooring

Today was another short cruise...down the Otter River and into Mile Bay. Mile Bay is on the Vermont side of the lake, but we cruised by the Palisades on the New York side before stopping for the day. The Palisades are magnificent cliffs that rise 100' above the water and plunge another 140' beneath the water's surface. The water is so deep you can take your boat right up to the wall. The lake is much narrower here, so getting from one side to the other doesn't take long.

We stopped in Mile Bay so we could visit the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Basin Harbor Club will let you use one of their mooring balls while you go ashore to the Museum. We were told at the museum no one monitors the moorings and we could spend the night...so we did. Ever since Samuel de Champlain stumbled through the Green Mountains in 1609, Lake Champlain has been one of the most important, and fought for, waterways in the Northeast. Wedged between New York, Vermont, and Canada, the lake has hosted bloody battles and bootlegging operations, plus the gamut of shipboard shenanigans. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum reveals the history of this contested body of water. Along with the history of Lake Champlain they have displays of antique boats, rowboats, canoes, motors, and replicas of Benedict Arnold’s gunboat, and a sailing canal schooner. It was all very interesting and a great way to spend the afternoon.

Later in the day we took the dinghy and explored Basin Harbor and Button Bay. The Basin Harbor Club is a 700-acre resort with cottages overlooking the lake. It has provided swimming, boating, golf, tennis and gourmet dining to its guest for over 100 years. It looked like a nice place to spend a week or two.

The Palisades
Iceboats can go up to five times the speed of the wind because of their minimal surface drag. In 1907 an iceboat was clocked traveling at 144 MPH. For decades iceboats were the fastest vehicles on earth. They were originally used for commercial purposes along the Hudson and Lake Champlain, but by the 1860 they were becoming a sport. 
Some of these outboards were produced in early 1900s
Benedict Arnolds’ Gunboat Philadelphia was built in 1776; it was sunk in Lake Champlain during a naval battle with the British in the same year. It was salvaged off of Valcour Island in 1935 and is the oldest surviving American fighting vessel. We were able to see it last summer at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. This is the Philadelphia II, a full sized replica of the original ship. It's located at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.