Levelling Up

Level Up: Informal, Phrasal verb with level. To gain enough points in a computer game to enable a player or character to go up to a higher level, gaining more skills or strength.

We upped our game today to Level 12 in the Game of Locks.  BooYah!  Bring it!

Amsterdam is trying to up their level in the tourism game.  Riverlink Park, our berth last night, is part of a major investment.  The park connects to an elaborate footbridge/monument that spans the river.  There is so much of interest packed onto the structure that it is easy to forget one is on a bridge.

Fonda (1 of 14)

Informational plaques tell the story of Amsterdam’s origin an growth.

Fonda (2 of 14)

The town has put a lot of energy into the beautiful walkway.

Fonda (3 of 14)

This 12-foot-diameter mosaic is a replica of a larger mosaic by French artist Louis Rigal called the “Wheel of Life”.  It is a memorial to a carpet of the same design woven by 16 weavers from Mohawk Carpet Mills over 8 months and installed in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan in 1939.

Fonda (4 of 14)

Fonda (11 of 14)

Across the river and down the street we spied an interesting structure.  What we found is Amsterdam Castle.  Originally an Armory for the Amsterdam 46th Separate Company, it most recently was converted to a luxury bed and breakfast.

Fonda (7 of 14)

Fonda (9 of 14)

The Chuctanunda River flows through Amsterdam and powered many mills.  The city at one time was the largest producer of brooms in the country.  Kind of a random fact, but there it is.

Fonda (12 of 14)

Video games usually add some new challenge with each new level.  In our case we already had sporty currents tossing us about as we entered earlier locks.  So The Lock Game decided to throw something new at us:  make the entrance half as wide.

On our way to Lock 11 we found out one of the two swinging doors on Lock 12 was not opening.  Uh, Oh.

If you recall, the locks are 45 feet wide.  Now the entrance would be 22.5 feet wide.  Subtract the 15 foot width of Endeavor and we would have 3.75 feet of safety on each side!

Pretty simple really: just concentrate and don’t hit anything solid.

As always, we had a backup plan. If the water looked too rough at the entrance we could tie the boat to the entrance wall, rig lines, and pull her through, like mules of old pulled the barges.

Fortunately, the game designers took pity on us and oriented the lock and dam a bit differently than the others.  As a result… (at 2X speed)

Lock 12 through one door

… the entrance was fairly current-free and we aced the level.

I especially like Peg’s technique for not having to touch the grimy lock lines.

Another few miles and we tied up to the sea wall at Fonda, New York.  Minutes later a passing thunderstorm drenched the area.

If the town name sounds familiar maybe it is because Fonda is the hometown of Henry Fonda, patriarch of the acting family.

Fonda (14 of 14)

Endeavor has climbed 263 feet in 48 miles.

We are sharing the wall with a small family in a cave behind our boat.

The storms have passed, for now, and the Erie Canal is glass.




Our outlook has been blurred recently from the incessant downpour. Note to self:  have windshield wipers on next boat.

Amsterdam (1 of 9)

The heavy rain is causing the canal operators to release additional water through the dams.  The Erie, it is said, “usually has less current than your bathtub”.  I believe that, since our speed the last two days was almost exactly what we get in normal flat water.  Today, however, our speed dropped almost 2 mph as additional dam gates were opened.

Amsterdam (2 of 9)

Amsterdam (3 of 9)

The works above the dam lift and lower the sliding gates.

Amsterdam (5 of 9)

A little counter current is no big deal… we ran into similar pushback from the tides coming up the east coast.

The challenge is the eddies that form the lock entrances.

The lock and dam design we like best is shown below.  Water spilling over the dam (blue) is separated from water below the lock (red) by a barrier island.  The dam water flows straight and the water leading into the lock is smooth and still.

Amsterdam (9 of 9)

Contrast this with the flow at Locks 9 and 10.  With no barrier island, the raging dam water (blue) circles around and causes nasty currents across the boater’s path (red).  As you approach the lock from downriver you are:

  • Hit with current from starboard that pushes the boat toward the entrance wall.
  • Pushed along faster toward the lock entrance, which is open and waiting.
  • Pushed back toward starboard just before the entrance when the current shoots back toward the river, across your path.

Amsterdam (8 of 9)

Our friend Ted, on “Slow Hand”, says that no collision is improved by more speed.  True enough.

But it is also true that rudders steer boats only when they are moving fast enough through the water.

It is also true that Erie Canal locks are 45 feet wide.  Endeavor is 14 feet wide, maybe 15 with fenders on either side.  That leaves 15 feet of safety margin on port and starboard as we maneuver into the lock.

Add these truisms together, and I’ve learned to adapt to the situation.  The normally accepted way to enter a lock is to putter in at steerage speed: just enough to steer without making a wake.

When the river is raging and cross currents are present, I turn Endeavor up to warp speed.  The combination of speed, twin rudders and steerable outboard motor makes her very responsive.  In the cross currents she dances around like a puppy needing to pee.  In fact, I’m not sure I didn’t pee a little.  But, after few quick corrections at the helm, we suddenly have to slow down as we enter the still lock water.

This is the technique that works for us.  I  can’t speak for other boats.  The lock master told us of a sailboat coming slowly through an hour before that narrowly missed crashing into the lock wall.  Having owned many single hull sailboats I know they are more affected by currents than catamarans.  Just a matter of knowing your boat, really.

Once in the lock, all is peaceful and it takes but one hand to hold the boat against the lock wall.

Amsterdam (4 of 9)

We transited Lock 9, the tied up to the lock wall a while to sit out heavy rain.  Once it let up we pushed on through Lock 10 and on to Amsterdam, New York.  Only 13.9 miles total, but an exciting ride.

We are tied up at the Riverlink Park docks.  The park is very clean and well appointed and sort of land-locked.  Access to town is via a pedestrian walk-bridge that goes over train tracks and a highway to deposit you on the roof parking lot of a mini mall.

Peg and I wandered across to “Fresh Basil” and ordered gourmet personal pizzas. What came out were excellent, large-ish pies for $6.49 each. Mine was so good I could not help devouring it.

We will probably stay another night in hope the canal will settle down.

Amsterdam (7 of 9)

Heavy Lifting


The Erie Canal seems a fairly passive thing. Water flows down hill.  Dams slow water.  Locks use water to lift and lower boats.  Lockmasters are friendly. Ducks and Geese abound.  Fish jump. And everybody hums Kum-Ba-Yah.

But there really is a lot of heavy lifting that goes on to make the thing work.

Our 5 ton boat was lifted a total of 210 feet today, through 8 locks using the clever application of valves and slinging doors.  Funny that the swirling water trying to get downstream is what enables us to go upstream.

Lock 8 (2 of 11)

Sections of the canal were hewn out of solid rock. Heavy blocks were lifted by primitive derricks powered by teams of horses or mules.

Lock 8 (3 of 11)

Looking like giant guillotines, the Erie Canal Guard Gates lift to allow passage. This type of gate helps to isolate sections of the canal in case of emergency, such as a break in the canal wall, accident, or extreme high water. They are also used when a section of the canal needs to be drained for maintenance or winter freeze protection.  

Lock 8 (4 of 11)

The guard gates are needed on occasion.  Click here to see the devastation caused by the 2006 flood.

The dams have similar gates that can be lifted and lowered to regulate the river.  Today they were spilling excess rainwater.  At Lock 8 this caused turbulence at the lock entrance that had Endeavor dancing around like a puppy that needs to pee.

Lock 8 (10 of 11)

The New York Canal Corporation maintains a fleet of tugboats and workboats that help the canal operate. By the way, the “Beard” on the front of the tugboat is called a Bow Pudding and acts as a bumper.

Lock 8 (5 of 11)

This tug, tied to the wall in front of us, has been picking up floating trees.  With the recent rains there is plenty of wood floating by.

Lock 8 (9 of 11)

The heavy lifting winner of the day is this behemoth Manitowoc 18000 crane, being modeled by my lovely mate.  Yes, she’s in front of it… look closely.

The 660 ton crane, owned by G.E., has been lifting 260 ton generators, 197.5 ton turbines and 142.5 ton rotors onto barges for transport to Albany, New York, where the parts are then shipped to various power plants around the world.

Lock 8 (11 of 11)

We moved 23 miles today, most of it in rain, and are tied to the entrance wall of Lock 8 for the night.  The nearest town is Scotia, New York.

Lock 8 (8 of 11)

Wacky Waterford

Peanut Butter Wicked Whoopie.  The name is appealing on so many levels.  Aside from the tasty double entendre, finding this treat in the local market kind of summed up the interesting two days spent in Waterford.

Waterford (19 of 22)


The two local markets allow boaters to take grocery carts the half-mile or so back to the dock.  The markets then send someone around every few days to collect the carts.  The local laundry is four blocks away, so boaters also use the carts to carry laundry back and forth.  Thus it was I was slowly rolling a grocery cart, with seemingly my worldly possessions, through the streets.  Probably didn’t help that I had my grungy work clothes on.

Waterford (18 of 22)

Clever Solution?

Bolted to a post on the waterfront: an old toolbox…

Waterford (17 of 22)

… doubling as a case for the dock water supply valve.

Waterford (3 of 22)

Stubborn as a mule?

Mules were the original motive force pulling barges along the canal, though somewhat less colorful than this one.

Waterford (2 of 22)


Giant beer tanks recently passed Waterford on their way west over the Erie Canal.  Click this link for an interesting article with pictures and video.  They beat us here by a week.


Yellow Brick Road?

The visitor center has a scale map of the Erie Canal laid in the cobble stones of the waterfront path.  The section nearest the camera is the west end near Buffalo and Niagra Falls.

Waterford (14 of 22)

Along the path are markers showing locks and towns.

Waterford (16 of 22)

I will post an easier-to-follow version as we go along.

Canal Map

Free Coffee – Tomorrow?

The crew of Serenity treated us to breakfast at Don and Paul’s Coffee Shop, home of the $2.00 breakfast.  Very small town-ish, very friendly, and very good food.

Waterford (4 of 22)


The canal has gone through several upgrades in its life.  Old bits and pieces are often left where they are, to become curiosity pieces.

Waterford (9 of 22)

The original locks sit beside the new Lock 2.  The old locks are now used as a spillway for excess water. By comparison the new lock, lifting only 33 feet, is huge.

Waterford (11 of 22)

Going Up?

Tomorrow we will start west.  From our dock, we will climb 169 feet in 2 miles up to the Mohawk River via a flight of five locks, the greatest height gain in the shortest distance of any canal in the world.

Waterford (7 of 22)


Waterford is a friendly and quirky town.  Smiles and greetings are the norm, and everything is a short walk away.  The homes downtown have seen hard use, but people out on front porches brightened our day with friendly hellos.  This house, listing a few degrees to port, just sort of seemed to fit in well with the river community.

Waterford (6 of 22)

Turning Point

Oh, I Love Locking in the rain,
Locking in the rain with the one I love
Oh, how I love the rainy days and the squishing of my shoes inside.
(Apologies to Neil Sedaka)

Waterford (8 of 12)

The last two days have been moist.  Exceedingly moist.  Yesterday, with our mast securely lowered, we huddled in the boat to stay dry, warm and amused.  We poked our heads out of the burrow long enough to cart the LP tank down the street for a fill.  The business doing the filling sells propane and gravestones… an odd combination.

Our friends on Serenity arrived and hoped the rain would let up so they could also get their mast set down.

Today we set out northward again, motoring in a steady drizzle interspersed with periods of serious downpour.  The scenery was mostly soft-focus in the muted light..

Waterford (1 of 12)

Waterford (2 of 12)

We have now traversed the Hudson River from New York City to Troy.

Along the way we passed Hudson, New York.  The town is set in bluffs that inspired our hometown’s first mayor, in 1852, to change the name from Buena Vista, Wisconsin to Hudson, Wisconsin.

The middle section, from north of New York to Castleton is lush and natural.

Once we approached Albany we quickly got back to an industrial and urban setting.

Waterford (3 of 12)

Waterford (4 of 12)

The Destroyer Escort USS Slater moored at the Albany wharf.

Waterford (5 of 12)

A not-inviting free dock wall in Troy.

Waterford (7 of 12)

Arriving at Troy closed another leg of our Great Loop.  We now move from natural river to manmade canal.  Our progress will be controlled by locks instead of wind, tides and current.  The rain-soaked lock we passed at Troy regulates water upriver, eliminating tidal surge.

About 1500 miles, with a loop through Canada,  remain of our 6,700 mile journey.

Our ride up the Hudson ended with a left turn onto the Mohawk River at Waterford, New York.  Waterford is the east end of the Erie Canal.

The town provides free dockage on a long sea wall.  Scattered along the wall we found a half dozen boats we’ve met in the last few weeks.  Most are taking a quick breather before beginning the canal.

A fancy visitor center welcomes both land and water base tourists.  To the left, behind the silver bridge, is the first lock of the canal system.

My gal Pebbles on the Peebles Island bridge.  I guess that makes me Bam Bam.

Our plan is to return in the future and take a right turn instead.


Our New Song

Oh, we are Stinkpotters*, Stinkpotters we,
No more to sail,
Across the bounding sea.
Fossil fuels we’ll have to burn,
On Grand Canal Erie,
Oh, we are Stinkpotters, Stinkpotters we!

For sixty days we’ll putter on,
As though a motor boat,
Its just too thin to use the wind,
And bridges much too low.

We can’t traverse the man-made ditch,
With pole and cloth aloft,
So mast be laid and sails stowed,
And rigging taken off.

At Hop-O-Nose marina,
A strange name I agree,
They lowered our mast,
“Unstepped the Lass”,
As you can plainly see.

At Catskill Creek we did this work,
With iron crane quite rusty,
The Fellows do this every day,
They’re competent and crusty.

A line is wrapped around the mast,
To stabilize in place,
The rigging then is all undone,
And neatly bound in place.

With rigging loose the mast is raised,
And wires disconnected,
Then lifted clear and balanced near,
A cradle is erected.

Once all is set the metal mast,
Is slowly lowered down,
On cradle to be made quite fast,
With lashings all around.

Oh, we are Stinkpotters, Stinkpotters we,
No more to sail,
Across the bounding sea.
Fossil fuels we’ll have to burn,
On Grand Canal Erie,
Oh, we are Stinkpotters, Stinkpotters we!

*A term used by sailors to describe motor boaters.

Things We Learned Today

This trip has been truly educational. Just today we made several new discoveries which will no doubt improve our character, or at least made idle conversation easier.

Whistling pigs climb trees

The WhistlePig, or Groundhog, can climb trees both to escape predators and to eat leaves.  We’ve never seen groundhogs at home do such a thing, but then again we had lazy dogs and plenty of food at ground level.

Thick as a Brick

The Hudson River Valley was a rich source of red clay. Local companies fired bricks used in the area and shipped downriver to New York City.  Original kilns still dot the area.

Celebrate Incineration

Kingston, our current location, became New York’s state capital in 1777.  Later that year it was burned by the British.  Kingston celebrates and re-enacts the burning every other year , in a citywide theatrical staging of the event.

I had a bike stolen once… never felt the urge to celebrate the anniversary.

The Addams Family Home

We found the Addams family home here in Kingston.  Nobody answered the doorbell.

Iceboats were Yuuuge

At the Kingston Maritime Museum we learned that iceboats were often toys of the rich.  The Vanderbilts and others hired designers to outdo each other’s fancy craft.

Just a wee bit larger than the one dad and I built in 1973.

We were born in the wrong era

Happiness is a tasty, fairly priced meal

Savona’s Trattoria in Kingston has a great Express Lunch deal:  Drink, Soup or Salad, Breadsticks, Entree and Dessert for $12.95.  All of it excellent!

Continuity Counts

Doris McLintock was the youngest resident of the lighthouse pictured yesterday.  She arrived as a 2-week old infant and spent her youth there.  Her recollections of the site helped greatly with restoration efforts.

Rowing Shells need rearview mirrors

As this rowing club glided past our anchorage, I asked how they avoid running into things, as they all look backward.  The answer?  “Lots of open water!”

The End of The World As We Know It

It was right there on the chart plotter, clear as day: “Worlds End”.  Maybe the Flat-Earth types are right, and we’d just drop off the edge.  Hmm.

Yesterday was spent in Croton-On-Hudson, biking to get provisions, getting Peg a haircut, and a marathon docktails with Serenity and Slow Hand.  The discussion just kept going and going.

The stunning scenery of the Hudson River continues, muted a bit by the rainy and overcast day.  The heavily forested elevations surrounding the waterway make it exciting to see what’s around the next bend.

Kingston (1 of 19)

The trains at the bottom of this picture show the scale of the valley sides.

Kingston (2 of 19)

Soaring bridges, three times the height of Endeavor’s mast, frame the valley.

Kingston (3 of 19)

Amtrak and freight trains rumble along on both sides.

Kingston (4 of 19)

The railroad tracks seem precariously perched along the shore.

Kingston (5 of 19)

We passed West Point, with its impressive campus overlooking the river.

Kingston (6 of 19)

We passed few other boats, but the one that waked us violently was… you guessed it… a rude sport fisherman.  You must have to check your brain at the door when you buy one.

Kingston (9 of 19)

“Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show ’em.”

“It sank into the swamp.”

 – King of Swamp Castle.

Kingston (11 of 19)

This “Castle”, on Pollepel island, was actually a warehouse for Army surplus equipment. Built in 1901, the owner named it after himself, “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal”

Kingston (12 of 19)

Esopus Meadows lighthouse.

Kingston (14 of 19)

Our original float plan for the day had us going 22 miles.  With the combination of rain, helpful current and a tailwind, we elected to keep rolling.  None of the anchorages located on the river looked especially appealing, so we puttered on to Kingston, New York, a total of 55 miles.  Kingston is a salty little town located on Rondout Creek.  Three high bridges cross the creek above the town.

Kingston (16 of 19)

Kingston appears to be a working waterman’s town with lots of old machinery about.  One of my bucket list items is to own a small crane and go about our property putting things on top of other things.

Kingston (15 of 19)

The narrow creek winds past town, several marinas, and a boatyard before opening up into a quiet, no-wake anchorage.

Kingston (19 of 19)

And Worlds End?  The word the chart plotter put ominously across the river?

Kingston (7 of 19)

Reality was less ominous.  Oh, well.  I was hoping for something more cataclysmic to brighten the otherwise dull day.  Harrumph.

Kingston (8 of 19)


Change of Scenery

New York City comes on slow and leaves fast.  We first saw it in the distance while still off the Jersey shore.  Sliding up the Hudson today we turned a corner and it was suddenly gone, replaced by incredibly familiar scenery.

Our day started off with a close look-over by the Coast Guard.  The patrol boat zoomed up, eyeballed us, gave a friendly wave, and sped off.  I shouldn’t admit it, but I was kind of hoping they’d want to board us for a “safety inspection” so I could see their machine gun up close.  Shucks.

Croton on Hudson (1 of 31)

Traffic on the river was even more intense than yesterday.  High speed tour boats ripped up and down.

Croton on Hudson (3 of 31)

Ferries gave no quarter, passing close by and rocking us with their wakes.  Nothing dangerous, but they did not go one more degree off course than necessary to miss us.

Passengers on packed tour boats waved and took our picture.  Yes, I feel a little smug about having our opulent yacht to ourselves!

Croton on Hudson (4 of 31)

Freighters and barges are easy to avoid: they move more slowly and seldom vary course.

Croton on Hudson (7 of 31)

In between dodging masses of steel, we gawked at the interesting architecture lining the river.

The world famous Lava-Lamp building.

Croton on Hudson (8 of 31)

The world’s largest reminder to brush your teeth.

Croton on Hudson (14 of 31)

A mishmash  of styles that somehow works.

Croton on Hudson (9 of 31)

A building built entirely of Legos.

Croton on Hudson (16 of 31)

A building that made us want to play Jenga.

Croton on Hudson (18 of 31)

A floating greenhouse, no doubt supplying pot to the city.

Croton on Hudson (19 of 31)

And a driving range/marina combination for frustrated rich people.

Croton on Hudson (20 of 31)

Other interesting sightings included the USS Intrepid, looking a little worse for wear.

Croton on Hudson (22 of 31)

The business end of a retired supersonic transport.

Croton on Hudson (23 of 31)

Retractable fenders on barges, a very practical idea.

Croton on Hudson (26 of 31)

And the sister ship to one now plying the St. Croix River back home.  The St. Croix Paddleboat company bought the sister to the boat on the left, drove it down around the east coast and up from the golf of Mexico to Stillwater, almost duplicating our loop in reverse.

Croton on Hudson (21 of 31)

Then we passed the George Washington bridge, and were very quickly out of the city…

Croton on Hudson (25 of 31)

…leaving it in our rear view mirror (if we had one).

Croton on Hudson (27 of 31)

Soon we were passing more quaint bergs like Yonkers, the 4th largest city in New York State.  The towns and abandoned buildings began to have a more old-timey feel.

Croton on Hudson (29 of 31)

Croton on Hudson (24 of 31)

Croton on Hudson (30 of 31)

A little farther the scenery quickly came to resemble the Upper Mississippi from Lake Pepin on south.  Soaring cliffs lined the river and long stretches seemed wild.  River traffic dropped to almost nothing .

Our late start from Liberty Island, to catch the incoming tide, put us at the town of Croton-on-Hudson about dinnertime.  We are anchored in a lovely bay next to town and will check into the marina tomorrow for some provisioning and exploring.

Croton on Hudson (31 of 31)

Lady Liberty, Pt. 2

The photo ops just keep coming as the day wears on.  Like sitting on the curb and watching a parade go by.  The Hudson is one BUSY river, so here are a few more pictures to go with the previous posting:


Lady Liberty (1 of 12)

Two if by air, One if by sea.

Constant ferry and tour boat traffic, with some brave/crazy amateurs mixed in.

Lady Liberty (7 of 12)

Uh, oh.  Fast tour boat coming our way.

Lady Liberty (6 of 12)

The setting sun lit Ellis Island and Manhattan well.

Lady Liberty (5 of 12)

The Lady by night.

Lady Liberty (8 of 12)

1.21 Gigawatts to light this place at night.

Lady Liberty (11 of 12)

My lovely prepared Herb Rice and Shrimp for dinner.  Delightful.

Lady Liberty (3 of 12)