Saturday, July 31, 2010

Testing the Strength of Gravity

You can see the impact of the economic recession in the towns along the Champlain Canal. The people have a worn down look and feel to them. The buildings are run down around the edges. In Waterford we dinghied to the east side of the canal to go swimming. We tied to a dock and waded in. Local teens gathered on the shore and stared at the weird people swimming in the probably polluted canal. At first it was 1 girl, and then she went and got her friends. And then more friends crawled out to gawk at the strangers. And then the theme song from “Deliverance” played on repeat on the CD player in my brain. That night, after dinner, we sat at the counter in a diner to get dessert. A man talked Todd’s ear off about his disgruntlement at the state of the world, NY state, and the government.

“Mags, we have to help out Uncle Todd. We need to tear him away from this man,” I whispered.


“We need to ask him a question, so he has to turn our way.”

“Uncle Todd, so, how do you like the iPad?” she asked. Todd, relieved, turned to Maggie. The man got up and left after a few minutes. Which was great because he was such a bummer. But I suspect that’s the theme of the town. Not enough jobs and plenty of politicians to blame for it.

Fort Edward was no different. Haggard people sat on the park benches when we pulled up. A couple went by—she was pushing a baby stroller as he walked beside her. Her T-shirt, from afar, read “Pussy Rules.” Upon closer inspection it read “I have the pussy, I make the rules.” Classy. The locals swam in the creek where we were tied, so at least we didn’t feel like animals in the zoo when we swam too.

On Saturday morning we took on locks 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12. There is no lock 10. Apparently the Canal had been diverted and changed so many times that the lock numbering system had been disrupted. Once we were through lock 12 we would officially enter Lake Champlain.

It was just before lock 12 that Hali fell. I was below making lunch. Out of the corner of my eye I watched a skinny 9 year old fall clean down the companion way and land face down. I leaned down to pick her up. She said she was OK, but her left cheek looked like someone stuffed a golf ball under her skin. I grabbed an ice pack from the first aid kit and struggled to pop the inner pouch. Eventually I frantically set the damn thing on the floor and stomped on it until I managed to get the inner packet to break. I shook it and released the cool chemical reaction.

Tears had begun to stream down her face by then. Todd hollered to me from the helm “What’s on the back of her shirt?” I turned her around and saw a stream of blood had formed from the back of her head. Her blonde fine hair was clotted with blood. I pawed through it to find a small scrape on the back of her head that bled like a geyser. I wet a paper towel and held it to her head to stop the bleeding.

Lock 12 loomed. We had no choice but to go through it. I dispatched Maggie to care for Hali while Krys and I navigated the lock. Once through the lock we pulled over to a marina immediately north of the lock. Todd called my brother and sister in law to let them know what had happened to Hali. I grabbed a roll of doggie bags and went to the ships store to buy ice. I fashioned ice packs out of the doggie bags and told Hali, “I want that cheek frozen solid.”

Then we decided to cool her cheek from within with ice cream, because that makes everything better. Once calm, fueled and watered as well, we climbed into the boat and headed to Chipman Point Marina.

I’ve mentioned before that Chipman Point is one of our favorite places on earth. We still, rather profoundly, feel the loss of our friend Dick who had owned the marina. We motored from Whitehall to Chipman Point, thankful that the swelling on Hali’s face had gone down and she returned to her spazzy self within a few hours. (Hali is truly by brother’s daughter. When Kaz was in school they used to call him Spaz, and it’s not only because it rhymed.)

In the afternoon we tied to the end of the transient dock at Chipman Point. As I was securing the lines Pat, the marina, owner came up to ask, “May I help you?” Pat had never seen Sabine. I looked up from tying the lines and her face lit up at recognition.

“I can’t believe you guys made it!” she hugged me tightly. Before we knew it, everyone we knew from Chipman Point congregated at the end of the transient dock to greet us, and again we were the monkeys at the zoo. But this time it was more fun. Pat’s eyes filled with tears, “I wish Dick could see this. He would have loved it.” But I felt his spirit there anyway, and I told her so.

The kids explored the marina, which consists of two old stone warehouse buildings constructed in 1812 and 1827. We swam. We helped ourselves to ice cream from the ship’s store, and then marked it on our slip of paper tacked to the bulletin board. We’d pay our slip at the end of our stay. We settled in to watch a movie in the cockpit, shown on the iPad and broadcast through Sabine’s sound system.

We swatted the mosquitoes and breathed a sigh of contentment that only Chipman Point can produce.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Crunch Time

We woke on Friday excited to tackle the locks in the Champlain Canal. We untied from the wall in Waterford and checked the sign on the shore to make sure we were headed for the correct canal.

We plowed through locks 1, 2, and 3 before noon. They were pretty close together, and each one raised us another 15-20 feet above sea level. Krystian pointed out that we were at this point more than 100 feet over sea level.

We got pretty good at navigating the locks. The way it works is that there is a waterfall on the outside of the lock that alleviates the pressure of the water north of the lock while the doors to the lock are closed. As we approach the lock we watch for the tell-tale green light that will inform us that the lock master is ready for us to enter the lock. Sometimes the light is red, so we slow down and maintain our course slowly until it turns green.

The cross currents are strong just south of the lock as the water that just came down the water fall rushes back to rejoin the canal. The channel leading to the lock sometimes grows narrow, and we learned just south of lock 4 that the channel markers are not mere suggestions of where we should be. They clearly delineate the safe part of the water from the dangerous.

We watched for the green light as we hovered just south of the lock. The light turned green, Todd, behind the wheel, increased the throttle slightly, and then it happened. The loud scraping crunching sound escaped from below the keel. The boat elevated out of the water and pitched to the right. Items below decks crashed onto the floors from all surfaces. I was sitting on the low side of the boat and braced my feet against the lifelines to keep myself from falling overboard, “Honey!” I howled in fright.

It took me a few seconds to realize what had happened. I looked forward and saw the red navigational marker was just to the left of our boat. It’s supposed to be on the right. We were out of bounds and aground hard.

We surveyed the situation, as the diesel engine vibrated below us, “What about the engine intake? Is that still below the waterline?” I asked Todd. The diesel is cooled with freshwater. If the intake is not below the waterline, then the engine will not stay cool. If the engine gets too hot it will melt and seize.

“It’s OK,” Todd scratched his head. He gunned Sabine’s diesel into reverse. She tried to back off but wasn’t strong enough.

“I wonder if SeaTow works out here?” I asked, thankful that I’d renewed our membership.

“OK, here’s what we’re gonna do. Let’s try to tow her off with the dinghy,” Todd leapt into the dinghy and fired up the outboard. “Maggie, Krys, relay the message to Aunt Beej for me. This might get loud. Beej, gun it in reverse when I say so.”

“Reverse, Aunt Beej, turn it hard to starboard,” Maggie relayed from Uncle Todd in the dinghy. I felt the dinghy’s rope grow taut on Sabine’s stern.

“Gun it! Reverse!” Krys chimed in. 

"Come on!!!" Hali clenched her teeth.

With the same grinding noise, the rock released Sabine's keel  She pulled off the rock, and once again we were upright. We cheered as I forced the throttle handle back into neutral. The adrenaline made my hands tingle; my heart rate remained elevated for the rest of the day. We pulled into lock 4 where the dock master asked if we were OK. I searched for navigational buoys for the rest of the day and diligently pointed them out to Todd until we eventually went through lock 5 and 6 and then tied to the wall for the night in Fort Edward.

“Hey guys,” Hali pointed to the incline meter, “did you know that we were tipped at 20 degrees when we were on the rock? I checked.” I had shown Hali the day before that we had tipped to 35 degrees when the tide went out and left us grounded a few nights earlier. I was, and still am, surprised that she’d remembered to check. This was Hali’s second time aboard, and this time she was more aware of how things work on a boat.

I looked down to see my fingernails, my version of an incline meter, were once again chewed down to stumps.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unlocking Champlain Canal

On Thursday morning the sun streamed through the stateroom windows. I keep meaning to get curtains. The 5 AM sun is bright, and when ever we’re at a dock we have zero privacy when we change in the stateroom. I rubbed my eyes and looked at the clock. It was 8 AM, and our new crew would arrive at noon.

I had laundry to do and a boat to clean. Todd had sugary snacks to buy, as well as more provisions for meals while underway. I began to strip the sheets out from under a sleeping Todd. That’s OK, he needed to wake up anyway.

I hauled our dirty laundry up the dock and asked the crowd of people where the nearest Laundromat was. A man we had struck up a conversation with the day before had offered me a ride, but I declined. It’s not that I don’t want to accept a ride from a stranger. He seemed like a perfectly nice man. My thing is not having the time to be somebody’s passenger. What if he said to me “Oh, I need to run an errand on the way”? Then I’d be at the mercy of this dude, and I didn’t have that kind of time.

I avoided the dude with the car and walked to the Laundromat, just a block or so away, and headed back to the boat. I had cleaning to do, legs to shave, and the more I looked around the more I wanted to accomplish in the next 4 hours.

By 12:30 our new crew arrived, just as I was finishing the chores. Todd had taken a taxi to the supermarket, and he hadn’t arrived yet. The crew was made up of Maggie (age 15), Krystian (age 14) and Hali (age 9.) My sister in law, Melissa, drove from Connecticut to drop them off for the remainder of our first week, and the entire second week as well.

Not long after Melissa left, and the groceries were all stowed, we untied the dock lines and headed north for Troy, NY to enter the NY canal system through the federal lock.

We entered the lock expecting to tie up to the wall inside with a line on the bow and a line on the stern. The lock doors closed behind us and we frantically tried to tie both lines to the pipes on the walls until the lock master called out “Just tie with a midship line.” We slung our midship line around the pipe and waited.

Soon the water filled the lock from below, and Sabine rose to the top of the wall. We marveled at how seams in the concrete wall disappeared below the water and soon we could see over the top of the wall and further north up the canal. Maggie released the line when the door opened, and Todd steered Sabine back to the center of the lock and eventually through the doors.

We high fived at our entry into the canal system and headed for Waterford, NY. We’d heard about a free place to dock for the night, when we saw the canals fork in front of us. A sign on the shore pointed left for the Erie Canal and to the right for the Champlain Canal. We tied to a wall just below the sign and headed to shore for dinner and the inevitable ice cream.

The amenities at Waterford, provided to boaters for free, were very accommodating. There were bathrooms and showers at the visitor center. But the maps of the canal system on the signs were the most interesting. We traced our fingers along the length of the Champlain Canal and counted 11 more locks until we were officially in the lake.

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Monday, July 26, 2010


Just taking a break from the trip log to wish Todd a Happy Anniversary.  The last 7 years spent married to you have been the best I've known yet.  Thank you for constantly making me smile.

And thank you for constantly making me laugh.

 And thank you for being my best friend.  I love you.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crew Change

We got back home to RI on Friday night, and have spent Saturday and Sunday lazing around to recover from such an athletic 2 weeks. I have 700 or so photos to sort. But more importantly I have to finish telling you all about last Wednesday.

We woke up in Catskill, NY with a foggy sky and masts lying on braces on our deck. The braces were tied with straps and ropes that I would have to step over and duck under every time I walk anywhere on deck for the next few days.

We untied the dock lines and headed for Albany. It was quiet in the cockpit. Charlie was at the wheel, Todd was logged in to do a bit of work, Craig was reading and I was probably puttering around and taking pictures. We were still tired from the strenuous day of taking down the masts, and once we got to Albany Craig and Charlie would leave the boat.

I took the wheel, Todd got online and booked Charlie’s one way flight from Albany to Providence, and joked about his getting frisked at every turn for booking a one way last minute flight, and then I turned around and saw it.

A gigantic freight ship loomed behind us. It came around a bend in the river and barreled north, as if it were chasing us. We hadn’t tied the masts to the braces and we feared that the wake from the freighter would jostle them off the braces and onto the deck, or worse into the water.

Charlie took the wheel and examined the map. Todd and I scrambled on deck with a spool of rope, stepping under and over the supporting ropes the whole way. Charlie steered Sabine just outside of the channel and shifted the diesel into neutral. Todd and I finished tying the masts to the tops of the braces while the humongous freighter passed us. Its wake wasn’t nearly as big as we’d anticipated, but we were still relieved that we managed to get the masts tied down in time.

We followed the freighter all the way into the Port of Albany. It towered above the river banks, like it didn’t belong in the Hudson River, and would run aground at any moment. Narrow strips of water were on either side of the ship, barely enclosing the freighter in enough water to carry her to her destination.

While en route Todd hailed the captain of the freighteron the radio to find out how much fuel it burns per day. The captain was very cool about talking to us, despite the fact that he probably had more important things to worry about. (You know, like not running out of river to travel on.)  The captain replied that the freighter burns 1 ton of fuel per hour, or 302 gallons.  That breaks down to approximately 1 gallon every 12 seconds. (Todd observed that he can't even pour out a gallon of diesel in 12 seconds.)  Imagine that this ship runs 24/7 when it is traveling, and burns 7,248 gallons per 24 hour period.

For the sake of comparison, Sabine burns ¾ of a gallon per hour.

We tied up to Albany Yacht Club and said goodbye to Charlie just before his taxi took him to the airport. Todd’s mom and nephew, Alex, arrived with the best brownies I have ever eaten. Armed with her car, we ran errands, had a pizza dinner selected by 5 year old Alex, and then returned to the boat to prepare for our new crew to arrive the next day.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Taking Down the Masts

Yesterday, while still at Chipman Point on Lake Champlain, we put the masts back into their correct position. The decks are clear, and there is no longer a dangerous obstacle course to walk through when trying to get anywhere on deck.

But it was on Tuesday last week when we had to take them down. It was in Catskill, NY on the morning after the tide went out and we sunk into the mud at the bottom of the river.

We arrived at the marina before the tide came in, and had much work ahead of us. Todd and Charlie had already taken down and packed the sails. Charlie marked the turnbuckles on the standing rigging (cables that hold the masts into place) so that we would know how far to tighten them so that they are properly tuned. (Have I mentioned that it’s completely and entirely awesome to have a yacht rigger aboard?)

We tied up to the dock, and Todd and I headed to the boatyard’s barn to build the braces that the masts would rest on for the next week. He measured and sketched. Within an hour we had built the three braces. The crane operator and two of the guys working at the boatyard helped us take them down.

It took all day. It was hot and sticky, and every so often a stray rain shower pelted us. The rain didn’t cool us down; it only served to make us feel slimy. We trucked on through the remainder of the job. We propped up the braces and tied them with miles of ropes and straps.

By the end of the day we were hot and sticky. We were tired. Charlie spotted a restaurant on the shore were we decided to have dinner because none of us wanted to cook anything or wash any dishes. We slurped down the drink special, the Peach Flamingo. The guys tried to look somewhat manly as they ordered them, but it didn’t matter because they went down like liquid candy.

The walk back to the boat was only a block or so away, but it felt like much longer due to our exhaustion. We fell into our beds; our destination for the next day would be Albany.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

UFO Sighting

It was Sunday when we were en route to West Point when we passed Indian Point power plant. We discussed whether it was a coal plant or nuclear when Todd settled the discussion with the iPad.

“Holy crap, you guys,” his eyebrows shot up as he scrolled through a story, “listen to this.”

It was 1984 when the local police station received some 60 calls about a UFO sighting over the power plant. A dozen of the plants security guards spotted the same thing and donned their body armor and whipped out their shot guns. They raced to get into position as the object hovered above them. They suspected the object was approximately 450 feet long; its lights, in a V formation changed colors.

The plant’s security system detected that the object had gotten within 30 feet of the cooling towers, and shut down the entire computer system. The guards readied to shoot; the police chief called in a helicopter from the local air force base.

The chopper didn’t arrive before the object shot straight upward from the cooling towers and flew away. The guards stood down.

To this day, nobody knows what that thing was. And the Air Force denies anything out of the ordinary ever happened that night.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Newburgh, Catskill and Hudson—Oh My!

The spot where we anchored was just south of Newburgh, NY. On the shore there was a water pump house built in 1917 that pumps river water into pipes that carry it all the way to NYC. I always marvel at how water arrives to cities from far flung places. (For example, Boston’s water comes from the Quabbin Reservoir, which is in the dead center of Massachusetts. So, there are pipes that traverse half the state of Massachusetts to bring that water to Boston.)

We parked ourselves on a dock at a marina in Newburgh. Todd took a taxi to get more supplies from the supermarket, I walked the dogs, Charlie and Craig got showers at the marina. Not a hell of a lot to see in Newburgh, and thus started the trend of these not at all picturesque towns on a very pretty river. It made me not want to get off the boat and explore at all.

We continued north until we passed Catskill and anchored in a spot just north of another bridge. It was another sweltering day, so the bathing suits came on and we dinghied ashore to swim from an island camp ground on the east side of the river. Nemo explored the island by land while Griffen explored from the water. We swam and splashed, then made our way back to the boat.

We learned that a marina in Catskill was the best place to get the masts taken off in preparation of the eventual trip through the locks and into Champlain. We arranged for that all to happen the next day. Then Todd and I jumped into the dinghy and headed a few minutes north in search of ice cream in Hudson.

We tied up to the Hudson Power Boaters Association dock and walked into town. We passed a housing project, where families beat the heat by sitting out on their stoops. Then we passed a run down street of row houses that I am sure were once fabulous and could be once more if someone could be bothered to spruce them up. Then we turned down a street with boarded up windows, and a feeling of desperate sadness, until we found our way into a rundown convenience store. We didn’t speak very much on that walk.

We returned to the boat where we grilled up some dinner and lounged on the boat with books and laptops. Todd sat in the air chair, which is a canvas chair that hooks to a halyard (rope that raises sail) on the main mast. The chair dangled unnaturally way off the starboard side of the boat. Sabine tipped over, and I heard our things falling off of the tables and counters below.

“Todd, knock it off. You’re making everything fall down below,” I groused at him. He swung back to the center of the boat, but she remained tipped over to the right. The four of us silently exchanged glances. I don’t remember who said it, but out came “Holy shit. We’re aground.”

We looked at the waterline on shore and saw that the outbound tide had dropped the water level about 5 feet. Sabine’s hull sunk into the mud. Todd promptly detached the air chair and clipped that halyard to the dinghy in hopes that he could pull her out. Instead she righted for a moment and simply flopped onto her port side. We flopped her back onto starboard and knew we’d have to wait until the tide would come back in so we could free her.

Todd checked the tide schedule on the iPad and learned that the tide would be inbound somewhere around midnight. Meanwhile, it was still outbound. Less water to support Sabine would mean that she’d lie on her side even more. Eventually she rolled over to a 35 degree angle. To get anywhere inside the boat, we walked on the walls. My stomach lurched and my hands shook a bit. “What if we’ll be stuck here for days?” and “What if this damages her hull?” bounced around in my head. Todd and Charlie didn’t seem that concerned, however I was pretty scared.

“Hey, look!” Todd joked. “I’m in the matrix.” He stood with his feet against the panel that contains the fridge.  His upright body was at a diagonal compared to the rest of the interior of the boat. I handed Charlie my camera and then the evening disintegrated into laughing our asses off at the odd angles at which we stood. Charlie took the pictures with the camera lined up so it looked like we were standing at 45 degree angles from the floor.

There was nothing left to do but wait for the tide to come back in. I tried to sleep, but my bed was near vertical at that point. I was too tired to read, and too exhausted to brace myself against a wall. I moved over to the bunk in the main salon and tried to make myself a nest in there where I eventually dozed off.

Then with a jolt Sabine was upright. The tide had come in to the point where the water slipped between the hull and the mud and she sprang back into her rightful position. I jumped behind the wheel, Todd at the anchor windlass, Charlie and Craig analyzing the channel markers and depth sounder to see where we could reset the anchor in deeper water. The tide would turn outbound again in the morning, and we would find ourselves in the same exact position once again if we didn’t move.

The anchor was reset and the sound of exhausted snoring filled the boat.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

So Long, New York City

Today we are in the Champlain Canal nearly 10 miles away from lock #5. We ran aground just south of lock #4. The grinding sound of rock against hull is quite possibly one of the most terrifying noises I’ve ever heard. It’s been over an hour and my hands are still shaking from it. But I’ll tell you more about that later. Let’s back up to Saturday night and Sunday morning in New York City.

On Friday Charlie, Todd and I left home in a rented Hyundai, headed south on 95. Charlie’s a good friend of ours who owns the local (and awesomest) yacht rigging shop. His shop is right across the train tracks from where I work and he said to me over a post-work beer, “You know… I’ve never got the chance to spend much time on the lower part of the Hudson….” And then Todd’s dad said the same thing.

We met up with Craig (Todd’s dad) and Tina (Todd’s mom) in Jersey City on Saturday. We took a quick cruise to the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday afternoon, and then went into the City to meet up with my cousin Helen and her new husband Jeremy.

I hadn’t seen Helen for a few years, but we pretty much grew up together as my extended family was always very present in my life. (Think “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” but only with a bunch of Pollocks.) I hadn’t yet met Jeremy, because he and Helen were living in Europe because their work took them both there.

Sunday Todd, Charlie Craig and I left the City and headed north up the Hudson. The Hudson is wider than the East River, and the buildings didn’t tower over us as they had days before. We passed under the George Washington Bridge, and the landscape instantly changed from urban jungle to forest.

We continued north and eventually passed West Point. (OK, West Point?  Super impressive from the water.)  It was just north of West Point that we anchored in a spot that could only be described as heavenly. We donned bathing suits and combated the heat in the river. Eventually the sun set, we ate dinner and drifted off to sleep after a hot, hazy 54 mile day.

We marveled at the fact that 54 miles away from the ocean the tides still have a great impact on the level of the water. It would be on Monday night that we’d learn just how drastically far the water level would drop.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

And All that Remained was a Big Apple Core

“Are you sure you don’t want to come along?” I asked Todd.

“Nah. I am still pretty tired from the trip here. I am just going to chill and read. You guys have fun.” He was slathering sunscreen on my back before I put my shirt on. Temps were expected to hit 100, and the sun was already baking us. Sean, Heidi and I wandered down the dock and onto the water taxi bound for the city. The plan for the day was to walk around and then take another leg of the tour package we bought the day before.

We got into the city near the World Trade Center site and made our way through the streets toward Chinatown. The sun baked the streets, sweat dripped under our shirts, yet we were joking and laughing the whole way. We decided to take the bus tour to Brooklyn because none of us had ever gone.

Soon the bus was crossing the Manhattan Bridge, just north of the Brooklyn Bridge. Buses and trucks aren’t allowed on the Brooklyn Bridge. But that didn’t matter to us as we’d already been under it the day before. The tour guide pointed out various buildings and told us their significance. He pointed to one and said “That’s where Exlax was invented. They tested it on monkeys on the roof of the building until they got the formula right.”

Sean turned toward me in his seat and said “I think this guy’s full of shit.” At which point the tour took an entirely unexpectedly hilarious turn for us. As the tour guide rattled off a list of famous Brooklyners, I jokingly pointed out the birthplace of native Brooklyner Sarah Palin. Sean pointed out the elementary school where Arnold Swartzenegger, as a child and native Brooklyner, flunked gym class. We held our sides as we howled with laughter. The Austrian woman seated next to me joined the fun as well.

When we returned to the boat, Todd googled and learned that Exlax was formulated in Ossening, NY and tested on prisoners in Sing Sing. So much for the monkeys on the roof, but at least we passed the Wendy’s that now stands on top of a once active volcano. The volcano had been leveled as a means to create jobs during the Great Depression. Later on, Sarah Palin was named Miss Wendy’s 1982 at that very restaurant. She was promptly stripped of her title when she made the controversial declaration “We can see McDonald’s from the border of our parking lot.”

Thank you Sean and Heidi for making the trip across the Sound a memorable adventure. We loved every second of the trip and it would not have been the same without you.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Big Apple

Tonight Sabine is docked in Albany, NY. Her masts were taken down yesterday, and we are in the midst of a crew change. Legendary yacht rigger Charlie and my father-in-law Craig were with us for the lower part of the Hudson River. They’ve vamoosed, and my nieces and nephews Maggie, Krys and Hali will join us tomorrow. Much has happened, and I cannot believe it’s only Wednesday, but first let’s back up to last weekend in NYC.

New Rochelle came and went. We had a few drinks in the restaurant at the marina while I battled land-sickness. I don’t get seasick. I get land-sick. It’s the feeling of vertigo I get when sitting still on land. My inner ear had become accustomed to the constant motion under my body, that once it stopped when I was ashore I felt queasy. The table, though still, seemed to sway right before my eyes. Normally I experience land-sickness when in the shower at home after a trip, or back at my desk on Monday morning. This was a new record for onset of land sickness.

We woke the morning of July 4th and left New Rochelle. Not much to report on in that town. Not a heck of a lot to see there. We went to a movie and walked around a bit. In all, meh. Soon after leaving the dock we were under the Throg’s Neck Bridge, which connects the mainland to Long Island. Then the Whitestone Bridge was next. I lied down on the cabin top to capture Sabine’s mast as it passed under each bridge. After the Whitestone we were officially in Hell’s Gate and into the East River.

Hell’s Gate is the eastern entry into Long Island Sound. It is a narrow opening into a relatively narrow body of water, and again we had to hit the tide just right. Had we caught it on an incoming tide, we would have been battling the force of the tide jamming its way into a narrow opening. The result would be even more force to fight against. However, catching it on an outbound tide meant that we could use the power of the water to our favor.

The City came into view. At first the taller buildings appeared like apparitions in the early morning summery smog. They came into focus as we continued west. We passed Riker’s Island and marveled at how damn big that place is. So big that it continues on a gigantic prison ship anchored across the river. We passed Laguardia Airport, and watched the planes cross directly over us as they approached for a landing.

Soon the river turned south, and Manhattan was on our right, Queens and Brooklyn on the left. The buildings towered above, the Chrysler Building gleamed in the morning sun. Todd beamed from behind the wheel, while Heidi and I snapped hundreds of photos. To the south the Statue of Liberty was a speck on the horizon. Click went the shutter.

We rounded the southern tip of Manhattan and the water opened to where the Hudson and East Rivers meet. Sails were unfurled, diesel shut off, and we glided toward the Statue of Liberty. I smiled at the look of amazement in Todd’s eyes. “We’re here! We’re really here!” he shook his head in awe.

The statue loomed above us. The ‘restricted’ buoys were mere feet from our hull. We were still on the correct side of them, but as close as we could get without passing over them. We tacked back and forth just to fully appreciate where we were and the day we were there, and how we all got there. Then headed north past Ellis Island, and then turned west into Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City, where Sabine would be tied for the next week. Once we got her settled in, we marveled at the proximity of the city and scurried down the dock to take the water taxi across the Hudson.

We bee-lined for Times Square and stopped to soak in the sounds, sights, signs and scents. We window shopped. We ate gigantic sandwiches at Roxy’s Deli. Then we hopped on a tour bus and rode around the city to kill time until the fireworks over the Hudson. The temperature in the city was in the high 90s and we felt sticky, but it didn’t matter. We were doing what we do best: exploring.

Sunset found us at Riverside Park. We secured a spot along the railing and settled in to watch the show. If you haven’t seen the 4th of July fireworks in New York City, you MUST put it on your bucket list. Macy’s ponies up for the show, and places 5 barges in the river. Then the fireworks display is delivered from the 5 barges simultaneously so that they show is spread for, seemingly, miles up the river. It lasted for a half hour, and toward the end the sulfur smell carried north to where we were standing. I inhaled it deeply, as it is one of my favorite summertime scents.

At the end of the night we packed into a PATH train bound for Jersey. We made our way back to Sabine, knowing that, sadly, we’d have to leave her the next day. But Sean, Heidi and I would head into the city on Monday morning to get one more fix before leaving.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

The New York City Leg Part 1

It’s Monday night and I am aboard Sabine, anchored on the Hudson River north of Poughkeepsie, NY. (Notice I didn’t say moored, or docked. Anchored. As in, using the anchor. As in, staying somewhere safely for FREE. I love having a functional anchor windlass. A lot.)

We’ve seen so much already in the last few days, and I can’t wait to tell all of you all about it. I haven’t even had the chance to tell you about the RI to New York City leg. So, settle in. Once upon a time…

The plan was that Todd and Sean would sail down to Jamestown during the day. By the time Heidi and I got out of work, they would already be there waiting for us. And then the radar system bailed on us. It up and stopped working. I guess that’s what happens when you install just the dome and let it sit on the mast for several years until you get around to installing the rest of it. We bought a whole new radar system. Todd and Sean took Sabine back to Brewers Marina, and had the mizzen mast taken down. By the time I brought them sandwiches for lunch at 12:30 they were almost done putting the new dome on the mast. I went back to work, left there at 4 and picked up Heidi.

By the time Heidi and I pulled into Jamestown I saw Sabine just pass under the Newport Bridge. A few errands and we were on our way. The night before we had established the watch schedule for the next 24-26 hours that it would take for us to arrive in New Rochelle, NY— just east of New York City. The plan was that each person would spend a 4 hour stretch in the cockpit. The first 2 hours were spent assisting the person at the wheel. Then the next 2 hours were spent at the wheel while the next person assists.

I settled in for a nap while Todd and Sean were in the cockpit. I set the alarm for 10:45, because I was due to assist Sean at 11 PM. We motored the whole way as we headed west, and Sabine’s diesel is screaming loud in my stateroom. Fortunately I once slept through a tropical storm aboard. I was soon asleep.

Before I knew it, the alarm chirped and I was awake. I rubbed my eyes and dressed in my layers of denim and fleece; it was cold when I’d left the cockpit. I grabbed a diet coke out of the fridge, which I’d hoped would wake me up, but only left my teeth feeling hairy.

I sat in the cockpit for Todd’s last 10 minutes at the wheel. “More Than a Feeling” by Boston came through the speakers while I watched the phosphorescent jellyfish glow in Sabine’s wake. The moon was bright, the sky was loaded with stars, and Long Island Sound was dead calm. In the distance I saw the faint light of a few other boats. They showed as blips on the radar screen. The fully functioning radar screen. I can’t describe the joy I felt sitting there in the moonlight aboard my boat bound for New York City. It truly was more than a feeling.

I kissed Todd goodnight as his watch ended. I checked the level in the bilge and pumped it out. I recorded the log entry at the top of the hour, and settled in next to Sean behind the wheel. We watched other boats, few and far between, come into view on the radar. I chatted to keep him awake. Eventually Heidi came up to assist me at 1 AM, and she kissed Sean goodnight. We chatted while I struggled to keep my eyes open for the last few minutes of my shift. I kissed Todd goodnight, Heidi slid behind the wheel while I feel into a deep sleep as Sabine’s diesel roared.

When I woke at 7, the sun was high over the horizon as I assisted Sean and tried to keep him awake. I regretted missing the sunrise, but was too damn tired to wake up to see it. I understand it was beautiful.

My morning watch ended at 11, and was blissfully uneventful. I expected worse for the 4th of July weekend, but luckily we didn’t end up having too much go on. We tied up in New Rochelle at 3 PM, and high fived each other for a successful crossing. The anticipation of crossing through Hells Gate in the morning down the East River and into New York City built up in the 4 of us..

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Ramping Up and Complications

We leave tonight for the big trip up the Hudson. After months of counting down the days, it’s finally here. Last weekend we motored Sabine to New York City (which I haven’t had the chance to even tell you about, because this week has been so crazy) and tonight we’ll drive down to NYC to board once again.

Monday night we returned from NYC, and grudgingly went back to work on Tuesday. The countdown on my calendar at work remained in the single digits but it still felt so far away. Because Sabine was gone, we didn’t have to spend much time preparing for the trip. The laundry needed to be done and packed, you know, little things like that. The bills needed to be paid, and the house was *this close* to being declared a federal disaster area.

And then on Wednesday the driveway was paved. We had planned for this all along, and wanted to be in the state when the pavers arrived. What we didn’t connect on was the fact that we wouldn’t be able to use the driveway until Sunday—two days after leaving for the trip. That means we cannot put the cars into the garage while we’re gone. The large, freshly gouged culvert across the front lawn also means we can’t just drive across the grass to put the cars behind the house. As a result we’d been parking at the end of our long driveway along the street; not where we’d like to park for 2 weeks while we’re gone.

So, let me give you the run down from the last few days:

Last Friday
I drove Todd’s car to Jamestown, where we left from to get to New York City.

Back from NYC with the rental car. Picked up the jeep at the marina, and then returned the rental car. When we returned home we saw that our friends Mike and Sarah, who were borrowing the truck over the weekend, hadn’t brought it back yet.  One of us would have no means to get to work the next day.

I drove Todd to Mike and Sarah’s house. He went to the dump with Sarah to unload the truck, returned home and got ready for work. The driveway was graded, we couldn’t drive on it by the time we got home from work. We parked the jeep, the truck and the trailer by the street.

Todd drove the truck and trailer back to Mike and Sarah’s. They are rehabbing a house and have made several trips to the dump with it.  Todd drove me to work and said “I’ll pick you up at 5, then we’ll ride down to Jamestown to get my car.” Then he called me at 4:30 and said “I have a conference call. I can’t come get you. Find a ride to Jamestown, get the car and go home.” So, I did just that.

It is also worth noting, Todd left all his car keys on the boat in New York. I constantly had to remember “Hey, do you have keys to your car? No? OK, here’s my set…”  And now I wonder where my spare to the jeep is.

I took the dogs to Petco for a groom and picked them up after work. Got home and cleaned the house, paid the bills, and agonized over what to pack and what to pack it in. Todd came home at nearly 9, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t even had dinner with all the racing around I did.

Todd went to Mike and Sarah’s to help them with a dump run first thing in the morning while I got ready for work. As I left I went into the basement to empty the dehumidifier and noticed something scurrying out of the corner of my eye. Further investigation (read: frenzied chasing) reveled that it was a chipmunk. I attempted to capture it with a laundry basket without success. I left the door to the basement open, and left a note for Todd on the fridge:

“There is a chipmunk in the basement. I left the door open. Will you please make sure it’s gone and close the door?”

Of course, because we’re not using the driveway, Todd entered the house through the front door when he got back from the dump, went up the stairs and into the shower. He never went through the kitchen, and never saw my note.  The basement door remains open. And either that one chipmunk went out, or his friends all came in. And I’ll bet the dehumidifier is already full again, as the humidity is approximately a hojillion percent today.

I’ll leave the jeep at New England Yacht Rigging after work tonight and con Charlie into taking me to the airport to get the rental car. Charlie’s coming with us on part of the trip anyway, so I’ll pick him up on the way home. We’ll go pack the rental, then Todd’ll get home and we’ll leave the acura at Mike and Sarah’s house. I suspect we’ll hit the highway somewhere after a million o’clock tonight.

I desperately need this vacation now.


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Just Plain Stupid

Normally I love stupid people.  But this time I am just annoyed.  I know I shouldn't let it bug me, especially when it's a stranger who is being stupid.  But it does.

Just yesterday I read an article about a proposed tax on tanning services.  For example, if you frequent a tanning salon, you'll be taxed extra.  The monies generated from this tax will offset the costs of the healthcare reform.  Fair enough, right?

But what I love about reading the news online are the reader comments at the end.  One woman posted "A tax on tanning?  What's next?  A tax on breathing?"

Oh yes she did.  She compared breathing to tanning.  So, what she's saying is that we as a species cannot survive without lying inside of a machine that bakes our skin with concentrated ultraviolet light?

It's like comparing apples to thumbtacks.  Apples are good to eat.  Thumbtacks are not.  An apple a day, supposedly, keeps the doctor away.  However a thumbtack a day will likely shred your intestines to ribbons. 

Is it too much to ask the people who destroy their skin in a tanning booth to offset the cost of their eventual melanoma?

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