It was with very mixed emotions that we pulled out of Ess-Kay, heading east across Lake Oneida to begin retracing our steps from just a month before. We had a great time in Central NY and on one hand, are sad to see it come to an end. On the other, the nights (and some days) are becoming chilly, the leaves threaten to turn any day, and we really don’t want to experience what Fall can bring to this area. We are also excited about returning through waters we’ve experienced before: we look forward to a somewhat more relaxed traveling “schedule”, the opportunity to see things we missed on the way up and more generally, to not always feeling as if we are venturing into a total unknown. With that latter in mind, we’ve decided to revisit where we liked going north and to find new and different stopping places in between.
The first leg of the return trip took us eastward through the Erie Canal to the Hudson River with stops in first Ilion and then Amsterdam. We reached the latter after a long day of locking in the rain (no pictures thereof) and were very grateful that Carolyn’s college friend, Lauren, had invited us to spend the weekend in Saratoga Springs with her. So tired and discombobulated from the day’s adventure, we forgot the camera and have no pictures of that very enjoyable side trip either. After a weekend of unending hot showers, incredibly delicious food, interesting sights and delightfully engaging conversation, we resumed our journey both refreshed and rejuvenated. Our next stop was the free dock in Waterford celebrating our passage through the last lock (#2) on the Erie Canal. The next day, we left the federal lock at Troy in our wake and headed into the Hudson River, motoring right through Albany before stopping for the night and another visit with our friends, Susan, Slade and Sojourner NY, at Catskill. Falling leaves on Sojourner’s deck the next morning offered proof-positive it is time to be heading south!! From Catskill we enjoyed a beautiful fall day on the Hudson: as always it seems in NY, the skies overflowed with indescribably beautiful clouds, and Fall sunlight made magic on the passing landscapes.
With good weather and an early start, we rolled right by Newburgh (where Sojourner had tried to jump the floating docks in a storm on our way north) and progressed all the way to Haverstraw, just 20 north of New York City. The plan was to motor right through NYC in midday, thereby perhaps avoiding some of the freighter and commuter ferry traffic, but we awakened to rain and wind and decided to stay put for another day. The next morning dawned without rain but with rather thick fog and so our very early start was somewhat delayed. Nonetheless, as the fog lifted, we made great time and passed through the NYC with the tide and current- Sojourner surfed through New York harbor with freighters on both sides (mostly anchored, thank goodness), very few ferries and even fewer water taxis and other unpredictable vessels.
We appeared to have a great weather window as we approached the multi-day run in the Atlantic Ocean so we experimented with a longer day on the water, hoping to cut a day off the run. We also hoped to avoid the stop at Manasquan, not one of our favorite places. The new plan called for a stop at Shark River instead, an inlet that the guidebooks warn has wicked current and three bridges that must be opened in succession in order to reach the marinas beyond. So in we went- the current was manageable, and the bridge tenders quite responsive and helpful. What we hadn’t counted on was a rather small basin, very strong winds, extremely shallow water and a marina that would send no one down the dock to help with the lines. After 3 tries to dock Sojourner safely, we decided discretion is the better part of valor, and we headed back through the bridges, across the inlet current, out into the open ocean and on to a return visit to Brielle Yacht Club, a marina with much more in its favor than we recognized initially! Our attempt to do Atlantic City differently had similar results: we chose not to stay at Trump Marina and instead found ourselves in what most charitably could be called a “charming” lil’ place with old wooden docks, no security and fewer amenities. So, on to Utsch’s Marina at Cape May! We know what is there and we would be most pleased to get it.
The incredible weather actually held throughout our 3-day ocean run: warm air, sunny skies and almost totally smooth seas. We saw much of the Jersey Coast hidden in haze (and sometimes heavy fog) on our trip northward. And we saw some unusual sights as well. On the second day out, we found a stowaway bird on the starboard walkway seemingly snuggled up to the master cabin shower porthole. Upon closer inspection, it appeared caught in the screen. So with a hand liberally wrapped in a heavy towel, we gently pulled it away from the screen and tossed it in the air. It flew away high and landward immediately,-glad to be free, we presume! Mid-day on the last day out we spotted what appeared to be a small flotilla of boats far ahead. Knowing how deceptive visual sightings can be on the open water, we waited awhile to decide what, if anything, to do about it vis-á-vis our course. As we approached, the flotilla turned into a “tug train”: a lead boat towing a dredge which in turn pulled a long series of pipes connected in sequence with a second tug motoring alongside the pipeline, and bringing up the rear, yet another tug. From front to back, the entire “train” extended almost 2 miles in length and took us about 20 minutes to pass. It was a great lesson in close quarter maneuvering to watch small, fast, day boats come up on the “train”, assess the situation, and then turn quickly in an effort to avoid the barely visible trap created by the length of pipes half submerged in the water. At another point on the same day, the quiet of the gentle ocean was totally disrupted by the roar of very low flying military planes on some sort of maneuvers. They came by a second time later and again, virtually strafed us as they flew by! Somewhere along the way, we had received a call from Capt. Carol of SEASENSE inquiring if we would like to crew for her as she transports Pixie Dust III, a virtually new, 46 foot American Tug, from Solomons, MD up the Potomac to her home marina in Occoquan, VA, just south of Washington, DC. We jumped at the opportunity and this plus the continuing good weather encouraged us to keep moving when we might otherwise have stopped and enjoyed a down day or two along the way. [More pix of the beginnning of our southern journey]