The several days spent waiting for good weather earlier in the trip complicated our hopes for a leisurely trip up the Hudson River. Doug and his family were due in Syracuse the first week in August and we had promised grandson Isaac an extended boat trip when we all met up there- Thus, the leisurely trip became somewhat of a “run up the Hudson.” Every though we did not tarry along the way and even though we experienced some weather we might better have “waited out” in a marina, our quick jaunt up the Hudson from NYC to the east end of the Erie Canal at Waterford was nonetheless glorious!
We left NYC early on a Sunday morning for the first of three days on the Hudson River: the waterway was virtually empty; the sky was grey, the clouds, threatening and the weather forecast, not promising… As we pulled into the river and turned left toward the George Washington Bridge, we took solace in what appeared to brighter skies northward… and we chased that promise all day! Though the clouds seemed to rise from the water and rain dribbled relentlessly, we did get to see the Little Red Light House of children’s book fame tucked in under the George Washington bridge, and, of course, both the George Washington and Tappen Zee bridges –the latter at Nyack– were magnificent no matter the weather. The fog hung low, with first the NYC skyline and later, the Palisades only peeking out occasionally. And when we got to West Point, the fog obscured it entirely! River traffic was very light: a few ferries, only a couple of barges, and but 2 or 3 pleasure craft crossed our path. However, we met one of the barges as we approached an extremely steep curve at the deepest point (197 feet) of the entire river, a curve with the ominous name of World’s End! We pushed Sojourner for maximum speed to ensure the barge and tow had all the room they needed. She hit 9.5 knots with no problem and we passed the pair without incident. The wind continued to increase as the day went on and by late afternoon, the Hudson was filled with white caps! The day ended at First Street Marina in Newburgh. When we called for directions into our assigned spot, the dock master explained we “…couldn’t miss it- … it’s right after the red palm trees and just before the Tiki Hut…” (!!!) As it turned out, missing the dock entirely was a good possibility: by the time we arrived at the marina, the winds were racing between 15-20 mph with gusts up to 25. How we came along side the dock with the wind almost at our back is still a mystery, but docking was only the first challenge. With the help of two young dock hands and the dock master, we struggled for almost 2 hours to keep Sojourner from jumping the low slung floating docks as she was buffeted by beam winds. As sunset approached, the winds both shifted in direction and decreased in speed allowing Sojourner to rest much more quietly dockside. Though tired and wet, we weren’t much worse for wear and the only lasting damage was to Sojourner’s snazzy new, navy blue fender covers: two were torn to shreds and the others suffered gaping holes…
The next day was as if we were on a different river. In the early morning, patches of fog crept across the water and wove in and out of the shoreline vegetation. But as the day awakened, fluffy white clouds dotted a bright blue sky and the water was as still as glass. The sights of this day brought all the Hudson River travel posters to life: we enjoyed stately mansions snuggling on green hillsides and more modest abodes dotting the river’s edge; small communities lining the waterway and abandoned factories guarding memories of past water-based commerce. We even saw the commuter trains we had heard but not actually seen the day before as they whizzed to or from NYC. The famed light houses of the Hudson greeted us at several bends in the river.
As it moves northward, the majestic Hudson narrows and begins to take on the look and feel of a typical inland river; it narrows but remains quite deep. About midday, we approached Albany, both the state’s capitol AND a very active, deep water port. Because the river is quite narrow at Albany we ventured slowly, especially after we heard a tow captain call over the radio that his vessel was about to “cast off the lines.” Luckily that task takes quite abit of time, and we were able to pass by the tow and its barge before either actually pulled away from the dock. Carolyn was happy to progress slowly through Albany because our reduced speed afforded her the opportunity to search downtown for sights familiar from her time there as an undergraduate at SUNY Albany. It took just a couple hours to go from Albany to our night’s destination, Waterford, but before we arrived there we passed through our first lock since Virginia: the
federal lock at Troy, NY, the only lock in the state not part of the famed New York State Canal System (NYSCS). Some 153 miles from the Battery, the Troy lock has 16 foot lift, and other than about a 20 minute wait to enter the chamber, we passed through easily. Soonly after the successful passage through the Troy lock we reached a major decision point: turn left and head for the Erie Canal; turn right and go toward the Champlain Canal and eventually Lake Champlain. We chose the former and in no time arrived at Waterford, NY, home of both Lock #2, the eastern most lock on the Erie Canal (there is no Lock #1) and the free municipal docks at the foot of the lock. We anticipated our arrival at Waterford for at least two reasons: entering the Erie Canal marks the beginning of the last stage of our journey to our summer’s destination, Syracuse, AND arriving there meant meeting up with Lauren, a college friend of Carolyn’s we had not seen in several years. After securing Sojourner at the free docks, we walked to Lock #2, climbed around the remnants of the original construction there, got some advice from the lock master and purchased our season’s “Canal Pass” enabling us to travel on any and all canals in the state. After spending a delightful evening with Lauren, we returned to Sojourner eager to begin the locking adventures awaiting us on the Erie Canal. [More “Run up the Hudson” pix].