Sunday, May 16, 2010

Erie Canal

Thursday, May 13, 2010


THE BROTHERS JORDAN It’s early morning. Our boat is charging through the Atlantic waves, sails trimmed to perfection. We’re making good time, averaging 8 to 9 knots. The journey from St. Augustine to New York seems to be successfully underway. Then I look aft. A man is holding the carcass of a tuna in his hands, munching along it’s backbone as though it were an ear of corn. He lifts his head and smiles at me as blood trickles down his chin. OMG, I wonder as I look on in horror. What is in store for us for the next nine days at sea with the Brothers Jordan? Jim is amused by my reaction, and enjoys informing me that Brother Bill also likes to eat eyes, hearts, and various other organs. I gasp and go down below to gag in private. Using perch eyes as bait when you run out of minnows is one thing, but eating fish eyeballs crosses some sort of line, doesn’t it? I need to focus on the bright side. We have two able bodied, experienced sailors to crew with us to New York. We have a freshly caught tuna. Might as well move beyond the blood and guts and start cooking. We dined on Tuna Eggs Benedict, Tuna Ceviche, Sesame Seared Tuna, and Tuna Mediterranean Style. As the winds increased to 30 knot gusts and the waves built to 10 to 15 feet, the brothers pulled in and filleted three more nice tuna. The aft deck was a blood bath, the guys looked like deranged murderers splattered with tuna DNA, and their grins were from ear to ear. Captain Gary needed a power nap late that afternoon, so Jim took over the helm. He opted to hand steer, as the autopilot could not react to the huge swells. I wasn’t reacting all that well to them either. I purposely avoided looking out the ports while I remained down below trying to read. Jim and Bill thought they could tease me into a better mood, until I shouted up through the companionway to Jim “STOP TALKING TO ME! FOCUS ON STEERING!” They actually seemed to be enjoying themselves in these conditions. That night, about thirty miles out, a cute little bird joined us on board. We marveled at how this teeny little guy we nicknamed Woodstock made it out that far. Apparently, he wanted to take a nap because he kept fluttering around down below. We tried shooing him away numerous times. Once he even rode back up into the cockpit on Gary’s head. He finally ran out of steam and fell to the deck. Jim tenderly picked him up in a towel and held him until he died. It was sad. A while later, along came another bird. We considered that Woodstock I died due to lack of food and water during his long journey, so we tried to feed Woodstock II some bread soaked in water. He wasn’t interested in anything but flying down below until he calmed down and sat on my hand. I was in an uncomfortable position, so I shifted him to the corner of the cockpit and draped a towel around him. He didn’t make it through the night. The next morning, I was ready for a break from the waves and eager to head into Southport NC. Gary was debating whether to continue on to Beaufort. Bill witnessed our exchange of opinions. (AKA fight) After that, Gary and I were down below trying to nap amidst the chaos of the wave action. One big swell sent our conch shell off the shelf and SMACK into Gary’s forehead, slicing open a gash above his eyebrow. I applied ice, then a bandage. When my patient emerged from our stateroom, Bill acknowledged the bloody band-aid by commenting “So, I guess we’re going to Southport!” Even though the joke was on me, I have to admit that was funny stuff! Especially since we WERE going to Southport. Docking was a challenge in the dark with opposing winds and currents. Tessa, not Captain Gary, decided she would back into the slip next to the fixed dock at The Provision Company. Gary suggested we simply pull her the twenty feet across the well to the floating dock. For at least an hour, all four of us had a line in our hands and pulled with all of our might while Tessa refused to budge. It was like she was saying “I’m tired, I’ve had enough, just leave me be!” Eventually we muscled her over, secured her, and knocked back a cocktail before bed. 30 to 35 knot winds were forecast to blow until Wednesday. We were officially weathered in at Southport. It was a nice opportunity to relax and become more acquainted with Brother Bill after the two challenging days at sea. Chas drove down from Fayetteville to hang out with us Monday and Tuesday, and we used his wheels to provision at Wal-Mart. Monday evening, we went to our favorite Southport restaurant, Mr. P’s. They serve the most wonderful Oysters Rockefeller, and the appetizer special was a delectable soft shell crab. Later that evening I prepared a second round of sesame seared tuna which Chas devoured. During both days, The Brothers Jordan’s assignment was to frequent the Provision Company for food and drink as often as possible. This in exchange for our complimentary dockage. We didn’t have to twist their arms to fulfill these obligations, especially since they enjoyed the antics of the friendly bar staff (especially Sheri and Laurie). Jim didn’t tell us that Bill was a hunter and gatherer along with his strange culinary tastes. Wednesday morning a Round House bucket filled with fresh clams appeared on board. Bill had dug them up during low tide. Jim could hardly wait for us to get underway and start grilling clams on the aft deck. They were fantastic! A good weather window opened Wednesday morning and remained for the rest of the trip from Southport to New York. The guys would have preferred more wind in order to sail instead of motor-sail, but it was just fine with me to calmly make way at six knots. We were cruising along Virginia approaching Maryland just before dawn Thursday when my cold and weary Captain came down below for a nap. I snuggled against him, trying to thaw him out, and he immediately fell sound asleep. Minutes later, through our closed hatch, and over the drone of the Perkins, I ever so faintly heard the now familiar zzzzzzzzzing of the reel. FISH ON! I jumped up onto our bunk, threw the hatch open, and called to the brothers. “Check the rod, I think we have a fish on!” Bill reeled in a big Bluefish while I apologized to Gary for scaring the heck out of him. As the day progressed, the brothers reeled and reeled, and the filet knife was flying. Soon their cooler was filled with eight Blues, both were covered with fish slime, and the two of them (and Tessa) smelled like one big smelly fish. The rod zinged again and I elbowed them out of the way to reel one in myself. Bill was on the aft deck fingering through a pile of fish innards. “Bill” I warned “I swear to God, if you put that in your mouth I will puke on you right now and I am NOT kidding!” He laughed but did resist the temptation. Each afternoon, Jim would pop open a bottle of wine and serenade us with his guitar. We were about as relaxed as we’ve ever been on the mighty Atlantic. The Bluefish tasted wonderful blackened and poached. The conclusion of the ocean voyage was near, and the Statue of Liberty would soon be greeting us in New York. We docked at Liberty Landing Marina Saturday night, and celebrated with “Dark & Stormy” cocktails, Roast Duck, and fine wine. A perfect ending to a very successful journey. The brothers wanted to turn in early in anticipation of a long drive home Sunday, and all four of us looked forward to the first uninterrupted night’s sleep since Southport. Sunday morning, as we waved farewell to The Brothers Jordan, we were hoping that the trip was memorable and gave them an opportunity to do some brotherly male bonding. I think it worked for Jim. For example, one day Bill was face down, sound asleep on his bunk, with his little yellow reading glasses still perched on his nose. I commented to Jim that he looked cute. Jim smiled for a moment, then said tenderly “Hey! Let’s put a couple of dead fish next to him so when he wakes up he’ll be sleepin with the fishes!” You could just feel the love!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lock 17 of the Erie Canal

Went through Lock 17 in the Erie Canal. Here is a video of the 40.5 foot rise and filling with over 5,000,000 gallons of water. This is the highest rise lock on the Erie Canal.