Sunday, May 29, 2011

Underway......Sort of!

This morning at 6:00 a.m., after ten days, we finally departed Sylvan Beach. Lock 23 on the western side of Oneida Lake has opened, mariners can get as far as Baldwinsville. Locks 24-26 are still closed. Several other boats left yesterday to wait it out in Baldwinsville. We were undecided, as we suspected all the boats ahead of us in Brewerton would high-tail it to Baldwinsville and take up all available wall space. But some fellow stranded boaters, Mitch and Lesley, kindly advised that as of yesterday afternoon, there was still room for us.

We are taking a chance, but are desperate to MOVE! Even though each day at Sylvan Beach was a memorable one, I for one was getting really depressed. Another anxious sailor said she just wanted to click her heels like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and chant "There's no place like home!" Exactly how we feel!

It helps to stay busy, so we have been doing numerous boat chores. But what helped the most was spending time with Chuck and Donna. We have yet to meet more welcoming, generous friends in all of our travels. Chuck works for the Village of Sylvan Beach, so he swung by Tessa several times a day on his golf cart or his riding lawnmower, just to check on us and see if we needed anything. Several evenings we spent with them, either getting our butts kicked at shuffleboard at the American Legion, or eating at their favorite hang out, Splash's. Chuck knows EVERYONE, therefore we got to know EVERYONE in town. Chuck and Donna's buddies Miles and Bandana Bob joined us for several happy hours. If we weren't so desperate to get home, I'd have to say this would have been one heck of a vacation!

Today, we will miss all the friendly locals saying "You guys are STILL here?" We'll miss Patty, our favorite waitress at the Crazy Clam. We will certainly miss Chuck and Donna. But it feels good to make progress and get even one day closer to home.



Monday, May 23, 2011

THE LAST STRAW!

It is not bad enough that we are stuck on the Erie Canal indefinitely. We check the NY Canal website every hour or so, begging for an update. We worry about our job slots back in Port Clinton and Put-in-Bay. We miss home and want so bad to get there. We couldn't be more frustrated.
Today was the last straw. To our dismay, we discovered that our favorite Sylvan Beach happy hour bars are CLOSED ON MONDAYS!!!!!!!!! Don't they know we are hanging by a thread here? Since last Wednesday, we have relied steadily on the comfort of warm hospitality and cheap beers to keep a positive outlook. To just pull the happy hour rug out from under us is devastating. We had to eat ice cream today instead of wings and beers. How much worse could it get?

We love the people of Sylvan Beach. Everyone has welcomed the stranded boaters and sympathized with us. We love Chuck and Donna, the great folks we met in 2009 on our way through. People we have met honk horns and wave as they drive past. Our fishing buddy Rodney gave us two precious fresh caught Walleye for dinner Saturday night. He even filleted them for me! If we have to be stuck anywhere, this is about as good as it gets.

But we are so very anxious to move on and complete the western half of the canal, cross Lake Erie, and grab H ball at the bay. Rain is in the forecast for the next ten day period. The water levels need to stabalize so that the locks can operate. And so we wait........

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The best laid plans……

I love it when a plan comes together! 37 days and 1500 nautical miles after we departed Fort Myers Beach, having dodged all the weather bullets Mother Nature shot at us, we arrived at Castleton-on-the-Hudson May 4th, exactly as planned. This would give us enough time to unstep the masts and enter the Erie Canal to rendezvous with Kevin and Carol on Saturday. Eight days after that, we would conclude our journey at Put-in-Bay, in time for Captain Gary to report to West Marine for duty on May 15.
Thanks to the competent help of fellow boaters, the masts came down in record time. In less than a day, everything was secured in place and we were ready to go!

Except Mother Nature saved her biggest insurmountable bullet for us. The Erie Canal did not open May 1st as planned due to flooding and high waters.

OK, let’s stay positive and hope for the best. Perhaps it will only be delayed a few days and we can still continue according to plan.

The long awaited update from the NY Canal System dashed all hopes. The earliest
expected opening is May 23rd. We gathered with other stranded boaters at the Castleton
Boat Club to vent our frustration and drown our sorrows in draft beer. Two wasted
weeks at best!

As Gary reached for his pile of crossword puzzles, I cautioned him. “Don’t get too comfortable there, Captain. I have a plan to get plenty of productive things accomplished.”

A few phone calls later, we were scheduled to have Tessa hauled out Monday morning at nearby Coeyman’s Marina. Here we can complete all of the regular spring maintenance that we usually do after arriving back at Brands’ Marina in Port Clinton.
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After my boyfriend Don from Castleton Boat Club ran us all over town provisioning, we were ready to head for Coeymans Marina Sunday night. Gary promised me a Step-
Mothers Day martini at the adjacent restaurant. While enjoying a cold crisp Bombay
martini with blue cheese stuffed olives, we began chatting with the other local bar
patrons. One particularly friendly and charming guy named Eric entertained us while waiting for his friend from Ohio to show up. Maybe we might know him, being from Ohio ourselves, he suggested. Ohio isn’t that big of a state, right?

So here we sit, hundreds of miles away from home in Update New York, and Eric’s
friend turns out to be a fellow West Carrollton High School graduate. Eric’s jaw dropped
to the floor when I said “Hello Tom Barker. I know you!” We took a trip down high
school memory lane until Captain and I decided it was time to get some shut eye.

The haul out went according to plan on Monday morning, then we went to work
preparing the hull for bottom paint. Yesterday, Gary completed that task, and today I
begin cleaning the hull before we begin to wax on wax off. We hope to have everything
done by Saturday so that we can launch Tessa just in case the canal situation improves
and opens earlier than anticipated.

That is the plan for now!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stuck in ol’ Beach Haven AGAIN!

After being weathered in for five days, for a healthy dose of optimism, mix three fingers
of gin and a dash of olive juice. Pour over ice and shake until bruised and icy cold.
Serve up with three anchovy stuffed olives. Toast to calm seas and light breezes.
It worked! This morning, we opened our eyes at dawn and lay in our bunk listening for
the howling winds that had hammered us for five straight days and nights. Other than the
calls of the gulls, it was totally quiet. Hurraaaay!
We are finally on the home stretch to New York and the Statue of Liberty!
It seems like much longer than a week ago that we dined on Crabby Eggs Benedict for
Easter breakfast, steamed crabs for lunch, and scallops for dinner while docked in
Hampton Virginia. Although the overnighter from there Monday was very bumpy, it was
uneventful. With the dawn Tuesday morning came a blanket of thick fog. The sun and
stiff winds were not even successful in burning it off, so by late afternoon we were
contemplating where to duck into for a well deserved break. Captain Gary determined
that we were within striking distance of Beach Haven New Jersey, one of our favorite
places along the east coast.

Gary hailed TowBoat U.S. for some moral support, and within seconds our buddy Captain Rick responded. Rick earned hero status in 2008 when he guided our battered and weary crew in off the Atlantic after a fourteen hour storm, and he came through for us once again. As tsunami looking waves roared over the shoal to port and starboard, Rick
talked us through the Little Egg Inlet. The fog decided to envelope us completely as we made the turn toward the skinny channel leading to Beach Haven Yacht Club, and the reds and greens disappeared from sight. Gary pointed Tessa ever so slowly in each direction while I desperately searched for the markers through the thick milky fog. We
bumped across the bottom every way we turned. Where did the channel go? We could
almost hear Rick muttering under his breath “Damn Sailors!” as he announced over the
VHF that he was coming to get us. We tucked our tail between our legs and timidly
followed TowBoat U.S. into the dock, fully expecting to be harassed relentlessly by
Captain Rick. He actually went pretty easy on us, although he would have preferred
Tessa had gone hard aground out there since he makes more money on the “grounders.”

Beach Haven is the perfect place to be weathered in. We had warm reunions with dock master Ernie and my girlfriend Sailboat Linda. We drank happy hour beers with our friends at Tuckers, and enjoyed the famous $2.22 breakfast at Uncle Wills. We walked the beach and  ate clam chowder. We listened to NOAA predict 5 to 10s, then sat in the
cockpit and watched the anemometer register 25 knots, 28 knots, 30 knots, while Rick giggled merrily in anticipation of grounders and stranded vessels.

Tonight’s destination is an anchorage at Sandy Hook. Tomorrow, hopefully we will be
waving to Lady Liberty for the fourth time. Then we’re off to the Hudson River for a two
day trip toward Castleton, where we will unstep the masts in preparation for the Erie
Canal trip.

It seems like much more than thirty days ago that we left Fort Myers, and it seems like FOREVER since I saw my last palm tree. But we have much to look forward to in the days ahead on the Erie Canal. And then that most welcome sight of Perry’s Monument coming into view across Lake Erie. Home sweet home!