The Erie Canal ends at the Hudson River, just north of Albany, NY. The last seven locks on the Erie are in rapid succession and have pretty big drops. Some of them so close together you can see the next one from inside the previous, while it’s full enough to see over the edge, of course. There’s not enough time for the boys to go below and warm up, their hands especially cold from holding the ropes that hang down the side of the lock into the water. They have leather gloves to protect them from getting hurt, but they do little to prevent the wet and cold.
After exiting the Erie, there’s one last lock to go through on the Hudson and then we enter, for the first time, tidal water. The water level is only about a foot above sea level, and there are no more dams and locks to prevent the tide causing the current of the river to go both directions. So, paying attention to the current so we are sure to get the most ground covered for the amount of effort put into moving through the water is a new trick for us to practice.
Did I mention the cold?
It has been a stretch of some pretty cold days. Due to the delays getting into the water, it’s been not the best time for this trip. We got a little extra kick in the pants to keep us focused on the need to move south. Snow! It has been snowing in varying amounts all day. The deck is slippery and dangerous and we have to move around slowly and make sure we have good footing.
We ended up staying at the Albany Yacht Club. A boat we met on the canal had called ahead and found this place would be open one more night, since they were coming. So, we tagged along and did the same. The man running the place was super helpful, and even loaned us a shore power cord since I’d stupidly left mine at the marina in Kingston. Since it was so cold and we had power, I decided to get a little heater to plug in. Elisha and I did grocery shopping, then he headed back with the groceries and I went on to the store that a clerk told me would have them and it was “just up the hill.” I should have known from our biking trip what that meant. 1.5 miles up hill in the snow with traffic spraying me to get a heater! I admit, I called a taxi for the return. But, that heater has continued to pay off on the cold nights for the rest of the trip!
We pulled out the club in the morning and motored a little ways down the river when Fitz noticed something didn’t feel right. We’ve been having problems with the new strainer that keeps the cooling water for the engine clear of weeds and such. It’s never staying full, though water is moving. So, I pulled the cover off the engine compartment to check that water is flowing and was met with a wall of acrid smoke. We killed the engine, but smoke continued to come out. I noticed a wire melting, so I quickly got it disconnected, stopping the smoke. At this point, the engine is our only means of propulsion, so it’s pretty important that we get something going because, otherwise, we’re floating downstream with little more control than a log. I quickly diagnosed that this wire is for the overheat sensor, and that it’s melted a bunch of stuff in the wiring harness that snakes up through the walls to the key and warning lights. Unsure of what to do, but knowing that we couldn’t just float, I decided to power the electrical back up and see whether there were other shorts if the heat sensor is disconnected. It worked without showing any signs of melting down. So, we fired up and went back up to the marina to call around to find a mechanic who could fix this. After much calling to people in the area and down-river, it was concluded that there are no boat mechanics who work on engines like this. I would be on my own. We decided to continue south, me sitting in front of the engine touching it to make sure it’s not overheating, watching, the water flow through the strainer, and Fitz at the helm. As of this writing, I’ve not repaired it, but I have got the parts to rewire the whole thing, on my own, with no OEM parts available for the last decade.
Stepping the mast
October 29 at Castleton on Hudson Boat Club we put the mast back on TearAway. We’ve passed all of the low bridges and locks, so she can be a sailboat again. This club has a do-it-yourself crane for picking the mast up and getting it in the right spot to reattach all the rigging. This process has many potential failures, many of which would render the rest of the trip out of the question. Just hang out with the guys from the club and you’ll get a few stories, from people dropping the mast on the deck and puncturing the boat to dropping the mast overboard, requiring a diver to go down and tie to it to lift it out.
For us, it went as well as it possibly could. Almost. The one issue that we had was that the pin used to attach the forestay (the cable and aluminum extrusion that goes from the top of the mast to the front of the boat) got dropped overboard. Then, the only spare for that also got dropped overboard. Luckily, a boat ahead of us had a bolt that did the trick. Lesson learned: when rigging something like that, if you can, hang a towel under the area you’re working… it just might catch the dropped part.
While here, we met a couple, Justin and Sylvie, who had just stepped their two masts on their Endeavor 42 named “Maitre D.” When asked where they’re going, the answer is “South.” We have been following them since and keeping in touch, usually just a day or two behind them. Theirs is a cool story and worth checking out. They’re the first people on the voyage that we’ve connected with.