Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!
One of the many waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park
The crew moved around most everyday during the last week, though many of the moves were short distances:
Click here to read the day-to-day travel log. This includes weather report, sea conditions, captain’s log, a summary of the day’s experience, and a few pics of the route.
The voyage of discovery did answer the following questions this week:
This week’s video shows Still Waters II as she works her way up the 19 Watkins Glen waterfalls. Enjoy!
To see past videos, click on the link to the Still Waters II Vimeo site. The library contains videos of Still Waters II cruising America’s Great Loop.
The crew decided to put a few miles on the water after Church. They headed towards Sampson State Park about a third of the way down Seneca Lake. After they got docked another transient boat showed up and provided the evenings entertainment. The couple on the boat were easily in their late 80’s.
A few wood carvings along the Cayuga-Seneca Canal
While trying to dock the boat, the man was pulling into the slip, stern first. He could not turn around to see, so his wife was standing at the back of the boat providing the following information:
Wife, “You are about to hit a post, YOU ARE ABOUT TO HIT A POST. YOU HIT THE POST!!!”
Husband, “Did I hit something?” As he pulled forward.
The skipper got off Still Waters II to see if he could lend a hand. As the man started backing up again, he headed straight for the post, again. The skipper was able to shove the 25 foot boat away from the post to prevent another collision. The skipper then grabbed the handrail of the boat and help guide the boat back. The skipper was looking for a line to tie the boat up with when he noticed they had no lines or fenders ready to deploy. The skipper just held the boat for about ten minutes while the couple got some lines to tie down the boat.
The view looking south down Seneca Lake
Once the boat was all secure, the skipper noticed that the hailing port was Marathon, Florida, down in the Keys. That got the skipper’s attention so he asked if they had brought the boat up from Florida. The man responded’ “Sure did! Put her on a trailer and drove her up here at 70 miles per hour.”
The man grew up in Nova Scotia during the depression. He said that he moved to the states when their potatoe crop came in but they were unable to get them to market. Because of the Depression, there was no infrastructure to move the potatoes to the starving people in the cities. He mentioned that his father moved the potatoes into the barn and they just walked away. He said that was why they called it the Depression, because it was depressing.
There are several more stories to tell that would make you laugh, but I will stop here. The skipper and Admiral are just impressed that the couple are still going strong, good for them.
Sunset from Sampson State Park, looking west across the lake
The crew set off this morning for the southern reach of Seneca Lake, and the village of Watkins Glen. The dock master had asked that they arrive before noon so he could meet them and not be late to his doctors appointment. The crew obliged and arrived about 1120.
Bloomer Creek Vineyard on the east shore of Seneca Lake
After getting secured in the marina, the crew walked around the Village.
One of the first things they noticed were the motor speedway plaques in the sidewalk. The town has a Drivers Walk of Fame that was started back in 1993 to honor drivers who have competed at Watkins Glen.
Racing seems to be a big thing in town. In fact, racing has been a big deal in town for a long time. The first post-WWII road race in the United States took place here on October 2, 1948. The 6.6 mile circuit ran through the existing roads in town with spectators watching from the sidewalks. At the town Visitor Center, you can pick up a road map of the original course and drive the original circuit for yourself.
Start Finish Line of the Watkins Glen road race
A few murals in town about racing
Another big attraction in town is the Watkins Glen State Park. The park contains the Gorge Trail that runs along Glen Creek for 1.5 miles and 19 waterfalls. The crew walked to the park entrance and looked around the Visitor Center and Gift Shop. They plan to do the Gorge Trail in the morning when it will be cooler and less crowded.
The crew found this Bear eating ice cream so they went inside to give it a try.
Well, it poured for most of the night, so the waterfalls should be running well today as the crew hikes the Gorge Trail. This weeks video highlights the waterfalls, so here are just a few pics to encourage viewing of the video.
The walkways, steps, trail, and archways in the above pics were all originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was a public work relief program for unemployed , unmarried men during the depression. Like the falls, they have stood the test of time.
There was a heavy rainfall back in 1935 that caused some serious flooding of the Gorge. The water level rose nearly 80 feet through the canyon. The locals claim that the water rose within five feet of the arched bridge in the below pic.
After returning to the main entrance, the Admiral went in the Gift Shop to look around. The skipper found a place in the shade to relax. While waiting on the Admiral, he witnessed a real live ‘Who’s On First” episode. But this time the confusion centered around the word ‘Park.’
To set the stage for this conversation, one must understand that there is an $8 parking lot fee to park your car in the State Park parking lot. Entrance to the State Park and hiking the 1.5 mile Gorge Trail is free.
So, while the skipper was waiting on the Admiral, a man walked up to a volunteer and asked; ‘Where do I pay to get in the Park. The volunteer answered, “It is free to get in the Park.” The man said, “No, I paid $8 to get in the Park yesterday at the other entrance.”
The volunteer countered, “No you paid the attendant $8 to Park, but there is no entrance fee for the Park. The Park is free.”
Man, “No I paid $8 to get in the Park, where do I pay to get in the Park here?”
Volunteer, “The Park is free. But here, there is no attendant at the parking lot, so you put your money in that machine right over there (pointing at machine), you will get a Parking sticker, and you put it on the dash of your car. Then you walk up there (pointing at the walkway up to the Gorge Trail) and go take the hike,….. it is free.”
Man, “No I paid $8 to get in the Park yesterday. Where do I pay today?”
Believe it or not, this circular conversation went on for nearly 15 minutes. Finally, the skipper could not take it any longer and asked the volunteer if he might assist him in providing the man an answer to his questions. The exasperated volunteer said sure.
The skipper looked at the man and said, “For the rest of this conversation, you are not allowed to use the word ‘Park’. As this volunteer has been trying to explain to you, yesterday when you entered the area, you came to an attendant guarding the lot where people leave their cars. You payed the lot attendant $8 to get a pass to leave your car in the lot. You placed the $8 pass you bought on the dash of your car. After you got out of your car, you walked around and did not pay anybody to see the sights, because it was free to look around. Today, you need to go to that machine over there and pay $8 to buy another pass to leave your car in the lot. Then you can walk around here all day long and not pay anybody because walking the Gorge Trail is free.”
About the time the skipper finished, a lady walked up and said, “Honey, I found a place to park the car for free, and I learned that the Park is free also. Isn’t this place great!” She grabbed his arm as she was walking by and headed up towards the waterfalls.
I am not sure if the man ever got it, but the volunteer did thank the skipper for the intervention.
After returning to the boat, the crew learned that there would be a free concert in the Park about three blocks away from the marina, starting at 1900. The crew grabbed some chairs and enjoyed the music. The band played a wide range of music: Texas Swing, Charlie Daniels, Merle Haggard, Beatles, Eagles, and some lesser knowns.
Concert in the Park
When the crew first visited the Watkins Glen Visitor Center, they were told that the area is known for four things:
The crew had experienced three out of four, so the skipper thought he would look for a winery that had a boat dock large enough for them to land and explore the winery. After using Google Maps to search the lake shore line, he noticed that the only opportunity might be the Belhurst Castle. The website for the winery did not mention the boat dock, but the skipper found a phone number and called. The person on the other end of the phone did not know the depth of the water at the dock, so she put the skipper on ‘ignore’ to see if she could find the answer about the depth of water at the dock. When she returned, she still did not have an answer to the depth question, but she did say people land on the dock all the time.
Overhead view of Belhurst Castle grounds and the boat dock
With that scant bit of info, the crew decided to give it a try, so they shoved off from Watkins Glen and headed towards Geneva to visit Belhurst Castle. While the skipper was researching the Castle, he learned that the architect was Albert Fuller (1854-1934). Turns out Albert designed many of the landmark buildings in Albany. The castle is built in the ‘Richardsonian Romanesque’ style from the 11th century.
Another interesting story the skipper unearthed was about a man named Henry Hall. Henry arrived in the area in the 1830’s in a cloud of mystery. He bought the property that Belhurst sits on today, but put the property in a Deed of Trust to an Isabella Robinson.
He built a home on the property that the locals nicknamed Hermitage. As you might gather, Henry was a bit of a recluse. Upon his death the truth finally came out. Henry was actually William Henry Bucke. In the early 1830’s, William was the treasurer for a London Opera House. He emptied the coffers of the theater and started a new life in America. Isabella was an Opera singer, who could have guessed?
But back to our crew. They arrived at the boat dock and made an approach to check the depth. Of course the charts did not show the depth at the dock. When they got within 10 yards of the dock the depth alarm went off (3 feet under props). The water was clear and you could see the bottom. It looked like mud, so the skipper inched the boat forward so the Admiral could get a line around a post. (Depth now showing only 1 foot below the prop.) The skipper made a high risk decision to go ahead and swing the stern of the boat around and land on the dock. The depth hung in at 1 foot below the props as they landed safely. They did kick up a large bit of mud in the water though.
Still Waters II at Belhurst Castle dock
The crew headed up to Belhurst Castle to enjoy lunch and some wine tasting.
Modern day addition to the Castle
After lunch, the crew made way back to Seneca Falls for the night. While on the wall, the crew was surprised by a knock on the boat. Mike and Jen arrived and the four spent the evening swapping stories. Mike and Jen will cross their wake when they return to Milwaukee, after departing in the fall of 2016.
This was not a very long route day, but turned into a long day due to passing through eight locks. They had an unusual long wait (40 minutes) at the Cayuga-Seneca Lock 1 due to the Canal workers moving a couple of barges.
The train of equipment leaving C-S Lock 1
After passing through C-S Lock 1 the crew quickly arrived at the Canal Junction with the Erie Canal. The crew turned to port and headed towards Buffalo.
Canal Junction, back on the western Erie Canal, mile 201
The locks are no longer the challenge on the western Erie Canal. The new challenge is ensuring that the boat can safely pass under the multiple low bridges. Todays stretch consisted of five bridges that were 16 feet or less.
Approaching a high 17 foot bridge
But today was only practice for tomorrow. The crew will pass under the lowest bridge on the Erie Canal sometime tomorrow. Hope they make it, because if not, they will be turning around and doing the Great U-Turn rather than the Great Loop.
After seven hours of cruising, the crew pulled onto the wall at Newark. The area is known for its many murals painted on bridges and buildings.
Newark mural on bridge as you approach town
Today would be another day of five low bridges under 16 feet. The skipper kept thinking of the old adage, $1K for every knot of speed to repair the boat if you hit something. The last thing the skipper wants to do is tear the canvas enclosure off the flybridge on one of these low bridges.
They practiced using the air draft tool several times as they approached the low bridges. The Admiral would take the PVC pipe to the bow pulpit, and the skipper would slow to a crawl. They would then pass under the bridge. The 10 foot PVC pipe is 5 feet 8 inches above the water when sitting on the bow pulpit. This gives a total height then of 15 feet 8 inches at the top of the PVC pole. If the pole makes it under without hitting anything, then the boat will pass safely under the bridge. The boat clearance is 15 feet with the radar dome taken down and sitting behind the skipper in the helm.
On station at the bow pulpit as they approach a 16 foot bridge
The slow approach
And the moment of truth, they can make it under this one
Not sure what the skipper was worried about, he had at least 3 inches of clearance to the tip of the pole on that one above. As with many things on the Loop, the lowest bridge turned out to be a non event. The two railroad bridges before the ‘lowest bridge’ were actually lower than the ‘lowest bridge’. The lowest bridge is advertised to be 15.6 feet at normal pool level. The skipper asked the lock operator what the pool level was when they entered the pool with the lowest bridge. The lock master said it was a half inch high. So that should not make much difference for getting under the bridge.
They finally arrived at the ‘lowest bridge’. There was a home and dock just past the lowest bridge on the starboard side. A lady was sitting on the dock watching as the crew approached and passed under the bridge. After the crew slid under the bridge, she clapped and said, “Great Job.” It would probably be fun to sit and chat with that women. I bet she can tell a story or two about boats hitting that bridge.
About 8 inches to the bridge from top of GPS, Clearance at the ‘lowest bridge’. What was the skipper worried about again?
After they had that non-event behind them, they pulled into Fairport. Most of the dock space was taken so the skipper was thinking about going on past the bridge to see if there was room west of the Lift Bridge. The Bridge Operator radioed the skipper and told him he could stay down at the end of the wall in the reserved space because there would be no tows in town tonight. The skipper said thanks and backed the boat down to the reserved spot.
Fairport Main Street Lift Bridge
The crew landed on the wall, but soon discovered that there was no power at this location. The temperature was 90 and air conditioning sure would be nice if they could get some power. The skipper walked the docks east of the lift bridge, but there was no spot with power there either. While returning to the boat, he saw a dock master. The skipper asked if they could tighten up three boats to make room for Still Waters II on the wall. The dock master agreed and pulled the three boats closer together. The hole on the wall was just big enough to land Still Waters II. The dock master said he would hold the spot, but the skipper needed to hurry because possession is 9 tenths the law on the wall.
The skipper fired up the engines and the crew moved the boat to the open spot. It would be a tight fit, but the skipper managed to shoehorn the boat in the hole. The Admiral said her heart was pounding but looked up and saw that the skipper was as cool as a cucumber. However, it was a tight squeeze. Even the rats on the boat behind them were nervous and about to abandon ship.
The stern gap
The bow gap
Today the crew had two locks to rise up 50 feet and 5 more of those pesky 16 foot bridges. The crew had no problems with those obstacles and enjoyed the cruise today.
Much of the canal today had the Canal Bike Trail running along side where the old mule tow path used to be. In fact, there were many places along the canal today that you could see the tow path on both sides of the canal.
The flat area is the old tow path
The mules had to pull the barges 362 miles from Buffalo to Albany back in the original canal days. That would be a long hard walk.
Mule in Village of Fairport
While passing south of Rochester, there were many interesting arched briges across the canal.
Then the crew passed through a four mile area named the ‘Rock Cut.’ During the expansion of the canal in 1918, the canal was moved south of Rochester. To accomplish this task, the builders had to cut through the solid rock in the area. Hard to imagine cutting though this area with out the modern day earth moving equipment.
The Rock Cut
The crew finally stopped in a village named Spencerport. They will stay here through the weekend and head further west on Monday.
The Admiral liked the flowers in the yard today
The crew will move the 68 miles to Tonawanda over three days next week and complete the western Erie Canal. They will stay a week there and visit the surrounding area, including Niagara Falls. The grandkids and kids are also expected to arrive late next week, so it should be a fun week ahead.