Fort Edward, NY (Father’s Day – Sunday 6/16):
Today we left Shady Harbor Marina, but stopped first to get a pump-out before heading north to waters where they charge for this necessary activity. There is a requirement that your overboard discharge system must be disabled so as not to “dump” anything in the fresh waters of Lake Champlain, So you would think they would incentive the desired behavior and provide “free” pump-out locations everywhere on the lake. There are some, but they are few and far between.
Once we had an empty holding tank, we left New Baltimore, passing the villages of Coeymans and Ravena on our way north. We had passed by this area several times by car and now it was nice to see it from the water.
We had overcast skies and rain was expected throughout the day. It was cool and there was little wind, with few other boaters on the water. We didn’t care as this just meant there would be fewer boats to slow down for passes and almost no kayakers and rowers. Soon we came to the Port of Albany and cruised past downtown areas of Albany, Rensselaer, and Troy, NY; home of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). We got to see the newly developed Starbucks Island across the canal from the Troy down docks, now being rebuilt after years of being in limbo since hurricane Irene took them out.
We then approached the Troy Lock; the only Federal lock that we will go through on this Loop. Federal locks fall under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers, which is different than the Champlain Canal, which is part of the New York Canal System; a state authority. Here we had to wait about 10 minutes for the lock to be made ready for us, even though there was no other boater in either direction. While waiting, it started to rain.
We locked through without incident, and soon cruised past the town of Waterford, NY and where Loopers were on the wall and waiting to start the Erie Canal; we continued north and entered Lock C1 the Champlain Canal. We continued on through 6 more locks and the Croker Reef (Flood Control) Guard Gate before coming to Ft. Edward – passing up possible stops in Mechanicville and Schuylerville in order to allow for more time on Lake Champlain tomorrow when the weather is forecasted to be better. Here are some pictures from our journey through the locks:
Around 3:30 we finally entered the canal that runs parallel to Lock C7 to take us to the free dock wall in Fort Edward. At arrival we found it to be completely empty and we had our choice of where to park our Island Office. It is a nice park area with free power and water, and a restroom facility less than 50 yards away. We were tired and wet and glad to be in such nice free accommodations.
Earlier in the day we had made reservations for dinner at the Anvil Inn, a place located in the village of Fort Edward that came highly recommended from Brian Donovan at Shady Harbor, as well as other cruising friends. The restaurant was about ½ mile walk from the boat and the rain had mostly stopped, so it was not a bad trek. The place was packed as it was Father’s Day and the service was really slow, but the food was good and we were too tired to care. By the time we were ready to leave it had started to sprinkle again and we had to walk back to the boat in the rain; thank goodness for our excellent large golf umbrella!
Fort Edward was originally named Fort Nicholson and was a strategic fort due to its location between the Hudson and Champlain River valleys. It has been around since 1709 and although there is no real fort to tour here there is a remnants and an historical marker on Rogers Island (the land across the canal from the dock). There is also an old Fort House Museum at the Fort Edward Historical Association located in the village of Fort Edward.
Chipman’s Point, VT (Monday, 6/17):
We woke up in Fort Edward to a completely different day than yesterday. The sun was shining and it was beautiful out. Denise went for a short out-and-back run around a mostly residential section of town. She passed the Irving manufacturing plant near the park (they make Scotties tissues here), local businesses, the American Legion post, and a lot of kids walking to school. Yes, they are still in session here, but this is their last week. She turned back and passed by the town’s information center, the police station, Canal Street Marketplace, and then the Underwood Park to finish up the run. This is a very cute town and we liked our stay here.
While she was gone, Mark hosed the dirt off the boat and filled our water tank. With such a beautiful day we could now see more of the houses that were on the spit of land on the other side of the canal (Roger’s Island). We noticed a dog on the shore; the best deterrent for the Canadian geese that would otherwise mess up the place. But we would laugh as we kept expecting him to bark or at least move.
Before leaving the Fort Edward lock (C7), Mark called the Lockmaster to make sure they were operating. We were asked yesterday at lock C6 how far we would be going because at this lock (C7) had issues with the water levels and they had closed the lock. However, this morning they were open so we left our free dock and said good-bye to the village of Fort Edward. We were able to enter the lock almost immediately and locked through without any concerns.
Shortly after leaving the lock the canal passed by a residential area and there we saw our Florida friend’s boat “Salty” at a private dock. At SHM Jonathan had mentioned they would be leaving the boat to go on a side trip via car. And here it was:
We continued north completing the last few locks in the Champlain Canal, passing the town of Whitehall and officially entering Lake Champlain.
Here the lake is more like a river in that it is narrow and winding. In some parts there are low lying areas filled with reeds and grass, reminding us of parts of the ICW in South Carolina. However, here there are mountains in the background; the Adirondack Mountains of NY to the west and the Green Mountains of Vermont to the east. In fact the state line runs right through the middle of the lake. So technically, today we entered Vermont and we boated in and out of each of these states all day. The views were spectacular and the pictures do not do it justice, but here is what it looked like:
We had targeted an anchorage south of Fort Ticonderoga for the night, just under the gun turrets. However we attempted numerous times to anchor and could not get it to hold as there were just too many weeds. The reviews of this area had warned of this, so we were not surprised.
Finally, in frustration and because it was close to 5 pm, we decided to see if we could get into Chipman’s Point Marina just 2 miles south of the Fort. We had been told of this place as a suggested place to stay from some local boaters Andy & Barbara (“Mellow-Ways”) at SHM. They were able to take us and by 5:45 we were all tied up and secured in one of their transient slips.
This marina is right on the lake and there is no wake protection from passing boats. However, it is still early in the season here and at night no one is on the water. It was a very peaceful place with spectacular views. This family-owned business is located in a building that is on the historic register and is OLD. They have kept track of the high water marks on the steps leading up the combo marina office-ships store-general store, etc. The restrooms showers and washers are on the 2nd floor and the owner (Pat) lives on the 3rd floor.
We had planned on having dinner that night aboard the boat, so we settled in for a home cooked meal from our freezer. We also got treated to a beautiful sunset and a spectacular full moon rising to our south over Lake Champlain.
Fort Ticonderoga Anchorage, Ft T, NY (Tuesday, 6/18):
We debated about where to go next, but Denise really wanted to go to Fort Ticonderoga and the best place to do this without a car was to go to the anchorage north of the fort that had been identified in Active Captain. So, we left Chipman’s Point and headed there hoping for the best, but with a contingency plan of other destinations further up the lake. We arrived in no time and we were able to set the anchor on the first attempt. We then took the dinghy to the nearby NY state park that has a dock and boat ramp; located near the cable ferry terminal.
First we talked with “Ashley” a young college girl who was sitting under a tent and was there to provide information to anyone coming into the park; fisherman, cruisers, etc., including those who take the ferry. She told us the ferry costs $1.50 per person and $12 per car each way; $18 round trip. Since the nearest bridge across the lake is miles away, this is sometimes the only alternative to get from Vermont to New York (or vice versa).
We left the park and walked a mile + up the road to the fort entrance. We had to wait in line with the cars to gain access and pay the fee, and then walked another half mile of tree lined dirt road to get to the Welcome Center.
By the time we got to the fort were hungry and it was lunch time. So we grabbed a bite to eat first, and then toured the fort and the museum displays throughout. Although the place was not crowded, it was full of middle-school kids who were on class trips for the last week of school.
After a few hours we had seen all there was to see, and we were not going to wait around another 45 minutes for the next guided tour to start. We decided to leave and made the trek back down the dirt road, past the newly planted corn fields (which they use for a corn maze in the fall), past the guard gate, the railroad track and back to the boat ramp.
We said goodbye to Ashley, then took our dinghy back to the boat where we both took a much needed nap! The long days of daylight and short nights of sleep were taking its toll.
Fort Ticonderoga was originally called Fort Carillon and was a strategic stronghold to protect the trade routes between the British-controlled Hudson River Valley and the French-controlled Saint Lawrence River Valley in the mid 1700’s. It is has history in both the French and Indian war and the American Revolution where the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga was the first victory and set the stage for overall victory from the British. You can learn more here.
Our evening was spent enjoying the beauty of the surrounding area, especially after the cable ferry stopped at 7:00 pm. We also did some computer work until the batteries died, and not wanting to disturb the peace we opted to not turn on the generator to power them. We had a light supper of cheese and crackers and then watched another episode of Game of Thrones.
Vergennes, VT (Wednesday, 6/19)
Early in the morning Denise got up and turned on the generator to make some coffee and power up the computers, cell phones, laptops, etc. It was early, but she got a great sunrise over the Vermont shoreline.
All this changed soon thereafter as it became overcast and stayed that way the rest of the day. But that didn’t stop us from proceeding on our adventure. Our destination was the town of Vergennes (pronounced like “virgins”) which we had read about in a cruising book, and been told about by Andy & Barbara (“Mellow-Ways”) from SHM. Both had suggested calling ahead to make sure there is room on the free docks as they fill up fast in the summer. So, Mark did call the city manager who advised that the floating docks had not yet been put in due to the high water this year. However, there are boats that are tying directly to the wall and we were welcome to do that. Having done this before we felt confident that we could make this work, or anchor in the basin if necessary. The free dock has limited power and only room for a few boats, so we knew we were taking a chance that it might not work out.
We headed north on Lake Champlain passing the very visible paper mill (NY side), the numerous farms on both sides, the Crown Point Bridge, the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse, and the NY town of Fort Henry.
An hour later we turned right at Otter Creek, heading east for 7 miles up the small waterway that was like something out of Disney’s Jungle Cruise. It is sparsely populated with a few homes scattered throughout and some small private docks. There was lots of different types of birds, and no one else on the water; we saw only two small fishing boats along the way.
Eventually we came into the area where we could see one boat on the north dock wall, and as we came around the corner, the entire basin was revealed. At the head were the waterfalls and to our right was an empty fixed dock (the south docks). And although no other boats were present there, our preference was the north wall. We were not sure if we would be able to stay here, but with some help from David (“Sovereignty”) from the boat at the dock, we were able to tie up in front of his boat and face the waterfalls.
Also present was “Matt”, a friend of Andy and Barbara’s (“Mellow-ways”) who lives in the red house right next door to the park and dock wall. We had tried to call him before making our way down the creek as instructed, but did not receive any answer. Fortunately, it all worked out and we were able to meet him and learn a little bit more about the area and the set up for this free dock. He was able to show Mark the electrical hookup (very unconventional) and with the splitter we were able to secure a single 30 amp service; just enough to power the refrigerator, freezer and outlets. If we wanted to cook or put on the ice maker or hot water heater, we would have to put these back on the ship batteries. But it all worked out and we were set for at least one night.
Deciding this, we made dinner reservations for the Black Sheep Bistro in town. It is a French restaurant that had been recommended by Brian at SHM, as well as Andy & Barbara so we knew we had to try it out. But first there was work to be done and client phone calls to return. While doing this, another boat came into the basin and tied up at the south dock. They were later joined by another small house boat, but that boat did not stay more than an hour.
All around us the rain was threatening, but never came. There were dark clouds to our north and west, but it remained overcast. It also got hot and muggy so we did some electrical juggling to allow for us to put on a single air conditioner and remain cool. Eventually, we decided to go explore the town in advance of dinner and in hopes of beating the next band of rain arrived.
We walked up a pretty steep hill which is all residential, but where there were three chickens running wild ahead of us. It was about a half mile before we came to Main Street and turned left where all the shops and restaurants are found. Here we walked through some of the stores which were still open (most closed at 5 pm) and then up the hill before turning around and going back to the restaurant for dinner.
We arrived a little early for our reservation, but we were seated right away. Immediately we ordered the escargot and some wine, while deciding on our entrées of stuffed pork tenderloin (Mark) and chicken breasts with brie & bacon (Denise). The entrées come with mashed potatoes AND French fries that were hot and super delicious; not your ordinary combination. The whole meal was very good and filling, so we took a pass when it came to dessert – although the mixed berry cobbler sounded enticing. We finished up our meal and headed back to the boat, carrying the umbrella, which we ended up not needing.
In the evening, we were treated to the illuminated waterfalls that is a big draw in this area. While not quite as impressive as the water & music show in Grand Haven, MI. it was fun nonetheless.
Vergennes, VT (Thursday, 6/20):
Despite staying up late last night, Denise still woke up with the sun but decided not to go for a run. The hills in this town are challenging enough just to walk, and the body was not feeling up to the task. After Mark got up and we had breakfast, we set up for a working day aboard Island Office. There were client calls scheduled and work to be done. There were also pictures to catalog and an update to the blog that needed to get posted.
In the morning we noticed the city workers were in the park near the dock and they were working on the water system. Mark went out and talked with them and they advised that the water on the docks was now good for use, but suggested we let it run for a few minutes before using it as the lines have been idle for a while.
Around 10:00 a.m. is began to rain and it did not stop until late in the afternoon. Sometimes it rained really hard and we could barely hear conversations due to the pounding rain against the roof of the boat. But through it all the wind was very calm, which was a good thing.
Also throughout the day we were in communication with our friend Wendy (and husband Bruce) who have a house in Charlotte, VT. We met them at a mutual friend’s house over Christmas and were hoping to be able to get together with them while we are up here. Locals are always the best source of information of what to do and see, so we have been anxious to meet up with them. Due to scheduling, her errands and the horrible weather, we opted to reschedule our meeting until next week when we are back from our FL trip and in Burlington.
In late afternoon Mark went out to check on the water around the boat and discovered a major clog of debris between our boat and the dock. Additionally, the pressure from waterfalls was creating a large bit of foam and it was contributing to the clog. Using the boat hook he was able to free a large bit of it to keep the stream flowing. He also discovered hundreds of tiny snails that were attaching to the boat hull, fenders, lines and rails. Not wanting them to get into our thru-hulls (and creating problems for us down the way) he took the water hose and washed them all off.
While he was doing this Dave and Trisha (“Sovereignty”) from the boat behind us also came out and tried to free up the mess that had now washed down between their boat and the dock. Seeing what was going on, Matt came out from his house bringing a shovel and eventually an iron rake to assist us.
We finally had it all cleaned out and went back in the boat to prepare and eat dinner on board. In the meantime the water level was rising and we had to adjust our fenders as our boat increased in height from the wall. Across the way, we watched the water overtake the fixed docks on the south shore, and saw the Carver boat rise over the dock. It is scary.
After dinner we went back out and cleaned another clog away from the dock and again adjusted lines. The water kept rising and the Carver boat on the south dock left to find another place down the creek to spend the evening. As it was getting dark, we repositioned the fenders and helped “Sovereignty” leave the dock and anchor in the middle of the creek and just off our stern. We too devised a plan as to what to do should we be forced to leave the dock in the dark. We did not want to have to do this, but we also didn’t want to have a hole punched in our boat by the metal poles on the dock wall.
In the meantime the foam built up around the hull of the boat, and even some moved up to the foredeck. By now the current was running so viciously that it was carrying the debris away from the boat, but we could hear all kinds of stuff hitting the hull. It was unnerving! We disconnected our power from the shore post as we watched the water creep up the road that runs near the dock.
We continued to monitor the situation all night long; checking every hour and estimating how long we could hold out before we had to leave the dock. Our hope was we could make it until it got light and then we could leave and go all the way to Burlington without having to anchor somewhere.
Burlington, VT (Friday, 6/21):
It was a long sleepless night for both of us. Sunrise was scheduled for 5:03 a.m., but we both were up early and as soon as it was light enough we made preparations to leave. Finally, we pulled away from the dock, with great effort, trying not to hit “Sovereignty” or a rock on either shore.
We were screaming down the creek with the current pushing us along. It took us half the time to go down the creek as it did to make it up the creek on Wednesday, and we had to dodge all kinds of debris in the process. Mark did an excellent job of steering us past the hazards while Denise cleared up deck, putting all the lines and fenders in the cockpit; they were covered with foam and bugs and we didn’t want to stow them until they got hosed off with fresh water.
We exited Otter Creek and out to Lake Champlain with 20 kts of wind on our nose and a good size chop on the water. The further north we moved the more the Lake widens and the waves picked up from the unobstructed area with which they could build. It was NOT FUN, but tolerable knowing we only had 20 more miles to go.
Eventually we were able to tuck behind a small island and then moved into Burlington Bay which has some protection from the north wind. Additionally, there is a breakwater, but the high water on Lake Champlain this year makes this less effective as it is almost covered.
Once inside the Breakwater we contacted the Community Boathouse Marina (CBM – Burlington’s Municipal marina), and confirmed our previously identified slip was available. We pulled into the slip and was assisted with a tie-up by the dockhand, and it was only 8:15 a.m. Denise still had not had time for a cup of coffee!
We were met by Loopers Nancy & Rob (“Misty”) who were a few slips away from us and were surprised to see them still here. They were going to leave yesterday, but the heavy rains kept them in port. However, they were leaving today but not before we had a chance to talk a while and get caught up since our time together at SHM.
Once the boat was secure, Mark hosed the bugs and foam residue off the boat while Denise took care of cleaning up the inside. After that we went to the dockmaster’s office to get the marina information and confirm our arrangements. We would be leaving the boat and wanted to make sure it was in good hands; hearing they have a security guard at night and marina staff that checks all boats twice a day for line adjustments gave us some peace of mind.
Today we are leaving to fly home for a long weekend, coming back to the boat early next week. We have a late afternoon flight, giving us time to get some things accomplished; like publishing this blog update (Denise) taking clothes to the cleaners (Mark) and readying the boat for our absence.
This is a beautiful place and we are anxious to explore this city and surrounding areas when we return. Here are some pictures for now:
We will pick up our blog when we return next week. Until then stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office.
Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office.