Video Blog 4: Underway


The LOIS MCCLURE is underway, headed back east along the canal.

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The Captain’s Log, Part 3


On July 11th, the tug C. L. Churchill towed the replica canal schooner Lois McClure down the Hudson River from Waterford to Troy. We were supposed to be heading west rather than south, out the Erie Canal toward Buffalo, but creeks, like the Schoharie, had turned into raging rivers and caused so much water to roar down the Mohawk that lock gates and dams had been wrenched and holed. The New York Canal Corporation’s construction crews were still repairing and rebuilding for all they were worth. Meanwhile, we would go to Troy and take the city’s waterfront back 150 years.

There was plenty of current, too, in the Hudson. We were down to the Federal Lock before we knew it, and coming out of the lock, saw that the green buoy marking the shoal to starboard was being towed almost under. Luckily (that ever-present factor in this enterprise), all that current was right on our stern, so steering through it to the more quiet water beyond, was easy. And when we turned into the current to land on the floating dock at Troy, we could angle the schooner into the flow and, by changing the angle as needed, use it to slide the vessel sideways right in where we wanted her. Love it.

Bacon Alley at the Troy Pig Out (photo: Tom Larsen)

Bacon Alley at the Troy Pig Out (photo: Tom Larsen)

The Trojans were to have a Pig-Out during our visit, an event that was forecast to bring in 30,000 hungry souls. We were moored at some little distance from the succulent goings-on, and so could entice only about 400 of the gourmets on board for an extra course of history. But it was like dessert for them, and for us. We continually relearn the old adage that the teacher learns more than the student. In any event, the comfortable pace of visitors coming up the gangway led to many an interesting, unhurried conversation.

After a day of show-and-tell with youth groups on July 16th, we headed back up the river to Waterford. It was a nice, early-evening run; the current had eased and the Hudson was glassy calm. And the news from the New York Canal Corporation was good; repairs were being completed, and the canal would reopen in three or four days! So, next day, we ran back up to Lock 7 and, this time, with a lot less water coming down the Mohawk, moored above the lock, rather than below it. The weather had turned from rainy and cold to sunny and hot; at the schooner’s wheel, in the shade of the stern awning, a thermometer registered 99 degrees. The heat was somewhat relieved by a headwind on the 18th for the tow up to Amsterdam, and our speed of 5 knots added to it. Mercy.

The crew had a lay day in Amsterdam and then converted the vessel from traveling (and living-on-board) mode to 1862-museum mode in order to receive on board Amsterdam’s eager, history students, young and old.

On July 21st, we travelled to Fort Plain. Again, there was plenty of wind. The hardest part of maneuvering the schooner with the tug on the hip is when a strong breeze catches her high bow. A sudden gust from one side or the other will swing the vessel off course. You can see it coming from the dark patches of racing ripples on the water, but you can’t turn the vessel into it quickly enough to meet the swing. We did test the strength of our fenders on some of the lock walls between Amsterdam and Fort Plain.

Roger presenting the Proclamation of Friendship to Sevim (photo: Tom Larsen)

Roger presenting the Proclamation of Friendship to Sevim (photo: Tom Larsen)

We can always count on a warm welcome at Fort Plain. We knew that this community had been especially hard-hit by the floods that had merely caused us a delay. We wanted to express our empathy in some way, perhaps bring some sort of gift. We decided that maybe it would be best simply to give to the citizens of Fort Plain more of something that they already had—our friendship. So we concocted an official Proclamation of Friendship, framed it, and read it aloud as we presented it to the town’s unofficial welcoming committee, our good friend, Sevim Moraski. And then nothing would do but her treating the whole crew to an elegant breakfast next morning. As we left, well fed, for Little Falls, we wished Sevim and all her neighbors smooth sailing in the days and weeks ahead.

Proceeding west up through a few more of the Erie Canal’s thirty-four locks, we had a not- uncommon experience, a half-hour’s wait, in the approach to a lock. We often liken navigating on a canal to overcoming an obstacle course. And so, I got to play one of my favorite games with the schooner: seeing how long I can let her drift without a nudge from either the Churchill or the Oocher. On this occasion, we had a light breeze from astern giving us a little headway through the water against a slow head current. I believe I did set a new record of 27 minutes.

Visitors brave the rain in Little Falls (photo: Tom Larsen)

Visitors brave the rain in Little Falls (photo: Tom Larsen)

In the evening, at Little Falls, we turned the McClure back into a museum and welcomed aboard a number of her fans. Well, I suppose that in a way they are the crew’s fans too, which is very satisfying.

On July 23rd, we had a long run to Sylvan Beach, at the east end of Oneida Lake. According to my ship’s log, we got underway at 6:20 a.m. Sure enough, at our second of four locks to be negotiated that day, the old obstacle course manifested itself: the lock-keeper radioed that one of the downstream gates was out of order and wouldn’t open. Would we be able to squeeze through with only half the usual width? Well, yes, but not with the tug on the hip. So, we towed through the narrow opening very slowly with the tug ahead on a short hawser and the Oocher on the schooner’s stern for a brake. Whew. The Oocher needed only 25% power to stop her mother ship, and we didn’t even test a fender.

A calm Oneida Lake (photo: Tom Larsen)

A calm Oneida Lake (photo: Tom Larsen)

Longtime readers of these logs may remember the warning given us by Cora Archambeault, who grew up on a canal boat: “Be careful crossing Oneida.” We heeded her warning on the 24th. The northwest breeze was fresh. It was calm enough in the harbor, but when I walked over to the beach early in the morning to take a look at the lake, I saw plenty of white horses prancing towards me. It would be a rough-and-tumble tow out there. We had been smart enough to build an extra day into our revised schedule for crossing the lake, so now, I reasoned, we should be smart enough to use it. It worked. When we towed across to Brewerton on the long hawser next day, the lake was calm as a clock.

We made the run from Brewerton to Syracuse on July 26th. On the way, we stopped at the Winter Harbor marina to fill water tanks and empty sanitaries. Art Cohn had brought the C. L. Churchill up to the marina the previous afternoon to top off his fuel tank. Thank goodness for marinas.

Docked in Syracuse (photo: Tom Larsen)

Docked in Syracuse (photo: Tom Larsen)

I remembered the entrance to the Inner Harbor at Syracuse as being challenging. There’s a narrow railroad bridge opening made narrower by shoaling. When we tried it in 2007, a fresh breeze on the beam had twisted the schooner round just as we made our approach and I had bounced the luckily (!) well-fendered bow off the bridge abutment pretty hard. (No wait, that wasn’t luck; it was volunteer Steve Hayes’s skillful fast work with a fender.) This time, the only challenge was finding our way through a confusing-looking mass of buoys set out by the dredgers who are working on cleaning up the lake. Kerry Batdorf and Carolyn Kennedy scouted ahead in the Oocher, and their radio reports made the passage easy.

It was at Syracuse where our longtime boatswain, Len Ruth, went ashore to take a temporary land assignment back at the Museum. We missed him immediately. His knowledgable, whimsical, sometimes sardonic comments from his station on the bow during maneuvers are not only informative, but also hilarious. Someday, we must persuade him to wear a microphone for the sake of posterity.

When we left the Syracuse Inner Harbor on July 29th, the obstacle course was in full operation. Just past the bottleneck of the railroad bridge, there appeared to be a string of small floats right across the narrow channel! We brought the schooner to a stop with no deep-enough water to spare around her and sent the Oocher out to tow a long string of little buoys out of the way. Apparently they had been blown adrift from their usual position, perhaps marking a dredged area. Thanks goodness for the Oocher and her competent crew. After a passage with no further obstructions, we moored for the night on the upper approach wall to Lock 26 at Clyde.

Docked in Pittsford (photo: Tom Larsen)

Docked in Pittsford (photo: Tom Larsen)

On the 30th, we had a lovely, quiet day out on the water for our trip from Clyde to Pittsford. It was punctuated by a pleasant meeting with the New York Canal Corporation tug Urger, under the command of our good friend Wendy Marble, who joined us later for supper on board, gave us all the latest canal news, and kindly, with her son, Noah, who has been one of our crew volunteers, drove us to available showers. The crew of the Lois McClure bathes ashore, and we owe many people many thanks for their help in keeping us presentable.

The chart of the Erie Canal from Pittsford to Albion looks like a drawing of an obstacle course. There are seven bridges with a clearance above the water of maybe three feet. Hmmm. Well, they are lift bridges, each with an operator who has a radio and controls with which to ring warning bells, lower gates to stop road traffic, and raise the bridge so that we can pass under it. As we approach a bridge, we call it on Channel 13, “Eagle Road Bridge, this is the Lois McClure westbound, over.”

This is Eagle Bridge. Keep on comin,’ Cap. I’ll have the bridge right out of your way by the time you get here.”

Sounds good. Thank you.”

It does sound good, but then starts a game of “Chicken,” not for the experienced bridge tender, who knows exactly when to stop the cars and trucks, but for us, for whom it always seems impossible that mere land traffic is still using the bridge even as we seem to be closing it at what now seems to be terrific speed. Rarely do I have the nerve to just keep her comin’. Anyway, thanks to the skill and attentiveness of the canal’s bridge tenders, what looks like an obstacle course on the chart, turns out to be an unobstructed passage.

The view of the LOIS and CHURCHILL docked in Lockport (photo: Tom Larsen)

The view of the LOIS and CHURCHILL docked in Lockport (photo: Tom Larsen)

The run from Albion to Lockport on August 1st was short enough that we arrived to tie up at Canalway park by 2 p.m. We were to open our floating museum at 5 p.m. This would be the McClure’s third visit to Lockport, and, though it would be short, we knew it would be fully engaging. For the citizens of Lockport, a visit of the Lois McClure is important. Sure enough, an enthusiastic crowd, led by the mayor and supported by plenty of lively music including that of a bagpiper, was anxious to come on board as soon as we unfurled the “Open” flag. There was even a table of party food and drink. We love calling at Lockport.

The tug PITTSFORD, locking through with the LOIS in Lockport (photo: Tom Larsen)

The tug PITTSFORD, locking through with the LOIS in Lockport (photo: Tom Larsen)

The New York Canal Corporation tug Pittsford, was awaiting us at Lockport, and the next morning, before getting underway for Buffalo, we met with her skipper, Harry Marquart. The Pittsford had been assigned to give us a tow up the Niagara River, where the current is always strong. So, we talked with Harry about where, when, and how we would be hooking up with his vessel.

Which turned out to be just after passing through Tonawanda, or rather between the Tonawandas, for there is a North Tonawanda; at about 1 p.m.; and with two relatively short towlines that his crew would pass over from his stern to our bow. The Churchill remained towing on the hip as the Pittsford took a strain on the schooner’s bow. We had put a long headrope on the Churchill, because, to some extent, the schooner would be towing her.

The PITTSFORD helping the LOIS get to Buffalo (photo: Tom Larsen)

The PITTSFORD helping the LOIS get to Buffalo (photo: Tom Larsen)

As Harry went up almost to “full boat,” as a tug master describes the position of his throttle, and our speed through the water approached 9 knots, the Churchill also went up almost to full boat, to ease the strain on her headrope and help with the tow. With this welcome combination, we went right up the river at about 5 knots over the bottom, so the current against us was about 4 knots. It’s always good to have a significant margin over the Niagara River current, what with the Falls astern.

When we reached the shelter (from the current) of the approach wall to Black Rock lock, we dropped the tow from the Pittsford, and the two vessels proceeded in company through the lock and on up the channel to Buffalo harbor. The wind was in the west, blowing the length of Lake Erie down onto Buffalo at the lake’s east end. As we approached the harbor, it breezed right up to strong, about 20 knots with higher gusts.

The breakwaters—they call them “breakwalls” out here—that form the harbor, giving protection from the open lake, naturally have a good-sized entrance gap, because a few big, Great Lakes freighters still bring grain into Buffalo. Waves were building out on the lake, and some of them made their way through the main entrance gap to make a significant surge, which was right on our beam as we approached the entrance to the Buffalo River. The schooner started to roll and the tug started to roll, pitch, and scend up and down in the commotion. Just what we don’t like with the tug on the hip. Luckily (there’s that again), the tug was on the lee side of the schooner, which helped. Even so, before we could turn into the quiet water of the river, our biggest fender, the one we call The Egg (from a dinosaur?), simply exploded from the impact the two vessels gave it. Harry, following astern in the Pittsford, said that at one point, his steering stool simply went right out from under him.

Docked in Buffalo (photo: Tom Larsen)

Docked in Buffalo (photo: Tom Larsen)

We were both glad to tie up on the new (to us), long, floating dock at Canalside Park in Buffalo. When we visited Buffalo in the McClure in 2007, this waterfront was moribund. On August 2nd, 2013, it seemed like the place to be, where everything was happening.

The EDWARD M COTTER, the oldest working fireboat in the United States (built 1900) passing in front of the grain silos on the Buffalo River (photo: Tom Larsen)

The EDWARD M COTTER, the oldest working fireboat in the United States (built 1900) passing in front of the grain silos on the Buffalo River (photo: Tom Larsen)

The rejuvenation of the Buffalo waterfront is delightful. There is as much life here now as there was 150 years ago, when instead of one canal boat arriving, there would have been scores, along with an equal number of Great Lakes vessels. True, the activity now is recreational rather than commercial. On a day off, Kathleen and I were able to sample both a launch trip far up the Buffalo River and Ship Canal with excellent narration of the history of the port and grand views of the many huge grain elevators still standing, a few of them still in use, as well as a fine sail six miles down the harbor behind the long breakwall and back in the topsail schooner Spirit of Buffalo. And since Buffalo boasts the country’s most extensive collection of U. S. naval vessels, I even got to wax nostalgic about my navy days by going on board near sisterships of the destroyer and submarine in which I served.

Sunset on the USS LITTLE ROCK in Buffalo Harbor (photo: Tom Larsen)

Sunset on the USS LITTLE ROCK in Buffalo Harbor (photo: Tom Larsen)

In such a setting, we expected to host a good many visitors on board our floating museum. We were not disappointed: during our visit, we showed more than 2,000 people through this replica canal schooner, and helped the city of Buffalo explain to her citizens something of their history, for it was the Erie Canal and boats similar to the Lois McClure that made this town.

Roger Taylor
Captain

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Video Blog 3: Buffalo


We’ve reached Buffalo, and after our first day, saw over 1000 people!

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Westward ho!


by Art Cohn

Troy was a great stop. We were able to reconnect with our friends in this Mohawk-Hudson Industrial Gateway city with a history rich that provided so many connections to Lake Champlain. These days we often say our cargo is the discussion of history we carry aboard Lois. Troy provides a rich menu of topics connected by our study of shipwrecks. The schooner Troy of Westport, lost in a November gale in 1825 with five young men aboard; the Stove Wreck, a very early and later outlawed scow-like canal boat, with its cargo of Troy-made tea pots, kettles and kitchen woodstoves contained within; and the Burlington Horse Ferry (ca. 1830) with its John Langdon patented two-horse power design that was manufactured in Troy. We were treated to old-fashioned hospitality and very much enjoyed enjoyed our stay. I was particularly pleased by the nightly visits to the Snowman, which the crew unanimously declared produced the best ice cream on the planet!

But after the floods of June and the damage to the canal, the crew was really chomping at the bit to begin the travel westward.

The Grand Slambovians

The Grand Slambovians (photo: Tom Larsen)

With the NYS Canal Corporation crews working hard to restore the canal to operational status and with guidance from our friends at the Canal Corps, we began our westward leg with a stop at Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park. We were welcomed by Bob Kirkham, proprietor of the Riverlink Cafe, and the crew took full advantage of the showers and washing machines available to boaters. After a good day of hosting visitors, there was a concert in the amphitheater – the Grand Slambovians put on quite a show.

Roger presenting the Proclamation of Friendship to Sevim (photo: Tom Larsen)

Roger presenting the Proclamation of Friendship to Sevim (photo: Tom Larsen)

The next day we set off for Fort Plain, which had been so hard hit by recent flood waters. We were greeted by our close friend Savim Morawski who welcomed us with the warmth of returning family and accepted our “Proclamation of Friendship” read by our Captain Roger Taylor and presented by the our crew to the Fort Plain community. This proclamation speaks of the enduring friendship felt by our crew and the community of Fort Plain hopes for their speedy recovery and future opportunities for us to visit.

From Fort Plain we continued our westward movement to Little Falls, another canal community hard hit by recent floods. Once again the hospitality of the Rotary Park Canal Facility staff was so far above and beyond. They gave the crew rides to get ice and diesel fuel, and even brought us downtown to explore the famous antique mall before open hours began.

Due to our schedule changes, and our desire to see as many of the ports initially scheduled as possible, we have decided to provide afternoon stops at many of the communities along the canal. After a morning of travel, we arrive in the community and open the boat for a few hours. While this approach gives us less time in the community, we do get to see many more places. We have been consistently impressed with the response of visits like this in the past. Little Falls was the first of these afternoon stops this year and they didn’t disappoint.

Visitors brave the rain in Little Falls (photo: Tom Larsen)

Visitors brave the rain in Little Falls (photo: Tom Larsen)

We saw a steady stream of visitors during our open hours, including members of a hard-working Canal Corp dredging crew who were staying at the harbor while they worked long-hours to get the canal back into shape. All of this, despite the steady drip of rain! The next morning, the satisfied crew pulled out of the harbor for a long journey westward to Sylvan Beach at the eastern end of Oneida Lake. This was a forty-mile push which brought us through the beautiful Mohawk Valley and to the eastern end of Oneida Lake.

It is from here that I write this blog. We were to leave this morning at 6AM to cross the lake, but high wind caused Captain Roger to postpone the crossing until tomorrow when the wind is predicted decline. “That’s why we schedule weather days” was Canal Corp’s John Callahan’s seasoned response to being updated on our plans to stay put today. As I write this, the crew is occupying the time by talking with many passers by and working on the ever-present maintenance chores presented by our two large hard-working wooden boats.

If all goes well, we will cross Oneida Lake as planned tomorrow AM en route to our weekend program at the Inner Harbor in Syracuse. Stay tuned as we continue our travel westward as far as Buffalo and the shores of Lake Erie.

Art Cohn
Historian

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Big City – Small Town Hospitality


by Carolyn Kennedy

It seems to me that the theme of this year’s tour has got to be the kindness and generosity of the strangers we meet. While the original schedule has hit a few bumps in the road, what with the flooding and the damage to the locks, the people we’ve met so far have more than made up for the misfortune.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor with Captain and crew of the LOIS MCCLURE (photo: Kathleen Carney)

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor with Captain and crew of the LOIS MCCLURE (photo: Kathleen Carney)

I very much believe that this boat brings out the very best in people, and in a world where all we hear about are negatives, this boat is one of the greatest positives. Coming in to Troy, NY as an unscheduled event has really demonstrated to me how good people are. Upon our arrival on Thursday, July 11, we were greeted by a reception of our hosts at the Troy Downtown Marina, some press and the Mayor himself as well as the Deputy Mayor. The Mayor gave us the official welcome to the city, and soon afterwards we were invited by the city clerk, Karla Guererri, to attend the City Council meeting as part of the ‘good news’ section of the meeting. Art and I did later attend the meeting and we were met with genuine smiles and enthusiasm by the council members. They each wished us well on our visit and were quick to offer any assistance in advertising our stop, as well as any other needs we might need met. We soon took full advantage of their offer, and between Lucy Larner, Secretary to the Troy City Council, Karla Guererri, City Clerk, and Lynne Kopka, Council President, they were able to arrange for us use of facilities in the city building, as well as procuring showers in the homes of some good samaritans. We were offered showers by five different couples, the Chupkas, the Sonolis, the Mullers, the Grahams, and P. Miyamoto and S. Bates, each of whom were incredibly hospitable and welcoming of us ‘dirty sailors’ into their beautiful homes.

Michael Barret and Art Cohn examining the differences between Albany and Troy iron work (photo: Carolyn Kennedy)

Michael Barret and Art Cohn examining the differences between Albany and Troy iron work (photo: Carolyn Kennedy)

The acts of spontaneous generosity did not end there, however. On Friday evening during our public hours, a very kind couple presented Captain Roger with a bag of corn for the crew. We all shook our heads with wonder at how people with such big hearts always seem drawn to us. Furthermore, our RiverSpark Heritage connection, Michael Barrett, was a key proponent in alerting the press to our unscheduled visit, and our excellent reception at our arrival was likely due in large to him. Barrett also had sent us a reporter from the Troy Record earlier in the week to write an excellent story on our behalf. Not only did Barrett alert the press to our visit, but decided to donate, from his own personal collection, an iron kettle made from Foxell & Jones, Troy, NY.

Along with the city of Troy and its residents, the Troy Downtown Marina has been beyond hospitable of our stay. Almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Irene in 2011, the Marina has been transferred to new management. The dockmasters, Eric and Kevin, have been working tirelessly to arrange a safe and comfortable stop for the Lois McClure. They have been most generous in welcoming us to their dock and ensuring our every need is met, including driving Kerry back to Waterford to pick up our van. The hospitality continued with Karla Guererri offering us a room in her house. Air conditioning, a shower, and wireless? Heaven! Acts of kindness like this are what make our travels so special. While the newspapers are often highlighting the terrors of the world, we get to see the joys first hand.

Special Thanks to:

Carolyn Kennedy
Hailing from Montreal, Carolyn returns for her second tour aboard the Lois McClure. She is headed to Texas A&M in the fall to begin her PhD in Nautical Archaeology.

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Docked in Troy


Just a quick share of the video made by Troy Marina, highlighting the LOIS MCCLURE. Enjoy!

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The Captain’s Log, Part 2


The last Captain’s Log ended on June 12th, when we had been delayed for two days in Waterford at the east end of the Erie Canal due to high water. Well, here it is July 8th, and we are still delayed in Waterford due to high water, or, at least, the effects of high water. It rained and rained (we’ve heard all too many Noah’s Ark jokes on board the Lois McClure  in the last month), and two floods, literally one right on top of the other, have damaged Erie Canal lock gates and dams to the point where New York Canal Corporation work crews have been struggling round the clock making repairs. There is an end in sight—light at the end of the Canal, so to speak—but it is still a couple of weeks away. Mercy. If John Callaghan, the Canal’s number two man, who makes sure the schooner is safe and well cared for while she is in his domain, had hair long enough to tear out…. No, that’s not an accurate picture: John, good seaman that he is, somehow remains calm, cool, and collected through every emergency.

The LOIS MCCLURE docked next to the remains of the Rexford Aqueduct (photo: Tom Larsen)

The LOIS MCCLURE docked next to the remains of the Rexford Aqueduct in Schenectady (photo: Tom Larsen)

We have actually moved the schooner during this sojourn, and we have opened our floating museum to more than 1,500 visitors in Waterford. On June 24th, in hopes the Canal could reopen to the west, we went up through the flight of five locks and one lock more and tied up to the long floating dock at the Schenectady Yacht Club. Its members have been most welcoming to the schooner and her tug on more than one occasion, but on this visit, they and the operators of the marina at Rexford, downstream and across the Mohawk from the city of Schenectady, where the Club makes its headquarters, outdid themselves. They gave us an anchor!

We don’t anchor the schooner often, but readers of past logs may recall the use of anchors, sometimes of many anchors, to hold the vessel in position without putting pressure on lightweight floats giving access to the shore. We have, on the schooner, a big, modern, Danforth anchor and three old-fashioned, fisherman anchors, one of which stays on the stern as an emergency brake. On the tug, we have two additional Danforths. When we anchor the schooner out in the stream or lake, we use the big Danforth on a heavy chain.

I have to admit to being prejudiced against the Danforth anchor. I was brought up to respect and admire the old-fashioned, symbol-of-hope anchor. And I am old enough that I had depended on that sort of anchor in many boats in many situations by the time the Danforth received its patent and came into general use. The big claim for the Danforth was that it could achieve greater holding power per pound than the old-fashioned anchor. You could handle, raise, and stow a lighter anchor on your boat if you used a Danforth. But it turns out that this was true only if the anchoring conditions were ideal: good holding ground, enough swinging room to be able to veer plenty of scope, and no pesky, big wind shifts to give major changes of direction of pull. Also, making an object lighter that you must depend on to dig into the bottom and hold your boat through thick and thin defies common sense. I could tell you a horror story or two about being on a boat that had only Danforth anchors. Furthermore, our Danforth anchor (through no fault of its own) looks out of place resting on the bow of our replica of an 1862-class canal boat.

So, I have always been on the lookout for an old-fashioned, fisherman anchor to replace it. My heart rate went up when I saw a real beauty leaning up against the back of the Schenectady Yacht Clubhouse on June 25th. I made bold to ask Clark Farnsworth, longtime owner and operator of the marina, the status of this heart-throb anchor. He said its status is vague!! I go up to my target heart rate. And before I get halfway through my psychopathic tale of anchors and schooners, Mr. Farnsworth says, “Just take it.” Of course we checked with Dick Mason, the Commodore of the Yacht Club, who checked with many of its senior members. With the result that a handful of said members loaded a 75-pound, genuine Wilcox and Crittenden “Yachtsman” model fisherman anchor into a pickup truck and delivered it dockside!

New anchor on the rearranged foredeck (photo: Tom Larsen)

New anchor on the foredeck (photo: Tom Larsen)

All it needed was a new key to lock the stock in position; Ship’s Carpenter Kerry Batdorf designed one, and, back at the Museum, Blacksmith Dale Henry made one. The new anchor is in position on the schooner’s bow, where it is anchor number one, our Starboard Bower. The big Danforth has a new position, stowed atop the C. L. Churchill’s deckhouse, and a new job description that fits its design perfectly. If the schooner is ever in a hard-chance situation where she needs that “anchor to windward,” the tug will take the Danforth out and drop it with a long scope and a predictable direction of pull, and it will perform admirably.

By June 27th, it became apparent that the high-water conditions on the Erie Canal were going to get worse before they got better. It was time to retreat. We went back down to and through Lock 7 and moored to the approach wall. This downstream side of Lock 7 is well protected from the Mohawk River by a long breakwater wall. Turbulence from thousands of tons of water thundering over the dam beside the lock couldn’t reach the schooner.

Safely docked below E7 (photo: Tom Larsen)

Safely docked below E7 (photo: Tom Larsen)

But of course even in that snug harbor, the river level could rise. And it did. With the schooner safely moored, we had released several of the crew. On the 28th, Kathleen and I were driving south to Long Island for a visit with her family.

In this era of instant communication, we got a message that described the water coming up over the wall to which the boat was moored and the crew (Art Cohn, Carolyn Kennedy, and volunteer Jeff Gorss) laying out no less than three Danforth anchors from the tug and running a line across to the opposite wall to keep the schooner from drifting in over the mooring wall, on which she otherwise could have grounded when the water receded. The big Danforth, in its new role, was in the center position of the three anchors. The trio stood anchor watches that night, but their handling of the situation needed no further action. By the time the rest of the crew returned on July 1st, the river had gone back down, the trio had retrieved the Danforths, all the anchor lines were neatly coiled, and they had even washed away all the mud.

But the receding river level revealed more structural damage to lock gates and dams than was expected. Because water is fluid, rather than solid, it is sometimes hard to realize how much damage it can inflict when moving fast. At sea, a wave breaking over the side of a ship can bend heavy steel railings. On the canal, fast flowing river water can wreak havoc with heavy steel structures. Carry two large buckets of water and feel their weight. Multiply by, say, a million…. We would not be heading west on the Erie Canal toward Buffalo any time soon.

On July 3rd, we retreated further, back to the flight of five locks and down to Waterford. This was a fast trip, with from two to three knots of current helping us along. We passed plenty of cruising yachts moored in the basins between locks in the flight, sheltering from the potential violence of a Mohawk River in flood. On our approach to the last lock in the flight, we noticed that the yacht tied up closest to the lock gate made the approach channel quite narrow. It looked, though, as if we could just squeeze through. We coasted in at dead slow speed and just made it, the yacht’s and tug’s fenders just kissing. Whew!

Steam launches docked in Waterford (photo: Tom Larsen)

Steam launches docked in Waterford (photo: Tom Larsen)

Steam launch headed upriver (photo: Tom Larsen)

Steam launch headed upriver (photo: Tom Larsen)

For the next four days, we went into Museum mode, and our unscheduled stop at Waterford resulted in all those visitors. It didn’t hurt that we were open on the Fourth of July and that Saturday the 6th was the day of the annual steamboat meet. A dozen steam launches were the centerpieces of a real Waterford festival. It was great to see these lovely little vessels parading past, perfectly quiet except for their gentle huffs and puffs, until their skippers pulled their whistle cords.

Crowds at Waterford (photo: Tom Larsen)

Crowds at Waterford (photo: Tom Larsen)

It is now July 10th. We hope to resume our journey west on the Erie Canal in about ten days. But, in the meantime, the city of Troy wants to see us, so tomorrow, we will head down the Hudson River for a four-day visit in the town which used to see canal boats by the hundreds, bringing in the raw materials that the famous Troy factories converted into stoves, flat irons, and, yes, symbol- of-hope anchors.

Roger Taylor
Captain

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