The Erie Canal – Coeymans Landing to Ilion

 

Coeyman's Landing to Ilion

Coeyman’s Landing to Ilion

Iconic may be an over-used word, but a canal about which an iconic song has been written, perhaps assumes iconic status too.

The Erie Canal was first proposed in 1807, and construction began in 1817. At a time when entrepreneurs in England could see how the canal system helped to bring prosperity to the industrial areas of England, the benefits of an East-West waterway linking Buffalo on Lake Erie, with Albany on the Hudson River and thus New York, were obvious. The Mohawk Valley separating the Adirondack Mountains to the north and the Catskills to the south was chosen for the route. Since the original canal opened in 1825, for use by barges driven by horses and mules, there have been many enlargements and improvements. As a result of the canal construction, Buffalo grew from a population of 200 settlers in 1820, to more than 18,000 in 1840, New York City became the Atlantic home port for the Midwest, and New York became known as the Empire State.

So it was with some excitement that we left Coeyman’s Landing, 10 miles south of Albany on the Hudson River, to start our journey through the Erie Canal and on to the Great Lakes and Canada.

Carina entering the water after her hibernation

Carina entering the water after her hibernation

Looking back to Coeymans Landing Marina

Looking back to Coeymans Landing Marina

A few pictures of Albany. I particularly liked the U-haul building.

IMG_0012Historic Albany

‘Historic Albany’

IMG_0010 Albany

IMG_0017

U-Haul Building

U-Haul Building

Troy is a few miles upriver from Albany. The Troy Federal Lock, at the junction between the tidal Hudson River and the Mohawk River, was a big one.

IMG_0021

Green Island Bridge, Troy, NY

IMG_0023 Troy

We felt slightly apprehensive about the locks. We were au fait with English locks on English canals, and we had travelled up the Thames from Limehouse Basin to Oxford, but American locks were an unknown quantity. The guide to the New York State Canal System afforded some insight – pictograms showed the crew attached to long ropes which dangled deep down into the bowels of the lock. How hard would it be to hang on to the rope, if the lock filled quickly causing turbulence and strong currents, or there were strongish winds? Then there was the question of etiquette. The guide stated clearly that it was not part of the lock-keeper’s job description to assist boaters. Presumably they would just look on sardonically in the face of boaters’ ineptitude.

It proved not too difficult to grab the dangling rope with the boat hook, but we learned the hard way that the fenders need to be much higher when you’re going into the locks than when you’re docking. And the lock-keepers were unfailingly efficient  and friendly.

Approaching Troy Federal locks

Approaching Troy Federal locks

IMG_0026 Troy federal locks

Leaving Troy Federal Locks

At Waterford, where the Erie Canal starts, following the Mohawk River, sometimes alongside it and sometimes a part of it, there’s a flight of locks in quick succession as the canal rises steeply above the Hudson Valley. The flight is said to be the largest in America. (For the UK Canal cognoscenti: they were nothing compared to Tardebigge or Foxton Flights.) But they were on a much grander scale, and the dark blue and gold livery lent an attractive cohesion to the New York State Canal System perhaps lacking in the UK Canals and River Trust.

Start of the Erie Canal

Start of the Erie Canal

Near Waterford

Near Waterford

Looking back at Lock 2, Erie Canal

Looking back at Lock 2, Erie Canal

 

Inside Lock 3

Inside Lock 2

IMG_0047

The weir at Lock 7

IMG_0049 Lock 7

Lock gates opening at Lock 7 – view from the bridge

Above lock 8, we were weather-bound by very strong winds. Large parts of the canal are actually broad river, and we didn’t feel confident about negotiating the locks in Force 5 winds.

We got the bikes out instead and set off along the riverside cycle track, with the object of having coffee in Schenectady, 3 miles away. We were thwarted by some large trees that had come down in the winds, and completely blocked our path, so we had to turn round. But we did have a nice view of the Mohawk River.

Mohawk River/Erie Canal near Schenectady

Mohawk River/Erie Canal near Schenectady

We saw the ruins of the old Lock 23, once an important unloading point for Schenectady, and abandoned when the canal was enlarged in 1903.

Ruins of Lock 23

Ruins of Lock 23

 

 

IMG_0019

At the viewing point over the river, we noticed that the feet of the bench were covered with knitted, gruffalo-like feet.

Bench with knitted feet

Bench with knitted feet

The Captain made a deprecating, non-pc remark. ‘The mothers of Schenectady obviously haven’t got enough to do.’

IMG_0022 )verlooking Erie Canal near lock 8

We had plenty of time at Lock 8 to observe the changing light conditions. These four photos were taken from the deck of the boat at different times.

10 am

10 am

6 pm

6 pm

9 pm

9 pm

6 am

6 am

A mass of indigo on the river bank

A mass of indigo on the river bank

Carina at Lock 8

Carina at Lock 8

The movable dam at Lock 8

The movable dam at Lock 8

Our next stop was Amsterdam, and on the way we passed the Adirondack Power and Light  Station.

Adirondack Power and Light Station

Adirondack Power and Light Station

Amsterdam had good facilities, but also the rather sad and depressed air of a town which has lost its main source of employment – in Amsterdam’s case, carpet manufacturing, according to the taxi driver who took us to the grocery store.

Carina at Amsterdam

Carina at Amsterdam

The river park at Amsterdam

The river park at Amsterdam

Flying the flag of the American Great Loop Cruisers' Association

Flying the flag of the American Great Loop Cruisers’ Association

Mohawk River near Canajoharie

Mohawk River near Canajoharie

We arrived in Canajoharie on 4th July and moored on the public dock next to Aurora B, whose owners Wayne and Alyce  and their canine crew we had met further back on the canal, and who had just started doing the Loop. They kindly invited us onto their boat for drinks, and after a while, Alyce said, ‘Could I ask, um, a delicate question?’ I wondered what could be coming, but she only wanted to know what we thought about Brexit. I asked one right back at her, and it turned out  we were on the same wavelength about Mr Trump, too.

Canajoharie Main Street, flying the flag for 4 July

Canajoharie Main Street, flying the flag for 4 July

Canajoharie Main St

Canajoharie Main St

Evening on the Mohawk River at Canajoharie

Evening on the Mohawk River at Canajoharie

Canajoharie is little more than a village, but it has an impressive public library and Art Gallery, the gift of a local industrialist, Bartlett Arkell. The gallery was built to house his collection of copies of European masterpieces, and original American art, including works by Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam and John Singer Sargent.

Mr Arkell was a marketing visionary – he founded the Imperial Packing Company in the 1890’s but thought that a healthy-sounding name would appeal more to his customers and renamed it Beech-nut, as it expanded into the packing of meat and other produce. He was fascinated by circuses, and he marketed his products by having model circuses touring the country, with Beech-nut girls in fancy dresses and aprons handing out samples of his products to awe-struck children. The gallery includes a display of the model circuses and photographs of Beech-nut marketing events.

Our next stop was Little Falls, but between there and Canajoharie was the biggest lock on the Erie Canal – Lock 17, with a lift of 40 feet.

Approaching Lock 17

Approaching Lock 17

The size of the boat inside the lock gives an idea of scale. It was a US$3 million job, being transported to Lake Michigan for its new owner. To say that poor Carina felt like a bag-lady in comparison would be an understatement.

The Lock gate coming down

The Lock gate coming down

Leaving the lock

Leaving the lock

The lock receding into the ditance

The lock receding into the distance

At Little Falls we ventured out into the evening sun, crossed the river into the town, and had a good meal at the Copper Moose restaurant, nicely full of people and with a good vibe too.

Little Falls in the evening sun

Little Falls in the evening sun

The landscape became more hilly as we approached Ilion, where we had arranged to leave the boat for a fortnight while we visited Ted and Danielle and the children.

Lock 18 emptying for us

Waiting for Lock 18 to empty

Carina at Ilion marina

Carina at Ilion marina

Don Sterling, the dockmaster at Ilion, very kindly took us to the station at Utica to get our train at 6.30 in the morning. We were in plenty of time,  so were able to admire the splendid architecure.

Utica Station

Utica Station

Oh and here’s a link to the Boss and that iconic song

Advertisements

Boston and the Brexit Blues

Political comment is normally outside the scope and objectives of this blog.

But the EU Referendum impacted on, and overshadowed, our return to the USA in a way that no other political event has. We’ve been here in the run-up to two Presidential Elections, in 2004 and 2008; we were here when Scotland decided to remain part of the United Kingdom (for then anyway) and we were here when, against expectations, the Tories were returned to power in May 2015.

On both of the two latter occasions we followed the news from home as best we could, with only intermittent access to the internet, feeling slightly dislocated from things and missing the immediacy and familiarity of  Radio 4’s Six o’clock news and the Today Programme.

The EU Referendum was something completely different.

We flew out on Thursday 23rd June, already aware that it was going to be close, but with a misplaced complacency that it would be alright on the night. Perhaps the woman  sitting opposite me in the departure lounge at Newcastle Airport, with her copy of The Sun, its headline screaming ‘Independence Day’ superimposed on a brilliant sun rising over Britain, was a portent, but I didn’t recognise her as one.

It wasn’t until we landed at Logan Airport, Boston, at 2am BST, and the lady at Customs said ‘Say, did your Bill get passed?’ that we had any inkling of the dramatic night we had missed. After we had established that she meant the Referendum, and that we had voted to Remain, she shook her head sympathetically. ‘I heard it’s real close. I’m so sorry for you guys.’

When we got to our hotel , our first actions were not to put the kettle on or start unpacking, or even ‘use the bathroom’, but frantically to tap the wifi code into the laptop to see what was going on.  Brexit had 51% and Remain had 49%, but with only 140 councils still to declare, it was clear that Remain were unlikely to make up the deficiency. An hour later it was all over and we went to bed dismayed, shocked and disbelieving, and fearful of the consequences of half the nation’s desire to ‘take their country back’.

There were one or two lighter moments. The US Border Force chaps will have their little joke, and after the usual pleasantries – purpose of visit, length of stay, where we lived in England, where our family lived in the US, names and ages of grandchildren, name and type of boat, where the boat had been stored, reason(s), if any, for naming the boat Carina – had been dealt with, it was down to business.

‘Ma’am, place the four fingers of your right hand on the pad.’

‘Now your right thumb.’

As the finger pad was almost at shoulder height, placing one’s thumb down vertically on it was comparable to a moderately difficult Pilates movement. I wondered how shorter people managed.

‘And now place the four fingers of your left hand on the pad.’

‘Now your left thumb.’

‘Now your right toes.’

This apparently was a cunning trick, to elicit a smile for the camera.

 

The next day, we dragged ourselves away from the depressing news feeds and ventured into the city. As John Oliver pointed out, the Brexiteers’ exultation at gaining ‘independence’ was puzzling, given that not only was Britain already an independent country, but many countries celebrated their independence  from Britain. That we should be starting this trip in Boston,  the cradle of America’s independence from Britain , had a striking irony.

 

We did what everyone does in Boston, which was to follow the Freedom Trail from Boston Common, leading through the old streets past numerous historic buildings, over the Charles River to the Bunker Hill monument. The man who sold us the Guide to the Freedom Trail , on correctly identifying our accents, expressed his condolences too about Brexit.

Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House, built in 1795

 

IMG_0027Shaw54thRegiment memorial

The Shaw /54th Regiment Memorial

The 54th Regiment, led by Col Robert Gould Shaw, was the first in the US Army to allow blacks to enlist, to fight in the Civil War. They ran a particular risk if captured by Confederates, as did the white officers who led them, as they would be seen as traitors to their race.

IMG_0030Franklin Cenotaph

The Franklin Cenotaph in the Granary Burying Ground.

The monument commemorates the parents of Benjamin Franklin. Also buried here are many other Patriots of the Revolution – Paul Revere, James Otis, Samuel Adams, and the victims of the Boston Massacre of March 15, 1770.

Old City Hall

Old City Hall

Duck Tour Bus

Duck Tour Bus

One of the famous Duck Tour buses –  a W.W.II style amphibious landing vehicle.

The Old State House

The Old State House

The oldest public building in the eastern United States, and the scene of confrontations between the royalist British Authorities and the freely elected Massachusetts Assembly. James Otis’ speech here in 1761 set the seeds of opposition to colonial rule by the British.

IMG_0033Irish Famine Statue

One of the statues commemorating the many victims of the Irish famine, who made the journey to a new life in America in the 1850s.

IMG_0039

This lady had an amazing voice and was singing Gospel songs outside the Faneuil Hall.

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

Six glass towers commemorate the six extermination camps, and the glass towers are engraved with numbers representing the six million people killed.

North Square

North Square

Paul Revere House

Paul Revere House

Just below North Square, this was the home of Paul Revere. Paul Revere’s midnight ride to Lexington on the evening of April 18, 1775,  to warn his fellow patriots Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were marching to arrest them, was commemorated in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Paul Revere statue

Paul Revere statue

Garden of Old North Church

Garden of Old North Church (Christ Church)

It was from this church that Paul Revere arranged to have a lantern signal shone to warn the patriots of the British troops’ march – ‘One if by land, Two if by sea’.

Tobin Bridge

Tobin Bridge

Another cable-stayed bridge, over the Charles River

Charles River

Charles River

Bunker Hill Monument

Bunker Hill Monument

The site of the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

Near the Navy Yard

Near the Navy Yard

 

We finished up at the Navy dock where Old Ironsides, USS Constitution, America’s oldest battleship, is on display. She is undergoing repairs and refurbishment, so we missed seeing her in her glory.

The ferry took us back to the city, with some fabulous views.

From the ferry stop

From the ferry stop

Tobin Bridge from the ferry

Tobin Bridge from the ferry

IMG_0063

 

My attention had been drawn via Facebook  and our friend Jasmine, to Boston Swing Central. It transpired that not only did they have Swing dancing on Friday nights, but the dance was preceded by a group lesson. No previous experience necessary. I managed to convince Ian that this was an opportunity not to be missed, so in spite of our tiredness after the sight-seeing, we grabbed an early dinner at Olive Garden and set off from the hotel in South Boston, via the T (metro), and the no 78 bus,  and found our way to  Extreme Dancesport, 26 New St, Cambridge, the home of Boston Swing Central. The welcome was warm and the lesson unlike any other dancing lesson in our experience. But the enthusiasm of the teachers, the friendliness of the other dancers and the similarity of the Eastern Swing to some dances that we already knew, outweighed the panic felt at having to move  on round the circle and dance with other people you didn’t actually know.

Waiting at the bus stop on the way back, we became a bit concerned that we might have missed the last bus back. It seemed very quiet, but then a young man appeared and sat down in the bus shelter. Ian asked him if a bus was due, and he obligingly consulted his smartphone. He told us that he was an asset manager and he too was concerned about the impact of Brexit. He commiserated with us all the way to Park St on the T, where he was going to an open air concert and dance, along with most of the other young occupants of the train.

We drove out the following day to Gloucester on Massachusetts Bay, near the site of the first Puritan colony and had a good lunch at the Topside Grill, which had the cosy ambience of a British pub.

Gloucester Harbour

Gloucester Harbour

IMG_0070

Funfair

It was a fiesta weekend, and bloodcurdling screams emanated from the various terrifying rides.

IMG_0072

On the beach, Massachusetts Bay

Looking back across the bay to Gloucester

Looking back across the bay to Gloucester

In the evening, we  decided to be good Europeans and walk from the hotel to a nearby restaurant, the Cafe Polonia. It was simply furnished and served delicious, homely food, and  the young Polish girls who served us were far too polite to mention the B-word.

 

On the Sunday we drove to Albany via Hartford, Connecticut, and stopped to visit Elizabeth Park, which contains the oldest municipal Rose Garden in the USA. It was started in 1903  and has over 15,000 rose bushes and 800 varieties of old and new roses.

IMG_0001

Beautiful ramblers forming a high hedge

IMG_0003

IMG_0010

Blues and purples in the herbaceous beds

IMG_0016

 

The following day, Monday 27th June, we drove to Coeymans Landing Marina, where Carina had been stored over the winter. The marina and workshop staff had done a  great job of looking after her and we began the tasks necessary before getting her on the water again.

Halfway through the morning, we got a text alerting us to the safe arrival of our new grandson, Finn Wyatt Ainsworth. And not even Brexit could overshadow the joy, excitement and thankfulness of that moment.

2016-07-03 Finn