Monthly Archives: October 2010

We got our Mojo back

So here’s the latest news:

1.  We got our cat back!  Here is a picture of him in all his fuzzy sweetness:

He is just as wonderful as ever — cuddly, affectionate and sweet as a cat can be.  Even the people who found him (bless their hearts!!) commented on what a good cat he is.  He’s got some good Mojo, this cat!!  Please let me express my thanks again to my dear friend Erin and her awesome daughter Sasha who went and picked him up and brought him to us in rainy Saugerties.

2.  We have escaped Saugerties, and after a night out dancing in Kingston (whoo hoo!  a BIG FLOOR to move around on!!)  and had an exciting SAIL on the Hudson River.  SAILING, what a concept!!  Yes, we are living on a sailboat and you probably think that all we do is sail, but to be honest, we’ve only had a few good sailing days so far on our trip, and TODAY was one of them.  We’re talking full on power sailing, with both sails raised and the boat keeling over 45 degrees.  Watch your drinks or they’ll definitely spill!   We didn’t have things stowed in the cabin well enough and the interior of the boat was mass chaos with things flying everywhere.  The cats were wondering what the hell was going on but they stayed pretty calm.   We were speeding along at 7 knots at times, which is REALLY fast for our sailboat.   As an inexperienced sailor, it is still really freaky to have the boat speeding along nearly tipping sideways into the water, but I managed to keep my wits about me enough not to crash into any other boats or land or anything else.  WHOO HOO!  We are tired now after a “stimulating” day.  We are anchored near the majestic Storm King Mountain (what a marvelous name for a mountain, don’t you think?) which happens to be next to Pollepel island with a CASTLE on it.  It’s called Bannerman Castle, and yes it’s in ruins, but it’s still romantic and wonderful nontheless. 

sailing towards Storm King MountainBannerman Castle

3.  The other big news is that K. changed his pants and is wearing a different pair than the same ones he was wearing everyday for the last two weeks.

Stuck in Saugerties

Glorious fall colors at our achorage in Saugerties

We arrived in Saugerties, NY yesterday afternoon and settled in to what our guidebook recommended as one of the best protected anchorages on the Hudson River.  We saw on the weather report that a storm was headed our way and decided to hunker down and wait out the storm here.  The anchorage is a 15 minute walk into downtown Saugerties, which we discovered to be a charming small town with lots of neat antique stores, restaurants, book stores, and even a cinema offering $5 movies.  We took advantage of the cinema tonight and saw the new movie “Secretariat”, which was absoutely wonderful!!!  We highly recommend this inspiring, feel-good movie!  It’s the story of the greatest racing horse in history, who won the Triple Crown against all odds by an unheard of margin. 

As we were trying to figure out the best place to set our anchor in  advance of the coming storm, we met a guy who was advising us on the currents and depths of the water who was the caretaker of a property on the shore that is reported to be owned by Jim Henson’s  (the creator of the Muppets) son.  Not only was he gracious and helpful in our efforts to anchor safely to avoid the overflow of water from the reservoir upstream, he came back and offered us a jar of his freshly harvested honey from his beehives!  Already on this trip we have been so impressed and touched by the wonderful and generous people we have met along the way. 

No sooner had we arrived in our safe little anchorage, but we got a call from a woman in Fort Edward, the town where we lost our beloved cat Mojo a week ago.  (Fort Edward is about 75 miles to the north of where we are now)  We had spent several days there looking in vain for him (in the rain!), and had posted up signs all over town announcing that our cat was lost and asking people to call if they had seen him.  This woman named Kate, who herself has 10 cats, had been feeding him on her porch for several days and finally lured him into her house!  Angels are helping us!  It’s such good news that we found our cat, as his disappearance had been one of the saddest and most challenging times that we have ever experienced together.  We made arrangements with our dear friend Erin to go pick him up and bring him to us tomorrow here in Saugerties.  A big huge thanks to Erin for helping us car-less people out in retrieving our cat Mojo! 

So here we are in the rain, safe and snug in our harbor, waiting the arrival of our cat and the end of the storm.  K. put out  3 anchors to make sure the anticipated flood waters don’t wash us away.  We are stocked with food and have lots of wine aboard, thanks to my wonderful sister Stephanie who mailed us a package of “wee” wine bottles!  K. is exploring the types of streches he can do in our tiny floor of our interior cabin, we are listening to great music, and are cozy thanks to our itty bitty propane heater.  And that’s the report from the Wee Happy today.

The cutest wee lighthouse in the Catskills

5 gallons a mile?!?

One of the reasons we have chosen to go on this sailing trip is to explore another form of transportation, one that has a LONG track record in history, that does not require fossil fuels for power.  We feel that in the coming years and decades we may be facing a serious oil shortage that will make our current transportation system impractical and unsustainable.  So why not check out another transportation system, the one that was the norm for hundreds of years before cars?  And what better day to write about this subject than Columbus Day, the day we commemorate the first explorers to America, who came in boats entirely powered by the wind? 

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the history of this area, as we have gone down Lake Champlain, and now the Hudson River, which was where a lot of the major action was going on in the early days of the colonization of this area.  The first explorers came this way to look for a passage to China.  What would they think now of our trade relationship with China ,which has taken over the production of almost all goods that we currently use?  Later, this area was the hotspot for numerous Revolutionary War battles, and then was a major trade and travel route until the trains, and later cars took over.  Today we were docked right next to a replica of the “first decked sailing vessel built by Europeans in the New World”.  A gorgeous ship, complete with a golden carved lion head on the bowsprit, it was built entirely by volunteers using authentic reproduction tools from the era.  It’s amazing to think back on how these early explorers travelled — not only did they not have GPS computers and depth sounders, they didn’t even have maps.  They were the map makers.  And they were entirely dependent on the wind — no backup motor for them when the wind died down! 

The Onrust, a replica ship from 1614

A volunteer aboard the Onrust

One of the other boats docked near us today at the Troy, NY dock, was an enourmous 75 foot modern yacht, basically a floating mansion.  We marvelled at how gigantic and luxurious it looked, and speculated how many million dollars it cost.  Later we talked to the dockmaster, who had helped them fill up for gas, and he told us that that boat uses a thousand gallons of fuel per day!!!  A THOUSAND GALLONS A DAY!  That’s $3,000 per day in fuel costs!  Just a few days of that, and it would pay for our entire boat!  Boats like that average 5 gallons a mile.  And we think big SUV’s get bad gas mileage!  I can’t help but think that that is bordering on criminal and obscene to use that much fuel just to take a floating vacation.  And apparently the owner of that boat is planning on selling it in order to buy a bigger one! 

Here aboard the Wee Happy, we purchased 5 gallons of fuel to go 60 miles, which is very good gas mileage for a sailboat.  During the most recent portion of our trip we had to exclusively use our motor, because we were going through the Champlain Canal and had to take our mast down in order to get through the locks and under the many low bridges that crossed the canal.  Tomorrow we will be putting our mast and sails back up, and are looking foward to sailing the rest of the way down the Hudson River.  (although if there is no wind, we will be grateful for our motor!)

How many gallons of fuel will it take us to reach Florida?  We aren’t sure yet, (does anyone want to make a bet on how many gallons we will use?)  but we are making every effort to make it as few as possible.  It will definitely take less than the reported 30,000 gallons of fuel that our megayacht neighbors used to get here from Florida.

cruising through Albany with our mast down

Learning something new every day!

The saying “you learn something new every day” is taking on new meaning these first days of our journey.

Here’s a few of the things we learned today:

How to navigate our boat through the locks!  We arrived at the first of 12 locks in the Champlain Canal this morning, and even though we generally had an idea of what to do, we sure felt unprepared as we steered the boat into the lock, which has giant steel doors that open like giant jaws into a narrow waterway.  We managed somewhat frantically to grab onto the ropes that were hanging from the concrete walls, as the boat started swerving into the side of the concrete wall.  Then we had to push the boat away from the wall while the water started rushing in with surprising force.  The people in the boat in front of us had aluminum poles to aid in pushing the boat away from the sides of the wall, and they graciously gave us an extra one of theirs to use.  Finally the lock filled and the gates openend on the other end and we could exit.  Whew!  By this time we and our boat were covered in green and black sludge that was covering the ropes and the walls.  Who knew it would be such  a messy job going through the locks?

The next 5 locks we went through were much easier, and by the end of the day, we felt like we were pros at handling it.  We have yet another valuable skill to add to our boating resumes!!

Another thing we learned today is that we are officially becoming “hard core” outdoor people!  It’s been fairly chilly since we moved aboard our boat 10 days ago (mostly in the 40’s and 50’s, and the wind on the water makes it feel colder), and we have been more or less living in at least 3 layers of clothing.  At first I was freaking out about being cold, but today, after deciding to wear TWO pairs of long johns, 2 long sleeve shirts, a wool sweater, a thermal vest, and a jacket, I felt pretty warm all day.  Tonight we went out to eat in a restaurant that was (gasp!) HEATED, and we nearly passed out from heat as soon as we walked in the door!  Instead of welcoming the warmth, we suddenly felt flushed, hot and bothered!  We had to open a window near our table! 

Yesterday we learned how to take down our mast!  One thing we learned about it is that it takes all day, not just a few hours like we thought it would.  We spent the day at the most lovely and charming marina on the southern end of Lake Champlain — Chipmans Point.  A quiet and lazy, old fashioned sort of place, the marina features a wonderful stone building made in 1820 that offers quaint showers, restrooms and a book exchange.  The fall foliage around the bay was stunning, and all in all, it was a perfect place to spend the day, even if I did have a complete meltdown trying to get the rusted cotter pins out of the lines that hold the mast up.  K. built a stand out of wood to support the mast on the cabin of the boat.  We had to take the sails off as well as all the rigging.  Lots and lots of details….as always.

The Journey Begins

Minutes before launching from Plattsburgh!

We launched from Plattsburgh, NY on Sept. 29 in the late afternoon.  There were so many last minute details to take care of that seemed to go on and on, and finally we got so ansy to leave we decided to at least go to Burlington, just across the lake, to at least MOVE somewhere.  We needed to make a stop in Burlington to finish getting some supplies we needed at some stores there.  As soon as we arrived a big storm front moved in and it rained for 2 days straight.  We hunkered down in the harbor there, enjoyed wearing our new foul weather gear day and night,  and took advantage of the wonderful city of Burlington, which conveniently hugs the waterfront and is easily accessible.  We stocked up on some food at the Burlington Food Coop, one of the best coops in the nation!  We saw a fabulous movie that we HIGHLY recommend — Get Low.  We enjoyed delicious (but expensive!)  artisan flatbread pizza and beer at Burlington’s famed America Flatbread. 

I'm practicing for my next performance art role as a banana!


Finally on the 3rd day the weather cleared, and we set sail in the morning, headed SOUTH.  We still had a lot of Lake Champlain to cover before we reached the locks and the Hudson River.  There was a strong down wind and we were able to sail well into the afternoon.  Even though it was sunny the wind was cold, and hours and hours of being in the wind tired and chilled us to the bone.  In the late afternoon we pulled in to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.  Although we had hoped to visit the museum,  it was late in the day and we were tired, so we skipped going through the museum and anchored nearby in a delightful spot called Barn Rock Cove.  Large rock cliffs toward above a small protected inlet, and a small stream ran out of the mountains into the cove.  We had the whole place to ourselves, as there were hardly any boaters out, even on a sunny, windy, glorious fall weekend day.  We had hoped to have covered more miles on our first day, but in the end we decided to fully enjoy where we were and forget about rushing!  This seems to be one of the big lessons of this form of travel — let go of your preconcieved timeline!  All of the people we have spoken to who have travelled long distances on sailboats have told us the same advice as well.  So at the end of our first real day sailing, we sat back in relaxation, counted our blessings and took in deep breaths of the beauty all around us.

Arriving in Barn Rock Cove