We’ve always wanted to sail up the Hudson…and boat on Lake Champlain. June 15 – August 2, 2018

So, we’re finally getting further north of Tarrytown by boat on the Hudson River. A great stop, by the way, just not sure about the marina situation there at the moment. There’s a lot to do there, and downtown is great with cute shops and restaurants.  Just know that anything from the marina is an uphill walk!

The Hudson River is spectacular!  Leaving Liberty Landing, heading north, gives you a pretty comprehensive skyline view.  Let the pictures be the words.

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A beautiful morning to leave NY…until next time!  And, the “Little Red Lighthouse” under “The Great Grey Bridge”!

The Tappanzee Bridge has been rebuilt!  It was both fun and scary going under/past it. The new bridge is up and running, the old bridge is still being dismantled and removed, and there are numerous barges hauling the old sections of the former bridge away. Fortunately, everything is well marked, so going under the new bridge is easy.

Tappenzee Bridge

It doesn’t take long for the beautiful Palisades to steal the show! The Hudson River is so beautiful, with breathtaking views and so much history.

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The Hudson’s Palisades

We’ve all heard about Sing-Sing Prison, located in Ossining, New York. This maximum security prison sits on an incredible slice of real estate.  Those prisoners have pretty awesome views.  David Berkowitz “Son of Sam” is one of the infamous prisoners at Sing-Sing.  Nancy will always remember his killing spree in Brooklyn and Long Island during the summer of 1976, and getting escorted to her car when she got off of work at night on Long Island as a precaution until his arrest. There have been talks about closing the facility for years because of the property values, but it still stands.

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Sing – Sing Correctional Facility

Our destination wasn’t far, just up to Half Moon Bay Marina in Croton-on-Hudson, NY., about 40 miles. We were THRILLED to learn that we were docked next to our friends Beth and Jim Gausman aboard Inuksuk.  We met Beth and Jim in St. Michaels, ran into them in Annapolis and enjoyed sharing “docktails” with them aboard Misty at Half Moon. We hope to meet up with them in the Great Lakes next summer!

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Beth and Jim

Half Moon Bay Marina in Croton-on-Hudson is an AGLCA sponsor and everyone talks about this marina and the dock master, Steve.  Here’s the positive…if you want to hop on the train to NYC, it couldn’t be more convenient.  Metro North will drop you right in mid-town Manhattan, at Grand Central Station.  We didn’t see the appeal of this stop.  Not much of a town/things to do.  There is a bike path along the river on either end of the marina, and while we didn’t go, there is a Shoprite a mile or more south of the marina. As for Steve, just be patient.  Very patient.  The marina doesn’t have fuel, you can pay for self pump out, and bathrooms are just OK. While the sunsets are gorgeous, the break wall blocks the view.  We did enjoy a show just before sunset from a couple of para-gliders over the marina. Planning to anchor out in that area when we head south, as it really is beautiful!

We left Half Moon and began our journey north on the Hudson.  The furthest we had been with our previous boat was Tarrytown, so this was unchartered water for us.  Not far north, beautiful Bear Mountain comes into view as you round a bend in the river just past the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.  The Bear Mountain Bridge soars over the river as you sail between the forested mountains…breathtaking!

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Indian Point

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Chuck and Margaret aboard M/V Francesca, heading north from Half Moon, where we met them. We connected again just south of Albany at Shady Harbor.

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Bear Mountain

We have both been to West Point many times, for tours, tailgates and football games over the years. Seeing it from the water is completely different.  The campus sits majestically on the top of a high hill overlooking the river, and enveloping the entire point.  It’s really something to see!

Spectacular West Point

Our next stop was Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park. Rob had been here with his family on their boat when he was a kid, and remembered this spot fondly.  Now I know why.  Norrie is a lovely, peaceful and economical stop.  There are trails along the river, and the views are beautiful.  The facilities are basic, but clean, and probably haven’t changed much from when Rob was here all those years ago! There’s still a pay phone outside the dock master’s office!

Norrie State Park

We were very happy to have met Jim and Gloria Crawford, aboard M/V Crawdad, a beautiful  47′ Grand Banks.  Gloria is a member of the Power Squadron, and offered to give us a safety inspection…something we’ve been trying to schedule without success for months!  Thank you Gloria!! And, we passed and got our sticker!

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Crawdad under way up the Hudson

Boating on the Hudson is incredible!  The river is wide, deep, and there’s another breathtaking view around every turn.  Boat traffic ranges from recreational boats, to barges, ferries, tankers, tugs and sightseeing boats.  The homes along the banks of the river range from small summer cottages, mobile homes and trailers, to stately mansions, one built by the Vanderbilts!

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The Vanderbilt Mansion, peeking through the trees

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The Culinary Institute, unfortunately closed for summer break.  We’ll see you in the spring when we head north again!

The Hudson has some really unique light houses.  They’re truly houses…just an island with the little light house.

We were originally planning to stop in Kingston, but it’s so close to Norrie, and it was so hot, we decided to keep heading north to Shady Harbor Marina in Ravenna, about 10 miles south of Albany. We are thrilled that we did!  Donovan’s Shady Harbor has an incredible staff, it’s full service, great WiFi, a POOL, a courtesy car (the famous “1/2 Car”!), and a couple of great doggies wandering the marina!

We decided to stay an extra day at Shady Harbor, as the next leg of the trip was the Champlain Canal.  Which means locks.  And bridges (23 of them).  Low bridges.  12 locks between, and including, the Troy Federal Lock, and the Whitehall, NY lock that brings you to southern Lake Champlain.  Our air draft (distance from the water line to the highest point on the boat), with antennas down is 17′.  There are several bridges that are just about that, but we got lucky.  There hasn’t  been a lot of rain, so water levels were low, and the REALLY scary Mechanicville, NY bridge had a clearance of 17’4″, vs. it’s typical 15’5″.  Nancy played lookout for the first few low bridges, but gave that up in favor of NOT getting decapitated.  We did lean back under every bridge…as if that would help.

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The dreaded Mechanicvile railroad bridge!

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A few of the bridges, the last three shots taken from the roof of the aft deck

Inside the locks

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That’s Misty on the chart, coming out of Champlain Canal Lock #2, Mechanicville, NY

It is really important to be in touch with the lock masters along the way.  They’re a great crew and extremely helpful.  While we didn’t need it, they will lower pool levels with advance notice.  They communicate with the locks along your route to let them know you’re coming and update you on pool levels.  They’ll also give you a heads up on approaching traffic on the other side of the lock. We were particularly grateful to know that this barge was coming around the bend after leaving a lock!

You can see how close this barge was…picture taken from the bridge.

Locking is definitely not as hard as Nancy was anticipating (OK, freaking out about),  but it is physically exhausting! When the huge lock doors open and close it sounds like creaky dungeon doors, and there’s a bit of an echo as they connect and shut! Kinda spooky!

Then we got to Whitehall, NY.  The last lock, and the birthplace of the U.S. Navy.  We were pooped after the hard work of the day.  But then,  the Welcome Wagon Lady knocked. While well intentioned, she did nothing to sell the town of Whitehall, as she told some crazy, and negative, stories about town.  And, she was quite long winded.  Regardless, we had a nice quiet spot on the free wall, with a lovely view of Skene Manor up on the hill above town with a beautiful evening to enjoy it. And, there was only one more lock to go!

We did take a walk after dinner, and of course, Rob had to have ice cream! Sadly, Whitehall is in much need of some TLC, which we knew well from driving through it enroute to Vermont, but you see things with a different perspective by water and walking around.  Their bath house is great, but not open at night.  The grounds keeper for the surrounding park did finally unlock it in the morning, but it was well after 9 am.

The Skenesborough Museum sits between the dock and the bath house.  It’s typically open on weekends only.  It was closed when we were there, but understand that it has a nice collection that illustrates the history of the area.  Of particular note, Whitehall is the birthplace of the US Navy.  It is where Benedict Arnold directed the building of the first Navy fleet of war vessels, and took them to confront the British on Lake Champlain in 1776.  The ruins of the USS Ticonderoga and an old railroad caboose sit behind the museum.

Beautiful Skene Manor sits on the hill overlooking town.  Built in 1874 by New York
State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Potter, this Victorian Gothic-style house is preserved and run by Whitehall Skene Manor Preservation, Inc.  It’s open Friday – Sunday from spring through early fall for tours and tea.

The  lower part of Lake Champlain is very narrow, and incredibly beautiful.  Shortly after entering the lake past the Whitehall lock, we spotted an eagle sitting on her nest. She was, unfortunately,  too far to photograph, but we enjoyed the view through the binoculars. Spectacular!  We also saw a lot of cranes wading in the shallow, grassy water. There were lots of ospreys and seagulls as well.

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The larger part of the Lake sort of creeps up on you.  As mentioned, it starts out small and narrow.  It twists a bit, you start to see the rocky shores, it shoots off into bays, and then WOW!

Taking fellow loopers advice, we headed to Bulwagga Bay, just north and around the bend from Crown Point. Both the French and the British built forts here due to its strategic location at the narrows of Lake Champlain, on what would later become the border between New York and Vermont.  The ruins of the British fort can be seen from the water after you pass under the bridge, at the Crown Point State Historic Site.

Crown Point, NY, Lake Champlain

Granted, it was June 23, so the lake was still quiet, but we had this huge bay to ourselves. We threw the anchor around  1:30 pm, enjoyed some hot dogs on the grill, and just relaxed.

Champlain welcomed us with one of the most spectacular sunsets we’ve ever seen.

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And here’s there full progression:

After the sunset we were infested with May flies.  They don’t bite,  but they’re everywhere!  They get in your eyes, ears, mouth…need I say more?  We left early the next morning, as we were hoping that by moving the boat, the bugs would blow off.  Not so much.  We had light rain and wind as we headed to Otter Creek. The goal was to see the falls, wander and discover the adorable town of Vergennes, and have dinner at The Black Sheep. We’ve driven past it for years coming up to Vermont, and always wanted to go there for dinner.

Otter Creek

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The Falls in Vergennes, VT

Otter Creek is so lovely.  It’s very narrow, and it really looks like you’re not going to make it, but the water is deep.  It’s a slow, lazy trip.  When we got to the town dock in Vergennes, the annual bass fishing tournament for the kids in town was well underway, and would be until 9 pm (it was now about 1 pm).  While there would have been space for us to dock, we didn’t want to get in the way. The kids were having fun fishing off the dock, and we definitely would have blocked a good portion of waterfront.  Unfortunately, as we turned around before the falls, we heard a CLUNK.  A dreaded sound. And, yes, we knicked our propeller. The good news:  we bought a boat with spare propellers, and we found Shelburne Shipyard through our AGLCA connections to help us out.

Having abandoned our plans to stay in Vergennes (and no Black Sheep 🙁), we began calling the marinas in Burlington and Mallet’s Bay.  This was a Saturday afternoon in late June, so we were striking out until we connected with The Ferry Dock Marina in Burlington.  Once we knew we had a slip, we took our time going up the Lake to Burlington.  It was so wonderful to see all of the sights we’ve seen from the road (or not, as they were too far away!) for the past 13 years, as things really do look different from the water!

Vermont views from the water, The Inn at Shelburne Farms and beautiful Burlington

Fortunately, Shelburne Shipyard could take Misty on Monday morning for the propeller replacement/repair.  We were back at the marina by lunch time, after Rob decided to have the yard install a bow thruster before we left the lake.  This turned into a very expensive morning!

The ride over to Shelburne Shipyard from Ferry Dock Marina

Misty gets hauled out for a propeller swap

We ended up staying at Ferry Dock Marina for a week.  The location is great, as is the staff.  The views and the sunsets from the dock are spectacular. They are working on a bath house facility and have plans to remove one ferry dock and build more slips for the marina.  The dock is very busy, as there is a restaurant there, Spot on the Dock, and a lot of day boaters are in and out. Do know that the restaurant plays loud, and unfortunately bad music in the afternoon and evenings.  They don’t stay open too late, so that’s a plus. As for Spot on the Dock, skip it.  The food and service are both terrible, and Burlington has NO shortage of great places to eat at every price point, all within walking distance from the marina.  More on that in another blog.

Views from Ferry Dock Marina, Burlington, VT

We were thrilled to be right downtown Burlington, and now, close to our boys, Justin and Bryan. Bryan was in Denver for a business/vacation trip when we arrived (earlier than expected due to the propeller problem), but Justin and Madison (the furry one, our pooch) came for pizza and a sleep over. It was a wonderful evening capped off by a beautiful sunset.

That’s it for now!  The next blog will follow our travels around the lake during July.

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