9/4/17 – 9/7/17: The weather broke just enough for us to make the trip to Catskill, where sailboats that have transited the Erie Canal go to put their mast back up. We left Waterford around 7AM for the 7 hour trip down the Hudson River. This would be our first experience with tides and tidal currents.

About 3 miles down the Hudson was our last lock for this journey. This is where the tides begin. On the Huson, when the tide is rising and you are heading south, the current flows against you, reducing boat speed. But when the tide is falling, you gain extra speed from the outgoing tidal current. Timing the tides is crucial as it can greatly reduce your travel time (or greatly increase if timed incorrectly). On the day we left, we were able to gain about 1.5 extra knots of speed for the first few hours, but then the tide changed and we lost about 0.5 knots of speed. But leaving when we did gained us the best time advantage for the 40 mile trip.

Kathy and Peter had left the previous day, but we went downriver with Jeanne & Brian and Phyllis & Bob. We had quite a bit of wind, which went against the tide, which resulted in 1-2 foot waves on certain parts of the river. We also had to contend with the powerboat traffic and their wakes, which were sometime extreme. Just a note to all you power boaters out there: if you see a sailboat carrying their mast, please show a little respect and slow down or give room. The cradles that hold the mast are not heavily constructed and could easily break, damaging the boat or causing the mast to drop in the water. And they don’t float. Needless to say, we had a lot of power boaters who didn’t really care how close they got or how big of a wake they created, which made the trip a little hair raising. But despite the wind, waves, and wakes, we all arrived at Catskill safely.

The scenery from Troy (Waterford) to Catskill was an odd mixture of rugged beauty meets urban sprawl. Sections of the river were forested and rocky, with cliffs along the bank in several spots. But it was mixed together with factories, shipping wharves, commercial buildings, and homes ranging from multi-million dollar mansions to average middle-class homes to run-down cabins in need of repair. As we neared Catskill, we caught our first glimpse of the Catskill mountains. These were a sight to behold. From our vantage, they looked completely undeveloped, just forest-land on top of thousand foot high hills. They were beautiful.

The weather called for storms and showers for several days, and we were going to try to put up our mast between rain showers. This didn’t happen until Thursday, three days later. But it was nice to have a little downtime to relax and spend our final days with our friends. Our mast stepping went OK with one exception: our wind instrument at the top of the mast doesn’t work. It worked when we took it down. We think the cable may have gotten pinched at the base of the mast when the mast was set in place, but it would have taken a lot of effort to re-unstep it to find/fix the issue, so we opted to go without until the next time we unstep our mast.

The marina we stayed at was more of a servive boatyard than a recreational marina, so the ambience was lacking. They had restrooms, showers, laundry, and a picnic table in the gravel “yard” that surrounded the marina. They had a 20 ton haul-out lift, but the could only accommodate shallow draft boats. During low tide, we saw exposed mud at the bottom of the well! The floating docks were very wobbly, so you had to walk carefully. But we made due and had fun despite the lack of ambience.

It was also here that we said goodbye to our friends. The first to leave was Bob & Phyllis on their 30 foot S2 named “Gabriel”. They originally planned to sail to Cuba and back but because of the hurricanes may change plans and winter in the Carolinas instead. Peter and Kathy left shortly after on their Beneteau “Gentle Presence”. They were on their way to meet up with a flotilla heading for Florida. We met the four of them in Buffalo when we began our journey several weeks ago.

Lastly, and the hardest for us, was saying farewell to Brian, Jeanne, and Zephyr. We met them along the way, but came to feel we had known them for years. We formed a special friendship with them, and they were the last of our Erie Canal friends we would be saying good-bye to. The five of us (Zephyr included) left the following morning, and travelled together for the first 20 miles, where we turned upriver to Kingston, and they continued to Poughkipsie 10 miles downriver. It was a hard and sad parting.

It’s amazing the friendships we formed only a few short weeks ago. The Erie Canal experience was made so much better by these new friends who journeyed with us along the way. And even though we all have different destinations ahead of us, we are hopeful that our paths will one day cross again. We will miss them all greatly.

Pics of Catskill

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