Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hudson River

May 29-June 5

We are currently in Burlington, Vermont on the incredibly beautiful Lake Champlain. Everywhere we have been lately has been so exceptionally lovely that I realize I need to hurry up with the blog before one beautiful memory fades into another.

So today I’m going to try to cover our trip up the Hudson from the time we left Croton-on-Hudson until we arrived in Waterford, NY, where the Erie Canal breaks off to the west and the Champlain Canal begins toward the north.  I’ll warn you right now this might get kind of boring, because I’m likely to keep saying, “it’s just so beautiful!” Most of the way the river is broad and winding and passes through one mountain range after another (or at least significant hills) -- the Palisades, then Hudson Highlands through the Appalachians, then the Catskills and on and on.  And the homes along the way are fun to see as well – even “regular” houses, not just the Vanderbilts!  We saw very little industrial development along the river, with the exception of south Albany. Most of the 200-plus miles we traveled on the Hudson was green and peaceful and very, very scenic.

One of the first sights after leaving Croton-on Hudson was the US Military Academy at West Point. We would have loved to stop and tour, but unfortunately, there aren’t many options for doing that by water. The Naval Academy in Annapolis is much more accommodating to us water-going folks!  Also, unlike the Naval Academy, Army does not allow self-touring – scheduled guided tours only. So we just cruised slowly past and took some pictures. For you Harry Potter fans, the Academy reminded me of a far less fanciful Hogwarts rising from the water. It really is a fortress. Craig was happy to see the “Beat Air Force” sign painted on the roof of the fieldhouse.  I bet if he had seen the other side, though, it would have said “Beat Navy”!

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Just past West Point, the river reaches some of its greatest depths – over 200 feet.  You can understand why, since the mountains rise straight up from the shore. All along the Hudson, the trains travel right along the the edge of the river.

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Our next night we docked at a marina on the river in Poughkeepsie, next to their beautiful bridge. 


We did not have a beautiful evening, however.  Severe thunderstorms with a tornado watch.  We kept an eye on the windows and the radar, and fortunately the worst of the storm passed north of us.  It’s hard to find storm shelter on a boat!

The next day was much nicer, and we enjoyed traveling yet another pretty stretch of the river, past the “castles of the Hudson,” including one of the former Vanderbilt mansions and FDR’s home in Hyde Park (although you can’t see FDR’s home from the river). We also passed the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse, the first of the four famous Hudson River lighthouses we would pass over the next few days.


The next two nights we docked at the municipal dock on Rondout Creek in Kingston, NY. There was a very pretty park along the banks of the Creek, and lots of interesting little restaurants due to its proximity to the Culinary Institute of America.

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At the entrance to the Rondout Creek is another of the four famous lighthouses, appropriately named Rondout Lighthouse.

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We were still traveling with Jackets II, and one of our days in Kingston, the four of us rented a car and toured the FDR home and Presidential Library, the Vanderbilt mansion and had lunch at the Culinary Institute.  Yum!  A very full, but enjoyable and informative day.

First stop, lunch! The Culinary Institute is a huge and beautiful campus, one of the “castles of the Hudson” itself.  We had a great time and enjoyed talking with the students. Our student server was so excited about our boat trip that pretty soon all the staff were coming by to talk, and they made us a complimentary Brooklyn Egg Cream (a chocolate drink with no egg and no cream) in honor of our trip through New York.

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After lunch we went “next door” to the FDR family home, Springwood, in Hyde Park, and his Presidential Library, the first such library, and the only one actually used by a living president.  Unfortunately, they were renovating the Library, so we didn’t get to see the full display.  The home is large, and the grounds enormous, but the house itself felt lived in and comfortable. We didn’t have time to visit Franklin’s and Eleanor’s private cottages further back on the property. We would have liked to see hers, particularly.  We learned that the “Big House” was actually owned by his mother, Sara, and since Sara died only a few years before her son, Eleanor felt that for most of her marriage, she was living in her mother-in-law’s home – and apparently Sara was a formidable woman!  So Eleanor built a small cottage on the opposite side of the estate so she could have a place of her own. Franklin, Eleanor, their famous dog Fala and a favorite German Shepherd are also buried on the grounds, in the rose garden.

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Next we drove down the road a couple of miles to the former summer home of Frederick W. Vanderbilt. It is now a National Historic site and Craig’s senior citizen National Parks pass got all for of us in for free.  Unlike the Roosevelt house, this one felt like a museum – very ornate. Not a comfortable place in the whole house to curl up with a good book!

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View of the Hudson and the Catskills from the Vanderbilt estate:


After we left Kingston, we passed the last two of the Hudson lighthouses, Saugerties and Athens/Hudson.  They are such picturesque buildings, with so much history, and there are organized preservation efforts to save them.

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The next two days we docked at a little place called Coeymans, a bit south of Albany, while Jackets anchored in a beautiful secluded cove.  It’s hard for us to anchor out because of the dogs and their need to go to shore several times a day! But Coeymans had a very friendly and helpful staff, a popular restaurant, and free washers and dryers!  Nice ones, too!  It was a great stop for us because my sister Anita and her husband Dave were able to make the drive from Boston to see us. We enjoyed lunch and a good visit, and Dave drove Craig to the nearby town to run a few errands.  We really appreciated their making the 3-hour drive to be with us!


We also enjoyed another spectacular sunset at Coeymans.

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Our next destination was Albany, where we met up with Jackets again. They were having some electronics work done on their boat, so once again we stayed two days, got some shopping and laundry done and caught up with bills and such. Every once in a while, we need a day like that to get some “real life” chores accomplished.  Craig and I went across the river to tour the USS Slater, DE-766, the only remaining World War II destroyer escort still afloat.  We had a private tour, and Craig especially enjoyed it.  The Slater is a bit smaller than the destroyer he served on in his Navy days, but so much of it was very similar and brought back memories.


Those old helmets are heavy!


Also in Albany, we took down our radar mast and bimini top in order to fit under the 17 foot bridges on the Champlain Canal.  We draped the isinglass windows from the bimini top over the downed radar mast between old sheets. We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies hanging our laundry off the sun deck!

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Just a few miles past Albany, we went through the first of the 140-plus locks we will go through on the trip, the federal lock at Troy. Unlike the locks on the Ohio River, this one did not have bollards to loop our lines around, but had poles along the walls that we ran our lines behind. We are going to experience a variety of tie-up systems on the many locks.  We found this one easy to use and so much smaller than the locks we are used to on the Ohio!

The next two nights we docked at the free (yay!) town docks in Waterford, NY, which is situated at the junction of the Erie Canal and the Hudson River/Champlain Canal system. Our boat sat less than 100 yards from the first lock on the Erie Canal.  Arriving here felt like a real landmark in our Looping adventure!  We are still early in the season, so we weren’t disturbed by very much canal traffic.  Maybe only 5 boats over two days – just enough to be interesting.

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The Waterford Welcome Center:

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We were able to walk around the locks and get a land-based perspective.

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The boys enjoyed a nap on the bow:


A couple of canal boats, a restored tug and Blue Heron at the Welcome Center:


The lock at night:


Nervous Bailey update.  She is getting much calmer and even goes out on the bow by herself sometimes.


But mostly she still prefers to sleep inside on her rug.


Next up:  leaving Waterford and entering the Champlain Canal.


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