83 Wildwood, NJ to Newark, NY

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New Jersey’s ICW route is fanaticizing and frustrating. Weaving in and out of low marshland islands we’d suddenly come along side completely built-up barrier islands, and very well-marked no wake zones. However it was tough to complain since going around offshore wasn’t a viable alternative with reported wind and wave conditions on the ocean, and we loved seeing new territory.

“Thorofare” showed up along part of the ICW channel on the chart. Rounding a curve we found just that. The channel became narrow, lined with jutting docks from tightly packed waterfront homes. At the far end of our narrow passage a 90 degree home-lined turn helped create the illusion that we were heading into a dead end passage. It made for a unique sensation.

With our anchor set we looked more closely at Beach Haven lying 100 yards off our stern. Finger piers, mostly empty, bristled from the seawall protecting huge old wooden framed homes standing shoulder to shoulder along the street leading away from shore. Back yards as well as front yards looked minimal–who wants to cut grass when coming to the shore to enjoy the water? What few trees we could see looked more like bushes and rarely reached to rooftops. Finally we realized what was so unusual about the view. All the power poles ran down the street in front of the houses. Wires stretched everywhere looking like some poorly formed spider web as they stretched across the street to homes on the other side. Strangely absent were cars and people. It was the week before Memorial Day and few vacationers had arrived. We felt we were sitting in front row seats of a theater, the curtain just raised and we looked for the first actors to make their appearance. None came. Our theater set took on a lonely appearance as the sun set and no lights appeared in windows.

Evening thunderstorms passed through, and we were pleased at how nicely we rode in the varying winds. Even the US Government contributed a GPS improvement to help us check if we were dragging. GPS for civilians now has the accuracy the military enjoyed. Now on our GPS we can watch a ‘overhead’ display of Odyssey swinging at anchor in the shifting winds and tell if she’s dragging from the graphical display.

The tops of the casinos along Atlantic City’s Boardwalk appeared over the tops of homes as we threaded our way under bridges in the heart of Atlantic City’s residential area. At one point we were within a half-mile of the casinos. We hadn’t realized the ICW was such an intimate part of the city. It lies hidden behind house-lined channels with only glimpses visible from the many bridges.

The ICW ends at Manasquan, NJ. Running at 15 mph in softly rolling ocean swells of 3-5 feet we quickly made the run to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and beyond to the Statue of Liberty. Three years earlier on our first passage out we worried about, passing ships, tried to stay in the marked shipping channel because we were concerned about shoaling and worried about being too close to shore even though we ran down over a mile off shore. Now we ran unworried a quarter to half mile offshore for wind protection, cut across channels when convenient for a short cut and while we stayed a respectful distance from the Staten Island Ferry and ocean freighters and tugs working New York Harbor, they didn’t worry us.

We tucked into a marina at Liberty Landing State Park, walked over into Jersey City and had an outstanding dinner at a great neighborhood Italian restaurant. Our waiter gave us a ride back in the soft evening glow of sunset, throwing in a mini tour of the area. We got a kick out of him showing us the mayor’s brownstone and proudly pointing out he lived in the next block.

The river walk along Liberty Landing State Park is a knock out view of the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island and the back of the Statue of Liberty. We spent a day poking around in the park enjoying the view and just relaxing.

New Jersey’s light rail system (streetcars) opened a month earlier. Our homework to figure it out paid off. We ended up answering questions for local people not yet familiar with the system as we rode it as our first step in getting over to the United Nations.

We didn’t realize the UN was on sovereign territory just like the Vatican until we took the tour. It was interesting to see the Security Council and General Assembly rooms. The scale in person is very different from the classic close-up scenes on TV. It was also interesting to see how tired these great rooms were. They all looked like they needed to be redecorated.

Time Square is visual overload. Billboards in all shapes, sizes and complexity seem to cover every surface. We caught ourselves watching a Bud commercial on a huge overhead screen. One building blew us away. All six stories of its surface except for windows have been transformed into a video display running six-story high commercials. In the crushing flow of people we found a safe eddy behind a lamp pole and stood for awhile to stare at all the advertisements and people-watch. Our Time Square pictures gave only a hint of the visual overload.

A day’s run up the Hudson River brought us to Catskill. Dock at the creek side restaurant was free with dinner. When we asked questions so we could update Skipper Bob’s Cruising Guide, the owner bought us drinks as he warned us about the band scheduled to play that evening. We stayed and partied into the night enjoying the quirky crowd enjoying the band. We both suffered the next morning.

Quiet waters of the Erie Canal beckoned. We stopped at the new welcome center at Waterford and found a jewel in the making. Superb free facilities for boaters have just been completed. However it will take a few years for the town to feel the impact of boater spending. At an old townie bar we helped start changing the economy by getting burgers for lunch. Then it was into the quiet of the canal. We easily made the run up the flight of 5 locks and stopped at lock 7 for the evening. We watched the sun set over fresh water and brilliant green trees looking their best after all the spring rains.

The lockmaster reported the middle section of the locks had finally opened after 3 weeks of being closed because of high water, and swift currents. They were still looking for buoys swept downstream with snags and were running convoys of boats to Oswego. Hours later we began to see evidence of the rains. The river portion of the canal was filled with floating snags washed off banks by high water. Control dams next to locks resembled huge beaver dams with tops of spillways stacked high with logs washed down stream by the rushing current.

Glancing back we found two huge yachts on our stern. Both were being delivered and had passed us the previous evening. Our early start had put us in the lead as we entered the next lock. The quiet of the canal deceived us into an easy comfort level. Fluid dynamics kicked us in the teeth as we caught an invisible eddy from the huge volume of water flowing over the adjacent dam, and we almost hit the lock wall as we twisted sideways. Ruth recovered control of Odyssey nicely, and we proceeded in and tied up in the front of the lock. The 75 footer, Jane’s Dream coming behind us realized there was turbulence and came in fast to maintain control. A 3′ wake followed her into the lock. The captain realized almost too late how fast he was going and backed down hard. We had one of those heart-stopping moments as we watched him trying to keep control as a 3′ stern wake bounced him around. We immediately lost interest as the 3′ wave hit Odyssey, and we suddenly found ourselves into save-the-boat mode. The wave reflected off the lock door and came back more confused and higher than before. We bounced, bucked, jerked and twisted but only bounced off the four fenders we had hanging over the side. As we exited the lock we talked with our companions on the VHF and agreed to become the last boat in line for the next lock. We figured we’d let the big guys fight their own wakes in the locks.

Two locks up a loud fiberglass-cracking crunch confirmed the second boat in line had hit the lock wall hard on the starboard side again due to turbulence at the lock entrance. We quickly compensated and came in favoring the port side. Didn’t work, we swung widely to port, saved Odyssey from hitting but did a nice job of scraping the dinghy hanging off the stern along the wall. Tore very nice holes in the dinghy cover where it hit the rough concrete walls.

Licking our wounds we tied up in Little Falls. Jim and Rita came to meet us, and we crashed at Canal Side Inn for dinner. Canal Side Inn is run by James a suburb NYC chef who many years ago moved to the quiet of Little Falls on the belief that if you have an outstanding restaurant people will come and keep it in business. He’s been there for years and it’s still worth the drive and price. We’ve visited many times. Over a superb meal, and outstanding service we caught up with Jim and Rita.

Later as we all made ready to spend the night on Odyssey modern technology intruded. Jim’s beeper and cell phone filled him in on an emergency. Before our eyes in a few brief seconds they disappeared back to the world of the working.

Two days later we tied up at Newark, NY to begin a joyful reunion with our family.

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